Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 57.7

July 24, 2019; ~3850 ft; Day 4

It is very blustery this morning. My tent heaves and shakes. In just a few more moments my tent should be dry.

How lovely to put away a tent so dry it crinkles! So much lighter!

The trees continue to creak in the wind. They are dead and cracking, like hollow bones. This morning they sound more like quacking ducks than lost children in the night.

At about 0820 I head over to collect my food bag. I finally leave an hour later.

I viewed Bowman Lake for the first time.

I met the first snake of the trip.

They were small and frightened. Too fearful to move at first, but with a little coaxing, they slinked off into the brush.

The pines stood so strong, so erect– almost proud; like living ambassadors of the mountains.

Today I would leave Glacier National Park and follow the trail through the small community of Polebridge. I sent a food package to the Polebridge Mercantile, a small store and bakery.

Once I hit pavement and cars and campground parking lots I became very disoriented. I found my way out of the parking lot and continued on a very long road walk.

People waved as they passed in their metal vehicles. Two drivers stopped to offer me a ride. After declining one drivers offer, they then asked If I would like a beer. When I said “No, thank you” and smiled, her response seemed to be a mix of shock and disappontment. I almost felt bad, save I had no reason to. “Too much weight” I said, trying to soften the blow of rejection.

“You can drink it quick and throw the can in the back.” She was referring to the bed of her pick-up truck.

A beer was the last thing I wanted in the middle of a sweltering hot road walk. “That’s, alright. Thank you, though”. She then drove off and wished me luck.

Though I was not interested in getting a ride…or drinking a beer, the kind offers and conversation provided me with little sparks of energy that made my ambulation joyful and lighthearted.

Finally, I arrived in Polebridge. I entered the Mercantile and browsed the shelves.

There was fresh fruit! I collected bananas and apples and an orange, and one of those pre-made rice/quinoa dishes. I looked for bug spray, but they only had 25% deet. I was unsure that it was even worth the weight. I did however claim some toilet paper, sheets of moleskin, band-aids, and hydrocortizone cream, and brought my collection to the counter. I told the young woman behind the register that I should have a package there for pick-up. She collected my package, rang-up my items, and I moved to a grassy area to organize my goods.

I ate the fruit and moved on to the rice dish. The dish was tasty but crunchy, I neglected to acknowledge its need for microwaves.

I let my things charge inside the Mercantile, and reviewed the maps, and packed up my food. I purchased hot coffee and sat at a bench. I let my things charge until near 2100, the hour of store closure. There was live music playing on an outdoor stage affiliated with the café next door. It was very pleasant. The musicians, two men with guitars, were from Oregon.

I read in the notes on the Guthook application, that there should be a campsite about 1.6 miles out of Polebridge. I decided that this is where I would sleep.

I set off.

I felt so anonymous. It was as if had slipped in and out of Polebridge a nameless ghost. It was a far cry from the city, town, village, or community visits along the Pacific Crest or Appalachian Trails.

The solitude was hauntingly beautiful.

As I continued along the road, I scanned the woods on either side.

I grew a bit nervous that a campsite would not appear, or that I may have difficulty spotting it in the night.

As it became darker and more desolate, I found myself willing no cars to pass.

Then, I came upon a tent site and fire ring, just off the side of the road.

I unloaded my pack and began to set up for the night.

This was my first night outside of Glacier National Park. I was truly alone now.

The hydrocortizone cream is off-brand. Half a tube later I find little relief

The stillness of the night is captivating.

I fall asleep, excited for the paths ahead.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 40.9

Monday, July 23, 2019; Day 3

Today I decided to wear my pants, for fear of bugs. This did not last long, for it was hot.

That morning, misery drove me to ask for help from fellow hikers. One hiker offered a few sprays of bug repellant, another a hydrocortisone packet. I was thankful. I went back to my tent-site to pack up my things.

After breaking camp, I returned to the designated dining area to fetch my food bag, have breakfast, and prepare for departure. Two park employees who were stationed at that camp were enjoying breakfast as well.

I made small talk with them. One of them asked if I was hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail. “I am!” I exclaimed. Being recognized as a thru-hiker, to me, was of the highest of compliments. She told me that the trails I was about to connect through the park followed a historic route for the Native American Blackfeet Tribe. She then mentioned that the leaves of the abundant yarrow plant can be used as a natural mosquito repellant. I thanked her profusely, and gathered the yarrow leaves. She had given me a glimpse of hope.

I departed shortly thereafter.

Just after leaving the camp, I met a black bear. They heard me approach as I was wading through the brush. Startled, they ran off quickly.

The beauty was as powerful as the sound of rushing water cascading from icy peaks in the distance.

A man leading a pack of mules came up behind me as I stood, lost in the view.

I learned that the whimsical, magical, ethereal plant I had been seeing mountainside–with its tall green stalks and white bushy flowers–was called bear-grass; a member of the corn lily family. Bear-grass only blooms once every seven years. There were two cycles in the park. One of these cycles was a spectacular show. I happened to have front-row seats. This plant certainly has personality; adapting to its environment by growing tall or short, straight or curved, sometimes geometric or horizontal, often seeming to reach out towards the trail to say “hello”. Each plant was remarkably unique. I was in love.

Another flower charmed me; reminding me of the multiplicity in us all.

I continued my ascent toward Brown Pass.

A deep rumble sounded from the sky. I had begun my descent. It was 1819. I was still five miles from camp.

As I continued my descent, the foliage grew thick and tall, often reaching past my waist. It brushed against me as I walked. I enjoyed the feeling of wet leaves on my legs. It eased the burning of my bites.

There were many dead and wavering trees in the valley. As they are pushed and pulled by the wind, their wooden cries sound eerily like that of a lost baby in the night.

More rumbles sound. I prepare for the rain. The rain came gently, with healing encouragement. The plants rejoiced, their hues ever more vibrant. The mosquitos were thwarted. I was thankful.

I arrived to camp (the head of Bowman Lake) late. Night was falling quickly. I ate a hurried meal and packed up my food bag. I put on my headlamp and moved to the food hanging pole. I attempted to lob my carabeener-weighted rope over the top of the pole. No luck. Again. No luck. I continued. As the carabeener hit the supporting poles on the way down, the sound of metal on metal chimed in announcement of my repeated failure. What was it? Was this pole higher than the others (I swear it was.)? Was it the darkness? Was I just that tired? In the end, I could not manage to get my rope over the pole, so I tied my ursack to the base of the tree.

I found an open site and set up camp in the dark.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 26.3

Sunday July 22, 2019; 4222 ft; Day 2

I do not like my inflatable pillow.

It was warm enough that I had a full sack of wool under-layers and rain gear to rest my head upon. I tossed and turned a bit. I woke to numb hands and bird-song.

I went to use the designated pit toilet. On the way back I spoke briefly with a group of hikers that had gathered in the dining area. A woman with a dead cellular device was in need of a charging-cord. I offered mine for use. She followed me to my tent to retrieve it. On the way she asked of I had bear spray. I noticed that I did not have it on me. She then commented that she “still can’t believe that [I am] doing this alone.” I can’t help but wonder if she says that to all solo hikers.

After packing up, I returned to fetch my food bag. The group made mention of night hiking; that they had done it in the park. I liked hearing this very much. I have been a bit more weary of night hiking in “bear country”. The PNT mapset, until mid way through section four, says “Grizzly Bear Country. Bear spray is recommended. Do not hike after dark”. Not: hiking after dark is not recommended, or highly discouraged. So explicit. It made me wonder. But in all the nights and days I have spent hiking in the woods, I have only seen bears in daylight. I certainly would not, however, like to meet a grizzly in the night.

I am the last one to leave the camp site.

The trail weaves through brush. A barely discernable line extending to the distance.

I made my ascent towards Stony Indian Pass.

With each step, I am remembering who I am.

I feel I am breaking free. Like a veneer, a loosened lining, is hardening in the sunshine, cracking with every bruise, flaking with every leafy kiss, and blowing away in the scent-filled breeze. My city-shell is rigid and seductive. I am highly sensitive–and am often overtaken–by consumption and distraction.

It is amazing to be out here.

I collect water from a beautiful spring. I ford my first river of the trail. Though my body moves slow and steady, my mind dances and spins and frolicks in wonder.

The wildflowers are so abundant! The brush so green! I recall what dear Linda said about it usually being brown this time of year. I am so thankful to feast my senses on such richness of colors and smells.

I stop for a break at the mountain pass. Stony Indian pass is majestic. I am however, suffering from the bugs. I do not have bug-spray. Not even the cool mountain breeze can save me. It makes one hardly want to stop for break. I don my puffy in the heat. That helps a little.

I open my food sack and make snack-time selections.

I heard a rustle from behind. I turned in time to catch sight of a medium sized grizzly run across the pass and out of view.

I jumped to my feet. My bear spray is at my hip. I stand and continue watching in that direction, my food splayed about me. I had a strong feeling that the bear was entirely disinterested in my presence. I decided to stay and finish my meal. But only briefly.

The bugs were relentless. I wrapped my legs in my ground tarp. This provided some relief.

As I descended from the pass I heard hikers calling out “hiker, hiker!”. When our paths crossed I mentioned the bear encounter. They said it must have been the same one they had just seen. They told me that it popped out right in front of them on trail. “Then what happened!?” I asked. They told me that it was busy chasing a deer.

As I descended, the breeze grew stronger, the bugs less prominent.

Oh, the flowers!

I consider the vastness of this country and the beautiful geographical changes from either coast to divide.

As I drop lower, humidity rises, heavy clouds are rolling in. It is 1520, by 1621 down comes the rain. I continue on.

I come across a spring. The kind that makes me giggle with glee and makes my bottles frosty with its earthen chill. Terribly pleased, I collect three liters and carry on.

In the weather change, the bugs became virulent. I whimpered and wailed softly to myself, entertaining personal pity parties when it seemed too much to bear. I cursed at the mosquitos, then asked them kindly to stop. Neither tactic worked. I tried not to scratch, but often the beloved brush and the outstretched limbs of trees scratched for me. Each scratch sent strange intense sensations through my body. It was an almost euphoric dermal sensation that left me craving more.

I squirmed and danced as I removed my boots and strapped on my sandals to ford one final creek that stood between myself and the campsite. I made it.

I could not sleep. I woke in the night to itching and burning. I found some little packets of hydrocortisone cream in a first aid kit a kind friend had gifted me. I was so thankful. It was 1300. My legs were on fire.

I kept seeing flashes of light in the distance. At first I thought I was imagining things, or having some sort of peripheral sensory malfunction. It continued, but no sound followed.

Around 1400 the flashes of light moved closer. By 1600 the rumbles were so loud they seemed to shake the ground beneath me. The flashes were so astounding, they caused momentary blindness. A bit of fear began to sink in through the edges of darkness. The food-hang pole, I thought. If anything were to be stricken it would be that metal pole. This was calming.

Then the showers came.

The sound of the rain on my tent, the gentle drumming, led my march to slumber.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 12.07

Sunday, July 21, 2019; Day 1

The morning started with coffee and small talk. Then quickly, we were off! Lisa and Roger and their sweet niece and I all piled in to their SUV and headed to the Chief Mountain trailhead. After over an hour of driving, and a quick detour to a beautiful alpine lake, we pulled in to a parking lot a stones throw from the Canadian border.

I was a bit uncertain that where we were was exactly where the trailhead started. They understood that I romanticize these journeys, and that a continuous footpath is very important to me. They offered to drive me back the way we came–just a ways–so that I could be certain that I started at the correct point. This meant so much to me. I am not sure that I expressed my gratitude to them enough. Making it to that trailhead would have proved an extremely difficult challenge. I will be forever grateful for such a loving and generous start to my journey.

Oh! The beauty.

The start of the trail was filled with wildflowers and mountain meadows and thick green brush.

All nerves wash away as I hear the familiar sounds of my body moving through the woods. Wet leaves tickle and kiss my skin. Birds call in the distance. Wildflowers sway in the breeze, calling out for pollination. Oh, how I hear you, how I smell you! How you stir my soul!

The weight of my pack pulls at my shoulders and tugs at my hips. I always enter these hikes feeling as though I can carry the world on my shoulders. This is never the case, nor should it be. These hikes are to see the World, and realize how little one truly needs to carry/”own” to ignite that spark of joy that lifts the spirit. The transition, from city to woods, can be materially trying. Cities make me want “things”, they make me vain. The line between “need” and “want” becomes blured.

A few miles in to my trek, I glance behind me. The view is just as astounding as the one before me, possibly more so.

I think of how incredibly different journeys of the same path can be.

Mid-day I stopped for water at a creek which flowed beside the trail. I attached my Sawyer Squeeze filter to my Smart Water bottle and…nothing. No flow at all whatsoever. I had not used the filter for months, I did not test it before leaving. I told myself that I could pick one up in town further along the trail. In the mean time, I just needed to be selective about my sources.

At 2030 I arrived at the head of Glenn Lake campground. I ate dinner in the designated dining area: cold-soaked split pea soup with nutritional yeast, seasonings, and almond flour. A curious deer meandered about me as I ate.

Each of the campsites in Glacier National Park have a designating cooking/dining area, bear hang pole, and pit toilet. There are three designated tent sites at the head of Glenn Lake. The other hikers had yet to arrive.

I went to hang my bear bag. There was no bear bag hang for me to mimic. I did what I could. Then I heard oncoming voices. Suddenly feeling extremely antisocial, I moved in a hurry to pick my tent site, set up, and throw myself inside.

I had first choice of the three sites of the campground. My view was spectacular.

Though only 12 miles from the start, I was very tired.

I fell asleep before the sun.

East Glacier, Montana

July 20, 2019

I caught the Empire Builder train from Seattle, Washington to East Glacier, Montana on July 19th.  Though the train departed in late afternoon, and though my nerves were kinetic as I sipped coffee and stared out the window,  the motion of the wheels and the rails and the sway of the train lulled me from any conscious desires.

Sleepy, I pulled out my sleeping bag and contorted my body. This way, then that way I turned and twisted, utilizing the vacant seat beside me to assume what I believed to be the highest quality sleeping position. I repeated this process frequently throughout the night.

Around midnight, the train picked up an observation car in Spokane. Around 6:40am I relocated to a table in the observation car, coffee in hand.

I made conversation with very friendly and interesting people. I felt my nerves rise and fall like I never had before.

Then, at just around 10 am, on July 20th I arrived.

The plan was to hitch to Two Medicine Ranger station (about 11 miles NW of the amtrak station). I made my way to highway 49 and began walking, thumb outstretched for each passing vehicle.  It was Saturday. There was plenty of traffic. I was hopeful.

Then, a kind man in a Polaris RZR pulled up and asked where I was headed. I told him I was trying to get my backcountry permit from the nearby ranger station.

“I can take you there!” He replied.

I lifted my (very) heavy pack in to the back of the little vehicle, and I hopped in the front. He told me that he was going to be “RZR-ing” (taking said vehicle in to the backcountry) with some members of the local Native American Tribe, Blackfeet, that afternoon. I was welcome to come along if I’d like. I never like to turn down opportunities like these, but I thought of Chief Mountain. Chief Mountain, the eastern terminus of the Pacific Northwest Trail, was still over 60 miles away.

“I am just concerned about making it to Chief Mountain. Do you think it would be difficult to get a hitch there?”

“I can take you in the morning!”

“Really!? Oh my goodness, thank you!

At the ranger station I had to register the exact campgrounds that I would be staying at each night in the park. Some sites were completely booked. I managed to register for sites that had between 14 to 20 trail miles between them. I would be camping in Glacier National Park for three nights before I reach my first re-supply point in Polebridge. I watched a mandatory 12 minute backcountry safety video in the ranger’s station, and then we were off.

The smell of fennel, and pine, and wildflower were invigorating.

The group was extremely friendly and welcoming. They were boisterous, with rough humor and belly laughs.

We drove through brush, what the locals call “Sasquatch Alley”. Chainsaws were used to cut large fallen trees to moveable pieces, to clear obstructed pathways.

A fire was lit, just off trail, where hamburgers and hot-dogs were cooked for lunch. Roger commented that there was someone who practiced “leave no trace” in their midst.

“We were raised to leave a trace” replied one of the tribe members, commenting on its relevance to the survival of their people.

Upon discovering I was vegan, I was offered fruit and veggies as they made jokes about what they call people who don’t eat meat: “bad hunters”.

It began to rain, then hail, then the sun shone once more.

We returned to Roger’s home and were greeted by his lovely wife Lisa. She made us special vodka cocktails with homemade lavender simple syrup and lemon.

We picked Lisa’s father up, the nearby town of Browning. They treated me to a lunch of Subway, which we enjoyed in their beautiful home.

I had the lovely opportunity to meet Roger’s three sisters and niece.

I will never forget their kindness! They have touched my heart. What an amazing start to my journey!

My cheeks hurt from all the smiling.

Now, I am in a ridiculously soft and cozy bed in their upstairs guest room.

Tomorrow morning, at 6:47 am, there will be a family outing to send me on my way along the Pacific Northwest Trail at the Chief Mountain Trailhead.

Pacific Northwest Trail, 2019

On July 21, 2019 I will begin my solo, 1200 mile journey along what is often called “the wildest wilderness corridor of the lower 48”.

This crown to coast adventure starts at the Continental Divide in Montana, and ends at Cape Alava on the Washington Coast.

©Pacific Northwest Trail Association

Here I will be posting a daily record of my experiences: the exhalation, the challenge, the darkness and the light, the pure joy and freedom that comes from leaving everything behind to embark on an adventure of a lifetime.

Thank you for reading, and joining me on my journey!


Off of Pacific Northwest Trail mile 249

Friday, August 9, 2019 day 20

I rose, packed up, and checked out of the motel.

Once again, I headed to the library.

On my way, I stopped to admire a young woman painting a storefront mural.

…and again, to take in a message:

I settled myself in at a corner computer with my pack, and got to work.

After some time, a woman entered. She had a messenger bag, and a lavender bandana tied around her head beneath a full brimmed hat.

“Are you hiking the trail?”

“I am!”

“What are your plans…do you have a place to stay tonight?”

“I’m hoping to hitch back to the trail.”

“I would love to give you a ride.”

“Oh, thank you! I still have a few hours of work to do here, though.”

“Oh, so do I.”

We exchanged words briefly; words of trails and studies and passions. She asked if I knew of Peace Pilgrim.

“She was the first woman to hike the Appalachian Trail. It was very spiritual for her. After that, she became a pilgrim, walking over 25,000 miles across the country in the name of world peace.”

She offered me a small, card-stock bound booklet.

I accepted. I had every intention of carrying it with me.

Here are the first two pages:

She sat at a computer near mine, and we both carried on with our work in silence.

Hours passed. I felt like, though she also clearly had work to do, her time at the library that evening was extended for my sake. I found this very touching.

At a quarter to seven, just before closing hour, I began to pack up. As I did, so did she.

We began speaking. She told me of the work she was doing in bee conservation. She told me, with amused bewilderment, that she “had been a plant nerd, [she] never thought [she] would be an insect nerd!” I learned that though the bumble bee is native to North America, the Honey Bee was actually European. We reviewed maps of bees and their specific territories within the US, her fingers pointed and dragged down the glossy encyclopedia pages as she thumbed through self-made tabs. It was fascinating, the organization of bees. Certain bees only live near the coast, or only very far north, or only at certain elevations.

Her passion for her work filled me with joy and inspiration.

I loaded my things into her truck and we headed towards US Highway 95, where I would reconnect my footpath.

She mentioned that we would be passing where she lived, and that she would like to stop and collect some fresh raspberries for me.

As we drove towards her home she told me of how her and her ex used to have an organic potato farm there; that it was sort of a big deal. She described potatoes as “little jewels” that you get to dig up.

We entered the house and she went downstairs to retrieve the fruit. She mentioned that I could stay the night if I liked. We decided to check the weather to aid in my decision. She turned on the radio and we listened to a NOAA broadcast. It sounded like the storm would climax on Saturday night.

We hit the road.

We pulled in to where Brush Lake Road meets US 95. I asked her about Old US 95. We crossed the new highway together by foot, and she pointed out through the brush, the old one.

I thanked her.

We returned to her truck and I put on my pack. We hugged. “Oh, Brooke, honey.” She said, as she kissed me on the cheek.

She wished me luck. I thanked her.

Lynn was one of the most beautiful women I have ever met: inside and out.

I crossed the highway, then the brush, then Old US 95, then Idaho Highway 1, and kept walking.

I turned southwest on to Copeland Road.

I gazed at the old farm buildings; the yards with greenhouses and trampolines and old pick-up trucks parked on lawns.

Night fell. I continued to walk.

I began to wonder where I would sleep that night, and if it would rain on me before I got there.

A truck stopped and offered me a lift. There were two older men inside. I explained that I was hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail and that I was looking for a place to camp, that I had not realized that it would all be private properties along these roads.

“You can come back and camp at my property.”

I asked if he could take me back to that very spot in the morning. He agreed.

I crawled in to the bed of his pick-up, squeezing myself and my pack through the open space between the tailgate and the hard-top shell it was tied to with rope.

He dropped off his friend, who came around to the bed of the truck and told me I could sit up front.

“I’m okay back here!” I called out. I have always enjoyed rides in the back of trucks.

“C’mon up front” the man called, “I wanna know who I’m takin’ home!”

Fair enough.

I crawled out and moved to the passenger seat.

Mikey and I introduced ourselves to eachother. He played music loudly and drove quickly up the road that bore the same name as his own “Duff.”

The home was over 100 years old and had been in the family for three generations. As we pulled in to the property, a giant yellow school bus came in to view, followed by streams of light and loud banging. Mikey parked and we got out. He called out to a group of people “I picked up a hitch-hiker! Here, help her with her bag, will ya.”

A man who I later learned was called “Patches”, headed over to assist me. I warned him that my pack was very heavy and that I could get it just fine. He insisted and carried it by its straps causing a pendulam-like gate as he moved. He headed towards an area beside a rather large hole in the ground, and leaned it against a wall beside an entrance to the home. I thanked him, and he returned to his work.

Mikey joined me. Told me that this area would eventually be his mama’s room. Then he took me inside to meet mama.

Isabelle Huff was tremendously kind.

“Have you had supper?” She asked. She offered me rice and collard greens and zucchini, and after that, pickles and huckleberries.

Mikey told her the story of how he came to pick me up. He asked if I could sleep in the spare bedroom.

“I’m the executive, mamas the CEO” he said.

She said that would be just fine. I thanked her cheerfully. Mikey left the two of us to chat, then returned to where the others were working.

Isabelle mentioned that I was very brave to be doing what I was. “Though,” she continued, “I have met some women who venture out on their own. One, well now she studies bees.”

“I’ve met her!”, I exclaimed.


“Yes! We met at the library. She gave me a lift back to the trail!”

I marveled at the vastness of the world made small by the interconnectivity of it all. It pleased me very much.

I asked her about the school bus and the people I saw working. She said that they were a group of eight travellers that had been living in the school bus. Mikey found them penniless at a gas station selling jewelry. He brought them home, giving them a place to stay in exchange for work.

How wonderful.

Isabelle showed me to the room I would be sleeping in.

What an unexpected pleasure!

I fell to sleep in a state of peace and appreciation, excited at the prospect of hot coffee and conversation in the morning.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 261.8

Saturday, August 10; day 21

I rose to the sound of doors closing and footsteps.

I ventured downstairs to be greeted by Isabel and a hot pot of coffee.

I poured myself a mug and moved to a sitting area outside. I was introduced to Dani, and then Patches. I was inspired by their travelling lifestyle. We sat and chatted joyfully. Everyone was tremendously kind. We talked about the area and looked at maps and spoke of bushwhacking. We discussed how the thunder storm, though predicted to begin last night, had yet to pass through.

Soon, I heard Mikeys voice, “giggles, ya about ready to go? We are gonna head out in 5 minutes.”

“Sure thing, thank you!”

Mikey offered to take me all the way to the Parker Ridge trailhead. I thanked him, but told him that I had intented to pick up right where I had left off.

“Welp. That’s right here, then.”

Again, I thanked him. Not many people stop to offer help to others in the night.

I found the yard with the trampoline, and continued on my way.

The sky teases me. Still no rain.

As I walked I ate a bag of mushrooms and kale and rice cakes.

Roosters crow.

I picked beautiful rosey little apples on my way.

I found a ten-dollar bill on the ground!

I continued through farmland.

I crossed a bridge over the Kootenay River, one of the major tributaries of the Columbia River.

I watched as eagles soared high above me.

As I approached the trailhead, I felt excitement. I gazed at the mountains; they welcome me. The sun shines.

It seems to me, that turning in circles within the boundaries of cities and towns sensitize my nerves–in a fraying and dissociative manner. When I am moving by foot–and moving is my soul intention, I am calmed.

This trail is teaching me that there are no certainties in life, this seems to me, a magical thing

So many flying, hopping insects: locusts. They bounce off my face, and through the gap between my back and my pack.

I stop to admire the cycles of the tree: from erect and thriving, to a downed habitat for others, to part of the forest floor.

Idaho is beautiful!

I sat in the dirt facing a tree filled mountainside. Silence save for the sound of the wind through the valley, through the trees. I lean back and my body contours perfectly to the formation of rocks. It is the Earth’s embrace. I’m hard-pressed to find anything sweeter.

I carried on.

At 1411, thunder.

This was followed by rain.

The rain was followed by hail.

The downed trees on the Parker Ridge Trail was unlike anything I had ever experienced before.

For two miles I worked my way under, over, through, and around. Often I had to leave the trail entirely in order to press forward.

This was good training for what’s to come, I thought.

The limbs of trees latch to my shorts, propelling me forward when I release their hold; a nudge to push forward. I laugh aloud.

Dirt and ash and blood color my legs.

The hail regresses, becoming rain once more. It then ceases entirely as I moved to collect water from a nearby spring.

I notice I lost my nalgene.

Still more blow-downs; but less and less as I climbed.

I was cold. My feet were wet. The woods were beautiful.

At around 1830, I came to a tent-site.

A fire-ring and cut logs obstructed the center of the site. I broke down the fire-ring tossing stones and ash away, rolling away logs.

I erected my shelter and tended my sore body. On my right foot, the skin was turning green below the nail of my smallest toe. My legs were slashed with numerous superficial cuts and scrapes and mottled patches of black and blue.

I smiled.

I was filled with pride, not pain.

Zero # 3: Waiting out the storm…

Sunday, August 11, 2019; day 22

It rained all through the night. It is raining now. I place my peanut butter container beneath the fabric of my vestibule to collect the drops of rain.

In the back of my mind I think I will stay another night–not move.

That makes me concerned about water.

Though the birds have come out–I can hear the grouse waddle about my tent– I also hear the thunder.

The temperature has dropped dramatically.

The sound of rain falling was beautiful.

I recognized the weather pattern of yesterday.

I considered the ramifications of not moving. I think of how I do this–hike these trails, because I love this existence so much.

It is okay to not push one’s self sometimes; especially before a section that is going to test all one has in them; especially in acknowledgement and respect of an elements movement.

Though proud, I am also small to the storms of the world.

I was thankful to be passing the day in the woods; in a tent instead of a motel room.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 273.0

Monday, August 12, 2019; day 23

I was on my way around 0900.

By 1030 the storm clouds were dissipating, and I stopped to remove my raincoat.

I hydrated with huckleberries as I walked.

The fresh, sweet, moist mountainside smells filled me with a passion for life. I giggled with happiness.

As I moved closer to the bushwhack, I felt less and less afraid. The wilderness welcomed me.

The mountain fog was hauntingly beautiful; captivating in its mystery. What was it hiding, carrying, cloaking?

I stopped at a tiny wooden bridge over a stream at a junction. Stopping made me cold; as did the cold stream water.

The sun slipped behind the clouds and back again, but I did not fear rain. I removed my wet socks and let my feet air out for a moment. Losing the nail of my pinky toe was a certainty at this point, it was just a matter of when.

I put on my rain-gear in search of warmth, and ate a small meal.

I moved forward. I gazed down at Pyramid Lake as I climbed.

I passed Upper Ball Lake, and reached Lower Ball Lake–the final way-point before the scramble and bushwhack.

I set up camp. I fell to sleep early. Tomorrow was the day I had been waiting for.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 279.5

Tuesday, August 13, 2019; day 24

I wake to clear skies, the sun rising an orange hue to the east.

This morning will mark the start of the bushwhack.

I am full of so many nerves, excitement and fear: I feel alive.

Though it has put me even further behind, I am glad I waited for the storm to pass. The day was beautiful.

I scrambled up to the crest between Pyramid Peak and Lion’s Head and followed it south.

The views were incredible, exhilerating.

I located the small cairn that marks the western descent.

The path was fairly clear at first, as everyone started there. It quickly disappeared.

I set a west bearing on my compass, veering towards the south, should I have to veer.

I checked my compass constantly. The descent was steep, but not uncomfortable.

I came to a stream, it continued west as well. At times I was practically walking in it.

I would stop suddenly to find myself entangled in brush and pine taller than I was. I fought my way uphill towards shorter brush with more give.

On three occasions, I found bits of old trail to follow. Each time, thrilling. Each time, short-lived.

I began to check myself against my GPS, against the theoretical track-lines that did not exist. I moved southwest, then northwest, then due west, and every combination thereof.

I took a step to nearly fall forward due to a sudden drop in forest floor.

I wove back and forth across the creek, eventually not bothering to try to keep dry, sometimes fording up to my knees.

Sometimes I hardly felt I was moving at all.

At times it seemed my body took control, knowing what to do before my mind could cast doubt or hesitation.

I impressed myself as I threw my weight forward, fully shifting to balance on fallen trees.

I followed animal trails, deer and bear prints in the mud.

I sank deep in mud barely able to lift one foot, then the other.

I fell on slick stone, while the creek cascaded down gracefully.

So beautiful.

So challenging.

I was so close, yet it felt so far.

Finally, the forest became wooded pines, with a floor of soft duff.

Finally, I noticed a little pink tie on a tree. Then, another.

Then the old trail opened up to Lion Creek Trail 42.

At 1930 I was setting up camp.

What an amazing experience!

Never before have I felt so challenged, accomplished, rewarded.

Oh, Idaho, thank you!!!

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 299.3

Wednesday, August 14, 2019; day 25

I rose with the illumination of my tent.

I stepped out to relieve myself. I paused: day hikers. I smiled and waved hello and waited for them to pass.

It rained very slightly.

I gathered some huckleberries, and some water. I could see why the area was so popular with the locals. It was quite beautiful. I watched the water cascade down the slabs of stone.

I reviewed the maps. I had an option. I could continue to walk on the upcoming Forest Service Road 423. FS 423 meets East Shore Road, rejoining the PNT at Lionhead Campground. This route would bypass Lookout Mountain. It would also shorten my journey by nearly ten miles.

The rain comes on lightly, then fades, then repeats.

I need to make up all the time I can, when I can. I will walk the road.

As I walked, I entertained the option of gathering more food. Ten miles south on East Shore Road sits the Idaho State Indian Creek Campground and general store.

I consider my food-stock. It was very meager. Perhaps part of me is socially hungry. Along the PNT, this would be my last chance to engage with Idaho as a people, as a culture. Maybe I wanted more.

I reached East Shore Road and stuck out my thumb.

The very first car stopped. The lady inside was extremely kind. She had just been visiting her son who was camping with a large gathering of friends. She was now headed south on East Creek Road, on her way home to Spokane.

At the little shop I was able to find some instant rice (cold soaks just fine) nuts, hummus, tortilla chips, fresh greens, and canned corn.

As the sweet volunteers rang up my order, we discussed the trail. They were so happy I had stopped in. They even gave me a hot coffee on the house!

As we chatted I heard one lady tell a young girl “see what you can do!”. This made my heart soar. I have a longing to influence those entangled in doubt, or popular belief, or uncertainties, or sexism, or youth; to encourage the discovery and exploration of that inexhaustible potential within us all; to encourage the embracing and nurturing of the unique and unknown as places of growth and creation, not of cowardice and fear. I believe one encounter, one conversation, can change the course of a lifetime.

I settled myself at a a little metal bistro table that sat store front, and organized my things.

Soon a very pleasant, lively conversation started with Ruth and Daryl, campers who had stopped in to the general store for an ice-cream cone.

They were so jubilant, vibrating with life and curiosity. They asked me numerous questions about the trail. They told me that I was welcome to come sleep at their tent-site and get a hot shower. I thanked them, but told them that I needed to find my way back to the trail. They offered to take me. I was elated.

They went to get their truck. They returned with a bag full of huckleberries and nuts and assorted snacks. On the outside of the bag, Ruth had written her number…just in case. I was touched.

The ride back to the Lionhead Campground was full of conversation about trail-life and survival, sponsorship and funding, and a dramatic regailing of the recent bushwhack.

The truck pulled in to the lot and parked. We all got out. They wanted a picture with me. They made me feel so special. They stepped to the side and spoke softly for a moment, then turned to me with their hand outstretched “here, here is our ‘Go Fund Me'”. Their kindness was revivifying, uplifting, encouraging– emanating love and inspiration.

I approached the trail/road again, all laughs and giggles and fuzzy warmth.

I joined the Floss Creek trail. I came to a small fording. I could not be bothered to remove my boots.

I joined the clear and well-defined Idaho Cenntenial Trail.

I continued, joining the Upper Priest Lake Trail.

The trail skirted the grand body of water, gentle and glorious in the surrounding blend of softening light.

The lake offered tiny, illuminating points of reflection cast by the setting sun, soon to inspire la luna llena.

Pacific Northwest Trail (alternate); ~mile 317

Thursday, August 15, 2019; day 26

I woke lakeside to the splish-splashing of creatures of the lake. Or maybe it was just the waves from boats. Upper priest lake was accessible by boat.

Laughter filled my tent.

Every moment of every day feels so rich, so raw, so blessed.

I enjoyed a wonderful breakfast of huckleberry sweetened oatmeal. I thought of Ruth and Daryl, of their kindness. Every day life becomes sweeter.

My legs ache. The bruises too, are becoming richer. The bushwhack took more of a toll on my body than I had realized, but it has also set my heart aflame. Each moment of happiness is only rivaled by the next.

Idaho, you have been one of my greatest teachers!

I packed up and sat at the nearby picnic bench to review the maps for the day.

I intended on taking the recommended Jackson Creek/Sullivan Lake alternate in to Metaline Falls. The primary was not recommended by the PNTA and required “extensive bushwhacking” along Leola Creek Road. Though I found my bushwhacking experience to be very rewarding, and the epitome of “type 2 fun”, I thought I would follow the PNTAs recommendation.

The Upper Priest Lake Trail was well maintained. The trees old, and bursting with wisdom.

At around noon I turned south on Upper Priest Road to begin the alternate.

When I could no longer stand the pain in my shoulders, I stopped for a quick break and ate lunch. The heat was tempered by a cool summer breeze. The breeze also helped with the bugs.

I turned to follow old forest service roads.

The tall grasses danced and swayed, little alveoli of the earth.

“How beautiful” I spoke aloud to Jackson Creek, to the old-growth cedars, the luscious ferns.

I stopped for water and rest and to enjoy it all. This was a place of magic.

A silk worm wriggled and danced, suspended in sunlight. What moves!

I watched, entranced, as the sun reflected off of the rippling creek, casting faint waves of illumination on the underside of the pines overhead

I was enamored. The mountain tops, the boulders and scree and crests and ridges– they are exhilarating. They excite and engage. The wooded forest floors, however, are filled with soul-soothing wisdom, nourishment and light; a place for rest and creation.

Jackson Creek Trail # 311 began it’s ascent. The climb began gently, allowing for huckleberry grazing.

There were some blow downs, but nothing like I had experienced on the Parker Ridge Trail. At one point I gasped in surprise as my leg sunk up to my calf in mud.

Then, I was in Washington!

In a sing-song voice I called aloud “hello Washington! Farewell, Idaho! And thank you!”

Huckleberries abounded. My fingers were soon stained a purplish hue.

I joined the unmarked Shedroof Divide trail and began the climb along the northeast face of Helmer Mountain.

Amongst the hauntingly beautiful burn region, I was feeling rushed as night was falling.

Then I saw her, rising from the east, pregnant with an orange glow. “Oh, how I have missed wandering the woods beneath your light!”

With newfound energy, I pushed forward.

I came to a tent-site and laid out my ground-tarp and unfolded my mat.

I will sleep beneath the stars tonight, surrounded by magnificent pines and high-reaching crests, 6,257 feet above the sea.

Oh, Washington! I have always loved you!

Pacific Northwest Trail; Metaline Falls

Friday, August 16, 2019; day 27

I rose at 0515. I had slept tremendously well.

I watched as streaks of pink lit the sky in the distance.

I would try to make it to town today.

I reviewed the maps. Metaline Falls was approximately 23 miles away. If I stayed on Forest Road 22 instead of joining the Grassy Mountain Trail, my miles per hour would certainly increase (due to the level tread), and I could shave off a bit of distance.  It could make the difference between making it to town before nightfall. If I got to Metaline Falls with day to spare, I could  do laundry and resupply, theoretically allowing me to return to hiking the next day.

I told myself that I would decide when I reached the junction.

By 0715 I was off!

I skirted the eastern side of Round Top Mountain, taking in the view at 6312 ft.

I crossed paths with a hunter. I asked him what he was hunting: black bears. He said that he hoped to get a “huckleberry bear”. He said that they were good. At first I thought he meant the huckleberries.

I asked him about Forest Service Road 22. He said that it was in great condition, but that it was quite a long walk.

He wished me luck, and I to him. As I continued walking I realized, though I wished him safety and happiness, I did not wish him success in his venture. The thought of a black bear being shot while grazing on huckleberries sent a stab of pain through my heart. What did he do with the bear after they were killed? How did he transport the body? Did he use all of their parts? I had so many questions. Be safe, sweet bears.

I collected from the spring about a half mile south of the Grassy Top Mountain Trail junction, and continued along FR 22. I would walk the road.

I ate as I walked, taking spoonfuls of what was meant for lunch as a second breakfast. I stopped for a moment to soak a lunch of instant rice for later.

I was grateful that I had stopped for food at to the Idaho state Indian Creek Campground, not only did I meet some amazing people, but as it turns out, I was a very hungry human.

The road walk began beautifully, gently graded downhill.

Part of me very much enjoyed the excitement of slightly diverting from the trail.

…so many routes to reach a common goal. This is such a captivating aspect to life.

The road then began to curve and swerve along the mountains. To my dismay, heading east at some points. I was at the mercy of my decision. I spoke to a truck driver who was outside of his cab fiddling with some outward mechanisms of his load. He confirmed my route.

I contemplated whether this road walk was the best choice.

Finally, I joined Sullivan Lake Road heading west.

I stopped and ate the last of my food and rested my feet.

Just keep walking.

The road in to Metaline Falls had many bends and curves and no shoulder.

When only a half mile stood between myself and the little town, I watched as a truck stopped in the middle of the road. It then proceeded to back up. This charmed me. They offered me a ride. I told them that I was attempting a continuous footpath. “Good for you!” the passenger stated. They wished me luck.

I was nearly there.

Then…I arrived.

I checked in to the Washington Hotel. I gathered groceries and fed and showered. I socialized with locals. I joined them for a short walk up the hill. The town was hauntingly beautiful at night.

I returned to the hotel. Then to the grocery store for ice-packs.

I was limping.

My left knee was rather upset with me. It did not approve of my decision to elongate the road-walk (17 of the 21 miles or so that I had hiked was on either dirt road or pavement. If I had stayed on trail, only 9 miles would have been road).

My knee–my being–much preferred the give, the cushion, the variation and shock absorbency; the liveliness of the raw earth, the dirt, the trail.

There is no such thing as a short-cut.

Zero #4

Saturday, August 17, 2019; Day 28

I rose early and made coffee using the coffee maker in the guest lounge of the Washington Hotel. I made it especially strong.

I chatted with a lovely southern couple and two hikers that were enjoying the PNT  in sections. There was certainly no shortage of good conversation.

Tiffany, the hotel manager, was full of vibrant energy. She assisted me with a load of laundry and allowed me to hang around the hotel and raid the hiker-box long after check-out.

I sorted and packed my resupply in the hiker lounge. I had found it difficult to find enough vegan protein at the town grocery store. It was going to be oatmeal, peanut-butter, instant rice, nuts, figs. For protein, cooked beans. This is far heavier than was ideal, but the packaging was cardboard, and it contained 30 grams of protein.

My knee was still bothering me quite a bit. It had caused me to toss in the night. My solution: ice. I had two ice-packs that I switched throughout the day, leaving one to freeze while the other gripped the back of my bare knee, secured by a strip of Ace Bandage wrap.

I moved about the little town. I made repeat visits to the grocery store for carrots and fruit, then again for chips and hummus, sometimes just to browse.

I positioned myself within a small seating area to the side of the art gallery that was attached to the hotel. I sat at the table against the building wall, where I felt I would be the least obtrusive. I ate. I ordered my next re-supply, securing future protein intake. Then, upon the sun’s suggestion, I moved to the Visitor Center to meet shade.

The little center was  a park with restrooms, picnic benches, and well-tended flowers, electrical outlets, and an old-train car converted in to a space to be filled with books. Railroad tracks ran behind it. It was lovely.

Hobbling about town, I began to wonder if my knee was ready to handle a heavy pack and road-walk. The deep desire to continue pushing was mitigated by the fear of causing more lasting or debilitating damage. I considered staying another night. The Washington Hotel was lovely, but budgeting is high priority. I thoroughly enjoyed the luxuries of a bed and a hot-shower after the demands of Idaho.  Moving forward, however, I would much rather forego paying for a bed/electricity/privacy, than buy less nutritious fuel. There was a trail-angel in town –Mary.

It was listed in the guide-book that Mary opened her backyard for use by hikers who wished to stay in town. A local pointed her home and her van out to me, and told me that she ran the theater. I watched as the van moved from her home to the theater, and back again. Finally I managed to introduce myself.

She showed me her back yard and where I could get water and electricity, there was even a portable toilet for use. She welcomed me to come and go as I please. She told me that I had the right to ask anyone to leave the yard…unless it was another hiker, in which case we would have to settle that among ourselves. I thanked her, and returned to the visitor center until near night-fall.

Back in Mary’s yard, I laid out my ground-tarp and mat in a flat space of grass in the corner.

I looked at my knee. Red marks were forming. I felt strange sensations and vibrations and pain. For the first time in long-distance hiking I was experiencing an inhibition of bodily function that could prevent me from reaching my goal. I scoured the internet via Google. Was it bursitis, a bakers cyst, just soreness from the weight and high impact of the road…what were these markings and sensations?

Oh please. Please let my body heal. Let me continue hiking. I have learned that there are no shortcuts. Please dear body, please heal.

I did what I could to prop my knee up above my heart. It was a difficult position to sustain.

I fell asleep with hopes that I would return to consciousness in a body in better health than I had left it.