Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 349

Sunday, August 18, 2019; day 29

A slugs greets me in the morning.

I examined my body. On the back of my knee streaks two wide, horizontal bands of bright red, adorned with three small blisters. Internally, the pain had much improved. Superficially, it appeared awful.

Again, I consulted the internet through Google. I reflected. I had done this to myself! I had kept the ice-packs on for hours against my bare skin. It was surely an ice-burn, some form of frost bite. The scarring was the exact size and shape of the ice-pack. I felt at once apologetic to the extreme nature of my remedy, and satisfied that it seemed to work. The pain upon mobilization had greatly diminished.

I packed up my things and returned to the Visitor’s Center to rest and write.

Some time mid-morning, a woman approached with the intention of donating books. However, the Visitor Center had yet to be unlocked.

“Well, I guess I will have to come back.” She said this to another woman, one who was about to lead a religious gathering in the nearby gazebo. I responded.

“Are you from here?”

The conversation began rolling. We spoke of the trail, of how she had lived in Metaline Falls for one year and had no idea that it was routed through there. We spoke of travel and adventures and of how time consuming we both found writing to be.

She sat down opposite me on the wooden picnic bench. Then, the conversation took flight.

We discussed Jack Kerouac and the beatniks. We spoke of writing, and how it can be difficult to be satisfied with or to share one’s work. I learned she was a poet. We discussed feminism, and how it has changed throughout the years. I learned of her spunky youth, rebellion, and anger. Young women today do not have the same struggles that were present at the start of the women’s movement. There was concern that we have lost sight of what her generation had fought for. We spoke of Carl Jung and of archetypes, the power of common symbols and of dreams. We spoke of existence. We spoke of Einstein. We spoke of God.

She sat closer, leaning in across the bench. “…then one day, I began to look at my waking life as if it were a dream.” She paused. She had a look of mischievous whimsy on her face. The energy was delightful.

She continued, analyzing the day of our meeting from the perspective of a psychoanalyst. In this “dream” she, in the role of the crone, was passing knowledge to a young woman who was also her younger self.

Tomorrow would be her last day in Metaline Falls. She was to move to another town. She felt that meeting myself–with my transient nature and enthusiasm for the towns beauty–could help her to appreciate the time she has spent there. She asked my name. She found the name of “Brooke” (in addition to being a term for a small stream, brook means to endure, or tolerate) to be very symbolic. Her name meant peacemaker, or blessed reconciliation.

I began to look at her as an aspect of my older self. I allowed my mind to dance and swerve and flip—to inflate and deflate and recalibrate as the conversation twisted and turned between dream and waking, perception and reality, symbol and archetype.

We both acknowledged verbally, the power and meaningful nature of our conversation; a conversation that began between strangers; a conversation that may stand to be one of the most interesting, playful, intelligent, connecting, and inspiring conversations I have had.

Then the Visitor Center was unlocked.

Upon her return from donating her books, she inquired of my website. I told her. I asked her if she would remember. She said she would. We hugged and said goodbye.

What an amazing woman.

I returned to my work.

Later, she returned. She had forgotten the website. We wrote down and exchanged contact information. She presented me with beautiful gifts, three of her poems. I was so very inspired and grateful. She drove away.

The sun began to set. I packed up and moved to a bench near a faucet, to fill up on water. A conversation began with an older woman and her tiny but quite vocal dog, “Bear”. They sat at a neighboring bench.

As I bandaged my knee, we discussed patience and taking care of one’s self. We discussed healing–both spiritual and emotional. She had come to Metaline Falls to heal, following the death of her mother. She told me that parents are “gone before you know it”. I think of death. I think of the great shift in existence that death of a loved one must jar for the living. I think of my family; of how, little I see them. I promise myself that I will take more time to honor familial love.

The women asks if she might pray for me. I told her that I would be honored. She held my hand. She asked for my safety. In the end, as I put on my pack and walked away, she said “you’re gonna make it, honey”. In my heart I knew this, I just wasn’t quite sure what “it” was.

I followed State Route 31 along the Metaline Falls Bridge, which crossed the Pend Oreille River.

I connected to Boundary Road. The road hugged the mountain, curving sharply and frequently. There was no shoulder. I felt unsafe.

I considered the statistics. There were likely less cars at night. What one expects to see (or not see) can be just as powerful as what is, however. No one was expecting to see a person walking that road at night. No one would anticipate the potential of hitting me.

I came to a large half-circle pull-out for cars. I decided to take it. It was quite sizeable, buffering a comfortable distance from the road. It even had a grouping of small trees and plants in its center. I moved to a flat space past the dirt lot. It was lightly wooded with a floor of bark and dirt and leaves. It would do just fine. I spread out my tarp and mat and sleeping bag.

Just as I was transitioning, drifting from consciousness, headlights pulled up beside me. Everything felt hazy. The beams of light were so obtrusive, they raped my sense of security. I sat up.

A disembodied male voice asked if I was alright.

“Yeah. I am hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail. This road just got a little curvy.” I was stunned. That was the response I managed. Looking back it was more information than I needed to offer a disembodied voice and glaring light.

Unable to stop myself, I called out an elongated, almost meek sounding “Thank-you!” as the car drove off. Was I thankful? That they had good will, yes, of course. I did not appreciate, however, the blinding beams of light cast upon me by their mechanical monster as I drifted in to sleep.

How did they spot me? It was not possible that they noticed me from the road. Maybe they had used the dirt lot to turn around. That must be it. That won’t be common.

The whole thing was very awkward and unnerving.

I fell in to sleep once more, with hopes of uninterruption.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 373.2

Monday, August 19, 2019; day 30

I rose to the sound of cars moving up Boundary Road. I was pleased with my decision to continue the walk in daylight.

After a brief period I  joined Flume Creek Road. I was relieved by its dirt tread and the likelihood of less traffic.

I collected water from Flume Creek . After returning to my pack, a man pulled up in a truck and asked who I was working for– if I was with the city. I found this question amusing. I told him that I was hiking the trail. He mentioned that they would be doing some work on Flume Creek Road for the next couple of days. I told him that I hoped to be long gone by nightfall. Three other trucks followed as I impatiently waited to relieve myself in the brush.

I reached the Flume Creek Trail junction. I sat for a break before starting the climb. I heard engines revving. Motorbikes came rushing by. There were two of them. A few minutes later, three more. I confirmed for them, that I had seen two others “They went up ahead.” I said, willing them to move along.  I was eager for solitude, to be away from engines. I was thankful that I would be rejoining a trail.

Back on trail, the green hues were vibrant and playful. I was welcomed by the serenity of a space free of automated travel.

I stopped for huckleberries and continued the climb.

I jumped, startled by large grouses hurried launch into flight. I laughed. Such amusing, chubby, wobbly creatures.

The views along Abercrombie Mountain were spectacular.

I joined the Abercrombie Mountain Trail and began my descent.

The trail was so well defined. I was able to hike in to the night with ease and enjoyment.

I joined Silver Creek Road.

I came upon a roadside trail camp with a creek. Other than its proximity to the road, it was a lovely space.

Sometimes I get uneasy camping by roads. Then I remind myself of how unknown I am; how unexpected, nearly non-existent I am as I travel through the backwoods alone. For a moment, this makes me feel better.

I star-camp, drifting to sleep with thoughts of town on my mind.

Northport (PNT mile 392.2)

Tuesday, August 20, 2019; day 31

I woke, still drenched in drowsiness. I turned cozily, pleased with the retained fluffiness of my sleeping bag.

I sanitized, applied salve, and bandaged the blisters behind my knee. I then wrapped my knee in Ace Bandage Wrap for extra support. I would be journeying along 17 miles of road, today. I decided to use my poles whenever possible, regardless of tread.

I began the long walk north, and then southwest along Boundary Road.

I passed many private properties. A large grey Irish Wolfhound crouched down to wriggle beneath the chain-link fence that enclosed one properties yard. It ran towards me, barking angrily, jumping up and down and circling me. I could sense that it would not hurt me, but it did not calm either. I spoke to it gently. I outstretched my palm in an offering of peace. The dog continued to writhe and bark frantically. A man and a woman came out of the house. They called after the dog. The dog was unresponsive. I continued walking. It followed, running ahead and circling. It was quite uncomfortable. Finally, the owners managed to retrieve it.

As I walked away I could hear the women say “Bella has never done that before.” I found this unlikely.

I felt hungry and tired. The road was unforgiving. I thought about my desire to complete a continuous footpath. I think of others I have met who have skipped roads, who are now far ahead. I smile at a message I received from one of those hikers, who had commended my resolve. I shake off the feeling of foolishness, the suggestions of town-folk to take rides. I ignore the tones of response when people discover that I choose to walk a long or dangerous roadway, simply because I said I would.

I ask myself why I want it so badly. I know I adore the simplicity; the romantic notion, that one individual can cross great spans on foot. But it is something more. A continuous footpath provides a framework by which I can more easily gather lessons. It acts as an unwavering constant among shifting priorities and intentions and influences, by which I can compare and contrast existence. It provides a clear path for synchronicity.

It is something I can count on.

..Mid thought I am distracted. Apples! I knew they were close, I could sense it!

The tree sat just past a property line. There was no car in the drive-way. I scurried over and plucked as many apples as I could hold, then scampered away quickly, shoving the apples in my pockets and hip belts, eating as I walked. I thought of Peter Rabbit. I smiled.

After continuing for some time, I spotted moving figures in the distance. It was a man walking in my direction. He had four large dogs. They were all off leash. The man walked in the middle, with two dogs on either side. It was a rather regal sight. A clear display of a bond between species. The dogs were beautiful, at ease, and well trained. We greeted each other as we passed.

I thought of the contrasting behavior between the caged animal, and those that were free.

The heat of the sun and road drains me, like a grapes transition to a raisin.

“Closer with every step”, I tell myself aloud.

I had only a half liter of water remaining. Northport was still five miles away.

I notice a sign for an RV Park. I peered around a bend to see green grass and sprinklers and a fountain…water everywhere! I thought to ask if I might collect some. I caught sight of a waving hand. The gesture welcomed me, and I ventured in to the park.

A kind lady and man greeted me. I asked about water. They offered me multiple cold bottles. They had a little snack stand that I visually perused from behind the counter. I am highly selective about my food (as a thru-hiker, sometimes even I want to roll my eyes at myself). Everything was quite processed, with added sugar. There was not anything I was interested in.

I sat for a moment and socialized. I felt a bit dizzy. I took a moment. Then, becoming inpatient, decided to just get up and leave.

I did not make it far.

Before passing the driveway, my image of the world began to pixelate and turn black. I had to sit down in the grass, before I passed-out.

Oh, no.

The woman came over, very concerned. I told her that I was fine. That I had just become dizzy and needed to rest for a moment. She helped me move my things, and myself to the shade. She returned with cold wash cloths to lay on my arms and chest. After some time, I moved over to join them at the seating area. I knew I needed sugars, even if it were not fruit-sourced as I preferred. I purchased graham crackers. I sat and ate 2/3 of the box, polishing them off as I walked the first mile.

As I neared the town, I heard a noise of overwhelming power. I began to run forward, thinking it was an out of control vehicle. Then I heard it again. This time I caught sight of the source. They were fighter jets, speeding towards Canada. I watched as one shot forward to suddenly back-flip into reverse flight just shy of the border, doing barrel rolls along the way.

Finally! I had made it in to Northport.

I walked through the tiny town to the home of Jami and Josh. They are trail angels who have their information listed in the PNT guidebook. I had sent a resupply package to their address. They were expecting me.

I knocked on their door and was greeted by Josh. Jami was in the yard gathering their chickens. Their home and backyard were incredibly beautiful; so rich with warmth, color, and beautiful texture. Jami is an artist, this was reflected in their home. They were tremendously welcoming. They brought me my package and showed me a bench in their yard where I was welcome to splay everything out and reorganize. I found a lovely space on some cedar-chips to star-camp. I was allowed free access to their home for use of the bathroom, water, etc.

I fell asleep, extremely grateful to have such a safe and beautiful place to rest my head.

Zero #5

Wednesday, August 21, 2019; day 32

I rose, and stepped inside to use the restroom.

Jami was up and moving about. “Ah. You are up early!”

“Yeah, I’m up!…but that doesn’t mean I get going straight away!” I replied, smiling.

I returned to the backyard to finish packing up my things. Soon Jami followed with a fresh mug of coffee! Oh how kind!

Jami and I chatted briefly as she tended to her garden, and I fiddled with my resupply. We did not get to speak for long, however, as she had a painting engagement that morning. We soon hugged good-bye.

I took a much needed shower and chatted with Josh for a bit. He said that hosting hikers has certainly been a “two way street”. This made my heart smile. I thanked him for all of their hospitality, and was on my way.

First stop: the post office. It was about time I sent home my ice-axe. It was becoming apparent that I was carrying fear.

As the lady at the post office and I worked together to come up with some sort of creative packaging for my ice-axe, I began to notice a swelling and tightness in my leg. It was hot to the touch.

I did not pay it much mind at first, continuing to wrap the make-shift packaging with layer after layer of tape.

Then, I noticed my left leg was not only turning red and blotchy, but it was also now appearing at least 1/3 bigger than the other.

I began to present my legs to the other patrons that walked in, gauging their responses to help determine my own level of concern.

One kind woman was worried about potential infection. She had a friend, Jaelle, who was a nurse. She called her up. Jaelle told her to bring me over. I finished my business at the post office, followed the woman to her vehicle, and was delivered to Jaelle.

Jaelle (who is also a Trail Angel) promptly sat me down and looked my leg over. She mentioned a definite redness and swelling, and what appeared to be tiny little blisters forming along a large surface area around my calf. My leg felt incredibly tight. What made diagnosis even more of a challenge, was that it was the same leg I had blistered from over-icing. She suggested that it may be a spider-bite or some sort of plant poison. I recalled stepping in to the brush along the recent roadwalk to avoid an oncoming vehicle. I remembered having a prickling, stinging sensation afterward. But it soon dissipated, and was forgotten. She asked if I had showered. I told her that I had that morning, but not immediately after the incident. She suggested that I take a zero day, and that I wash everything I owned…including my sleeping bag.

Jaelle was hosting an overnight guest that evening. Before I could even reply, she turned to her friend Sarah and asked if she might take me for the night.

I was overwhelmed with their kindness. I was also concerned about my leg. I agreed that a zero day may be a good idea.

I was given some cream to apply topically, and some Benadryl. I showered and put on some clothing Jaelle loaned me, and put all of my things to wash.

Soon, under Benadryl induced drowsiness, I fell asleep on their couch.

After a couple of hours, movement and bustling filled the house. Dinner preparations were underway.

Soon I was invited to the table for a meal and beautiful togetherness.

Then it was out in to the yard for an enjoyable game of Bocci Ball on the grass. The entire evening was so wholesome and full of love.

My leg did not seem to like any sort of vertical positioning, but it was certainly improving.

As the evening wound down, Sarah suggested that we head over to her place (which was just next door).

We made up the guest bed together. We pulled the freshly dried sheets over each edge of the matress, adjusting and readjusting, laughing quietly until we got it right. We then wished eachother goodnight.

I took two more Benadryl, and fell fast to sleep.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 404.9

Thursday, August 22, 2019; day 33

I woke early and so happily in Sarah’s home. We sipped coffee over conversation. We talked about travel and exploration and the nature of small towns. She expressed interest in pursuing her own backpacking adventure! I encouraged her to do so.

She offered breakfast and blueberries as she prepared her morning smoothie. I was delighted with the hot coffee, and a handful of sweet berries.

Soon, I was over to Jaelle’s to say goodbye. Sarah and I hugged farewell. It was such a pleasure to get to know her. I will always remember her kindness.

At Jaelle’s they were eating a breakfast of rice and beans and tomatoes. Jaelle likes to feed people. I joined in. We chatted and ate.

They looked at my leg. “Oh, so much better!” they remarked.

I thanked them for their kindness, and headed out.

I crossed the bridge over the Columbia River.

I hit a downhill slope of travel. I let it propel me forward. My leg feels better. I feel motivated. I can do this.

The most challenging part of the road walk was the exposure. The barren stoney, tarry, dusty road reflecting a mid-day sun, in the oven of a valley.

Oh yes…and the strange metal creature with a human brain, and all their unpredictabilities as they merge as one at 30 to 60 mph.

I stop for lunch at Sheep Creek Campground. I eat at a picnic bench. I then lay myself flat on the ground with my feet elevated on the bench. I hold the position, imagining pools of blood and swelling rushing from my toes and pads of feet and calves and knees, flowing towards my heart; towards the mothership.

A bird came very near. The wind blows. There is cloud coverage. It is cooling.

The river was beautifully vocal.

I continued on.

Cows.

I watched them. They watched me

They walked away. I walked away. We both turned back to watch each other walk away.

I searched and searched but I could not find the listed spring, in the darkness. It being late August, it was very likely dry anyway. Besides, the nearby campsite did not look all too appealing. Roadways flanked each side.

I carried on. I came to a stream in about 1/2 a mile. Oh, what joy!

I looked around for a flat space nearby. I did not anticipate rain, I planned to star-camp.

I set myself up amongst twigs and leaves and duff and fallen trees.

I could hear the small things buroughing, and wading their little feelers through the forest floor; or it could be all my micro movements sending ripples through my down and water-resistant fabrics.

I left my sleeping bag partially open and my puffy unzipped. It was a warm night.

Oh what a weightless fluffy delight my sleeping bag had transformed to after a proper wash and dry!

I took two 25mg Benadryl. I settled in. I fear spiders more than I had before.

I read Almost Haiku #10 for the first time. It was a poem from the dear woman I met in Metaline Falls. The poem caused me to well with emotion.

It gives me the hope and serenity I need as October nears.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 420.2

Friday, August 23, 2019; day 34

I rose so cozy and dry!

I turned to the rhythmic sound of weight-in-motion. I smiled gleefully as I watched two of the neighborhood cows partake in their morning stroll, in a single file line, right down the center of Forest Service Road 15.

One spotted me, spotting them, and they gave a little jump.

My leg is much better this morning. I am beginning to think it was certainly a reaction to some poison.

I thank the space for amazing rest. I Express my love and gratitude. I turn to leave. The nozzle on my bladder hose pops off, releasing a steady stream of water on the forest floor, and the rear of my shorts. I awkwardly move to catch it like a dog after its tail. I hold it upright to stop the flow as I reach down for the mouthpiece, I reattach and resecure. I wonder how much I lost. There is a creek in 10 miles. I cannot be bothered to fetch more. I have a liter in a bottle. This is not the first time this has happened.

I walk. I think.

Though I understand there are no certainties. Can there not be certainties of intention? Amongst humans, in my experience, it is not uncommon for someone to say something they do not fully mean. Completion is never a certainty. I believe intention can be strong and unwavering.

I take comfort in those in my life with intention that is both full and pure hearted, and as strong in fruition as their zest for life. Thank you.

These woods are beautiful. The sky is hazy.

I discover the source of that giant whimsical seed that soars through the air, a magical prelude to life.

It began to rain, ever so faint and gently.

Then larger drops with greater speed, hitting the ground hard enough to imbue a fragrance.

I move quickly to fetch water from a creek beyond a bridge marked “Private”.

Two deer cross paved 395 at the same time as me. They are just south of me. We match each others pace, all three of us pausing briefly in the street. I call out for them to move along. The roads are dangerous. I continue.

I found a flat space roadside, by the North Fork of Little Boulder Creek.

I set up my tent and crawled inside for the night.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 439.2

Saturday, August 24, 2019; day 35

I rose, crawled out of my tent (after untangling my hair from the zipper), and went in search of the faint trail that led to an access point of the North Fork of Little Boulder Creek. It was far easier to spot in the light of day.

I returned to my tent, filtered, and reviewed the guidebook.

So many roads.

At least they are Forest Service Roads. I thought of how they were sort of the middle ground between wilderness and civilization. A medial place where wilderness and society meet. I don’t know much about Forest Service Roads, or what exactly is being “serviced”.  I need to learn more about what is being said.

I thought of moderation and extremes.

I stopped and ate breakfast, roadside.

I continued on.

I passed the only water source for miles. I turned back to find it, periodically stopping to hear beyond the sound of my footsteps on gravel. Then I hear it faintly.

I stop to collect, sitting cross-legged as I filter from one bottle to the other.  A raised SUV with giant wheels drives by. The man inside waves and nods as he passes. Human sightings on these roads make me nervous, especially when I am stationary. When I am sitting, things splayed about, I feel vulnerable. I listen for the sound of the motor, making sure it fades away entirely before I fully relax and return to the water.

Two young people pass on an ATV.

The road becomes wilder as it climbs, practically becoming a trail as it descends to the southeast.

Suddenly the “trail” disappears. So many fallen trees, such overgrowth! I continue, pushing and climbing my way forward. I notice twisted, rusting barbed wires between downed trees. I remember the history of the path, what potential dangers its industrial use could bring.

It was not long before the path became clear again. I  felt positively euphoric from the excitement of the quasi bushwhack.

The contrast of wildflowers and new growth in a burn area is so outstanding in beauty; a stunning portrayal of death and rebirth.

I was happy to join the Kettle Crest Trail.

As I hiked into the night, I began to look for a place to camp.

The entire region of forest was burned. “Widow-makers” or “snags” abounded. Though I found them to be very visually appealing, they did not make for safe sleeping. The wind could blow, their roots could lift from the earth, they could fall at any moment.

I soon realized that camping within the burn area was unavoidable. There was no swaying or creaking of trees. The night was calm, the stars brilliant.

I found a spot of relative clearing. I would star-camp.

I was alone out here. I have not seen a single hiker on trail since Montana.

I laid out my ground tarp and mat right in the center of the sandy trail.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 459.7

Sunday, August 25, 2019; day 36

What a glorious nights rest! …Oh, the stars, the crescent moon! Such a clear, cool night with the slightest hint of breeze.

The sun kisses me good-morning; then is overtaken–hidden behind a blanket of grey.

It becomes so cold. I must put on my long wool stockings and balaclava to slip out of my down cocoon comfortably.

To Sherman Pass!

The wind howls. A lone wolf through the clouds. Haunting, beautiful, chilling. It plays my nerves like a violin.

I continue along the Kettle Crest Trail.

At times I have to will myself to continue. Oh, the struggle, the push. I realize that the feeling of freedom, however defined by an individual, never comes without sacrifice.

The sky clears.

I discover huckleberries along the ascent towards Copper Butte. Oh, thank you! I move slowly, eating my fill.

I break up a gathering of grazing cows. I am positioned between one and the group. It “moos” deeply, angrily, desperately. I continue, side stepping the plethora of cow patties at their various stages of decomposition.

I no longer find the cows amusing.

The trail, however, was clear and fantastically beautiful.

I came to a piped spring and trough. It was fenced to keep the cows out.

I took a short break by the spring and continued.

I made it to parking lot of Sherman’s Pass. I got a visual of Route 20, and where I would hitch from. I then walked back to the trail head in search of a flat spot to camp. I found a small space that would suffice. I spread out my tarp and mat.  I would hitch in to the tiny town of Republic, first thing in the morning.

Republic; zero # 6 and # 7

Monday, August 26, 2019; day 37

By 0825 I had my thumb out. I was hungry.

The traffic was fair, but all cars zoomed by. Most cars seemed to be heading east. Republic was about 17 miles west of Sherman’s Pass.

I watched as one man’s vehicle swerved in to the neighboring lane as he glanced back at me. Some people are really so surprised to see a hitchhiker.

An SUV pulled in to the empty lot. I hurried over to it. They had not pulled over for me. This is always a sad experience.

An hour passed.

Then a man pulled in with a cement truck. I began chatting with him. He said that some other guys with the state were headed over to assist him and that one of them may be able to give me a lift.

We talked briefly about the trail. I could feel him sizing me up, looking me up and down.

“You must be pretty strong then, huh?”

He then reached in and squeezed my upper thigh.

Darn it! I knew he was going to touch me. I could sense it.

It was not exceptionally creepy, but it was: Not Okay. You don’t just reach in and grab someone’s thigh. What do I do? In avoidance of awkward air, and desperate for a ride in to town, I pretend it never happened. Responding to these situations in the way they deserve is one of the most challenging lessons I have been working to honor. Never give up.

One of the men that came to assist the cement-truck driver, did in fact give me a lift to Republic. He was very kind. We spoke of the trail and of the bushwhack in Idaho. He said that with that sort of determination, I should go far in life. This pleased me. We pulled in to a gas-station on the outskirts of town. He offered me a cold bottled water. I thought of all the cow patties near the water sources on trail. I gratefully accepted the water, surprising myself when I called it “fresh”.

I made my way towards the center of town. A man recognized me as a hiker, and offered me a ride to the post-office, where I had a package.

After collecting my goods I sat cross-legged on the sidewalk just outside of the post-office to repackage my things from their original cumbersome packaging to ziploc bags. I tried to be as unobtrusive as possible. I inevitably always spill something.

I chatted with a kind lady named Kim, who was walking a small dog. She was planning to move to Republic. She was staying in a nearby hotel, until she found a place to rent. The conversation was exceptionally pleasant. Soon she went on her way, and I finished packing up.

“Hey ma’am. Can you come here for a minute?”

I looked up to see a lady calling from a vehicle.

“Me?”

“Yeah.”

“Hold on a moment, let me throw these things away.” I moved over to a dumpster to toss all the plastic and cardboard packaging from my re-supply.

I met the lady in the parking lot. She told me that she had a bounty of raspberries and would like to give me some.

Oh, how wonderful!

Then I was off to get a meal, and supplemental food-stuff. I stopped at the bargain food store. The man there was so kind. There were bins of food including Lara Bars for 25 cents!

Next was the Ferry County Food Co-op. I sat at a store-front counter space to eat a meal of avocado and rice-cake, while my devices charged inside.

A woman spoke to me kindly in passing. Upon her return, she said that I could come to her place if I needed somewhere to stay that night. Her name was Carrie, but her friends call her Care Bear. She told me where I could find her apartment. She told me that her door would be open. I told her that I planned to head to the library after my meal, but that after that I may stop by. I thanked her.

I headed to the library. Just as I walked up, I spotted Kim. She looked as though she was about to get in to her vehicle. “Oh. I have been looking for you! I have something for you.” she said. She presented me with a pair of hand-knit wool gloves, a small piece of religious literature, and two packets of hand-warmers. I was touched; most especially by the wool gloves. “They will keep you warm, even when they are wet.” She paused. ” I still need to figure out how to knit the fingers.”

“No. These are perfect! It will allow me to manipulate things!”

I hold all hand-made gifts so close to my heart.

We hugged. She told me to come find her if I needed help getting back to the trail.

I went inside and got a guest number to use the library computer.

The library closed at 1800. I shyly walked over to Carrie’s apartment. There were some people conversing casually outside her door. She overheard me speaking to them, and called me in.

The apartment was small, simple, and extremely welcoming.

I had the opportunity to meet Carrie’s grandson, and her sons girlfriend. I sat at a chair and watched them all interact. I chimed in once in a while. They were very lively and entertaining. I would be sleeping on the mattress where Carrie’s grandson sleeps when he stays over. It was small and tucked away cozily in the closet. After Carries company departed, we stepped outside to socialize.

I was introduced to Dave the Mountain Man, Caveman, and Ramon. We all chatted for a while. The conversation was comfortable and interesting. I felt very at ease with them. They understood the transient lifestyle.

As night was falling, Carrie mentioned she was going to wind down for bed. I followed suit, first taking advantage of her offer to use her shower. Dave slept over as well, sharing the bed with Carrie. Everytime anyone came by, Carrie asked them where they planned to sleep that night. She truly had an open door policy. Her home was a safe refuge. I found this to be so incredibly amazing. It warmed my heart.

Before we all fell to sleep, Dave pointed out a gold metal hanging on the wall. Carrie had received that metal after being declared the strongest woman in the world. “Wow!” I said, smiling widly. I was impressed.

***

Tuesday, August 27, 2019; day 38

Dave was up early, smoking cigarettes and making hot water. I rolled around a bit, then got up and packed my things. Ramon stopped in with some Folgers coffee packets. He took a cup of hot water for his own, and left two packets for us to enjoy. I was beginning to see the true nature of Carrie’s open door policy, and what a loving group of people I have found myself amongst.

As I was packing up, Carrie told me that I was free to leave my pack there as I did what I needed around town. I thanked her, and headed to the co-op for a cup of coffee and conversation, and back to the library. The hours turned. I headed back to Carrie’s. She told me I was welcome to stay one more night.

I graciously accepted.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 464.1

Wenesday, August 28, 2019; day 39

I was drowsy in the morning. I had difficulty falling asleep the previous night, and had taken Benadryl very late. It had not yet worn off. After an hour more of shut-eye, I joined Carrie and Dave over a fresh cup of coffee…or three.

I hugged them both and we had our final goodbye. I was so thankful to have had this experience in Republic. To have met them. To have been taken under Carrie’s wing.

Before I left, I was presented with an amazing gift. Not only did Carrie hold a gold metal for having been the strongest woman in the world, she was a poet. She signed and handed me a copy of her book.

I thanked her once more, and headed out, pack on my back.

I spent time at the library, then the co-op. Oh, how I adore small town co-ops with fresh coffee and public seating.

I had a spunky, heated conversation with a man in his mid-70s.

He mentioned how people were not truly happy these days, even though they think they are. He said that people were not activating their bodies. I told him that I wished to inspire people to discover what makes them happy. To help people feel more comfortable being themselves. Even if they don’t really care about what I think, or how I write…they will see that I am vulnerable. In my life, meeting people who expressed themselves freely, unabashedly, without guilt or shame, has changed how I engage with the world.

He asked how I funded my journey. I mentioned my writing, and donations. He told me times were tough.

He got up to leave. We both expressed our appreciation for the chat. A moment later he walked back and handed me a $10 bill, with the words “for your journey”. Then, he was gone. He left me feeling like he believed in my spirit, and what I had to say.

Next, I was headed to the post-office to ship home Carrie’s book of poetry. There was no way I could manage the additional weight.

As I was leaving, I encountered Steve and Sarah. They were fans of the thru-hiking movement and had read many published books written by hikers. They were eager to help. They offered me a ride back to the trail later that day. I told them that I had some things to finish up at the library, and asked if 6 or 7 o’clock would be too late. They said that would be fine, and wrote down their number.

At 6:50, I called them up. Fifteen minutes later they were curbside.

I loaded my pack in to the trunk of their Tesla. I motioned to enter the backseat, when Steve said, “No, you get to sit in front.” Wow! I felt so special! …and I truly got to see what their vehicle could do. I had never found myself in a Tesla before. Sarah was in the driver’s seat. As I sat down beside her, she offered me a chocolate. I smiled, prepared to decline “Oh, thank you. But I’m vegan.”

“So are we.” She responded.

“Oh. Wow!” I enjoyed the cacao truffle. Then she presented me with a bag of dehydrated bananas to take on the trail! How deliciously kind!

By 0730, I was back on trail.

I continued hiking in to the darkness.

I smiled as the stars grew stronger in their brilliance. Then I spotted a bright light in the distance. It was too low to be as star. I covered my head lamp to see if it was reflective. No. I watch it. It moves. Like a human.

I realize that this is the first time I have been uneasy at the thought of encountering another human on trail at night. I am all but certain that there is not a PNT hiker within 100 miles of me. I stop and listen. I hear cars. I continue. I look for the light. I do not see it again.

I came to a spring. It was flowing, but only a tiny stream.

I continued toward Snow Peak Cabin. Steve and Sarah had mentioned that they had stayed in that cabin once before. They said it was nice, that it even had fire place, and a cooking stove.

The cabin was unlocked, and very spacious.

I made myself comfortable inside. I ate some delicious bananas. I fell fast asleep on the wooden floor.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 474.1

Thursday, August 29, 2019; day 40

I rose late on the cabin floor. Shielded from the sun, my body did not recieve its usual call to rise.

There would be bushwhacking today, just after Edds Mountain. I have chosen to do the alternate. It is about 2 miles longer and includes a bit of roadwalking, but it should provide nice views from Edds Mountain and an easier, much shorter bushwhack.

I consider water. I am utilizing the Guthook app as a water report. Hikers update the app with comments of the strength, location and quality of a water source. There are rarely any updates for this region, dating after August. Water is becoming scarce. Many of the springs are no longer dependable.

I collect water from the same spring as last night. I position the pipe to my liking, to get the fastest and cleanest flow. I fill up and drink up. Who knows what the bushwhack will bring.

The early morning was hot, but the day cooled quickly.

I diverted from the Edds Mountain trail and bushwhacked south in search of an old forest road. I hugged the line of new growth pines to the east. The bushwhack was fairly easy.

I located the first old road, and followed it for a short while.

Then, after a slight bit of confusion, I realized that I needed to continue (a very minimal amount of) bushwhacking, to locate the second.

The second road crossed a stream. I collected and rested for a bit. It was just a couple more miles along this road before I would reconnect with the PNT, on Hall Creek Road.

With the easy grade and obstacle free terrain, I was able to gaze upward as I walked.

I joined Hall Creek Road, then Thirteen Mile Trail # 23.  The tread was easy to follow, but there were many switch-backs and changes in elevation that are not on the map, causing the mileage to be off. This made the trail more challenging than it appeared.

I hoped to make it to another water source before setting up camp. Bearpot Campground and Pond was not far (~4 miles, according to the map) but the idea of pond water did not thrill me. I was far more interested in the stream said to be located where Thirteen Mile Trail, and Thirteen Mile Road intersect. This was roughly another five miles after Bearpot Campground.

I pushed forward. I still had a liter of water. I was not terribly concerned.

As night fell, I grew tired.

I found a a flat spot just to the side of the trail. I laid out my gear, and star-camped, still about two miles shy of Bearpot Campground.

Thirteen Mile Campground (PNT alternate; exact mileage unknown)

Friday, August 30, 2019; day 41

The sky sent little drops of liquid encouragement. I shot up and out of my sleeping bag, moving quickly to save my dry items from the rain. I was thankful for it’s light touch. My sleeping bag, maps, guidebook, and phone remained dry. It was about time I started hiking earlier, anyway.

I was moving, just after 0600. I enjoyed the quiet of the morning, the heavy lifting. This part of the world was rising. I realized that I had not met this aspect of the forest on this trip. Each time of day, each season, have such varying essences…different personalities.

The first bird song of the day to reach my ears is loud and repetitive, remarkably akin to a car alarm. It changes tempo: quick then slower then a pause. The pitch is constant.

The morning is moist and rich and beautiful.

I think of time, that it’s existence is based on our own mortality.

The region turns dry, but is breathtaking. Grasses of gold bend and dance to the soft howling of the wind.

The beauty causes a well within me to overflow with appreciation, actuating in resounding laughter.

I came to a small stream, before anticipated.

Just as I am about to remove my shoes and filter, a large grumble fills the air. I look up. The sky is overcast.

…it sounds again.

It begins to rain. Then, another loud clapping.

I leave my shoes on. I put on my rain-gear, and cover my pack.

I collect water and sit right in the center of trail, legs stretched straight out in front of me, and filter.

It rains harder. I continue to sit and filter.

In this moment, I did not mind the rain. It is powerful. It rolls and gathers and pools along my rain gear. It drips down my back. It is cool, but I am not cold. The smell is fresh. I enjoyed the feeling of it washing over me.

As I am finishing, the rain lightens. The grey opens to blue skies and sunshine. The clouds then quickly cover the sun once more, but it seems the rain had ceased. Oh, the unpredictable charm of Washington!

I gather my pack, and continue up the trail.

In avoidance of another bushwhack, I follow the alternate route recommended by the PNTA. It continues along Thirteen Mile Trail. I find the trail to be extremely beautiful. I paused many times, to show appreciation; to take it all in.

I reached Thirteen Mile Campground, where it meets Route 21. There is a beautiful stream of cold, clear water. I take a large sip of the water I had filtered, from my previous collection. It tastes like a farm smells. I feel sick to my stomach. I pour it all out and replace it.

Now, to join Route 21. Taking the alternate extends my walk along the road, but only by a couple of miles. The primary PNT also joins Route 21 after the bushwhack. The guidebook states that it is not a very busy road.

That was not my experience.

There was only about one hour left of daylight. The road walk was breathtaking, but the cars zoom by so fast, causing the fabric of my clothes to flutter. It makes me terribly uneasy.

I notice a sign regarding noxious weed control. I wonder if poison has been sprayed. I think back to the leg swelling I experienced after the road walk in to Northport.

As the shoulder lessons, and the sky darkens, and the cars continue to drive by wildly…I get nervous. I was very uncomfortable. I wonder if I should turn back, and sleep at the Thirteen Mile Campground. I cannot bring myself to do it. Instead I search for a flat space far enough from the pavement, to sleep safely for the night.

Aha! I had found something!

As I continued to approach, I spotted a mother grizzly and her two cubs. My potential sleeping spot was clearly their domain. There was positively no shoulder on the other side of the street. I was positioned between a group of grizzlies on one side and speeding cars on the other, all  beneath a sky turning towards darkness.

I turned around.

Just a few moments after deciding to head back, a red truck stops to warn me that there was a mother grizzly and cubs just behind me. I told him that I had seen them and decided to turn around. He drove off.

Then his truck stopped. He asked if I needed a ride anywhere. I asked him to take me back to Thirteen Mile Campground, only about a mile away.

The man was a hunter. He commented on all of the tourists in a very frustrating tone. I suppose it is Friday.

At least Thirteen Mile Campground is surrounded by beauty, and has a nice stream.

I was frustrated that my plans to continue hiking were thwarted, but I was happy to have a safe place to rest.

I set up my tent by a picnic bench and went to sleep.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 500.4

Saturday, August 31, 2019; day 42

I did not want to rise. I felt bloated, uncomfortable, sick. I had broken the zipper to my tent in the middle of the night. I fear State Route 21.

I review the guidebook. It states: “Enjoy this road walk through San Poil Canyon which has very light traffic” I feel mislead. It was not light.

There is a trash at the campground. I took the opportunity to ditch more weight. I discarded a carabiner, extra bandages, an empty peanut-butter container (why in the world had I been carrying two?). I cut out the lining of my shorts with the tiny scissors of my tiny Swiss Army tool. They were surprisingly heavy and entirely without purpose (like many things in today’s world).

I noticed a hole in my shorts. I considered how long it may have been there, as I sewed it up.

My gaiters have two large tears on either side. This seemed to make them more dangerous than anything, liable to snag. I have grown to like them very much, however. I will sew them up as well, but later.

I pack up my tent, saddened by the broken zipper. At least there are two pieces of velcro to hold it shut. Will that hold up in a storm? Maybe I should just sew the darn thing shut. There is another exit on the other side.

I go to fetch water. The good quality, its cold clarity, lift my spirits.

I hear a car.

I return to my pack to watch an older man, cigarette  in mouth,  move bags of trash and foam padding from his truck bed to the campsite trash bin. I am annoyed by this as I watch. Finally he sees me. He lifts his hand. “Hi” I say, flatly.

I listen to the traffic whiz by in the distance.

I can do it I can do it I can do it.

I say to myself “I am not afraid of the cars. People will see me.”

The lower I sink, the more intense the determination that springs.

“Ok. Take two.”

The walk was indeed beautiful.

At least cars are not sneaky. You can hear them coming.

There are far fewer cars than last night. They seem more amiable and slow. Some even slow down deliberately to see if I react as if I want a ride.

I came to the place where I had spotted the mother grizzly and her cubs. I replay the situation in my mind. They were closer than I had realized. There was certainly no way I could have safely proceeded.

Suddenly, happiness finds me again. It is inevitable, I am certainly not hiding.

I take note of the litter. Beer cans, half full Sobe bottles, more beer cans. I din’t get it. They are in a car. Can’t it wait? Surely they will see a trash soon enough. Then it dawned on me. Drinking and driving. Evidence. Evidence and integrity, straight out the window.

I imagine this is what a roadside deer feels like.

I reached the Ten Mile Campgroud and trailhead. After completing the Ten Mile Trail (which was just over two miles) I would divert from the primary PNT , yet again. I would follow ten miles of open, dirt, forest service roads to bypass another bushwhack. I would rejoin the primary PNT at the W. Fork Scatter Creek Forest Service Road.

I passed through the trail quickly, and joined the road.

The wind blows. It rains pine needles and leaves. It is magic.

I think about motivation. This–these walks, these travels– is what I do to keep love and hope alive within myself.

I sit for a m moment roadside. A hunter I had seen earlier on the road parks and offers me cold water. I accept.

I look up at the tree tops. They sway, top heavy. The sun on my skin is hot, but pleasing.

I continue.

A red truck revs its engine unnecessarily while zooming by in reckless spurts along the curving forest road. It continues as it passes me. I glare. They are a large group. They laugh as they pass. I turn to watch as they park, music blaring, all four doors and the tailgate thrown open. They gather something. Downed trees for firewood, I am assuming.

One sees me watching and calls out: “Welcome to America!”

I say nothing. I keep walking.

The sun, setting behind the clouds, has them traced in gold.

I reach  Ogle creek. The roadside culvert is fenced. I remove my pack and gather my empty bottles. I then slide my feet, then legs, then rest of self under the lowest wooden plank. Little hopping insects with tiny bodies and long legs move about the waters surface, then pause– floating like lily pads– then start again. I am thankful for the clear stream running from the culvert.

I throw my full bottles ahead of me, then push and undulate my way back up, beneath the lowest wooden plank.

It is dark. I scan for a place to camp. There is not much. Many times I leave the road, scouring the woods that show potential, but return after deeming the space unsuitable.

Finally, I reach a place that will do. I had not intended to set up my tent. The howling of wolves is very near.  It sounds painful. Their nearby calls, and the uncertainty of the roads left me desiring shelter.

I set up my tent. I fell to sleep.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 515.5*

Sunday, September 1, 2019; day 43

I rose at 0600; began hiking at 0730.

I would stop back in to Republic today. With such a slow start en route to Oroville, my food stock would not comfortably carry me the remaining 77 miles.

I feel a bit silly, as I spent so much time there a few days ago, but it seems to me the smartest option. The hitch is close, and I know what they have.

As I walk, I hear the sound of a chainsaw . A figure in the distance plays catch with a lab. Two young men stand beside a pick-up truck.; two more are on the hillside with a saw.

I moved towards the truck and addressed one of them curiously “Are you cutting downed trees for fire wood?”

I could feel his friend staring at my legs. Most likely the dirt…and the hair so long it lays flat against the skin.

“Yeah, and sometimes we cut down dead ones, like that one.” he said, pointing.

“Isn’t that dangerous?”

He shrugs. “We grew up doing it.”

I smile. I respond when they ask my story. I continue to walk.

Oh, my life seems it has been filled with so much road, and only hints of trail!

Cows and calves run down the road ahead of me. It saddens me, how much a domesticated creature fears humans.

I reached Highway 20, just before the Sweat Creek Traihead.

I stuck out my thumb. Soon a truck stopped for me and I was storefront in Republic.

I notice a bike leaning near the front entrance of Anderson’s Grocery. It had a Therm-a-Rest mattress strapped above its rear tire, and two bright orange saddle bags on either side. It was exciting to see signs of other travellers.

I moved in and out of the grocery store quickly. I sat storefront and made peanut-butter/raisin/tortilla rolls.

I did not feel judged. Most people smiled as they passed. Some people engaged me.

As I moved towards the eastbound entrance to highway 20, I saw the bike-packer. So swiftly and fluidly he rolled on to the freeway entrance. I thought to call out “where ya headed?!” but my voice would have been lost in the space between us. I watched him glide away, admiring his ability to move in and out of towns so quickly, so independently. I found myself slightly disappointed that I had barely missed an opportunity to connect.

I picked my post and stuck out my thumb. Only 5 minutes or so had passed before a man I had chatted with earlier that day drove up. He was on a return trip to his campsite after a town run. I smiled widely when I recognized him. I hopped in the back of the pick up truck. Oh, how I adore sitting in the open truck bed of a pick-up, wind pushing against my existence in recognition of my reality, the scenery whizzing by!

I saw the bike-packer. He was focused, struggling to make it up the hill. Now I was the one moving so swiftly. I gave him a wide-arching wave as we passed.

Three hours in and out of town, and I was back to where Highway 20 meets the Sweat Creek Trailhead.

It was very hot.

I joined the trail. It began with a steep climb.

Sweat drips from my forehead. The wind blows. I am enveloped in a sweet sensation, and I smile.

I continue.

The climb grows steeper. Suddenly a motocross bike zooms down. We nearly collide.

I stand beside the trail, waiting to let all pass.

The third rider was surprised by my presence. He –very slowly– ran his bike in to a tree. It was not enough to cause injury. We both saw it coming as he wobbled on his machine in slow motion. It did jar him off his seat a little, clearly causing some embarrassment. “I’m sorry” he said as he stabled his body and bike.

“No. Don’t be. You certainly did not expect anyone to be standing here.” I then apologized, for startling him.

As we both stood there, the last rider appeared. We all chatted briefly and then went our way.

The hike was hot and dry; all golden grasses and clear skies and beauty.

I collected from a spring and ventured forth.

The sun was soon to set. In just a few miles, the PNT would connect to Cougar Creek Road. I had read that shortly after joining the road, the trail travels through private property. There would likely not be any place to camp.

I found a lovely little flat space just before the descent. I spread out my tarp and sleeping mat to lay beneath the stars.

* NOTE: Mileage on the Guthook Application and in the PNT Guidebook no longer match the PNTA Mapset. For continuity, I will continue to refer to the mileage listed on Guthook and the guidebook. The difference is roughly 5 miles (PNTA Mapset mileage for this post is ~521)

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 530.2

Monday, September 2, 2019; day 44

I surfaced to consciousness with the lightening sky. So peaceful.

I turn to my side within my down cocoon and watch as the sun lifts and expands its radiant light.

I packed up quickly. I was still interested in visiting the Bonaparte Lake Resort, 15 miles away. I had read that they offer free showers to hikers.

I was glad I had stopped a bit short and slept within the woods. It coos my drive and motivation…unlike paved roads; like those I was about to hike along.

I began the descent towards Cougar Creek Road.

An owl soars within my line of path. Graceful in its heavy silence, it lands on a branch ahead.

I joined the road, and as expected, cut through private property.

I could see a group of people gathered in chairs around a fire. There were beautiful tapestries of cool colors and moonscapes.

One person who was seated, turned and looked my way.

“Hello” I say. “Sorry, I think the trail goes through here…”

“It does”, replied a woman standing beside the tapestries and make-shift kitchen.

The woman introduced herself as Lynn, and offered me a hot cup of coffee.

I never refuse a cup of coffee.

I removed my pack and sipped the hot beverage and chatted with Lynn and Jay and their loved ones. They had purchased the property a while back, and they were slowly moving in. I asked her how she felt about the trail running through their yard. She said that she did not mind the hikers, that it was the hunters that left trash.

I left the encounter smiling.

I continued along the roads.

The air is dry. Locusts cause crackling sounds in the brush. Sweat drips off my body. I dream of a shower.

I move along the pavement, a wavy being wading through heat induced delirium.

I turn on to Bunch Road, greeted by cattle and blinding white gravel.

I close my eyes and lilt as I walk.

Eventually I joined a forest service road. The road was slightly overgrown, which made for a pleasantly cushy, shaded hike.

I soon hit the asphalt of Bonaparte Lake Road and headed to the resort.

I bought a 35 cent bar of soap, and was told where I could find the shower.

A very social guest of the resort spotted my pack and told me that there was someone travelling by bike out on the patio. “Why don’t you go say “hi”, she encouraged.

I instantly knew it was the bike-packer I had seen earlier.

I went to the patio and introduced myself to Asa.

We chatted for a long while around a table on the deck of the restaurant, then we returned to his camp site and chatted some more. We spoke of our journeys (he had started in DC and was also travelling to the coast), and how one seems to enter the travelling community when they pursue these adventures more than once.

We relayed fresh stories of adventure as I let my external battery pack charge in the nearby public restroom.

We spoke of the mantras we repeat to ourselves, and how the locals have been friendlier to him since he started wearing a camo hat.

Asa paused in conversation and looked to the surface of the picnic bench where we sat. “We have certainly covered this table, haven’t we!?” We both looked at the bottles and plastic baggies and maps and sleeping pads that sat in disheveled display. We both began laughing hysterically. My eyes began to water and my belly ached. It was the hardest I had laughed in some time.

I decided to accept his offer to stay at his site. I star-camped, gazing at the night sky and listening to the beautifully haunting call of loons on the lake.

It was the first night I had spent on trail in the intentional company of another.