Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 786.1

Sarurday, September 21, 2019; day 62

I do not want to rise. But why? The day is clear. There is a mild chill, but I am prepared for that.

A chipmunk visits. It stirs me to a livelier state, by hurling its tiny body into the netting of my tent. As I heat water, it nearly runs inside!

I try to shake the guilt I feel for spending so much time in Winthrop. There is no use in beating myself up about it. I accomplished many things. I believe everything happens for a reason. I believe in moving forward without regrets.

Rain is said to be on it’s way this evening, but the temperatures still hover in the 40s and 50s. I was not concerned.

As I pack up, I ask the trees for strength.

As I walk, I repeat a call for the spirits of the woods: “I am here. Be here with me. I love you”.

Then, two weekend hikers approached. I was startled and slightly embarrassed. I told them that they had caught me in the middle of a chant; that I was feeling a bit down. They smiled and said that they completely understood, that they had been there. It was a pleasant encounter.

There were many hikers on trail.

I forded the Chilliwack River.

I could hear the trail crew actively sawing and hammering and working to fix the cable car that is normally utilized to cross.

I moved up and over Hannegan Pass. It was all so terrifically beautiful!

I followed the dirt road out towards the Mount Baker Highway.

The walk along the forest service road was relaxing. Ruth creek flowed with great strength, emitting beautiful music from the south. I was offered many rides from the hikers I had met on trail. I kindly refused. That was, until a group of young people offered me a ride .1 miles from the road. I explained to them how I was attempting a continuous footpath. They pulled up to the trailhead and waited for me to complete those last feet leading to the highway!

It was a pleasant ride in to Glacier. I quickly resupplied and sat in front of the store and repackaged my food.

Now to find a place to camp. It was already dark. A local called Lilly told me about an 8 hour parking area up the road, where I should be able to sleep for the night. I thanked her.

Then a man asked me about the weather. I asked where they were headed. Turns out there were going my way. I had found a ride! I could not believe my luck!

By 2000 I was right back where I had left off, with a newly replenished food bag. Oh, what joy!

I stealth camped in the Hannegan Pass trailhead/picnic area.

A little mouse moved about beneath my tent.

I fell to sleep happy and hopeful.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 802.2

Sunday September 22, 2019; day 63

It’s raining this morning; not a lot, just a pit-pit-pattering.

I am thankful that the mouse that was climbing up the netting and under the floor of my tent last night, did not decide to chew right through.

As I exit, I notice a spider has used the crown of my tent as support for its web.

I gathered water from Ruth Creek.

It crashes and flows, steadily and swiftly–swelling as it receives the beautiful snowmelt from the mountaintops.

I will be walking Mount Baker Highway today. It is Sunday. I am hoping the rain will be a deterrent to tourist traffic. Right now, as I pack up, traffic sounds very light. I am hopeful.

The mapset says “Highway 542 is steep and winding without a shoulder and limited sight distance. PNTA is working with the USFS on a trail relocation in this area”

When they are not busy I like walking roads… they are like railroad tracks, an industrial speedway that spans miles and miles.

Expressions on faces of drivers as they pass, make me giggle.

Some people stop to ask if I am alright.

A feel a car pull up slowly behind me. It was Ryan, the man who had provided me with gifts of warmth.

“I know you won’t accept a ride, but I will pull over so that we can chat for a bit.”

This made me feel as though he fully supported my continuous footpath.

I left the conversation with a lightness in my step that comes with the delightful whimsy of coincidence.

I did not find the roadwalk to be dangerous or uncomfortable.

The rain came down in buckets. I grew cold. I stopped at a trailhead bathroom to put on more layers. I considered boiling some water for hot coffee, but I dismissed it as a tad ridiculous. I knew it would be best to press on.

I stopped at the Visitor Center before joining the Lake Ann trail. I gathered a couple of snacks and a rice and bean meal.

I followed the Lake Ann trail, then turned to join the Swift Creek trail. With all of the rain, the trail itself was a flowing stream.

I began to consider the coming ford. I hoped to make it there before nightfall.

The rain did not let up. I continued crossing many, many streams along the way.

I stopped. I watched as a Mountain Goat stared in to the distance. I wondered what it was doing. Contemplating life, perhaps. Then it noticed me. It leaped off the ledge and down the mountainside. What an impressive, magical, whimsical looking creature!

I realized that I would not make it to Swift Creek before dark. There were also not many places to camp.

I noticed a flat space just off trail. It just did not seem right. I moved on.

Soon I questioned my decision to continue. The rain remained heavy, and a fog was setting in. I became desperate. I scoured for a place, hopeful at every bend and turn, that something may appear.

Finally, I found a spot that would (barely) do.

I cleared the forest floor of branches and twigs and erected my tent by the light of my headlamp.

I crawled inside. I was safe. I changed in to dry clothes. I was warm.

I would face Swift Creek in the morning.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 802.2 (return)

Monday. September 23, 2019; day 64

It is rainy and foggy out there. It is just after 0900. I sip hot coffee in a sea of emergency blankets. I had placed them below and upon my sleeping bag in order to keep it safe. I realized that the little drip-drip-drips from the ceiling of my single wall tent add up through the hours of the night. The blankets are of no use though, as I inevitably toss and turn. The next time I greet the mountains of the Pacific Northwest in the fall, I may consider a bag that is not 100% down, and has not already seen over 2,000 miles.

Swift creek awaits, just over a mile south.

As I packed up I sang “I can do it, I can do it, just gotta put your mind to it, boop-boop-boop-boop-boop-boop-boop-boop” on repeat.

…And it will feel great!

I put on my wet clothes and rain gear, packed up, and set off.

With the recent heavy rains, the creek certainly was swift!

I unbuckled the hip-belt of my pack, and hung my fanny pack around my neck.

I attempted to ford where the trail crosses. The water reached well above my waste, and the current was strong. I was forced to turn back.

I bushwhacked downstream. I made one very serious attempt. I used rocks as footholds, leaning in to the current as I side stepped. I was only feet from the other side, but I could not reach it, the current was too strong. I struggled to return the way I came, but I managed.

I looked around a bit more, scrambling along the boulders upstream. After I was satisfied that I had given it my all, I turned around and hiked back to my campsite from the previous night.

I would try again in the morning. Otherwise, I would be forced to find an alternate route.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 818.7

Tuesday, september 24, 2019; day 65

The morning is less foggy than yesterday. It rained through the night. Though part of me is tempted to continue back to the visitors center for maps and an alternate route, I must see for myself if Swift Creek is still impassable. If I can make it across it should be flat terrain, and smooth sailing to Concrete

….Otherwise, I may be facing a lot of road walking.

I made my way back to the creek. I attempted to ford upstream, again I was forced to turn back. I scrambled up and down the banks. I stood on large boulders and surveyed the creek, looking for any place free of the white froth that appeared when the water crashed against the stones at high speed.

On my second attempt of the day, I made it across. As I neared the opposing bank my heart filled with glee, I knew I would make it. As I hit Earth, I brimmed with emotion. But it was not over yet. I still had to bushwhack 1/2 a mile back to the trail.I pushed my way through brush and climbed my way up the tremendously steep dirt embankments, my body hugging the earth, clinging desperately as I struggled upward.

As I descended, I slipped. My body was quick to react. I hooked my leg around the limb of a tree to stop my fall. I dug my heels into the earth and grabbed at every sturdy root and limb I could manage, as I slowly lowered myself to the creek.

I followed creekside as much as I could. When there where no stones and boulders to scramble along, I tried lowering myself in to the water. This time, the water level reached my chest. I moved inland, until there was no choice but to travel directly alongside the stream. Luckily, there was a steady path of stones.

Soon, I hit trail. I had made it.

I cried, I laughed, I was overwhelmed with the feeling of being truly alive; with the rush of engaging so rawly with nature; with the power of my own vulnerability and strength.

I could not relax fully, just yet. There was one more crossing of the creek. This time, there should be a fallen tree and rope to assist me. There are never any certainties, however.

To my relief there was a fallen tree. I crossed. I turned to gaze at the creek.

“Bye-bye Swift Creek!” I called out.

I carried on, dripping wet and light as a feather.

I joined the forest service road. The sun broke through the clouds. I removed my rain gear so that my wool garments may dry.

I sat in the middle of the decommissioned road, sun in my eyes, filled with joy and accomplishment and perseverance and laughter. I called out in thanks. I enjoyed a meal of cold soaked beans and rice.

This was living.

The walks that have followed the most challenging of bushwhacks, have been the best of my physical existence.

I joined Baker Lake Road.

I gazed at my feet. My shoes were literally falling apart. They did not need to last much longer.The beauty of a leaf stops me in my tracks.

I joined Baker Lake Trail, and crossed the Baker River Bridge.

I came to Noisy Creek Camp, and settled in for the night.

I had made it.

Pacific Northwest Trail; Upper Baker Lake Dam

Wednesday. September 25, 2019 (day 66)

I am exhausted and late to rise. I tell myself, that it’s alright. Yesterday’s ford and bushwhack was the most physically and mentally challenging traverse to-date. I reach in and pull from the accomplishment to fuel today– as the only ration I have is half a cup of cold soaking noodles. I am about 23 miles from the town of Concrete.

The trees and lush ferns– the spider-webbed, lichen covered beauty–takes me to a place away from hunger… however briefly.

Mid-day I was greeted by a miniature schnauzer with a writhing little body and a rather large bark. A man followed behind. I told him the story of the bushwhack and fording. He listened, smiling. I carried on. I was so full of energy and life. 

He offered me a ride to Concrete. I explained to him that I was pretty determined to walk there…but that it all depended on how hungry I got. He told me that he would be back to the road in about an hour, should I want a lift.  He released a shoulder strap and swung his tiny backpack around to his front. He unzipped the main compartment and pulled out a large apple and a bag of mixed nuts. He held them out in offering. The exact snacks I longed for! I thanked him profusely, and we both went on our way.

I ate the apple first. I could feel it strengthen me. As I continued towards the road, however, my body ached. I developed shin-splints. Though I had only hiked 15 miles the previous day, they were some of the most intense miles I have put my body through. I began to hike with a limp. I considered how I may benefit from a shorter day, and a lift in to town.

I did not wait at the dirt road for my new friend, but continued down it. I hoped to make it to Baker Lake Road. It would be easier to hitch back to than the forest service road I was on.  Soon my new friend pulled up beside me. I explained to him that I was hoping to hitch from a place that was more memorable, so that it would be easier to reconnect my path. He offered to drive up to Baker Lake Dam and wait for me. I smiled widely, and agreed.

As I continued walking towards the dam, Dave drove by in a Puget Sound Energy truck. He was surprised to see me. He asked if I had a ride in to town. He told me to message him after I arrived in Concrete, and I could come over for dinner. I agreed, and continued towards the dam.

I was very thankful for the lift in to town. I asked to be dropped at the grocery store. I ventured in, collected a handful of items, and sat storefront on the cold, green, metal bench. I proceeded to build peanut-butter tortilla wraps.

Suddenly I was feeling very tired, worn, anti-social. I did not have the spark to reach out in connection. Luckily, Dave found me.

“Hey. I thought I might find you here!” Dave said as he walked towards me. 

“Hi!” I said, smiling. Though a large part of me wished not to be seen by anyone.

He mentioned that his wife said that I could stay the night, and that he just needed to run in to the store to grab a couple of items for the chili. 

I waited on the bench for him to return, and we headed to his vehicle together. As soon as I strapped myself in to the passenger seat, I began to feel better. Dave was good people. His high energy lifted my spirits. I remembered their kindness, and was grateful to be joining him and his wife.

Soon we pulled up to a positively beautiful home with a front yard of lush green grass ornamented with the occasional white, spongy mushroom. At the far end of the yard was Kay,  busy among a lovely vegetable garden. We parked and walked out to greet her.

Post introduction we all ventured inside and Kay began preparing dinner. I was offered a shower, which I eagerly accepted. After bathing I joined them in the kitchen. Before I could offer to help, Dave asked if I would like to get a load of laundry going. Would I!? The notion was thrilling. I set to it, straight away.

Soon we enjoyed one of the best meals I  have had on trail. I enjoyed the company of Kay and Dave very much. They asked if I would like to take a zero day. I was compelled to keep moving. As I had intended to take the Cascade Trail Alternate, I would be walking right back in to town tomorrow.  They said that they would be happy to have me another night. I gratefully accepted.

I retired to their guest bedroom. I was so comfy and cozy and happy and clean. Tomorrow–early in the morning–I would join Dave on his ride to work, and reconnect my footpath onward from Baker Lake Dam.

Pacific Northwest Trail; Cascade Trail Alternate

Thursday, September 26, 2019 (day 67)

I woke early, catching the tail end of the lightest knocking against the bedroom door.

I dressed and packed up quickly and Dave and I headed in to town for a morning coffee. I ordered  black drip with a shot of espresso, Dave a decaf Americano—he only drank the real-deal on race days.

We reached Baker Lake Dam before the sun. I connected my footpath and continued on my way to Concrete.

I stopped at the heated bathroom, not far from the dam. I had cellular service there. Earlier in the day I had noticed an e-mail confirmation from Lowa, concerning my replacement boots. They had mistakenly sent the boots to the address on file: my dad’s house in Northern California. Now I had to coordinate getting the boots to me. Satisfied that I had the ball rolling in the right direction, I ripped a compactor-bag up the side, draped it over my pack, and tied it around my neck. I stepped out of the bathroom and in to the rain.

About two miles in I realized that I had dropped a glove. I had no choice but to turn around. I scanned the ground with every step. It may be in the bathroom; this was likely. Upon arrival, I discovered no glove. I continued. I continued all the way back to the dam. There it was, wet and flat, sad and abandoned, in the middle of the road. I retrieved it with one swift downward motion and continued back again. I sighed deeply. At least I had found it.

Beautiful little mushrooms stood perky in a row; standing proudly in asphalt defiance, in embodiment of the Green Man. They uncovered a smile, causing me to kneel in awe and observation.

A fully-loaded logging truck slowed to a halt to offer me a ride. I was surprised at the unsolicited offer. I thanked the driver kindly, informing them that I wished to walk. 

I listened to the elongated bird cries from the misty woods; the crunching of gravel; the whispering brush of wind on leaf, leaf on ground.

Finally, I was in town.

I followed the Cascade Trail to the grocery store to meet Kay and purchase 26 miles of rations.

Back at their home, I picked fresh veggies from the garden as spaghetti squash baked in the oven. Dave and I snacked on raw beet as we all stood around the kitchen chatting.

Kay and I carried on in conversation and sipped tea into the night, long after dinner was over.