Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 637.4

Monday, September 9, 2019; day 51

I wake and turn within my sleeping bag. I am cold. It is hard to rise.

I sit on my wet socks to warm them. I am tempted to wear my relatively dry pair, but I know better. They would turn wet and cold the moment I put on my boots.

I plan to eat lightly today, and stop at the cabin in 10 miles.

A bird sings one simple, elongated note. It gives me comfort.

As I strap on my boots, I tell myself that being cold is not that bad. I tell myself that it makes being warm that much sweeter.

I was surprised at how emotional each glimpse of sun and blue sky made me. My gratefulness was like a sudden earthquake, shifting mountains deep within me.

To make these journeys successfully, I have to be both highly demanding and extremely nurturing towards myself. If I properly rationed, it was okay to take refuge for the night.

Mid-afternoon, I reached the cabins.

I explored them both. They were not maintained, but were still very suitable. The smaller cabin was preferable. I settled there.

There were two pieces of wood inside a metal bucket near the door.

I gathered scraps of paper and cardboard from inside the shelter, and old map and guidebook pages from my pack. I searched around for bits of sticks and wood for tinder. I placed my collection beneath the two pieces of firewood, within the wood-burning stove.

I lit the paper. I waited. I tried blowing life into the flame. I tried to create enough heat to catch the wood. I failed.

With a heightened sense of urgency, I moved about to collect more tinder. I pulled out the cardboard center from a roll of tin-foil. I ripped out the “recources” section of my guidebook, along with the back cover. I collected dry twigs from underneath the cabin. I told myself that there was absolutely no way that I should be unable to make a fire.

I poked and prodded and blew and rearranged.

Finally, the flames grew strong enough to consume the wood.

I changed out of my wet clothes and hung them fireside. I put my boots beneath the stove, and my sleeping bag on the floor beside it. I filled one of the pots on the cabin shelf with water and placed it on the stove top to boil. I wondered what I would have done if those two pieces of firewood had not been there. I have never chopped wood. I told myself I must learn how.

I stepped outside to relieve myself. A sound came from the distance. My first thought was cattle. Then I recognized two human formations approaching the cabin.

“Hi. How are you?” I asked.

“Happy to see these cabins” one replied.

I smiled. I felt awkward and antisocial. I had certainly not expected people.

I moved back inside. I shut and locked the door.

I positioned my things a bit more tidily in the corner, and peered through the peep hole.

One of them was taking a saw to a downed tree. It seemed they intended to build a fire in the other cabin.

Them going about their own business put me at ease. This allowed me to realize that warmth must be shared with all that are cold. I unlatched the door and stepped outside once more.

I initiated conversation and invited them in.

Doug and Devin were an uncle and nephew pair out for a few nights of backcountry bonding.

They were extremely kind, and were just as surprised to find me alone in the wilderness as I was to see them. They were the first hikers I had met on trail since Montana.

We all picked our wooden platforms for sleeping, and got comfortable.

I told them the story of my wet sleeping bag, and how I considered turning around; of how I still have 100 miles before I reached a point of resupply.

Devin gifted me his dry sack, Doug gave me a ration of food.

I was so grateful; not only for their amazing gifts–but for the warm conversation and genuine kindness, for kindred human company.

The cabin heated quickly. The fire crackled through the night. I fell to sleep safe and warm within a dry bag, a smile upon my face.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 627.4

Sunday, September 8, 2019; day 50

I am concerned with the potential difficulties of navigating in the rain. Fire damage throughout the Pasayten may pose challenging conditions: dead and downed trees, indiscernible trail.

There does not seem to be much elevation change moving forward. If I move quickly, maybe I can make it the 23 miles to the Old Tungsteon Mine cabins.

I make sure everything is in plastic bags. I fill up on water to full capacity and pre-soak a meal. I don’t want to stop until I set up camp, and I want to have enough water to camp at any moment. The frequency of listed campsites in the coming miles is comforting.

It may be a subconscious tactic towards survival, but it seems that post initiation one is always less afraid.

The birds sing and there is a light buoyancy to the air. I laugh at the appearance of my shadow.

I find relief in the clear orange blazing of The Chopaka Trail.

It is not long before the sky dims and the rain sets in. I had removed my base layers in the heat of the morning sun. Caught in shorts and a sleeveless top, I put on my rain skirt and rain jacket and continue.

As I hike, I offer self motivation: you have done this before; the weather is not scary; there is only one option: keep going– find a way–there is always a way.

***

I have set up camp in a dry pond bed, only 13 miles from where I began. Night has fallen. I am soaking wet. The cold rattles my bones. The rain did not cease until the sun no longer shone. I considered hiking in to the night but I was worried about staying warm. My fingers and toes burn as I hurried to pitch my tent, as I told myself it was okay to stop if I tried harder tomorrow.

I eat a dinner of cold mashed potatoes. I curl my body inward, within my damp down bag. My legs convulse involintarily. I am concerned. I check the weather with my satellite device. Tomorrow: 37 degrees and more rain. I am still 102.7 miles from a possible hitch in to town.

Should I have pushed further? Would I have been able to stay warm?

I marvel at the extreme change in weather. Usually there is some warning. I feel foolish and shocked. I was not physically or mentally prepared. My dry sacks have failed me. A wet down bag without an emergency bivy is extremely dangerous.

I suppose the transition from a hot valley road walk to 6,985 ft elevation within the rugged Pasayten Wilderness, is not so fluid.

I hope this weather is but a warning of what is to come, not what is here.

I curl into a ball. I watch my breathe in the light of my headlamp. For the first time on trail, I feel alone. I long for the heat of another. I think of what it would be like to cuddle a cow. I think of what it would be like to freeze, alone in the wilderness. I think about the danger of not being prepared for the cold. I wonder if I should turn back. Then I think of the cabin in 13 miles. I could make a fire. I could dry out my sleeping bag.

I think of the East Bank trailhead, just over 100 miles away.

You can make it there. Just make it there.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 614.0

Saturday, September 7, 2019; day 49

I rose and moved to collect water from Palmer Lake.

I filter while reviewing the guide book. Looks like the route soon becomes a “maze of fading old roads and cow paths” until it reaches Cold Springs , and the “jump off point to the Pasayten Wilderness”.

These confusing routes no longer stir fear in me.

I found I was rather talkative this morning; spouting my thoughts verbally to myself in silly voices, humming Nutcracker melodies.

I glance at the easily accessible water spigots protruding from the grassy private property nearby. The sprinkler had been left shooting streams of water all through the night, and continued rhythmically with the break of day. So interesting how we live, with “ownership” of land and water.

As I walk towards Toats-Coulee Road, the people are all smiles and waves and outhouse offerings. People seemed to know what I was up to.

I was not enjoying the lake water, however. Things lose their essence when they stop moving.

Thankful for the cloud coverage, I took a break just before climbing Chopaka Creek Road.

People do not seem to notice much that is not in their path.

I tie my bandana above my left knee. I consider how the simplest measure is often the most effective.

As I climbed the road, I heard ATVs pull up to the lot where I had just taken a break.

I stop to watch and listen.

One of them called out to another, “Hey, how fast can you go up here!?”

“As fast as ya want!” Said the other.

“I don’t know about that!”, the first replied.

“Hey! Watch out for me!” I called.

Judging by their lack of response, they did not hear me. I need to work on my ‘outside voice’.

I began to see the cattle gaurds as a form of childhood hopscotch… which I played often, and was getting rather good at it.

Found myself considering how beautiful this walk would be on a cool clear night.

I longed for the vibrancy of cold spring water.

At 1422, the thunder sounded.

I put on my pack cover.

All the ATVs zoom by me in a rush off the mountain.

I finally come to cold, flowing water. I stop to drink and collect and appreciate.

Cows gather at the cattle guard. Terrified at my approach, yet unable to cross the guard, I watch as they rush off to my left. One somehow pushes itself through a barbed wire fence.

The sky remains clear, giving me confidence as I approach the less discernable parts of the trail.

A rusted barbed wire catches my right leg, entangling as I walk. Surprised, I stop to free myself. Only scratches, no blood drawn.

I connect to a jeep road and continue. Unfortunately, I continued for too long. I was only supposed to follow the road for 300 yards. I turned back and found the correct junction.

I was running out of daylight.

The trail was very faint and difficult to follow in the dark.

I see bright flashes of light in the distance. Lightning. It is not followed by a sound, but strikes my nerves.

In just one more mile, I would come to a clearly defined forest service road.

There is another lightning burst.

The trail has faded away in the night. I am uncertain of where to turn.

Then, something catches my eye. Reflecting the light of my headlamp, is a cow patty. It points me in the direction of a cow path, and I find my way.

As I walk the forest service road, the moon calls my attention.

I stop and stare. I am flooded with joy.

Another flash of light fills the sky.

I am uncertain if I should continue further in to the night.

At 2204, I set up my tent at the Cold Springs Campground. My tent smells fresh, like dryer sheets. It is mold free, from the recent wash and dry.

At 2317, I heard the first drops of rain.

Vibrations of pain shoot up and down the bottom of my feet.

Tomorrow will be cold and wet.

At 0300 I woke to the loud cracking of thunder.

I listen as cows move about in heavy groups in the night.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 595.8

Friday, September 6, 2019; day 48

I checked out of the hotel, spent time at the library, and followed paved roads through town to join the Similkameen Trail.

The trail hugged the beautiful Similkameen River. It provided a nice dirt, then gravel pathway before joining Loomis-Oroville road.

Shortly after I joined the road, Border Patrol drove past. They turned around and parked beside me.

“Can I talk to you for a second?”, they said as they exited their vehicle.

“Sure.” I removed my sunglasses and walked towards him.

“Thank you” he said, and asked my name.

He introduced himself, and we shook hands.

He asked where I was from. I offered what I was doing.

He told me that smugglers of drugs, and human trafficking frequent this road. Now that he had my info–should he get a call concerning a pedestrian with a pack–he will know who I am.

He asked where I was headed that night. We discussed Miners Flats Campground, though I had the intention of going further.

As he drove off, I waved goodbye. He flashed his rear light in response. A quick red and blue farewell. This made me giggle.

The road was not busy. It was beautiful.

I howled. I laughed. I was happy to be on the move.

I untie the bandanna from my neck and tie it above my left knee.

I passed the Miners Flats Campground.

A second campground came in to view with the falling night.

I could not stop. There were hardly any cars, no grizzlies, a wide shoulder, clear skies, and I had walking to do.

Star-flames illuminate.

I notice a pair of headlights in the distance that were not moving.

There was a man outside the car, walking along the dry hillside. He was calling something out as he moved forward.

Did he lose his dog?

He continued in my direction.

As our paths nearly cross, I decide to vocalize my presence.

“Hello!?”

There is no response. Then I realize that the truck/pedestrian duo must be herding cattle.

I walked up to the parked truck and spoke with the elderly man in the cab. He told me that the cattle were on the wrong side of the cattle guard. They were trying to get them back where they belonged.

I mentioned to the man that I was hiking a long trail, and was just headed along the road until I found a suitable place to camp.

We both continued on our way.

A short while later a car pulled up and parked beside me. I walked up to the passenger door. Nothing happened. Peculiar.

I was confused as how to proceed.

Then the glass partition disappeared into the door.

“Sorry. I did not realize that I had not rolled down the window.” The man inside continued, “Dad said you were looking for a place to camp?”

I realized that I was speaking to the man from the hillside.

“Yeah. This road seems pretty safe to me, and the night is clear. I was planning on camping at the next campground.”

“That’s like 5 miles from here.”

“That’s okay.”

The man told me that he had some gated property up the road, just after passing the entrance way to Canada. I could stay there if I wanted. I would have it all to myself save for a couple cattle.

“If any one gives you trouble, just say ‘Dan said it was okay’. If they don’t know who Dan is, they have no business being there. Just make sure to shut the gate.”

I thanked him for the offer and continued.

There were not many cars on the road. The cars that did pass slowed nearly to a stop when they saw me.

As I entered the small community of Nighthawk (population: 5), I could hear loud, smooth, folk-y music play from a stereo.

I was curious. I noticed people socializing on a porch. I moved slowly, and tried waving. They were unresponsive. I suppose that was understandable. It was just around 2200, and I was not much more than an unidentified disturbing light in the distance.

I continue.

The dry grasses hiss like a snake at my ankles. It surprises me in to laughter.

Finally, I arrived to Palmer Lake Campground.

I found a little site near the entrance to star-camp for the night.

Pacific Northwest Trail; Oroville

Thursday, September 5, 2019; day 47

I headed towards town by 0720.

I did not quite feel welcomed. No one waved on the road. Not even when I tried initiating the gesture.

There was no warmth in the coffee shop.

I headed to the Camaray Motel.

My plan was to ask if I might pay for a shower and laundry, and have a look at the hiker box.

They were so incredibly friendly.

They brought out the hiker boxes and offered me coffee, and were very willing to let me use their facilities.

I thanked them for their kindness. I mentioned that I had not felt very welcome thus far in town. They were surprised by this, and suggested that it may be due to the homeless population. Also, many of the locals are not familiar with the trail.

As I was looking through the hiker box, a kind couple offered to cover the price of the room!

I was eager to get going, yet happy to accept the offer.

In the hiker box I found loaner clothes (skirt and top!), creamed coconut, nuts, and razors.

Back in the room, I decided to forgo using the razors. It would inevitably lead to an uncomfortable prickly phase. My body hair makes me feel more wild in nature and more rebellious before the eyes of town. I notice who takes notice.

I shower and put on the loaner clothes and head to the laundry room.

I wash all my clothes, my tent, my sleeping bag.

I resupplied, and repackaged.

I sewed two groupings of little stitches along my tent to keep my vestibule shut where the zipper had broken.

I watched the sky turn grey.

I felt shifty in the hotel room.

It was early morning before I slept.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 575

Wednesday, September 4, 2019; day 46

I woke to the soft humm of kitchen electronics.

I heated some water for my instant coffee.

I packed up, quickly left a note of thanks on the bulletin board, and was back on the road by 0730.

I turned on to Swanson Mill Road. The cows abounded.

I did not not feel like using my trekking poles. I tied my bandana above my left knee.

I walked an alternate along Mount Hull Road and reconnected with the PNT at Sullivan Lake Road.

Soon after, I joined Trail 100. The trail was maintained by backcountry horsemen.

Along the trail, I missed a fallen sign post and continued in the wrong direction.

I found my way back and joined the Whistler Canyon Trail.

The climb out of the canyon was rewarded with wonderful views.

I came around a bend, and was shown the little town of Oroville.

I wanted to camp as close to town as possible.

I found a flat spot with a bench .7 of a mile from US Highway 97.

Little cacti stick to my pack.

As the sun sets it becomes shady and beautiful.

I watch as the little buildings and houses light up below.

I feel like a silent watcher, viewing the town secretly from above.

The stars and moon greet me as I lay on the exposed rock, beneath their light, high above town.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 550

Tuesday, September 3, 2019; day 45

I woke to the sound of a car driving down the paved road behind me. So many car encounters on this journey. I went to retrieve my charger from the bathroom. It is now 0604, I am sleepy.

I begin to pack up my things and collect water from the campground spigot.

Soon Asa was packing up as well.

It felt nice to wake up in the company of another.

He took spoonfuls of peanut butter, and I drank an instant coffee/protein/maca shake as we sat around the picnic table.

Asa was familiar with the Pipsissewa Trailhead, and offered to walk me there.

We chatted a bit longer, exchanged contact information, and hugged goodbye.

“I always tell other cyclists to ‘keep the wind at your back!'”

“That’s a nice thing to say! Thank you!”

I wished him the best of luck in his amazing journey.

Then, we both set off!

I gazed down at Bonaparte Lake.

I travelled through a logging area, and a section where the trail had been cleared of many blowdowns.

As I hiked, I decided to follow the Original PNT Alternate. I would follow the Mount Bonaparte Trail, then join the Antoine Trail, which reconnects with the Primary PNT.

The trail was clear, and I was able to move quickly.

Soon the PNT briefly meets the little community of Havillah. There is a church there that is only .3 of a mile off of trail. It is said to be very hiker friendly, providing hikers with water and snacks and a place to camp. I hoped to make it there before dark. The miles immediately proceeding Havillah were roads, flanked by private properties.

Havillah is a beautiful little community.

As I approached the church, two graceful young bucks and a doe leaped over a distant fence.

The trail magic was more than I had anticipated. They had a little bulletin board at the side yard of the church, welcoming hikers to collect water and camp either outside, or inside the unlocked building.

I was elated.

It was dark, I moved around inside with the red light of my headlamp. Atop and inside the fridge were containers labeled “For PNT Hikers”. They contained a variety of snacks and food and fresh apples! There were even frozen meals for hikers, in the freezer! I could not believe it. It was certainly some of the best trail magic I had encountered on any trail. I was extremely grateful.

I enjoyed the fresh fruit and microwavable meal of quinoa and grains.

I placed my things to charge and set myself up for sleep on the soft carpet.

I fell to sleep in a space of good-heartedness, filled with thanks.

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.

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 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.

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 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.

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.

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 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.