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 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 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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Zero #4

Saturday, August 17, 2019; Day 28

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pacific Northwest Trail; Metaline Falls

Friday, August 16, 2019; day 27

I rose at 0515. I had slept tremendously well.

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

I would try to make it to town today.

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

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

By 0715 I was off!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The road walk began beautifully, gently graded downhill.

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

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

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

I contemplated whether this road walk was the best choice.

Finally, I joined Sullivan Lake Road heading west.

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

Just keep walking.

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

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

I was nearly there.

Then…I arrived.

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

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

I was limping.

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

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

There is no such thing as a short-cut.

Pacific Northwest Trail (alternate); ~mile 317

Thursday, August 15, 2019; day 26

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

Laughter filled my tent.

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

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

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

Idaho, you have been one of my greatest teachers!

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

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

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

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

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

I turned to follow old forest service roads.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then, I was in Washington!

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

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

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

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

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

With newfound energy, I pushed forward.

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

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

Oh, Washington! I have always loved you!

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 299.3

Wednesday, August 14, 2019; day 25

I rose with the illumination of my tent.

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

It rained very slightly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I reached East Shore Road and stuck out my thumb.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I continued, joining the Upper Priest Lake Trail.

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

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

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 279.5

Tuesday, August 13, 2019; day 24

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

This morning will mark the start of the bushwhack.

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

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

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

The views were incredible, exhilerating.

I located the small cairn that marks the western descent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes I hardly felt I was moving at all.

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

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

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

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

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

So beautiful.

So challenging.

I was so close, yet it felt so far.

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

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

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

At 1930 I was setting up camp.

What an amazing experience!

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

Oh, Idaho, thank you!!!

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 273.0

Monday, August 12, 2019; day 23

I was on my way around 0900.

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

I hydrated with huckleberries as I walked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zero # 3: Waiting out the storm…

Sunday, August 11, 2019; day 22

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

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

That makes me concerned about water.

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

The temperature has dropped dramatically.

The sound of rain falling was beautiful.

I recognized the weather pattern of yesterday.

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

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

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

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

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 261.8

Saturday, August 10; day 21

I rose to the sound of doors closing and footsteps.

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

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

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

“Sure thing, thank you!”

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

“Welp. That’s right here, then.”

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

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

The sky teases me. Still no rain.

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

Roosters crow.

I picked beautiful rosey little apples on my way.

I found a ten-dollar bill on the ground!

I continued through farmland.

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

I watched as eagles soared high above me.

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

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

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

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

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

Idaho is beautiful!

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

I carried on.

At 1411, thunder.

This was followed by rain.

The rain was followed by hail.

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

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

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

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

Dirt and ash and blood color my legs.

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

I notice I lost my nalgene.

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

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

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

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

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

I smiled.

I was filled with pride, not pain.