It is rainy and foggy out there. It is just after 0900. I sip hot coffee in a sea of emergency blankets. I had placed them below and upon my sleeping bag in order to keep it safe. I realized that the little drip-drip-drips from the ceiling of my single wall tent add up through the hours of the night. The blankets are of no use though, as I inevitably toss and turn. The next time I greet the mountains of the Pacific Northwest in the fall, I may consider a bag that is not 100% down, and has not already seen over 2,000 miles.
Swift creek awaits, just over a mile south.
As I packed up I sang “I can do it, I can do it, just gotta put your mind to it, boop-boop-boop-boop-boop-boop-boop-boop” on repeat.
…And it will feel great!
I put on my wet clothes and rain gear, packed up, and set off.
With the recent heavy rains, the creek certainly was swift!
I unbuckled the hip-belt of my pack, and hung my fanny pack around my neck.
I attempted to ford where the trail crosses. The water reached well above my waste, and the current was strong. I was forced to turn back.
I bushwhacked downstream. I made one very serious attempt. I used rocks as footholds, leaning in to the current as I side stepped. I was only feet from the other side, but I could not reach it, the current was too strong. I struggled to return the way I came, but I managed.
I looked around a bit more, scrambling along the boulders upstream. After I was satisfied that I had given it my all, I turned around and hiked back to my campsite from the previous night.
I would try again in the morning. Otherwise, I would be forced to find an alternate route.
I do not want to rise. But why? The day is clear. There is a mild chill, but I am prepared for that.
A chipmunk visits. It stirs me to a livelier state, by hurling its tiny body into the netting of my tent. As I heat water, it nearly runs inside!
I try to shake the guilt I feel for spending so much time in Winthrop. There is no use in beating myself up about it. I accomplished many things. I believe everything happens for a reason. I believe in moving forward without regrets.
Rain is said to be on it’s way this evening, but the temperatures still hover in the 40s and 50s. I was not concerned.
As I pack up, I ask the trees for strength.
As I walk, I repeat a call for the spirits of the woods: “I am here. Be here with me. I love you”.
Then, two weekend hikers approached. I was startled and slightly embarrassed. I told them that they had caught me in the middle of a chant; that I was feeling a bit down. They smiled and said that they completely understood, that they had been there. It was a pleasant encounter.
There were many hikers on trail.
I forded the Chilliwack River.
I could hear the trail crew actively sawing and hammering and working to fix the cable car that is normally utilized to cross.
I moved up and over Hannegan Pass. It was all so terrifically beautiful!
I followed the dirt road out towards the Mount Baker Highway.
The walk along the forest service road was relaxing. Ruth creek flowed with great strength, emitting beautiful music from the south. I was offered many rides from the hikers I had met on trail. I kindly refused. That was, until a group of young people offered me a ride .1 miles from the road. I explained to them how I was attempting a continuous footpath. They pulled up to the trailhead and waited for me to complete those last feet leading to the highway!
It was a pleasant ride in to Glacier. I quickly resupplied and sat in front of the store and repackaged my food.
Now to find a place to camp. It was already dark. A local called Lilly told me about an 8 hour parking area up the road, where I should be able to sleep for the night. I thanked her.
Then a man asked me about the weather. I asked where they were headed. Turns out there were going my way. I had found a ride! I could not believe my luck!
By 2000 I was right back where I had left off, with a newly replenished food bag. Oh, what joy!
I stealth camped in the Hannegan Pass trailhead/picnic area.
The day looks promising. I will mostly be dealing with the wetness of shrub.
I strap on the long gaiters I purchased in winthrop (a relatively futile effort, considering the shape of my shoes).
I will be travelling over Whitcom Pass today. It is said to be one of the most challenging climbs of the trail.
As I move, I notice changes in the foliage, the trees and leaves broaden. There is a deepening of green.
I take joy in the crunching of autumn leaves beneath my step.
I began the ascent up Whitcom. I become frustrated with the technological gadget I use to communicate with my family. It opens a flood-gate deep within me. I stop at a very preliminary switchback. I sit. I cry. I sob. I cry for everything and everyone, for nothing and no one. It is heavy and powerful. I look ahead. To the rushing water from the opposing rocky mountainside. I watch it cascade down from the melting snow fields above. I am in awe of its composure. It is still and beautiful as water pours and rushes along its cracks and gathers in its crevices.
Let them be your teachers, I tell myself. Let your emotions flow freely, but keep a calmness inside; an inner stillness of love and realization of what truly matters. I cry more. Hugged by the wild, I lift myself and continue.
Whitcom pass was amazing. I ascend slowly, gazing at the surrounding ice-covered peaks; how they melt and flow and feed the Earth.
As I descend, night falls. I come to the Whitcom campsite. There was a quick flash of light from my headlamp. As I wondered if I had imagined it, it happens again. I attempt to adjust the power of the lamp, and it goes black. I fumble for the spare batteries I had found in a hiker box. I drop one, and feel around for it in the darkness. They were fairly easy to spot, obtrusive and shiny and perfect in shape…they did not belong.
The fog rolled in so quickly. So thick! I find fog to be the biggest challenge toward my tendency to hike in the darkness.
I stopped at Graybeal Camp for the night. How dreadful to have only made it so far. It was an emotional day, however.
I rose, packed up my things, and headed back to the picnic bench. I would try my hand at my new stove.
Success! How lovely it was to have hot coffee in the morning!
I followed the road across the dam.
I decided to stop in at the Ross Lake Resort.
I used their wifi to follow-up with Lowa. I had sent them a picture of the holes in my boots, while in Winthrop. To my delight, I had received an email response asking where my replacement boots should be sent. I called them up and asked them to ship them “general delivery” to the town of Concrete.
I continued along the trail. I paused, saddened by a dead toad that lay in the middle of the path. As I considered whether I should move its little body to the side of the trail, it hopped off. I was thoroughly impressed by its ability to play dead.
I joined the Beaver Creek trail. The trees were so powerful. I found myself stopping many times just to stare, to press my flattened palm against their wizened trunks.
The mountains soothe my soul.
The trail was surprisingly populated. Twice I was referred to as “you guys”, when there was clearly just one of me.
I came to Luna Camp, after night fall. All of the tent sites were occupied. I moved on.
I arrived at Beaver Pass Shelter.
I was relieved to find it empty. Well, save for the mice… but I hung my pack on a nail, and they left me well enough alone.
Spurts of gentle rain came and went through the night as I slept.
I stood at a westbound entrance to Route 20. It was not long before a kind man called Dave, with high energy and a love for adventure, pulled over to give me a lift. I told him that I was not heading to Rainy Pass, but further west to the East Bank trailhead to continue along the Pacific Northwest Trail. To my surprised delight he knew of the trail, and knew exactly where I was headed. He would be passing there on his way home to Concrete. I told him that I intended on going to Concrete to resupply. He gave me his card and told me to contact him when I get there. He said that his wife makes the best vegan quinoa chili, and that they would love to have me over! Oh, how wonderful!
We pulled in to the East Bank trailhead. Dave was curious about the route I was taking, so I pulled out my maps and we reviewed them together. He told me that he had hiked the Swift Creek trail, which would be part of my route. He told me that they had recently done a lot of work on the trail, and that it was in good shape. He mentioned a fording, but I did not pay that much mind…I had plenty of fordings under my belt.
I was hiking again by 1700.
The past three days now felt like a dream.
As I hiked, I could see the distant lights of Ross Lake Resort.
I came to the Ross Lake Dam Service Road. Just off the road was a covered picnic area.
I liked the idea of not having to set up my tent. I decided to sleep beneath the covering, beside the benches.
Soon, I had company. They were the largest, cutest, bushy-tailed little scavengers I had ever seen.
They were also persistent.
I thought that they may not make it up to the picnic bench, so I moved myself and my things, positioning myself precariously on top of the wooden table. This was not a deterrent. They continued to scramble on top of me and amongst my gear, frequently leaving little “presents”.
It was too much to handle. I resigned to a flat spot beside the picnic area, and set up my tent.
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.
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)
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.
It is the morning of the May 16th. I am sitting on the wooden deck of the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) BBQ + Brew, facing the river. It is 7:22 in the morning. Everything is closed now. I have the deck, the power outlets, and the wifi all to myself.
I did not mean to still be here. I hiked in yesterday evening. The NOC is right on trail. The AT cuts right through it. I thought I would take advantage of this and order a package of some supplementary food and have it shipped here in hopes of saving time. Ha. They did not have my package. According to the tracking information, It was signed for by one of their staff members. “You will have to check with shipping and receiving”, Dan said. “They are closed now, but will open up at eight tomorrow”.
So there went my plans of continuing on. I had travelled 15 miles to get here, my unofficial minimum, so I was not too terribly heartbroken. Now it was a matter of where to sleep. I am on a very tight budget and did not want to spend the 22 dollars for a bed. I was told there was an unofficial campsite across the railroad tracks and down a “ways”. It was off of NOC property, so no one would bother me. Alright, I thought. So I set off. I walked a bit and wound up following the river. It called to me. I had a feeling I was not heading the correct way, but it was beautiful. After a short while (I don’t have much of a tolerance for more than .5 mile of non-trail walking), I turned back. I spotted Jo and Sean. We had been leapfrogging on trail for the past 50 miles or so. I was very pleased to see them. I had not seen any other hikers here, and I like to when I am in town-esque environments. It is comforting and encouraging. They are very kind and make for great company. I asked if they were pressing on. They said they were not certain. They were up for searching for this mystery campsite. We did not find it. What we did find was a set of wooden stairs leading up along a hill to a small green space with a wooden deck built around an enourmous, proud and beautiful tree. The hill had an amazingly lush and green view of the mountain we had just hiked from. It just felt right. Jo and Sean slept on the deck, I slept on the edge of the hill. I woke with the sun, and here I am…waiting for shipping and receiving to open.
I had a great hike yesterday. There was another tower–Wesser Bald– immediately following the climb from Tellico Gap, another amazing view.
There was this enticing sign along the way:
I decided to make the side hike. It was steep, but quick. This was my reward:
I fell into a stream this morning. As I was attempting to cross I thought: wouldn’t it be silly if I fell in. Three seconds later the log rolled and I landed flat on my bum. Luckily the only danger in this was embarrassment. There were no witnesses. Due to the wsrm weather, I suffered a wet bottom half for only a short while. It was spectacularly beautiful and sunny here in the Nantahala National Forest!
There were some good climbs today. Lots of roots and rocks on trail. I stopped at a spring where three older gentlemen where taking rest. They were from Virginia. They were section hiking. They said that the hunters that woke me early one morning just before the NC border may have been hunting turkeys. They also said that it most certainly could have been a fox I spotted yesterday, and that they were quite common in these parts. At this, I was terribly pleased!
I thought the trail seemed more crowded than usual today. I then remembered it was the weekend. A beautiful one at that. I used to dislike the weekends due to this. I have now learned to enjoy the company of the day hikers. They are usually locals, often jubilant and friendly, and a great insight into the culture. They are often familiar with the land and and I am usually full of questions.
There was another tower today. This one made of stone. It offered great views, as did the last.
North Carolina has such a wide variety of color and texture and size that fill it’s forests. It is almost tropical. I am enchanted.
A happy mothers day to momma bird and all the amazing moms and grandmas and nanas out there! Much respect.
I watch the countryside glide by. It is all so new to me. I have never traveled this far East in the USA.
Post PCT and penniless, I decided to move to New Orleans, LA on November 30th 2016 to live the city-life and make money through the winter. I volunteered for free accommodation (which has been a cornerstone to making my travelling lifestyle possible) at Madame Isabelle’s House (a hostel) in Marigny, just outside of the French Quarter; and the Louisianna Himalaya Association (LHA) in Mid-City. Living this way continues to open up opportunities for saving, as well as exercise my strength in social adaptability (which is, well…uh: exhausted at this point). I managed to balance my volunteer work along with some paying gigs, both situated in the French Quarter: a gift shop on Decatur during the day, and serving cocktails on Bourbon in the evenings. Quite the experience catering to both the tourists and the thirsty-folk alike. Two things that make the local economy go ’round.
Bourbon is hands down unlike any other space for existence (or non-existence) I have ever experienced. It is like stepping in to another reality where everyone is drunk or intending to be or is intending to make money off of those intentions. It does not smell like roses. You may get hit by a string of beads. There is no car traffic down Bourbon, just people…literal hoards of people. You may get trampled or elbowed. Open containers are allowed on the street…often encouraged. There is no easy way to recycle glass, and plastic to-go cups are the go-to (so you can leave the bar at a whim and take your drink with you, of course). The waste is devistating.
The rest of the Quarter is quaint. I especially enjoyed strolling down Royal Street. It is littered with musical talent. Oh, the brass.
In short: New Orleans is unlawfully charming, quirky, beautiful, unique, and soaked in liquor.
But now. Now I am on a train to Georgia. Tomorrow. On May 3rd. One year after I began my venture from Mexico to Canada along the PCT, I will begin my solo thru-hike from Georgia to Maine!