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 sat on my socks to warm them, reviewed the maps and guidebook pages for the day, and played a song on my quena. I was 28 miles from joining the PCT, my first true love. I was excited.
What was not exceptionally thrilling was the burn devastation, and loss of trail that lay ahead.
I can travel cross country, I can bushwhack. I will get there.
I was so thankful for the sun. I walked a short distance east to collect water before venturing forward. I had not seen cows for some time. I did not filter.
I presoaked a meal. I would have to wait to add olive oil, it has been solidifying in the cold weather. As I moved forward, I realized I had made the right decision to set up camp. The trail proved difficult to locate even in daylight. I used horse tracks and scat to help guide me.
I laughed at the beauty, at the simple peace of being. As I rounded the southern slope of Quartz Mountain I could feel sunshine on my skin. I removed my raincoat. What luxury!
The trail disappears in the mountain meadows, but there are cairns to guide me.
I could see the burn devastation ahead. I stop at a cool, flowing stream. I drink deeply, and listen to its soft music.
As I move forward, the trail disappears entirely in the mud and soot. I spot a cairn, then another. Downed trees that have been freshly cut were another indicator of the trail. With intense observation and study of the subtle changes in terrain, I was able to successfully find my way.
A deer and buck graze in the distance. A light rain falls from the sky. A magical rainbow appears.
The appearance of the rainbow lifted my spirits, but I was cold. A fording of the Pasayten River lay ahead. I wanted desperately to make it across before nightfall.
I think back to the cabin, the heat, the company; to those that have opened their homes to me. I consider how strong a bond is formed when you pass a night in the company of a stranger.
I came to a sign.
Trail crews had re-routed the fording. The new crossing was 1.4 miles earlier, ensuring the presence of the sun!
I entered the water, opting to ford in my boots. I safely reached the other side, nestled within a brief breadth of living green. I removed my boots and rung what water I could from my socks. I laughed. Fording is always such a thrill.
I continued along the Boundary trail. The trail is clear, as is the sky –save for wisps of clouds. I took a break trailside, ate cold mashed potatoes and prepared for the night. It would be cold.
As I walked, I appreciated how the day slowly fades in to night. No abrupt flick of a light switch.
In the darkness, I miss a turn-off near the airfield. Entranced by the sillouhette of the mountains in the darkness, and the swiftness of my movement through the field, I did not realize my error until I had travelled nearly a mile.
I returned to the trail. Soon I am climbing and the stars make me giggle. The ascent is green, full of life– oh, the scent! I breathe in deeply, beneath the waxing moonlight. This is magic.
I come to the fording of Chuchuwanteen Creek, after midnight. I pause in middle of the fording, water lightly pushing and splashing the back of my knees. I gaze at the moon suspended to the southwest. Her reflection of light casts a rounded silvery glow upon the creek. The rushing cold water serves as a conduit for her energy, her magic. I stand still, in a moment of perfection
I forded and crossed more streams and creeks and rivers today, than I have over the entire stretch of the trail. Water is prevalent again! The burn regions and navigational challenges and disappearing trails are behind me (for now)!
I set up camp only miles from the Pacific Crest Trail. I fall to sleep satisfied, and excited for what tomorrow may bring.