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.
I had a terrible time willing myself to rise this morning. It is raining, but hardly.
The drops fell so hard last night that they shoock the ceiling of my tent, causing little drops of condensation to fall within.
My sleeping bag is warm, and my socks are dry.
I consider how this will be the longest stretch I have spent in the wilderness. I consider how powerful it has been.
The rain picked up again. I missed a clear window to break down my tent.
I am so thankful for the dehydrated meal of beans and rice I had been gifted. I portion the meal in to two servings: one for today, and one for tomorrow. I have done a good job of rationing food, this stretch. I have certainly felt the pangs of hunger, but have not felt weak.
I have been wearing the same wet socks for days now. My logic being, that donning my dry pair would only provide momentary comfort that would result in extra, wet weight. But the skin on my feet has begun to turn white and puffy. I think the time has come to change my socks.
I listen to the rain. A distant woodpecker joins the song. Tonight the moon would be full.
I am thankful, that despite these difficulties and discomforts, I am so happy. I am excited to hike. I love what I do.
The rain ceases as I gather water. I find my way among the numerous offshoots of paths.
As I climb, I feel an overwhelming sense of peace.
How amazing it was to be out of regions of burn, to be amongst the fresh, living green; inhaling a fragrance bursting with life!
The mountains were cloaked in fog.
I realized that my feet were so wet, due to two sizeable holes forming on either side.
I stopped. I sat on a fallen tree, pack still on back, and removed a large pebble from shoe. I ate 1/2 of the days portion of rice and beans. Oh, how delicious! I could feel the nutrients mash out of each red bean as I chewed. As a friend once told me: hunger is the best seasoning.
I move amongst such lush green beauty. The brush is very wet. Soon, I am very wet. The brush offers huckleberries, however. This softens the wet blows from each bush as I pass.
It was terribly cold as I reached Devil’s Dome, at 6,982.
I feared that night would bring rain. I feared over exposure in the cold.
I could not help but turn off trail, towards Bear Skull Cabin (which was actually a 3 wall shelter).
I am thankful for the planks within the shelter. They provide a buffer between myself and the cold ground. I hang my wet things on a line, and adopt a pair of large gloves that lay in the corner.
Rain did not come, only the light of the moon.
Maybe I should have pressed forward. I am disappointed. Disappointment does no good, however.
The Pasayten has proved an amazing teacher. I should be happy to spend one more night within its bounds.
I opened my eyes at 0830 to realize that my headlamp was still strapped to my head, the light still on. In my exhaustion–once inside my tent–I had disregarding all but sleep.
I was still tired.
I considered sleeping, just a tiny bit more. Maybe a coffee nap. Drink some caffeine, take a 20 minute nap, and that’s it. I had not set up camp until around 0230, after all.
No. No time for napping. I ration my food, instead. Just under 50 miles until a road crossing. I am getting there. I am doing it.
In less than 5 miles I will connect with the PCT. I will have the joy of travelling along the beloved trail southbound, for 13 miles. This is a portion of trail I missed when I hiked the PCT in 2016. Due to dangerous snow conditions, I opted for a roadwalk along Route 20 from Rainy Pass, connecting lower elevation trails in to Canada. Needless to say, I was ecstatic!
I felt a bit giddy. As if I were heading out for a night on the town. I will certainly see other people, other hikers.
…Not just hikers, but hikers only 3.5 miles south of the northern terminus, and the completion of their epic journeys. Part of me was tempted to go touch it. But not yet. That time will come.
I consider the intersection of journeys in life, how the old mission was calling me back. I consider how symbolic, how strong in archetypal energy, a terminus of a long-distance trail is.
Soon my giddiness turned to nerves. I was not sure if I was ready to see all of those people, all of those reflections of what they saw in me. The anticipation of other people already had me engaging in the hike differently. The PNT is truly a gem of solitude.
As I crossed paths with each hiker. They congratulated me. At first I corrected them, explaining that I was on another trail entirely. When that became too much, I just smiled and congratulated them in return. I laughed, realizing just how out of sync I was with the hiker fist-bump.
Stepping over a mountain pass is like hopping in to a new dimension. It is nothing short of magic.
What an expense of trail! So amazing to see the route zigzagging ahead!
I continue in to the night. It only rains in gentle spurts, then clears. I keep gazing upward in hopes of glimpsing a burning star. No. Just beautiful wisps of dark cloud, and the silhouette of proud pines.
I continue. Just before I reach Holman Pass, and the junction that leaves the PCT, the rain turns fierce.
The PNT descends towards Canyon Creek. There should be a tent site in just under a mile.
I reach the site and quickly erect my tent in the rain. I throw myself and my gear inside.
There are still 29.8 miles until I hit Ruby Creek, and access to Route 20.
I feel very happy to be back on the PNT. I feel very happy to be alone, once more.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.