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 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 am concerned with the potential difficulties of navigating in the rain. Fire damage throughout the Pasayten may pose challenging conditions: dead and downed trees, indiscernible trail.
There does not seem to be much elevation change moving forward. If I move quickly, maybe I can make it the 23 miles to the Old Tungsteon Mine cabins.
I make sure everything is in plastic bags. I fill up on water to full capacity and pre-soak a meal. I don’t want to stop until I set up camp, and I want to have enough water to camp at any moment. The frequency of listed campsites in the coming miles is comforting.
It may be a subconscious tactic towards survival, but it seems that post initiation one is always less afraid.
The birds sing and there is a light buoyancy to the air. I laugh at the appearance of my shadow.
I find relief in the clear orange blazing of The Chopaka Trail.
It is not long before the sky dims and the rain sets in. I had removed my base layers in the heat of the morning sun. Caught in shorts and a sleeveless top, I put on my rain skirt and rain jacket and continue.
As I hike, I offer self motivation: you have done this before; the weather is not scary; there is only one option: keep going– find a way–there is always a way.
I have set up camp in a dry pond bed, only 13 miles from where I began. Night has fallen. I am soaking wet. The cold rattles my bones. The rain did not cease until the sun no longer shone. I considered hiking in to the night but I was worried about staying warm. My fingers and toes burn as I hurried to pitch my tent, as I told myself it was okay to stop if I tried harder tomorrow.
I eat a dinner of cold mashed potatoes. I curl my body inward, within my damp down bag. My legs convulse involintarily. I am concerned. I check the weather with my satellite device. Tomorrow: 37 degrees and more rain. I am still 102.7 miles from a possible hitch in to town.
Should I have pushed further? Would I have been able to stay warm?
I marvel at the extreme change in weather. Usually there is some warning. I feel foolish and shocked. I was not physically or mentally prepared. My dry sacks have failed me. A wet down bag without an emergency bivy is extremely dangerous.
I suppose the transition from a hot valley road walk to 6,985 ft elevation within the rugged Pasayten Wilderness, is not so fluid.
I hope this weather is but a warning of what is to come, not what is here.
I curl into a ball. I watch my breathe in the light of my headlamp. For the first time on trail, I feel alone. I long for the heat of another. I think of what it would be like to cuddle a cow. I think of what it would be like to freeze, alone in the wilderness. I think about the danger of not being prepared for the cold. I wonder if I should turn back. Then I think of the cabin in 13 miles. I could make a fire. I could dry out my sleeping bag.
I think of the East Bank trailhead, just over 100 miles away.
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.