Pacific Northwest Trail; Upper Baker Lake Dam

Wednesday. September 25, 2019 (day 66)

I am exhausted and late to rise. I tell myself, that it’s alright. Yesterday’s ford and bushwhack was the most physically and mentally challenging traverse to-date. I reach in and pull from the accomplishment to fuel today– as the only ration I have is half a cup of cold soaking noodles. I am about 23 miles from the town of Concrete.

The trees and lush ferns– the spider-webbed, lichen covered beauty–takes me to a place away from hunger… however briefly.

Mid-day I was greeted by a miniature schnauzer with a writhing little body and a rather large bark. A man followed behind. I told him the story of the bushwhack and fording. He listened, smiling. I carried on. I was so full of energy and life. 

He offered me a ride to Concrete. I explained to him that I was pretty determined to walk there…but that it all depended on how hungry I got. He told me that he would be back to the road in about an hour, should I want a lift.  He released a shoulder strap and swung his tiny backpack around to his front. He unzipped the main compartment and pulled out a large apple and a bag of mixed nuts. He held them out in offering. The exact snacks I longed for! I thanked him profusely, and we both went on our way.

I ate the apple first. I could feel it strengthen me. As I continued towards the road, however, my body ached. I developed shin-splints. Though I had only hiked 15 miles the previous day, they were some of the most intense miles I have put my body through. I began to hike with a limp. I considered how I may benefit from a shorter day, and a lift in to town.

I did not wait at the dirt road for my new friend, but continued down it. I hoped to make it to Baker Lake Road. It would be easier to hitch back to than the forest service road I was on.  Soon my new friend pulled up beside me. I explained to him that I was hoping to hitch from a place that was more memorable, so that it would be easier to reconnect my path. He offered to drive up to Baker Lake Dam and wait for me. I smiled widely, and agreed.

As I continued walking towards the dam, Dave drove by in a Puget Sound Energy truck. He was surprised to see me. He asked if I had a ride in to town. He told me to message him after I arrived in Concrete, and I could come over for dinner. I agreed, and continued towards the dam.

I was very thankful for the lift in to town. I asked to be dropped at the grocery store. I ventured in, collected a handful of items, and sat storefront on the cold, green, metal bench. I proceeded to build peanut-butter tortilla wraps.

Suddenly I was feeling very tired, worn, anti-social. I did not have the spark to reach out in connection. Luckily, Dave found me.

“Hey. I thought I might find you here!” Dave said as he walked towards me. 

“Hi!” I said, smiling. Though a large part of me wished not to be seen by anyone.

He mentioned that his wife said that I could stay the night, and that he just needed to run in to the store to grab a couple of items for the chili. 

I waited on the bench for him to return, and we headed to his vehicle together. As soon as I strapped myself in to the passenger seat, I began to feel better. Dave was good people. His high energy lifted my spirits. I remembered their kindness, and was grateful to be joining him and his wife.

Soon we pulled up to a positively beautiful home with a front yard of lush green grass ornamented with the occasional white, spongy mushroom. At the far end of the yard was Kay,  busy among a lovely vegetable garden. We parked and walked out to greet her.

Post introduction we all ventured inside and Kay began preparing dinner. I was offered a shower, which I eagerly accepted. After bathing I joined them in the kitchen. Before I could offer to help, Dave asked if I would like to get a load of laundry going. Would I!? The notion was thrilling. I set to it, straight away.

Soon we enjoyed one of the best meals I  have had on trail. I enjoyed the company of Kay and Dave very much. They asked if I would like to take a zero day. I was compelled to keep moving. As I had intended to take the Cascade Trail Alternate, I would be walking right back in to town tomorrow.  They said that they would be happy to have me another night. I gratefully accepted.

I retired to their guest bedroom. I was so comfy and cozy and happy and clean. Tomorrow–early in the morning–I would join Dave on his ride to work, and reconnect my footpath onward from Baker Lake Dam.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 802.2

Sunday September 22, 2019; day 63

It’s raining this morning; not a lot, just a pit-pit-pattering.

I am thankful that the mouse that was climbing up the netting and under the floor of my tent last night, did not decide to chew right through.

As I exit, I notice a spider has used the crown of my tent as support for its web.

I gathered water from Ruth Creek.

It crashes and flows, steadily and swiftly–swelling as it receives the beautiful snowmelt from the mountaintops.

I will be walking Mount Baker Highway today. It is Sunday. I am hoping the rain will be a deterrent to tourist traffic. Right now, as I pack up, traffic sounds very light. I am hopeful.

The mapset says “Highway 542 is steep and winding without a shoulder and limited sight distance. PNTA is working with the USFS on a trail relocation in this area”

When they are not busy I like walking roads… they are like railroad tracks, an industrial speedway that spans miles and miles.

Expressions on faces of drivers as they pass, make me giggle.

Some people stop to ask if I am alright.

A feel a car pull up slowly behind me. It was Ryan, the man who had provided me with gifts of warmth.

“I know you won’t accept a ride, but I will pull over so that we can chat for a bit.”

This made me feel as though he fully supported my continuous footpath.

I left the conversation with a lightness in my step that comes with the delightful whimsy of coincidence.

I did not find the roadwalk to be dangerous or uncomfortable.

The rain came down in buckets. I grew cold. I stopped at a trailhead bathroom to put on more layers. I considered boiling some water for hot coffee, but I dismissed it as a tad ridiculous. I knew it would be best to press on.

I stopped at the Visitor Center before joining the Lake Ann trail. I gathered a couple of snacks and a rice and bean meal.

I followed the Lake Ann trail, then turned to join the Swift Creek trail. With all of the rain, the trail itself was a flowing stream.

I began to consider the coming ford. I hoped to make it there before nightfall.

The rain did not let up. I continued crossing many, many streams along the way.

I stopped. I watched as a Mountain Goat stared in to the distance. I wondered what it was doing. Contemplating life, perhaps. Then it noticed me. It leaped off the ledge and down the mountainside. What an impressive, magical, whimsical looking creature!

I realized that I would not make it to Swift Creek before dark. There were also not many places to camp.

I noticed a flat space just off trail. It just did not seem right. I moved on.

Soon I questioned my decision to continue. The rain remained heavy, and a fog was setting in. I became desperate. I scoured for a place, hopeful at every bend and turn, that something may appear.

Finally, I found a spot that would (barely) do.

I cleared the forest floor of branches and twigs and erected my tent by the light of my headlamp.

I crawled inside. I was safe. I changed in to dry clothes. I was warm.

I would face Swift Creek in the morning.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 786.1

Sarurday, September 21, 2019; day 62

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.

A little mouse moved about beneath my tent.

I fell to sleep happy and hopeful.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 766.8

Friday, September 20, 2019; day 61

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.

My heart weighs heavy.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 734.9

Wednesday, September 18, 2019; day 59

The rain cleared by the afternoon, and I set off.

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.

When Zeros Multiply…

Tuesday to Thursday, September 15 to 17, 2019; days 56-58

I slept so comfortably. The hostel certainly did not skimp on their mattresses or bedding.

I walked to the grocery store to resupply. I socialized with PCT hikers. I tried to write. I watched YouTube videos on how to properly operate the Dragonfly stove. I purchased more wool base layers, an emergency bivy, full length gaiters, and waterproof gloves. I shoe-gooed my shoes, wrapping them in dental floss so that the tearing flaps of boot stayed secure while drying.

The hours and days rolled by.

Outside the comfort of the hostel, it rained incessantly. PCT hikers continued to arrive, speaking of snow through the Pasayten.

Though there was a gnawing guilt that rolled and reared within me, I spent three full days in the hostel.

I struggled to reflect and record my adventure. I revelled in the warmth and down bedding and being recognized as a thru-hiker amongst thru-hiking peers.

I told stories of the adventure and lessons and solitude that the PNT offers.

Though the culture seemed to be isolating and phone-centric, I made some connections that I found special, and hold dear.

I fell asleep on the night of the 17th, knowing that it had to be my last night in town. It was time to move.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 637.4

Monday, September 9, 2019; day 51

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.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 627.4

Sunday, September 8, 2019; day 50

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.

You can make it there. Just make it there.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 614.0

Saturday, September 7, 2019; day 49

I rose and moved to collect water from Palmer Lake.

I filter while reviewing the guide book. Looks like the route soon becomes a “maze of fading old roads and cow paths” until it reaches Cold Springs , and the “jump off point to the Pasayten Wilderness”.

These confusing routes no longer stir fear in me.

I found I was rather talkative this morning; spouting my thoughts verbally to myself in silly voices, humming Nutcracker melodies.

I glance at the easily accessible water spigots protruding from the grassy private property nearby. The sprinkler had been left shooting streams of water all through the night, and continued rhythmically with the break of day. So interesting how we live, with “ownership” of land and water.

As I walk towards Toats-Coulee Road, the people are all smiles and waves and outhouse offerings. People seemed to know what I was up to.

I was not enjoying the lake water, however. Things lose their essence when they stop moving.

Thankful for the cloud coverage, I took a break just before climbing Chopaka Creek Road.

People do not seem to notice much that is not in their path.

I tie my bandana above my left knee. I consider how the simplest measure is often the most effective.

As I climbed the road, I heard ATVs pull up to the lot where I had just taken a break.

I stop to watch and listen.

One of them called out to another, “Hey, how fast can you go up here!?”

“As fast as ya want!” Said the other.

“I don’t know about that!”, the first replied.

“Hey! Watch out for me!” I called.

Judging by their lack of response, they did not hear me. I need to work on my ‘outside voice’.

I began to see the cattle gaurds as a form of childhood hopscotch… which I played often, and was getting rather good at it.

Found myself considering how beautiful this walk would be on a cool clear night.

I longed for the vibrancy of cold spring water.

At 1422, the thunder sounded.

I put on my pack cover.

All the ATVs zoom by me in a rush off the mountain.

I finally come to cold, flowing water. I stop to drink and collect and appreciate.

Cows gather at the cattle guard. Terrified at my approach, yet unable to cross the guard, I watch as they rush off to my left. One somehow pushes itself through a barbed wire fence.

The sky remains clear, giving me confidence as I approach the less discernable parts of the trail.

A rusted barbed wire catches my right leg, entangling as I walk. Surprised, I stop to free myself. Only scratches, no blood drawn.

I connect to a jeep road and continue. Unfortunately, I continued for too long. I was only supposed to follow the road for 300 yards. I turned back and found the correct junction.

I was running out of daylight.

The trail was very faint and difficult to follow in the dark.

I see bright flashes of light in the distance. Lightning. It is not followed by a sound, but strikes my nerves.

In just one more mile, I would come to a clearly defined forest service road.

There is another lightning burst.

The trail has faded away in the night. I am uncertain of where to turn.

Then, something catches my eye. Reflecting the light of my headlamp, is a cow patty. It points me in the direction of a cow path, and I find my way.

As I walk the forest service road, the moon calls my attention.

I stop and stare. I am flooded with joy.

Another flash of light fills the sky.

I am uncertain if I should continue further in to the night.

At 2204, I set up my tent at the Cold Springs Campground. My tent smells fresh, like dryer sheets. It is mold free, from the recent wash and dry.

At 2317, I heard the first drops of rain.

Vibrations of pain shoot up and down the bottom of my feet.

Tomorrow will be cold and wet.

At 0300 I woke to the loud cracking of thunder.

I listen as cows move about in heavy groups in the night.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 595.8

Friday, September 6, 2019; day 48

I checked out of the hotel, spent time at the library, and followed paved roads through town to join the Similkameen Trail.

The trail hugged the beautiful Similkameen River. It provided a nice dirt, then gravel pathway before joining Loomis-Oroville road.

Shortly after I joined the road, Border Patrol drove past. They turned around and parked beside me.

“Can I talk to you for a second?”, they said as they exited their vehicle.

“Sure.” I removed my sunglasses and walked towards him.

“Thank you” he said, and asked my name.

He introduced himself, and we shook hands.

He asked where I was from. I offered what I was doing.

He told me that smugglers of drugs, and human trafficking frequent this road. Now that he had my info–should he get a call concerning a pedestrian with a pack–he will know who I am.

He asked where I was headed that night. We discussed Miners Flats Campground, though I had the intention of going further.

As he drove off, I waved goodbye. He flashed his rear light in response. A quick red and blue farewell. This made me giggle.

The road was not busy. It was beautiful.

I howled. I laughed. I was happy to be on the move.

I untie the bandanna from my neck and tie it above my left knee.

I passed the Miners Flats Campground.

A second campground came in to view with the falling night.

I could not stop. There were hardly any cars, no grizzlies, a wide shoulder, clear skies, and I had walking to do.

Star-flames illuminate.

I notice a pair of headlights in the distance that were not moving.

There was a man outside the car, walking along the dry hillside. He was calling something out as he moved forward.

Did he lose his dog?

He continued in my direction.

As our paths nearly cross, I decide to vocalize my presence.

“Hello!?”

There is no response. Then I realize that the truck/pedestrian duo must be herding cattle.

I walked up to the parked truck and spoke with the elderly man in the cab. He told me that the cattle were on the wrong side of the cattle guard. They were trying to get them back where they belonged.

I mentioned to the man that I was hiking a long trail, and was just headed along the road until I found a suitable place to camp.

We both continued on our way.

A short while later a car pulled up and parked beside me. I walked up to the passenger door. Nothing happened. Peculiar.

I was confused as how to proceed.

Then the glass partition disappeared into the door.

“Sorry. I did not realize that I had not rolled down the window.” The man inside continued, “Dad said you were looking for a place to camp?”

I realized that I was speaking to the man from the hillside.

“Yeah. This road seems pretty safe to me, and the night is clear. I was planning on camping at the next campground.”

“That’s like 5 miles from here.”

“That’s okay.”

The man told me that he had some gated property up the road, just after passing the entrance way to Canada. I could stay there if I wanted. I would have it all to myself save for a couple cattle.

“If any one gives you trouble, just say ‘Dan said it was okay’. If they don’t know who Dan is, they have no business being there. Just make sure to shut the gate.”

I thanked him for the offer and continued.

There were not many cars on the road. The cars that did pass slowed nearly to a stop when they saw me.

As I entered the small community of Nighthawk (population: 5), I could hear loud, smooth, folk-y music play from a stereo.

I was curious. I noticed people socializing on a porch. I moved slowly, and tried waving. They were unresponsive. I suppose that was understandable. It was just around 2200, and I was not much more than an unidentified disturbing light in the distance.

I continue.

The dry grasses hiss like a snake at my ankles. It surprises me in to laughter.

Finally, I arrived to Palmer Lake Campground.

I found a little site near the entrance to star-camp for the night.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 575

Wednesday, September 4, 2019; day 46

I woke to the soft humm of kitchen electronics.

I heated some water for my instant coffee.

I packed up, quickly left a note of thanks on the bulletin board, and was back on the road by 0730.

I turned on to Swanson Mill Road. The cows abounded.

I did not not feel like using my trekking poles. I tied my bandana above my left knee.

I walked an alternate along Mount Hull Road and reconnected with the PNT at Sullivan Lake Road.

Soon after, I joined Trail 100. The trail was maintained by backcountry horsemen.

Along the trail, I missed a fallen sign post and continued in the wrong direction.

I found my way back and joined the Whistler Canyon Trail.

The climb out of the canyon was rewarded with wonderful views.

I came around a bend, and was shown the little town of Oroville.

I wanted to camp as close to town as possible.

I found a flat spot with a bench .7 of a mile from US Highway 97.

Little cacti stick to my pack.

As the sun sets it becomes shady and beautiful.

I watch as the little buildings and houses light up below.

I feel like a silent watcher, viewing the town secretly from above.

The stars and moon greet me as I lay on the exposed rock, beneath their light, high above town.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 550

Tuesday, September 3, 2019; day 45

I woke to the sound of a car driving down the paved road behind me. So many car encounters on this journey. I went to retrieve my charger from the bathroom. It is now 0604, I am sleepy.

I begin to pack up my things and collect water from the campground spigot.

Soon Asa was packing up as well.

It felt nice to wake up in the company of another.

He took spoonfuls of peanut butter, and I drank an instant coffee/protein/maca shake as we sat around the picnic table.

Asa was familiar with the Pipsissewa Trailhead, and offered to walk me there.

We chatted a bit longer, exchanged contact information, and hugged goodbye.

“I always tell other cyclists to ‘keep the wind at your back!'”

“That’s a nice thing to say! Thank you!”

I wished him the best of luck in his amazing journey.

Then, we both set off!

I gazed down at Bonaparte Lake.

I travelled through a logging area, and a section where the trail had been cleared of many blowdowns.

As I hiked, I decided to follow the Original PNT Alternate. I would follow the Mount Bonaparte Trail, then join the Antoine Trail, which reconnects with the Primary PNT.

The trail was clear, and I was able to move quickly.

Soon the PNT briefly meets the little community of Havillah. There is a church there that is only .3 of a mile off of trail. It is said to be very hiker friendly, providing hikers with water and snacks and a place to camp. I hoped to make it there before dark. The miles immediately proceeding Havillah were roads, flanked by private properties.

Havillah is a beautiful little community.

As I approached the church, two graceful young bucks and a doe leaped over a distant fence.

The trail magic was more than I had anticipated. They had a little bulletin board at the side yard of the church, welcoming hikers to collect water and camp either outside, or inside the unlocked building.

I was elated.

It was dark, I moved around inside with the red light of my headlamp. Atop and inside the fridge were containers labeled “For PNT Hikers”. They contained a variety of snacks and food and fresh apples! There were even frozen meals for hikers, in the freezer! I could not believe it. It was certainly some of the best trail magic I had encountered on any trail. I was extremely grateful.

I enjoyed the fresh fruit and microwavable meal of quinoa and grains.

I placed my things to charge and set myself up for sleep on the soft carpet.

I fell to sleep in a space of good-heartedness, filled with thanks.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 515.5*

Sunday, September 1, 2019; day 43

I rose at 0600; began hiking at 0730.

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.

I continue.

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)

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 500.4

Saturday, August 31, 2019; day 42

I did not want to rise. I felt bloated, uncomfortable, sick. I had broken the zipper to my tent in the middle of the night. I fear State Route 21.

I review the guidebook. It states: “Enjoy this road walk through San Poil Canyon which has very light traffic” I feel mislead. It was not light.

There is a trash at the campground. I took the opportunity to ditch more weight. I discarded a carabiner, extra bandages, an empty peanut-butter container (why in the world had I been carrying two?). I cut out the lining of my shorts with the tiny scissors of my tiny Swiss Army tool. They were surprisingly heavy and entirely without purpose (like many things in today’s world).

I noticed a hole in my shorts. I considered how long it may have been there, as I sewed it up.

My gaiters have two large tears on either side. This seemed to make them more dangerous than anything, liable to snag. I have grown to like them very much, however. I will sew them up as well, but later.

I pack up my tent, saddened by the broken zipper. At least there are two pieces of velcro to hold it shut. Will that hold up in a storm? Maybe I should just sew the darn thing shut. There is another exit on the other side.

I go to fetch water. The good quality, its cold clarity, lift my spirits.

I hear a car.

I return to my pack to watch an older man, cigarette  in mouth,  move bags of trash and foam padding from his truck bed to the campsite trash bin. I am annoyed by this as I watch. Finally he sees me. He lifts his hand. “Hi” I say, flatly.

I listen to the traffic whiz by in the distance.

I can do it I can do it I can do it.

I say to myself “I am not afraid of the cars. People will see me.”

The lower I sink, the more intense the determination that springs.

“Ok. Take two.”

The walk was indeed beautiful.

At least cars are not sneaky. You can hear them coming.

There are far fewer cars than last night. They seem more amiable and slow. Some even slow down deliberately to see if I react as if I want a ride.

I came to the place where I had spotted the mother grizzly and her cubs. I replay the situation in my mind. They were closer than I had realized. There was certainly no way I could have safely proceeded.

Suddenly, happiness finds me again. It is inevitable, I am certainly not hiding.

I take note of the litter. Beer cans, half full Sobe bottles, more beer cans. I din’t get it. They are in a car. Can’t it wait? Surely they will see a trash soon enough. Then it dawned on me. Drinking and driving. Evidence. Evidence and integrity, straight out the window.

I imagine this is what a roadside deer feels like.

I reached the Ten Mile Campgroud and trailhead. After completing the Ten Mile Trail (which was just over two miles) I would divert from the primary PNT , yet again. I would follow ten miles of open, dirt, forest service roads to bypass another bushwhack. I would rejoin the primary PNT at the W. Fork Scatter Creek Forest Service Road.

I passed through the trail quickly, and joined the road.

The wind blows. It rains pine needles and leaves. It is magic.

I think about motivation. This–these walks, these travels– is what I do to keep love and hope alive within myself.

I sit for a m moment roadside. A hunter I had seen earlier on the road parks and offers me cold water. I accept.

I look up at the tree tops. They sway, top heavy. The sun on my skin is hot, but pleasing.

I continue.

A red truck revs its engine unnecessarily while zooming by in reckless spurts along the curving forest road. It continues as it passes me. I glare. They are a large group. They laugh as they pass. I turn to watch as they park, music blaring, all four doors and the tailgate thrown open. They gather something. Downed trees for firewood, I am assuming.

One sees me watching and calls out: “Welcome to America!”

I say nothing. I keep walking.

The sun, setting behind the clouds, has them traced in gold.

I reach  Ogle creek. The roadside culvert is fenced. I remove my pack and gather my empty bottles. I then slide my feet, then legs, then rest of self under the lowest wooden plank. Little hopping insects with tiny bodies and long legs move about the waters surface, then pause– floating like lily pads– then start again. I am thankful for the clear stream running from the culvert.

I throw my full bottles ahead of me, then push and undulate my way back up, beneath the lowest wooden plank.

It is dark. I scan for a place to camp. There is not much. Many times I leave the road, scouring the woods that show potential, but return after deeming the space unsuitable.

Finally, I reach a place that will do. I had not intended to set up my tent. The howling of wolves is very near.  It sounds painful. Their nearby calls, and the uncertainty of the roads left me desiring shelter.

I set up my tent. I fell to sleep.

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 474.1

Thursday, August 29, 2019; day 40

I rose late on the cabin floor. Shielded from the sun, my body did not recieve its usual call to rise.

There would be bushwhacking today, just after Edds Mountain. I have chosen to do the alternate. It is about 2 miles longer and includes a bit of roadwalking, but it should provide nice views from Edds Mountain and an easier, much shorter bushwhack.

I consider water. I am utilizing the Guthook app as a water report. Hikers update the app with comments of the strength, location and quality of a water source. There are rarely any updates for this region, dating after August. Water is becoming scarce. Many of the springs are no longer dependable.

I collect water from the same spring as last night. I position the pipe to my liking, to get the fastest and cleanest flow. I fill up and drink up. Who knows what the bushwhack will bring.

The early morning was hot, but the day cooled quickly.

I diverted from the Edds Mountain trail and bushwhacked south in search of an old forest road. I hugged the line of new growth pines to the east. The bushwhack was fairly easy.

I located the first old road, and followed it for a short while.

Then, after a slight bit of confusion, I realized that I needed to continue (a very minimal amount of) bushwhacking, to locate the second.

The second road crossed a stream. I collected and rested for a bit. It was just a couple more miles along this road before I would reconnect with the PNT, on Hall Creek Road.

With the easy grade and obstacle free terrain, I was able to gaze upward as I walked.

I joined Hall Creek Road, then Thirteen Mile Trail # 23.  The tread was easy to follow, but there were many switch-backs and changes in elevation that are not on the map, causing the mileage to be off. This made the trail more challenging than it appeared.

I hoped to make it to another water source before setting up camp. Bearpot Campground and Pond was not far (~4 miles, according to the map) but the idea of pond water did not thrill me. I was far more interested in the stream said to be located where Thirteen Mile Trail, and Thirteen Mile Road intersect. This was roughly another five miles after Bearpot Campground.

I pushed forward. I still had a liter of water. I was not terribly concerned.

As night fell, I grew tired.

I found a a flat spot just to the side of the trail. I laid out my gear, and star-camped, still about two miles shy of Bearpot Campground.