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.
I did not quite feel welcomed. No one waved on the road. Not even when I tried initiating the gesture.
There was no warmth in the coffee shop.
I headed to the Camaray Motel.
My plan was to ask if I might pay for a shower and laundry, and have a look at the hiker box.
They were so incredibly friendly.
They brought out the hiker boxes and offered me coffee, and were very willing to let me use their facilities.
I thanked them for their kindness. I mentioned that I had not felt very welcome thus far in town. They were surprised by this, and suggested that it may be due to the homeless population. Also, many of the locals are not familiar with the trail.
As I was looking through the hiker box, a kind couple offered to cover the price of the room!
I was eager to get going, yet happy to accept the offer.
In the hiker box I found loaner clothes (skirt and top!), creamed coconut, nuts, and razors.
Back in the room, I decided to forgo using the razors. It would inevitably lead to an uncomfortable prickly phase. My body hair makes me feel more wild in nature and more rebellious before the eyes of town. I notice who takes notice.
I shower and put on the loaner clothes and head to the laundry room.
I wash all my clothes, my tent, my sleeping bag.
I resupplied, and repackaged.
I sewed two groupings of little stitches along my tent to keep my vestibule shut where the zipper had broken.
The traffic was fair, but all cars zoomed by. Most cars seemed to be heading east. Republic was about 17 miles west of Sherman’s Pass.
I watched as one man’s vehicle swerved in to the neighboring lane as he glanced back at me. Some people are really so surprised to see a hitchhiker.
An SUV pulled in to the empty lot. I hurried over to it. They had not pulled over for me. This is always a sad experience.
An hour passed.
Then a man pulled in with a cement truck. I began chatting with him. He said that some other guys with the state were headed over to assist him and that one of them may be able to give me a lift.
We talked briefly about the trail. I could feel him sizing me up, looking me up and down.
“You must be pretty strong then, huh?”
He then reached in and squeezed my upper thigh.
Darn it! I knew he was going to touch me. I could sense it.
It was not exceptionally creepy, but it was: Not Okay. You don’t just reach in and grab someone’s thigh. What do I do? In avoidance of awkward air, and desperate for a ride in to town, I pretend it never happened. Responding to these situations in the way they deserve is one of the most challenging lessons I have been working to honor. Never give up.
One of the men that came to assist the cement-truck driver, did in fact give me a lift to Republic. He was very kind. We spoke of the trail and of the bushwhack in Idaho. He said that with that sort of determination, I should go far in life. This pleased me. We pulled in to a gas-station on the outskirts of town. He offered me a cold bottled water. I thought of all the cow patties near the water sources on trail. I gratefully accepted the water, surprising myself when I called it “fresh”.
I made my way towards the center of town. A man recognized me as a hiker, and offered me a ride to the post-office, where I had a package.
After collecting my goods I sat cross-legged on the sidewalk just outside of the post-office to repackage my things from their original cumbersome packaging to ziploc bags. I tried to be as unobtrusive as possible. I inevitably always spill something.
I chatted with a kind lady named Kim, who was walking a small dog. She was planning to move to Republic. She was staying in a nearby hotel, until she found a place to rent. The conversation was exceptionally pleasant. Soon she went on her way, and I finished packing up.
“Hey ma’am. Can you come here for a minute?”
I looked up to see a lady calling from a vehicle.
“Hold on a moment, let me throw these things away.” I moved over to a dumpster to toss all the plastic and cardboard packaging from my re-supply.
I met the lady in the parking lot. She told me that she had a bounty of raspberries and would like to give me some.
Oh, how wonderful!
Then I was off to get a meal, and supplemental food-stuff. I stopped at the bargain food store. The man there was so kind. There were bins of food including Lara Bars for 25 cents!
Next was the Ferry County Food Co-op. I sat at a store-front counter space to eat a meal of avocado and rice-cake, while my devices charged inside.
A woman spoke to me kindly in passing. Upon her return, she said that I could come to her place if I needed somewhere to stay that night. Her name was Carrie, but her friends call her Care Bear. She told me where I could find her apartment. She told me that her door would be open. I told her that I planned to head to the library after my meal, but that after that I may stop by. I thanked her.
I headed to the library. Just as I walked up, I spotted Kim. She looked as though she was about to get in to her vehicle. “Oh. I have been looking for you! I have something for you.” she said. She presented me with a pair of hand-knit wool gloves, a small piece of religious literature, and two packets of hand-warmers. I was touched; most especially by the wool gloves. “They will keep you warm, even when they are wet.” She paused. ” I still need to figure out how to knit the fingers.”
“No. These are perfect! It will allow me to manipulate things!”
I hold all hand-made gifts so close to my heart.
We hugged. She told me to come find her if I needed help getting back to the trail.
I went inside and got a guest number to use the library computer.
The library closed at 1800. I shyly walked over to Carrie’s apartment. There were some people conversing casually outside her door. She overheard me speaking to them, and called me in.
The apartment was small, simple, and extremely welcoming.
I had the opportunity to meet Carrie’s grandson, and her sons girlfriend. I sat at a chair and watched them all interact. I chimed in once in a while. They were very lively and entertaining. I would be sleeping on the mattress where Carrie’s grandson sleeps when he stays over. It was small and tucked away cozily in the closet. After Carries company departed, we stepped outside to socialize.
I was introduced to Dave the Mountain Man, Caveman, and Ramon. We all chatted for a while. The conversation was comfortable and interesting. I felt very at ease with them. They understood the transient lifestyle.
As night was falling, Carrie mentioned she was going to wind down for bed. I followed suit, first taking advantage of her offer to use her shower. Dave slept over as well, sharing the bed with Carrie. Everytime anyone came by, Carrie asked them where they planned to sleep that night. She truly had an open door policy. Her home was a safe refuge. I found this to be so incredibly amazing. It warmed my heart.
Before we all fell to sleep, Dave pointed out a gold metal hanging on the wall. Carrie had received that metal after being declared the strongest woman in the world. “Wow!” I said, smiling widly. I was impressed.
Tuesday, August 27, 2019; day 38
Dave was up early, smoking cigarettes and making hot water. I rolled around a bit, then got up and packed my things. Ramon stopped in with some Folgers coffee packets. He took a cup of hot water for his own, and left two packets for us to enjoy. I was beginning to see the true nature of Carrie’s open door policy, and what a loving group of people I have found myself amongst.
As I was packing up, Carrie told me that I was free to leave my pack there as I did what I needed around town. I thanked her, and headed to the co-op for a cup of coffee and conversation, and back to the library. The hours turned. I headed back to Carrie’s. She told me I was welcome to stay one more night.
I woke early and so happily in Sarah’s home. We sipped coffee over conversation. We talked about travel and exploration and the nature of small towns. She expressed interest in pursuing her own backpacking adventure! I encouraged her to do so.
She offered breakfast and blueberries as she prepared her morning smoothie. I was delighted with the hot coffee, and a handful of sweet berries.
Soon, I was over to Jaelle’s to say goodbye. Sarah and I hugged farewell. It was such a pleasure to get to know her. I will always remember her kindness.
At Jaelle’s they were eating a breakfast of rice and beans and tomatoes. Jaelle likes to feed people. I joined in. We chatted and ate.
They looked at my leg. “Oh, so much better!” they remarked.
I thanked them for their kindness, and headed out.
I crossed the bridge over the Columbia River.
I hit a downhill slope of travel. I let it propel me forward. My leg feels better. I feel motivated. I can do this.
The most challenging part of the road walk was the exposure. The barren stoney, tarry, dusty road reflecting a mid-day sun, in the oven of a valley.
Oh yes…and the strange metal creature with a human brain, and all their unpredictabilities as they merge as one at 30 to 60 mph.
I stop for lunch at Sheep Creek Campground. I eat at a picnic bench. I then lay myself flat on the ground with my feet elevated on the bench. I hold the position, imagining pools of blood and swelling rushing from my toes and pads of feet and calves and knees, flowing towards my heart; towards the mothership.
A bird came very near. The wind blows. There is cloud coverage. It is cooling.
The river was beautifully vocal.
I continued on.
I watched them. They watched me
They walked away. I walked away. We both turned back to watch each other walk away.
I searched and searched but I could not find the listed spring, in the darkness. It being late August, it was very likely dry anyway. Besides, the nearby campsite did not look all too appealing. Roadways flanked each side.
I carried on. I came to a stream in about 1/2 a mile. Oh, what joy!
I looked around for a flat space nearby. I did not anticipate rain, I planned to star-camp.
I set myself up amongst twigs and leaves and duff and fallen trees.
I could hear the small things buroughing, and wading their little feelers through the forest floor; or it could be all my micro movements sending ripples through my down and water-resistant fabrics.
I left my sleeping bag partially open and my puffy unzipped. It was a warm night.
Oh what a weightless fluffy delight my sleeping bag had transformed to after a proper wash and dry!
I took two 25mg Benadryl. I settled in. I fear spiders more than I had before.
I read Almost Haiku #10 for the first time. It was a poem from the dear woman I met in Metaline Falls. The poem caused me to well with emotion.
It gives me the hope and serenity I need as October nears.
I rose early and made coffee using the coffee maker in the guest lounge of the Washington Hotel. I made it especially strong.
I chatted with a lovely southern couple and two hikers that were enjoying the PNT in sections. There was certainly no shortage of good conversation.
Tiffany, the hotel manager, was full of vibrant energy. She assisted me with a load of laundry and allowed me to hang around the hotel and raid the hiker-box long after check-out.
I sorted and packed my resupply in the hiker lounge. I had found it difficult to find enough vegan protein at the town grocery store. It was going to be oatmeal, peanut-butter, instant rice, nuts, figs. For protein, cooked beans. This is far heavier than was ideal, but the packaging was cardboard, and it contained 30 grams of protein.
My knee was still bothering me quite a bit. It had caused me to toss in the night. My solution: ice. I had two ice-packs that I switched throughout the day, leaving one to freeze while the other gripped the back of my bare knee, secured by a strip of Ace Bandage wrap.
I moved about the little town. I made repeat visits to the grocery store for carrots and fruit, then again for chips and hummus, sometimes just to browse.
I positioned myself within a small seating area to the side of the art gallery that was attached to the hotel. I sat at the table against the building wall, where I felt I would be the least obtrusive. I ate. I ordered my next re-supply, securing future protein intake. Then, upon the sun’s suggestion, I moved to the Visitor Center to meet shade.
The little center was a park with restrooms, picnic benches, and well-tended flowers, electrical outlets, and an old-train car converted in to a space to be filled with books. Railroad tracks ran behind it. It was lovely.
Hobbling about town, I began to wonder if my knee was ready to handle a heavy pack and road-walk. The deep desire to continue pushing was mitigated by the fear of causing more lasting or debilitating damage. I considered staying another night. The Washington Hotel was lovely, but budgeting is high priority. I thoroughly enjoyed the luxuries of a bed and a hot-shower after the demands of Idaho. Moving forward, however, I would much rather forego paying for a bed/electricity/privacy, than buy less nutritious fuel. There was a trail-angel in town –Mary.
It was listed in the guide-book that Mary opened her backyard for use by hikers who wished to stay in town. A local pointed her home and her van out to me, and told me that she ran the theater. I watched as the van moved from her home to the theater, and back again. Finally I managed to introduce myself.
She showed me her back yard and where I could get water and electricity, there was even a portable toilet for use. She welcomed me to come and go as I please. She told me that I had the right to ask anyone to leave the yard…unless it was another hiker, in which case we would have to settle that among ourselves. I thanked her, and returned to the visitor center until near night-fall.
Back in Mary’s yard, I laid out my ground-tarp and mat in a flat space of grass in the corner.
I looked at my knee. Red marks were forming. I felt strange sensations and vibrations and pain. For the first time in long-distance hiking I was experiencing an inhibition of bodily function that could prevent me from reaching my goal. I scoured the internet via Google. Was it bursitis, a bakers cyst, just soreness from the weight and high impact of the road…what were these markings and sensations?
Oh please. Please let my body heal. Let me continue hiking. I have learned that there are no shortcuts. Please dear body, please heal.
I did what I could to prop my knee up above my heart. It was a difficult position to sustain.
I fell asleep with hopes that I would return to consciousness in a body in better health than I had left it.