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 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
On my way, I stopped to admire a young woman painting a storefront mural.
…and again, to take in a message:
I settled myself in at a corner computer with my pack, and got to work.
After some time, a woman entered. She had a messenger bag, and a lavender bandana tied around her head beneath a full brimmed hat.
“Are you hiking the trail?”
“What are your plans…do you have a place to stay tonight?”
“I’m hoping to hitch back to the trail.”
“I would love to give you a ride.”
“Oh, thank you! I still have a few hours of work to do here, though.”
“Oh, so do I.”
We exchanged words briefly; words of trails and studies and passions. She asked if I knew of Peace Pilgrim.
“She was the first woman to hike the Appalachian Trail. It was very spiritual for her. After that, she became a pilgrim, walking over 25,000 miles across the country in the name of world peace.”
She offered me a small, card-stock bound booklet.
I accepted. I had every intention of carrying it with me.
Here are the first two pages:
She sat at a computer near mine, and we both carried on with our work in silence.
Hours passed. I felt like, though she also clearly had work to do, her time at the library that evening was extended for my sake. I found this very touching.
At a quarter to seven, just before closing hour, I began to pack up. As I did, so did she.
We began speaking. She told me of the work she was doing in bee conservation. She told me, with amused bewilderment, that she “had been a plant nerd, [she] never thought [she] would be an insect nerd!” I learned that though the bumble bee is native to North America, the Honey Bee was actually European. We reviewed maps of bees and their specific territories within the US, her fingers pointed and dragged down the glossy encyclopedia pages as she thumbed through self-made tabs. It was fascinating, the organization of bees. Certain bees only live near the coast, or only very far north, or only at certain elevations.
Her passion for her work filled me with joy and inspiration.
I loaded my things into her truck and we headed towards US Highway 95, where I would reconnect my footpath.
She mentioned that we would be passing where she lived, and that she would like to stop and collect some fresh raspberries for me.
As we drove towards her home she told me of how her and her ex used to have an organic potato farm there; that it was sort of a big deal. She described potatoes as “little jewels” that you get to dig up.
We entered the house and she went downstairs to retrieve the fruit. She mentioned that I could stay the night if I liked. We decided to check the weather to aid in my decision. She turned on the radio and we listened to a NOAA broadcast. It sounded like the storm would climax on Saturday night.
We hit the road.
We pulled in to where Brush Lake Road meets US 95. I asked her about Old US 95. We crossed the new highway together by foot, and she pointed out through the brush, the old one.
I thanked her.
We returned to her truck and I put on my pack. We hugged. “Oh, Brooke, honey.” She said, as she kissed me on the cheek.
She wished me luck. I thanked her.
Lynn was one of the most beautiful women I have ever met: inside and out.
I crossed the highway, then the brush, then Old US 95, then Idaho Highway 1, and kept walking.
I turned southwest on to Copeland Road.
I gazed at the old farm buildings; the yards with greenhouses and trampolines and old pick-up trucks parked on lawns.
Night fell. I continued to walk.
I began to wonder where I would sleep that night, and if it would rain on me before I got there.
A truck stopped and offered me a lift. There were two older men inside. I explained that I was hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail and that I was looking for a place to camp, that I had not realized that it would all be private properties along these roads.
“You can come back and camp at my property.”
I asked if he could take me back to that very spot in the morning. He agreed.
I crawled in to the bed of his pick-up, squeezing myself and my pack through the open space between the tailgate and the hard-top shell it was tied to with rope.
He dropped off his friend, who came around to the bed of the truck and told me I could sit up front.
“I’m okay back here!” I called out. I have always enjoyed rides in the back of trucks.
“C’mon up front” the man called, “I wanna know who I’m takin’ home!”
I crawled out and moved to the passenger seat.
Mikey and I introduced ourselves to eachother. He played music loudly and drove quickly up the road that bore the same name as his own “Duff.”
The home was over 100 years old and had been in the family for three generations. As we pulled in to the property, a giant yellow school bus came in to view, followed by streams of light and loud banging. Mikey parked and we got out. He called out to a group of people “I picked up a hitch-hiker! Here, help her with her bag, will ya.”
A man who I later learned was called “Patches”, headed over to assist me. I warned him that my pack was very heavy and that I could get it just fine. He insisted and carried it by its straps causing a pendulam-like gate as he moved. He headed towards an area beside a rather large hole in the ground, and leaned it against a wall beside an entrance to the home. I thanked him, and he returned to his work.
Mikey joined me. Told me that this area would eventually be his mama’s room. Then he took me inside to meet mama.
Isabelle Huff was tremendously kind.
“Have you had supper?” She asked. She offered me rice and collard greens and zucchini, and after that, pickles and huckleberries.
Mikey told her the story of how he came to pick me up. He asked if I could sleep in the spare bedroom.
“I’m the executive, mamas the CEO” he said.
She said that would be just fine. I thanked her cheerfully. Mikey left the two of us to chat, then returned to where the others were working.
Isabelle mentioned that I was very brave to be doing what I was. “Though,” she continued, “I have met some women who venture out on their own. One, well now she studies bees.”
“I’ve met her!”, I exclaimed.
“Yes! We met at the library. She gave me a lift back to the trail!”
I marveled at the vastness of the world made small by the interconnectivity of it all. It pleased me very much.
I asked her about the school bus and the people I saw working. She said that they were a group of eight travellers that had been living in the school bus. Mikey found them penniless at a gas station selling jewelry. He brought them home, giving them a place to stay in exchange for work.
Isabelle showed me to the room I would be sleeping in.
What an unexpected pleasure!
I fell to sleep in a state of peace and appreciation, excited at the prospect of hot coffee and conversation in the morning.
It is the morning of the May 16th. I am sitting on the wooden deck of the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) BBQ + Brew, facing the river. It is 7:22 in the morning. Everything is closed now. I have the deck, the power outlets, and the wifi all to myself.
I did not mean to still be here. I hiked in yesterday evening. The NOC is right on trail. The AT cuts right through it. I thought I would take advantage of this and order a package of some supplementary food and have it shipped here in hopes of saving time. Ha. They did not have my package. According to the tracking information, It was signed for by one of their staff members. “You will have to check with shipping and receiving”, Dan said. “They are closed now, but will open up at eight tomorrow”.
So there went my plans of continuing on. I had travelled 15 miles to get here, my unofficial minimum, so I was not too terribly heartbroken. Now it was a matter of where to sleep. I am on a very tight budget and did not want to spend the 22 dollars for a bed. I was told there was an unofficial campsite across the railroad tracks and down a “ways”. It was off of NOC property, so no one would bother me. Alright, I thought. So I set off. I walked a bit and wound up following the river. It called to me. I had a feeling I was not heading the correct way, but it was beautiful. After a short while (I don’t have much of a tolerance for more than .5 mile of non-trail walking), I turned back. I spotted Jo and Sean. We had been leapfrogging on trail for the past 50 miles or so. I was very pleased to see them. I had not seen any other hikers here, and I like to when I am in town-esque environments. It is comforting and encouraging. They are very kind and make for great company. I asked if they were pressing on. They said they were not certain. They were up for searching for this mystery campsite. We did not find it. What we did find was a set of wooden stairs leading up along a hill to a small green space with a wooden deck built around an enourmous, proud and beautiful tree. The hill had an amazingly lush and green view of the mountain we had just hiked from. It just felt right. Jo and Sean slept on the deck, I slept on the edge of the hill. I woke with the sun, and here I am…waiting for shipping and receiving to open.
I had a great hike yesterday. There was another tower–Wesser Bald– immediately following the climb from Tellico Gap, another amazing view.
There was this enticing sign along the way:
I decided to make the side hike. It was steep, but quick. This was my reward:
I fell into a stream this morning. As I was attempting to cross I thought: wouldn’t it be silly if I fell in. Three seconds later the log rolled and I landed flat on my bum. Luckily the only danger in this was embarrassment. There were no witnesses. Due to the wsrm weather, I suffered a wet bottom half for only a short while. It was spectacularly beautiful and sunny here in the Nantahala National Forest!
There were some good climbs today. Lots of roots and rocks on trail. I stopped at a spring where three older gentlemen where taking rest. They were from Virginia. They were section hiking. They said that the hunters that woke me early one morning just before the NC border may have been hunting turkeys. They also said that it most certainly could have been a fox I spotted yesterday, and that they were quite common in these parts. At this, I was terribly pleased!
I thought the trail seemed more crowded than usual today. I then remembered it was the weekend. A beautiful one at that. I used to dislike the weekends due to this. I have now learned to enjoy the company of the day hikers. They are usually locals, often jubilant and friendly, and a great insight into the culture. They are often familiar with the land and and I am usually full of questions.
There was another tower today. This one made of stone. It offered great views, as did the last.
North Carolina has such a wide variety of color and texture and size that fill it’s forests. It is almost tropical. I am enchanted.
A happy mothers day to momma bird and all the amazing moms and grandmas and nanas out there! Much respect.
Today was filled with many views and many voices. Some the sing-song kind of our feathered friends, others the chit-chattering of fellow humans. I amongst them at times. I move quickly but not swiftly. Making that shift of weight to my pack from my mind. Climbing and descending. Now and again pausing to spot a Ladybug, lift a remarkable stone from my path, or observe a flower not familiar. To stop suddenly in acknowledgement of the cool sweet mountain breeze. It livens the skin. Nothing feels sweeter.
Visitors to these woods is what we are. We hope to be welcomed guests for a season or two. But our voices can’t help but seem unnatural. The hauntingly graceful humming of the woods as echoed by the mountains is best appreciated in silence. Silence is what I have at this moment. Stillness is what I embody as life delicately dances about me.
It is spectacular.
The bird calls emanate from all directions. They start soft and grow louder with repitition. Now an owl calls deeply from the North. I can faintly hear the stream where I gathered my water. Just 1/10 of a mile South it slides gracefully down the mountain, cool and clear and confident. It cascades over the stones into the sea of green and brown. The trees are each so unique. A potpourri of textures and shades and sizes .Embracing one another, as if holding hands with their long limbs and curling tendrils. The sky is turning pink in the distance, creating grand mountainous silhouettes. I reach out and press my palm against a nearby tree. I am grounded.
I will sleep on the Earth beneath the stars tonight. The Moon is waxing, nearly full. The forest will stir and glow.
I sit at a bench with fellow thru-hikers using the wifi at Mountain Crossing at Neels Gap. Awesome place. I was able to get some much needed (and maybe not so much needed) gear (more about this in a moment), some fair advice, and some hot coffee.
The summitting of Blood Mountain was great fun. Not nearly as difficult as I was made to believe. The descent was more rocky than the ascent. All and all it was a great hike.
Now let’s get back to the topic of gear.
This is what I set out with:
I realized after actually hitting the trail that, though I opt not to filter most of the time, the filtering of water is a nice option to have. For some reason I am not an Aquamira/tablet/drops kind of person. I prefer to physically filter. So I went back to the Sawyer Squeeze. I was pleased with it last year. All that was available this time was the mini, so we will see how that goes. Also…I bought a stove!!! An MSR Pocket Rocket. I went stoveless for the latter half of the PCT last year. Sure it was fine. But this is a positively thrilling luxury. Hot coffee and warm Idahoans, here I come! I also purchased a new raincoat. A basic no frills Marmot, and a rain skirt. And…”sleep socks”. Oh, how I love to day dream about my perfectly safe and dry, zip-locked, stuffed in the bottom of my sleeping bag, sleeping-only socks. That feeling of slipping them on after a long days hike is absolute bliss.
I watch the countryside glide by. It is all so new to me. I have never traveled this far East in the USA.
Post PCT and penniless, I decided to move to New Orleans, LA on November 30th 2016 to live the city-life and make money through the winter. I volunteered for free accommodation (which has been a cornerstone to making my travelling lifestyle possible) at Madame Isabelle’s House (a hostel) in Marigny, just outside of the French Quarter; and the Louisianna Himalaya Association (LHA) in Mid-City. Living this way continues to open up opportunities for saving, as well as exercise my strength in social adaptability (which is, well…uh: exhausted at this point). I managed to balance my volunteer work along with some paying gigs, both situated in the French Quarter: a gift shop on Decatur during the day, and serving cocktails on Bourbon in the evenings. Quite the experience catering to both the tourists and the thirsty-folk alike. Two things that make the local economy go ’round.
Bourbon is hands down unlike any other space for existence (or non-existence) I have ever experienced. It is like stepping in to another reality where everyone is drunk or intending to be or is intending to make money off of those intentions. It does not smell like roses. You may get hit by a string of beads. There is no car traffic down Bourbon, just people…literal hoards of people. You may get trampled or elbowed. Open containers are allowed on the street…often encouraged. There is no easy way to recycle glass, and plastic to-go cups are the go-to (so you can leave the bar at a whim and take your drink with you, of course). The waste is devistating.
The rest of the Quarter is quaint. I especially enjoyed strolling down Royal Street. It is littered with musical talent. Oh, the brass.
In short: New Orleans is unlawfully charming, quirky, beautiful, unique, and soaked in liquor.
But now. Now I am on a train to Georgia. Tomorrow. On May 3rd. One year after I began my venture from Mexico to Canada along the PCT, I will begin my solo thru-hike from Georgia to Maine!
This is about exploration. This is about regeneration. This is about constant change. This is about fear as fuel.
In the interest of anonymity, I’ll call myself Palomita (a name given to me during my stay in the Ecuadorian Amazon two and a half weeks ago because my birth name proved to difficult to pronounce).
I resigned from my profession as a Civil Servant for the State of California just over six months ago. My reasoning: a burning need to travel; that and a harrowing fear of becoming fixed in a mold of routine, commercialized contentment.
So. What else could I do but cash out my savings and buy a one way ticket to Guatemala City, Guatemala?
This blog is about this journey…one that will hopefully never end. This blog is about embracing fears, challenging convention, discovering the creativity within yourself (and others), challenging EVERYTHING, discounting nothing. It is about the beauty, magic, and wonder in life as perceived by the individual.
Mostly it is about trusting in yourself and the direction of the wind. To be physical with life. To be bruised by experience, and kissed by exaltation. To take in what the world is sending you, apply your essence, and send it back out as art.