I’m in Bend

I know there are many folks waiting for these posts, but I don’t have a ton to say. Or, I at least don’t have the energy to say it right now.

Here’s quick update:

I hitched into Bend, OR to replace my shoes. I had some sent to my next resupply, but I can’t wait. The padding is totally worn through and they’re stitched together. I also wore through my socks and my food bag ripped. I needed some new gear and I needed a milkshake, so here I am.

About 250 miles until Ashland and about 275 until California.

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The End… Of Washington

Portland, OR. I’ve been here for two days and it has been glorious: a nice peek back into “real life,” and some relaxing time with some good friends.

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Tama to the rescue! Ice cream stop.

The final day in Washington, like many of the days on this journey, was wrought with emotion. The previous night was the first night that I was actually hot in my sleeping gear. I slept in my bivy with my quilt pulled to the side and was still quite warm. Finally summer. The warm night transitioned seamlessly into a warm morning and I was off. Big, quick steps pulling me up the first major climb of the day and then down into a valley dotted with berry-laden bushes, hindering my progress but tickling my taste buds. I came to the final climb before noon and was ready to get up to the top and start the looooooong descent into the Columbia River Gorge. I plugged in to some bluegrass which put even more pep in my step and reached the top in a timely manner.

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The vine maple is one of my favorite plants in the Northwest. I love how airy and weightless the leaves appear. Many have started to change color, giving a fun pop of crimson to the forest palette. 

“It’s all downhill from here! Actually.” I kept saying to myself as I went down down down. And then down some more. About 27 miles into my day, I started to fade quickly. I checked the Halfmile App, knowing that it would say I have 3 or 4 miles until Cascade Locks, but desperately hoping it would say 2 or 1.5 miles… When it said 3 miles, I had a full on break down. Which is silly, because I KNEW… But when you’re ready to be done for the day, another hour of walking is the most daunting thing in the world.

I called Keith and whined and cried. “I just want to be done with Washington, but the stupid state just keeps going and going!” It was exactly what I needed and pushed me the last few miles to the Bridge of the Gods.

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Obligatory selfie. 

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The Bridge of the Gods was quite scary to walk across as there were no sidewalks and the floor was a metal grate. I tried my best to walk normally as cars zoomed past, not looking down to the Columbia River far below.

I’ve been hanging out with Tama pretty much ever since, and I’ve also shared delightful, trendy Portland meals with Robin. Hopefully I’ll get to see Bay before she leaves for Antarctica(!). Time with real friends has been amazing. Trail people are, for the most part, great, but it’s not the same as being around friends. Or cats. Patty and Louie have been very healing for my soul.

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Kitty cuddles making me pretty desperate for my own fuzzy friend.

I’m excited for the next chapter of this journey. I’m excited for new shoes to be (hopefully) waiting for me at Big Lake Youth Camp. I’m excited for those shoes to be purple. I’m excited to get to Ashland and (hopefully) see Keith for a couple days. I’m excited. Excitement has replaced sadness.

 

“It’s All Downhill From Here”

“It’s all downhill from here.”

“You’re, like, almost there and it’s mostly downhill.”

“Yeah, it’s basically all downhill.”

So say the folks I passed on the day I hiked into White Pass… It’s all downhill, huh?  Because my map says it’s all uphill…

Trout Lake, WA. An adorable town located in a beautiful sweeping valley with the nicest folks and the most delicious huckleberry milkshakes you’ll ever encounter. I ran the last three miles down the gentle slope, chanting “Huckle! Berry! Milk! Shake!” in my head with each step. Having heard about these milkshakes from nearly every person I passed on the trail, I was more than a little excited to get into town.

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I’ve been dreaming (literally dreaming) about milkshakes since I started the trail and this was my first opportunity to make those dreams come true.

Since leaving Snoqualmie, I’ve been pushing farther everyday. It feels really good to be independent and in total control of my destiny (at least in the short term). I’ve been meeting amazing people; I even met a man who, in his retirement, had taken up figure skating! He is such an interesting man and I feel so inspired and lucky to have camped a night with him. The campsite we shared was in an amazing meadow, just south of The Knife’s Edge, and I ended early that day. It was mentally, emotionally* and physically exhausting and I was unwilling to pass up such an ideallic campsite.

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The Knife’s Edge follows the ridge line, up and down, with steep, beautiful slopes on either side. It was physically demanding, but so rewarding. Also, I saw goats!

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My campsite was in the little grove of trees.

The next day was a whole different experience… About as opposite as you can get… Terrain, feelings, speed. All were a total 180 from the previous day. I woke up in that surreal meadow and saw a blanket of fog over the valley, wrapping around Mt. Adams and creeping into the crevices between ridge lines. Cispus Pass was unreal in the early morning sun, but then I decended into the fog, down the mountain side into 25 miles of straight, flat, buggy forest. I basically put my head down and focused only on forward movement. By the time 7pm rolled around, I’d covered 35 miles, which meant I only had 10 miles to Trout Lake and to milkshakes! I woke up early and walked the easy, lava rocky terrain with my friends: Mt. Adams looming overhead, Mt. Rainier to the north, and Mt. Saint Helens to the west.

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A campsite I would have taken advantage of had it not been so early in the day still.

I am beyond excited to get into Portland in a few days and see some much loved friends. With about 450 miles hiked, I’m sad to say goodbye to the montane wilderness of the north, but equally excited to cross the Bridge of the Gods and feel like I’m actually making progress!

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The Mt. Adams Wilderness has been the most glorious wildflower hotspot so far. Lupine galore. Tis a dream!

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Shameless squinty selfie.

*it was a very emotional day for me because I felt absolutely riddled with guilt leaving White Pass. There was a major search and rescue mission happening in the area I was hiking through and I felt terrible not stopping to volunteer my time. From the trail, I did what I could. I gathered info about his last known location and his attire and I hiked with his picture in my pocket and his name on my lips as I yelled for him while I hiked. I informed passing hikers and pressed on. I am happy to say that he has been found. Although I have no personal connection with the boy, I am so grateful for the men and women who volunteer their time to help families and people in need.

 

Short Update: More eloquent thoughtful post to come… Probably in Portland…

imageSnoqualmie, WA. Not in the original plan to stay overnight here, but a few things kept us from moving on right away after recieving our resupply boxes: lack of fuel, free soda, Hurry Curry, showers/laundry and the promise of breakfast with new friends.

It had also been becoming more and more clear that Snail and I needed to reevaluate our goals. “Hike you own hike” is a phrase you will read or hear a lot when researching and preparing for the PCT or AT or whatever long distance hike you’re dreaming of. Snail and I have both been compromising our hikes. Snail by worrying about keeping up with me and not properly taking care of her body and mental needs, and I by feeling guilty that she might be pushing too hard trying to keep up with my naturally longer strides and quicker pace. It’s not fair to either of us to keep hiking this way, so we’ve decided that the best option is to continue down the trail hiking our own hike. We will likely be parting today after we eat breakfast. It’s a sad event full of all kinds of emotions, but it is the right choice for both of us, and I think it will result in both of us having a more fulfilling journey.

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On the more positive end of things, the weather was great the past two days and looks promising today. The next section is supposedly completely logged out… It’s hard to even imagine walking down the trail with out having to climb over trees.

 

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The Lonely Mountain!! (Mt. Rainier in the distance)

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Town kittens. Kittens are so good for the soul.

 

 

The First Days

imageimageLeavenworth, WA: a very small, very Bavarian town on the east side of the Cascades. It’s quite a bizarre place to be spending our time after 11 days on the trail. Some of our packages were sent here instead of the intended destination of Stevens Pass ski lodge. Snail and I met and have been hiking with a woman doing a photo/interview documentation of young female backpackers, and the three of us have been sitting in Good Mood Food for several hours now. Wifi and new friends have made it very easy to stay. The eventuality of getting back to the trail feels distant right now, but I know that I’ll blink and be back out there, staring at the dirt and fog.

Washington is beautiful and wet. Very wet. At least a little sprinkling everyday, but more often it’s more than just a little. On day 4 we camped about a mile from a pass, and it promptly started to rain after setting up our stuff. At about 3:30 am, I found much of my stuff floating around me. I was in a puddle and nearly everything I had was wet. Luckily, though, I also learned that my ultralight weight bivy is waterproof on the bottom. Everything that was inside it, my sleeping bag, sleeping pad, myself and the clothes on me, were dry. I woke up to lightning and hail, and I’ve never felt more conductive in my life.

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187ish miles from the border, 211ish miles hiked. My body feels great and I’m not suffering any major foot or joint ailments like most of the people I know or have met. I do have a laughable amount of bug bites on my legs that I’ve scratched raw, but compared to Makayla’s feet, it’s nothing. My knees feel tender going downhill, but it wasn’t enough to keep me from running (nearly sprinting) the last 2 miles into Stevens Pass after having done 23 miles already. Running towards the promise of bacon cheeseburgers and cell phone service. And ice cream. Always ice cream…

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The journey so far has been far mor emotional than I ever thought it could be. In the beginning I gave myself a goal to put into words why I wanted to do this and (maybe more importantly) how I would view myself if I don’t make it to Mexico. I’ve had a harder time answering that first question than I thought, but I’m pretty certain now that this will be a journey centered around emotional growth. Everything I feel out here is tenfold what I experience in “real life,” and in “real life” I do a very good job of suppressing and ignoring emotional needs. Not anymore! I’ve cried more in the past 11 days than I have in like three years, but if this information inspires you to feel sad for me, DON’T! Sadness is a deep emotion I need to embrace, and that’s my goal (at least for now).

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Anticip-

-ation!

Still waiting. So much waiting. It feels closer now than ever, which is not unusual because it is closer now than ever. I still have to wait another month before the adventure starts.

I am starting my hike on July 5 from Hart’s Pass, hiking about 30 miles up to the border and then turning around and heading for Mexico. I am happy,more and more each day, that I decided to Southbound my hike. I am able to get a little bit more money by working the full year and I am not with the herd of Northbounders. The desert sounds brutal right now, judging from Ryan’s (my NoBo friend) blog postings. Roasty toasty calves, dry dry mouths. I imagine the desert will still be quite hot in late September/early October, when I will be there, but I’m glad I am not starting there… My starting point will have plenty of it’s own challenges, namely snow and questionable navigation, but I am so ready. I am so ready to be out there. I am so ready to get dirty and worked.

I can’t wait.

But I must.