Washington, it’s been Real


August 8th-11th; Sobo Miles 420.3-505.5

Elevation: +13,000 ft/ -16,500

DAY 24: I only hiked 11 miles today, as it was a town day, yay! Trout Lake, great town.. I woke in the middle of the night a couple times, once because the full moon was so bright, and once because there were loud sticks breaking in what seemed like a pattern around where we were camping. My heart jumped at first, then, I just listened. What can I do? I just lay there, waiting for whatever it was to continue on, and it did. Then I fell back into a wonderful sleep….In the morning we had just a few miles to the road where a Trail Angel (Gary) picked us up and drove us to Trout Lake. 

We really had a hankering for breakfast food, so we had pushed the day before to make it as close to the road as possible. We did well. At the little cafe, we sat outdoors and waited a long time for everything, but that’s okay. It’s just such a small place that there is usually one person doing the job of three. It seemed, today, that the waiter who was serving our coffee and breakfast was also the mechanic at the shop next door. It was like, you got the coffee (finally) but then you needed cream. Then you got the cream (finally), but thrn you needed a spoon. But they don’t have spoons, so you stir your cream and sugar with a knife, but it still works, and it still tasted amazing! There was a little espresso bar/pastry shop next to the mechanic shop, too, but today they were closed. I was definitely disappointed, but the light roast drip coffee was still great, especially four cups of it, weeeeeee! 

It’s amazing how long we wait for the simplest things, while on the trail. Like, how many days have I been craving real coffee and eggs? I get really good at waiting, but it never ceases to amaze me that I am accustomed to waiting four or five days for something as simple as scrambled eggs and toast. That really does make it special when you finally get it. Today was even better, though, because I got huckleberry pancakes with my eggs and oh my gosh those pancakes were loaded with huckleberries. And even though I had to ask the waiter/mechanic for syrup (and got it finally) I still enjoyed every bite. Oh the syrup, it mixed so wonderfully with the melted butter, so salty and sweet, fluffy dough and popping juicy berries. Yes, I think my hiker hunger is for real!

Carrot and I took care of our shopping for re-supply at the little General Store, I got some things out of the hiker box and was able to re-supply fairly cheaply. I selected a bag of organic bowtie pasta and some cheese, then found some olive oil in the hiker box and voila, three decent meals. Just add S & P! It’s fun to be spontaneous and creative with your re-supplies from time to time, rather than getting the same food. I do sacrifice some on quality, and perhaps enjoyment of my food, but that’s part of the adventure. So, I’m eating Famous Amos cookies instead of Organic GF cookies, oh my, gettin’ crazy! 

Speaking of Famous Amos cookies, well, the reason I had them in the first place was because we got our first Trail Magic of the hike today! It was at the trail near the road to Trout Lake, and Carrot and I both already knew about it, it was across the street positioned for the Nobo’s as they reached the road. Huff, so many things are Nobo-biased, even Trail Magic! But, we knew the Mt. Adams Zen Buddhist center was the group who stocked this particular cache, and we trotted over to check it out. Trail magic is always fun and makes me happy, even if I get nothing. It’s just the fact that it’s there that makes it intrinsically magical. I mean, why these people even care about thru-hikers and want to leave food and treats for us in the woods is beyond my comprehension. This one was a large trash can stocked with all sorts of little packages of cookies, candies, fruit gummies, granola bars and the like. So, that’s how I got the Famous Amos cookies. And I love them, just sayin’. 

We showered and walked around town with wet hair and wet clothes (from rinsing everything in the shower rather than a proper laundering) and it felt so good to be wet in the 100F heat. We ate lunch at the cafe too, before heading back up to the trail. Gary drove us, and another hiker named Winky, back up there. I gave him some money for gas, because I don’t know how many people give him money, but I heard him say that he’d already given people rides to a bigger town three times already that day. Who knows, maybe he actually makes money, but what the hell, pay it forward. He is spending his entire day driving stinky hikers to and fro. When we were driving back up to the trailhead, I sat in the front seat, and it was then that I realized why he didn’t mind all the driving. It was the A/C. Wow did it feel amazing. Being in that car was just luxury, totally enclosed in a cooler with fuzzy soft seats. I could have driven around all day, too. 

When we got back on trail, we had to climb, and that is always so hard when you have both a full belly and a full re-supply in your back pack. We slugged it out, uphill through the snow….I mean, the soft forest with dappled afternoon light…. for about 8 miles until we got to camp. Along the way, I saw my first trail bear in 20 years! It was pretty cool. Carrot was just a tad behind me so I was actually all alone. I was just walking along, minding my own business, when I heard a rustling in the trees about 300 feet away. I stopped, stood still, then heard more movement. Shortly, I realized it was definitely a big animal. Then, I saw it move again, and then it stopped. I could just make out it’s body and face through the trees and understory.  I got out my camera and snapped a photo just in time before it started to run. It darted so fast from those trees right up to the trail, dashed across the trail, then up the hill. It was dark, a juvenile, maybe 300 pounds, and fast! It was so stunning, the energy, the sound of it’s paws hitting the Earth, and the crashing of the brush. I stood there still and watching, and felt very fortunate to have had this encounter. 

Later, I thought about the ways in which animal spirits come to us, and what the meaning of the Bear is in animal Spirit Medicine. Bear represents very powerful medicine and invites you to embrace your power, the power of your spsirit. Bear also represents the quality of introspection. As Bears dwell in the caverns or caves, the presence of a bear can reflect this to us. It is in the cavern of the Bear Spirit that you must learn to be comfortable with self, being alone with self and spirit, until the moment that visions begin to play upon the fields of your mind. This is the vision quest where your true power will come to you in the vision or in the dream time. Well, in this case, it was real time, however, the presence of this bear reminded me not to loose sight of the spiritual aspects of my journey, to not get too caught up in miles and logistics. It’s easy to do, easy to loose that perspective of the magic of what’s out here. I was grateful for this Bear Medicine. Very Grateful. And, I got a photo!

Carrot, Winky and I made it to Steamboat Lake before dusk, just in time for a lovely sunset over the Lake. I’d camped here last year, all alone, and the place honestly had given me the creeps. Some places just do that. But this time, it was better. It had been cleaned up of some trash that was there last year, and it had a much better feel, probably especially since I was with company now. Carrot was still so full from lunch, she went to bed with no dinner. I could not bear to do that, so I forced myself to eat some of my bowtie pasta. It was really quite lovely, sprinkled some olive oil, salt, pepper and a little cheese and sat there eating in the dark as bats flew overhead and my compnions started to drift off.

DAY 25: Journal Entry: 

It’s 9:49pm, we are camped at a place noted on Guthook’s as Reliable Spring, but we laughed at all the notes from other hikers about how difficult it was to find and how you had to bushwhack to get to the water. I remembered this place from last year, and it’s no big deal, seriously. The water is amazing, too. It’s pitchdark out and the forest is full of other hiker tents, so we had to pitch in a lilttle spot off in the woods so we wouldn’t wake people up. I like it here. I am eating my pasta and staring into the shadowy dark. I can’t see much, it is so dang hot, muggy. My nose is full of crusty dirty boogers, I am so sticky and so dirty, even though I actually went swimming today. I keep thinking I’m running so low on food, but my food bag still weighs like 8 pounds, and it’s only two more days to Casacade Locks. I need to do a food inventory in the morning and eat more of it to lighten the load. Tomorrow we are planning on 26.5 miles with 5,000 ft uphill and 7,000 ft down, blah!

Today, however, was chill. As chill as 28 miles can be, I suppose. I started out with as fast 13 miles this morning, and for some reason I was thinking a lot about stuff from my past. I remembered the conversation I had with Mama Lion about leaving things on the mountain, and decided that I needed to practice that more. Let more stuff go. So, I thought about that as I walked and that made time pass super fast. By and by, it was 12:50pm, and we reached Bear Lake, where we decided to stop for lunch and swimming. When we first got there I was absolutely famished, so I smashed several handfulls of potato chips into my mouth before I jumped in the water. Oh glorious water, how I love you! I remembered this place from last year, too. It was such a different energy, with the weather being much cooler, I had to sit in the sun to get warm and I made hot tea. I promised myself then that I would come back someday and swim in this immaculately clear, pure water. It’s like the Mediterranean in Washington! So, today, I did just that. The visibility was like 30 feet, and the temperature…. just perfect. 

I ate some chocolate with espresso beans in it for lunch dessert and therefore zoomed on for the next several miles. By 4:30pm I started to loose speed and was almost bonky, suddenly feeling quite unmotivated and also suddenly had to poop. I’ve apparently reached the point in my hiker metabolism where I need to eat quite often, about every 2 hours, and I need to poop twice a day, sometimes more, which means I have to ration my wipes, too. Ration, ration. Eat, poop, sleep, eat, poop, repeat. The only difference between me and a baby is that I walk all day! I need to eat two bars per day, and I eat an an entire hunk of cheese, and entire bag of large chips, and trail mix, and chocolate, and that all disappears in just a few days. I need nut butter, too. Must have nut butter. It used to be that I would pack either cheese OR nutbutter, but now the time has come, I need both!

By early evening, I reached the Nobo 2200 mile point, and as there was no mile marker there, I stopped and re-built the one I made from last year. It was fun, I liked being close to the Earth and enjoyed placing the little reddish stones nestly across the trail. After that, I cruised downhill into a humid, wet forest just in time for the sky to spit some rain down, it was lovely. Everything got wet, and there was steam and big beautiful clouds during that golden hour. 

The last 2 miles of the day were uphill, and as we hiked the sun was a glowing ball of blood orange and as I passed by the thickly growing trees the sun would pop through the spaces between like laser beams. By this point I was hurting, it was more than 26 miles already and it took some effort to get up that last climb. Carrot came up behind me and she had some music playing, which she is normally super conscientious about turning off in my presence, but I asked her to leave it on. It was the most soothing music, beautiful folk tainted female vocals, soft, serene, yet powerful. We listened as we climbed and I swear that music got me into camp, it was exactly what I needed. (The band is called Hooray for the Riffraff, btw).

DAY 26: It was 6:30am and I was sitting outside my tent, eating breakfast in my tanktop. Damn, it’s going to be another hot day. And it was, almost 90 F in the shade. The morning went by fast, the trail was easy for the first several  miles, smooth turf, fast walking, then it tas a long downhill, 2,800 feet, to Panther Creek, over just a few miles. We go up, we go down, we go up, we go down…..

I tried to make it all the way there on just my breakfast, but it was not a good idea. When I started this trail I could make it 10 miles on breakfast, this is no longer the case. I don’t even know why I still try to make this work. So, I ate an Rx bar, which did wonders to stabilize my blood sugar, and continued on to the low elevation creek where the air temp was blazing and the water freezing. I ate more food when I got there and Carrot and I took an hour break there. The water was too cold to swim though. I got my shirt wet and hiked on another 5 miles, very hot miles, to Trout Creek. Now, that water was positively perfect! 

Just before reaching the water, I’d been tormented by a giant horsefly doing laps around my head and those annoying little gnats had been following me, getting into every orifice possible. It was so dang hot, and I just wanted to get to the water. Finally, I made it. It was immediate full submersion, the water was perfect, and I grabbed onto a rock and let the cool stream flow all over my head and body. It’s so amazing how dramatically different you can feel from one minute to the next out here. I pulled myself out after several minutes and sat on a giant rock in the middle of the creek and meditated. In my meditation, I realized that Washington was over. It was going to be only 20 miles to Cascade Locks tomorrow, and then, no more Washington. Wow, it’s gone by so fast! I thought then, about all the great things that had happened in the past 26 days in my life, all the people I’d met, all the beauty I’d experienced, the wonderful weather, and just how fortunate I felt for being on this journey. As I sat there with the creek rushing on all sides of me, I felt very at peace and still. That is, until hunger pulled me back to shore. Time to eat. 

After our real lunch break there at Trout Creek, we had a 3,000 ft climb to tackle. I set my head straight for the climb and off I went, determined to make it “easy”. Washington can be pretty gentle on the feet, I’ve realized, thankfully. I was feeling pretty good all day, and even with this last climb, my feet and legs were ok. I pushed and made it over the “hump” and started descending again. We go up….we go down….we go up….we go down…. When I still had about a mile and a half before getting to camp, I stopped to take in the wonder and beauty of the forest. The trail hit a switchback and there was a clear, flat spot to spread out and lay on the Earth. I looked up at the trees, felt the support beneath my body and connected to that rootedness. My body felt strong, and I felt very clear in my thoughts. It’s not so often that I stop like this during a thru-hike, and I’ve come to realize how important these little breaks are. If not for the body, for the mind and for the spirit. You wouldn’t think a little 15 minute break on the forest laying flat on the ground would be a particular memory from hiking a 2,650 mile trail, but as it turns out, they are. I can think of several of these little breaks I’ve taken, and I can distinctly recall how I felt, what the wind in the trees sounded like, and what I was thinking about, which is nothing. Nothing, Just nothing. This is just a state of be-ing. This is the present moment, and I am doing no-thing. How wonderful. 

Eventually I got back up, as the daylight was fading and I still had a bit to go before finding a place to camp. Shortly, Carrot appeared and we finished the last mile together, discovering that (again) the campsite we had our sights on was already taken (Nobos!) and so we had to go off into the nearby woods. This was a different woods than the night before, though. Here, we were at a lower elevation and it was very green, as opposed to the dry, woody, dirty woods the previous evening. These woods were more like enchanted forest, dripping with lichen, and tangled with vines and moss. It was great, and we pitched our shelters precariously amongst the mess of it all. It remains to this day, still one of my favorite spots we camped in WA. we chatted through the evening as we ate our dinners and I savored it all, because tomorrow it would all change. Tomorrow I would cross over into Oregon, the next chapter. Tomorrow, I would say goodbye to Carrot, not knowing for how long, but for a time, at least. 

DAY 27: The Last Day of Washington

I swear, sometimes 21 miles can be brutal. How is it that I hiked 28’s, 26’s this section with ease and today, just 21 miles and it hurt! That’s the trail for ya. It was all kinds a hot today, and the trail was exposed in several places and there was a creepy clear-cut area to pass through where a gisnt tractor was working. Long descents, and rocky sections, too. This is not the shade dappled rainforest anymore, we are not in Kansas anymore toto! 

Cascade Locks is at the lowest elevation on the entire PCT at a mere 200 feet above sea level. The descent over the 21 miles we hiked today was over 5,000 ft, with most of it towards the latter part of the day. Carrot and I leapfrogged all day, and as I had kept planning to stop and eat lunch at the next water source, they were quite unappealing, so I psuhed on. By 3:00pm I was absolutely famished and could wait no longer. I stopped at a bridge over a creek at only 5 miles out from town, and smashed food in my face whilst airing out my feet on the bridge. Carrot came streaming by and said “last break in Washington?” and kept walking, she was on a mission. Dang, I gotta catch her, I thought.

I wanted to cross the Bridge of The Gods with her, so I didn’t stay there too long. That whole last section as it descended into a different landscape of dry Oaks and hot barren soils looked and felt entirely unfamiliar to me. Once again, I experienced that strange feeling of trail amnesia. I know I hiked this before, but I definitely do not remember doing it. How odd. Once I reached flat land again, I found myself walking out across open  fields of dry grasses and poison oak lined the trail. I tried my best not to swipe the noxious plant but could not guarantee it. I walked fast to catch Carrot, and because I was anxious to get to an establishment. The promise of refreshments lured me so strongly, and I envisioned an ice cold Perrier with lemon and chilled fresh fruit. Oh my God, it WILL happen, it’s actually going to happen!

The last mile into town is always the longest. It’s like molases, it’s like those dreams you have when you are trying to run and it’s happening in slow motion. That’s what this felt like, even though my legs were working fast. We reached the Bridge of The Gods, finally, and took photos for each other. This was my third visit to this bridge actually. The first being last year while Northbounding, the second just a few weeks ago with my family, and now today, having completed Washington for the second time. I made it. I hiked Washington.

The OR/WA border is in the middle of the bridge, splitting the Columbia River down the center like an anatomical slice. On the other side, there is the Fireside Restaurant, where we wasted no time getting setlted in at one of their comfy booths overlooking the River. Carrot ordered a full meal while I satiated my vision of fresh fruit and Perrier (yes, that actually had that). I had also fantaszed about a piece of Salmon and a baked potato with vegetables and a salad, which I saw exactly offered on their dinner menu. Well, that’s decided, I will be back here for dinner then. Excellent. 

There is an amazing Trail Angel in Cascade Locks named Shrek, and at his housse he has his entire backyard set up to host hikers. There is room for several tents, shade, picnic tables, a fire ring, a Hobbit House, a shower, bathroom, laundry and a hiker TV lounge. It is amazing! He’s got clothing lines strung up, seating in a tree house platform, and there are twinkling fairy lights strung up in all the trees that spin around at night. It is all donation based, and I think most hikers stay there when the come to the Locks. 

I found a perfect spot to pitch my tent while Carrot chatted with Shrek. Her ride showed up shortlyl and soon it was time to say good bye. I was torn, as I felt I had made a friend in her, yet, I knew it was not in her plans to continue on the PCT. Oregon was on fire, besides and there were fire closures further South that we still knew little about. It was not looking so good, Oregon. Still, Carrot said she would go back to Portland and think it through, what she wanted to do next. We hugged goodbye and I knew that even if she didn’t return to hike Oregon, our paths would cross again, and I was grateful to have hiked with her. Thank you Salami Zombie for being amazing and hiking with me!!

It’s always an odd, empty feeling, once you are alone again suddenly. There were several other hikers at Shrek’s Swamp, but they were all Nobos, and had their own vibe going after hiking together. It’s not that I couldn’t join in and become a part of their conversation, but I really just wanted to be alone. I showered, set up my bed and soon headed out for Salmon dinner. The heat had finally boken and there were some brilliant clouds forming on the horizon which made for a sunset with charachter. Over dinner I researched the upcoming fire closures and texted Monica to find out where whe was. I was hoping to catch up with her and hike together again. Turns out that there was a fire closure just up ahead on the Tunnel Falls/Eagle Creek trail up ahead (which most PCT hikers take) so I would have to take the actual PCT, no worries, I’ve been to the falls before. Then, another section South of McKenzie Pass in the Three Sisters/Mount Jefferson Wilderness was closed, bummer. I formed a loose plan to hike to Timberline Lodge and make it intime for their epic breakfast, and also meet up with Mama Lion and Peat and Boone again. It was just a short drive from Portland for them. I fell asleep that evening to the spinning fairy lights and the sounds of highway, trains and hikers talking trash out by the fire. It was not the most restful of night’s, but at least I made it to Wahington. Thank you Washington, it’s been real.


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