Butter.

Mile: 2,569

Day: 156

Location: Stehekin Valley Ranch, WA

Avocados: 56

Showers: 35

*Note: Since I am editing this on a desktop I am going to format the pictures so they are right side up for all desktop readers. My apologies for anyone who reads this on their mobile device.

I’ve done it. It took 2,569 miles, but I’ve completed my goal. I’ve walked straight into a town that belongs in a Nicholas Sparks Novel. The town of Stehekin, Washington. Screw Canada, I’m hanging up my boots. I have found paradise.

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Whoa whoa whoa, back it up Jules. What about that other town we can’t pronounce? Oh, Snoqualmie? No no the next one! Oh right, Skykomish! Yes, Skykomish, well that’s my favorite trail town TOO! Every trail town is my favorite trail town, just like every section is my favorite section. I guess you can say I’ve really learned how to live in the present.

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Okay, back to Skykomish because I haven’t told you about how much I loved it yet. The section from Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass (Skykomish) was 72 miles. It was another cold and wet few days with a relief day of minor sunshine. Fall is in the air on blast. The nights have gotten down to low thirties, definitely below freezing at times. One night I woke up and starting slapping all of my gear that was exploded around me. I was freaking out. Why? Because everything was SO cold that I thought it was soaking wet. I knew it wasn’t raining but I was next to a lake so I figured the condensation snuck through my barricade of ultra-light tent walls and wanted me miserable. Turns out, nothing was wet, everything was just about frozen. Feels the same, if you’re wondering. Bear Claw told me she woke up the other night to have a sip of water and it hurt her teeth. Wintry nights and summery days, the temperature difference between the shade and the sun is about 75 degrees, give or take 65 degrees. Fact.

LISTEN TO ME COMPLAIN MORE ABOUT HOW COLD IT IS!

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Washington has been so challenging, which means it’s been incredibly rewarding. We are averaging 6,000′ elevation gain everyday, and usually the same amount of loss. What this means is that hikers are starting to bitch about their knees being sore. That’s all that means. Oh, and that the views are unbelievable and that the man calves I get to hike behind are even more carved out. Win win!

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Alpine Lakes Wilderness was amazing. 5 years ago I took a handsaw to my underwear and threw them off a ridge here. You should ask me about that story sometime.

Alpine Lakes Wilderness was amazing. 5 years ago I took a handsaw to my underwear and threw them off a ridge here. You should ask me about that story sometime.

I got to Stevens Pass after an easy morning of 7 miles. I saw about 5 hikers on the highway trying to hitch into the nearest town, Skykomish. I decided not to burst their bubble (who’s gonna pick up 6 people???) and go in the lodge at Stevens Pass to check my email and get a coffee — surely they’ll be gone within the hour so I can start my own hitching process. There’s only one place to stay in Skykomish, so I decided to be responsible and give them a call to book a room. JACKPOT – LAST ROOM! Henry, the owner, was so nice he even told me he knows a guy who can come pick me up as long as I do ONE thing: DON’T MOVE. Ugh, okay Henry fineeeeeeeeeee I’ll stay right here in this seated position indoors sipping on this warm caffeinated beverage, but only for you Henry!

suns out! put on your shorts and shake out your rain fly!

Suns out! Put on your shorts and shake out your rain fly!

I felt really lucky, and extremely posh. Chris came to pick me up within 20 minutes and as we left the parking lot I saw the same hikers on the highway trying desperately for a ride. Sometimes hitching a ride is so demoralizing that the only way to deal with it positively is by viewing it as a lesson in rejection. Think about it, if you can become comfortable with rejection you can rule the world. Another: Fact.

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I felt really guilty as we drove away and my fellow hikers threw their arms up in “what the f$&@” fashion. Well, we all make choices, and coffee is always the right one. After 2 hours I saw those guys in town only for them to be told there were no rooms left: ouch.

What a peaceful little stream crossing

What a peaceful little stream crossing

Skykomish is a super quiet and peaceful place. It has a laundromat, bar, hotel/restaurant, and a couple shops that are only open for 4 hours a week. Oh, and a huge loud train that goes by 20 times a day. BEEEEEPPPPPPPPPPPPPP.

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I fell in love with it right away. Henry gave me an “orientation” to the inn and I went to the post office to pick up 4 PACKAGES! I was feeling really popular with my arms full leaving the PO. I knew they were all coming and was psyched they were all there.

At my last resupply stop, Snoqualmie Pass, my package to myself and my friends package to me both didn’t make it to the Chevron. I was skeptical of the Chevron, and it proved me right. All the packages were thrown into a warm beer cooler in the back and the guy says “good luck.” Turns out, if the ETA isn’t within a couple days they don’t deliver it. Yeah, I still don’t understand how they would know. It was a disorganized mess, and after an hour of hauling boxes around looking for my name, I gave up. LUCKILY I saw my friend Lukes package. Luke, sorry, Bivvy, is a friend I met a long ways back, a Cartoonist from Ireland and just before he left for the trail, a published author! We hiked a lot together with Mile 55 in the Sierra but then I lost the group and he was lucky enough to keep pace with them. All I know is that Luke had to skip parts of Oregon so he was way ahead, so I told him I found his box and he told me if I needed food to just take it. It felt invasive, but I went for it. I also found it extremely hilarious that the first thing on top was a huge bottle of SPF 50, gotta love that Irish skin! Pretty amazing how we all look out for each other out here. You may not have seen a close friend in a 1,000 miles, but they are never far (awwwwwwwww).

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Okay BACK to Skykomish. I got a TON of candy from my friends and family. Lots of notes of encouragement and lots of warm fuzzy feelings. It was a solid trip to the post office. I feel so lucky to have the support system that I do, it makes this trail so much more fun, and so much easier.

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After drying out my gear in the backyard of the Inn, I went next door to the Whistling Post, the local dive bar to watch the NFL season opener. I sat at the bar and chatted with the locals and got the scoop on the family bar business as I watched the game. Then the best thing happened. Bear Claw and Lemonade (remember them from previous posts? The engaged couple from SF who took 2 weeks off in July to get married in Sierra City? The wedding I couldn’t go to because I was in the ER peeing blood? Good, because they’re BACK!) texted me saying they were next door eating dinner! I couldn’t believe it, I knew they were closing the gap quickly, but didn’t think I’d see them until here, in Stehekin, at the bakery they first told me about. BONUS, they caught me a town early! They met me at the bar and we drank lots and caught up. I haven’t seen them in 2 months, over a 1,000 miles at that point. We stayed in good contact and finally bridged the gap, we were very happy hikers in Skykomish.

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We grabbed breakfast and since they got in so late the previous night, they still had post office and laundry things to do, so I left a couple hours before them. As the trail would have it, I didn’t see them again until the morning we took the bus into Stehekin. The final 8 miles of the 108 mile butt-whooping section. They were consistently 5 miles behind me it seemed, but it was okay, because the biggest thing in our life was getting to the Stehekin Bakery together. And that, we achieved.

The girls going for it. Total ladies. Our moms back East are glowing with pride.

I left Skykomish a bit weighted down by the length and difficulty of the next section. 108 miles: 5 days 4 nights, and the most elevation gain/loss aside from the Sierra. The only bad weather day was going to be Sunday, so that was really comforting. The sun will be out! Woop!

So after an ice cream at the lodge, I started hiking at 1pm. Beautiful day, at that point we haven’t seen a sunny day like this in a long time, so it felt extra special. I hiked 15 miles and then ran into Raiden, Chapstick, and Big Bear, and we hiked into the late evening together towards Pear Lake. The sun was setting on Mt. Baker and we cruised into camp. About 8 other tents were already set up (hot spot!) but after a bit of searching I found one far enough away that I didn’t have to listen to a chorus of snoring – – success. They had a fire going and I hung out for a while (I know, how SOCIAL of me!) to see who was there. I finally met ALTA, and apparently “re-met” Polaris. Polaris is a really cool guy. He looked at me and says “Toe Touch, yes, Toe Touch, we met at the side of 3-Fingered Jack in mid to late August right around lunchtime.” My mouth was agape. Was he right? Yes, yes he was. I didn’t recognize him, but he was part of a group I had lunch with that day on the side of the trail, which just so happened to have an epic view of 3-Fingered Jack (a mountain in Oregon, by the way). Astonishing. I will say, hiking IS very good for the memory.

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got it.

got it.

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NOOOO, can it be? nahhh it's a joke

NOOOO, can it be? nahhh it’s a joke

It's true! It's true! What a cool toilet!

It’s true! It’s true! What a cool toilet!

I slept like a rock and woke up to a dry tent, Eureka! Left camp at 8 and never saw any of those people again until, you guessed it, the bus ride to the Stehekin Bakery (I’m gonna see how many times I can mention this bakery in one post). It was sunny all day and dare I say, hot out. The trail was fun and challenging, with ridges and views galore. The colors were of blue, green, red, orange, and yellow. So clear, so fun. I sat on a rock with an stellar backrest, tore apart my backpack, and enjoyed an apple with peanut butter. My friends Yodeler and Trigger (awesome French couple) hiked by and that was the start to seeing them very often throughout the section. This was all in Glacier Peak Wilderness, quite possibly the most awe inspiring section of the trail.

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I bought this rock, I move in at the end of the month

I bought this rock, I move in at the end of the month

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After my lunch I hiked on, feeling sicker and sicker as the hours passed. First I got hit with nausea, then a headache, then overall weakness. I put on a podcast about Health for Female Endurance Athletes to try and distract me from my sickness but that only made it worse. A huge part of the podcast was about Amenorrhea or, not getting your period for over 90 days. This may be too much information for some, but I’ve already taken you through my whole journey since April, so why leave anything out now: I haven’t had my cycle since April, 2 weeks into the hike. Not surprising, my body is under constant physical stress with very little time to recover. It’s not healthy to go this long without a period, my hormones are as balanced as I’ve been able to keep them, but are clearly not functioning at an optimal level. This podcast had great information, but I couldn’t listen anymore, I tore out my earbuds. I felt so unhealthy. Fit but unhealthy. Gah. What is going ON in there!

I took a picture of this rock because I couldn't believe how flat it was.

I took a picture of this rock because I couldn’t believe how flat it was.

I got to the creek and decided to camp there. I was so weak at this point that it would be stupid to walk anymore. Besides, 2 ladies section hiking said they were going to camp at this creek, and it would be nice to have their company while I’m not feeling well. They are a bit older, and I took great comfort in that. I got to camp and with no one else there, went far into the brush and barfed. Didn’t take much, came right out. And since I’ve decided to tell you everything, you should know that it looked like chunky black tar. It was as if I threw up a dead organ. I was so disturbed. I’m surprised I didn’t shed a tear from the fear I felt in my gut. Because clearly, I’m on the brink of death. Good thing I have nice older ladies to give me comfort in the night. If my mom can’t be here with ginger ale and wonder bread toast, two strangers will do. I’m sure they’ll be thrilled with their new designated task for the evening.

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I poked around at my vomit because I wanted to know what I had just lost. It HAD to be the peanut butter, I MUST have overdone it! But why then, is it BLACK. So perplexed. It just made me feel worse about myself. My body is dying from the inside out and telling me to give it a REST. And I understand, recovery is so important. Rest is so important. But so is Canada. And I’ve been pushing my limits all summer in so many different ways, it can wait another week.

Here's a pretty picture of a flower plant berry thing to take your mind off of my dead organs.

Here’s a pretty picture of a flower plant berry thing to take your mind off of my dead organs.

Fortunately, I went through my chores that night trying to forget what just came out of my body. I was actively erasing it from my memory. I cautiously ate dinner and thankfully slept really well. I never needed to bother the sweet old ladies. I left the next morning at 8 and it was foggy, wet, and frigid. It was a really challenging morning to get moving. I still felt weak, but capable of hiking. Not that it mattered, this section is so remote there was no way out even if I did leave my dead liver on the forest floor last night. We were deep in the wilderness all week, and you know I wasn’t about to turn around.

The morning was rough. It was raining and the trail was gutted and terrible. I slipped and fell 3 times, with one of them in slow motion watching my knee twist in a very bad way. I yelled a bad word and forced myself back up. I put pressure on my knee and it responded like a champ, I’m good, I got this. I was going up and over and under downed trees and just trying to survive the morning, doing everything I could to control my thoughts. Only let the good ones in, and dismiss the bad ones right away. By noon, the rain stopped and the sun fought to come out. A guy passed me saying “Congratulations! Nothing can stop you now!” I stopped and looked at him. Big smile. I returned it. He’s right, after being punched in the gut all morning, it still wasn’t going to stop me from getting to Canada. At this point, the PCT can have its way with me, it’s just simply not going to matter. I will continue to battle it out and laugh at it as much as possible. Even when my barf and poop looked really similar back to back. Ahhhh goddddd nooooo CMON julez! Sorry, I’m a thru-hiker, and all we talk about is food and poop. Why should my blog be any different?

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Can you IMAGINE what this must have sounded like when it fell?!?!

Looks good to me. Hiked it.

Looks good to me. Hiked it.

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So this day, Sunday, September 11th (perspective played a big role in getting me out of the gutter as well) was starting to look up. The sun came out and I climbed 6,000 feet before 12:30. A nice lady took my photo at the top and we hiked together for a little bit of the descent, then I raced on. I had 3,000 more feet to climb and then 3,000 more to descend before camp. I was feeling SO much better, and getting really excited for another long climb. By the end of the day I was camped next to a creek, having gone up (and down) 9,000 feet in 27 miles, and had my appetite back. Phew. What a day. Not sure I’ve ever had to overcome so much in one tiny little 12 hour period. Bring on the deadlines, the stress, the poor team dynamics, the scheduling issues, time management, chronic conflict — bring it all on society, or “real world.” I’d be shocked to see how rattled you can make me. Thru-hikers have to be the most desired employees in the world.

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The next day I did 29 miles and the average 6,000 gain. Standard. The Northern Cascades have been breathtaking. One of my favorite sections of the trail! (Hah!) I was camped 8 miles from the ranger station where the bus would pick us up to go to the BAKERY and then to the “town” of Stehekin. I slept until 8:45 because frankly, I didn’t need to leave camp before 9:30. Well, in comes Bear Claw and Lemonade already 10 miles into their day (they woke up at 5 to frost on their tent, I slept for another 4 hours it seems, lazy.) All I hear is “Is that Toe Touch?” I yelped “Yeah!” And stuck my head out really happy to see them. They both looked at their watches at the same time and asked me, politely, what the hell I was doing. “There are CINNAMON ROLLS to be eaten and we mustn’t miss the 12:30 bus!” I said dontttt worryyyyy I got this! Save me a seat! They scampered off and I was on trail within 30 minutes. It reminded me of an ABC Family sitcom where the parents are always trying to get their kid out of bed in time for the bus, and the kid is just like gahhhhhhhhh. But instead of catching the bus to school, I was catching the bus to the bakery, where I’ve heard tales for 1500 miles of cinnamon rolls and sticky buns larger than my head. And I got a big head.

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Appropriately enough, I got to the bus stop with 40 MINUTES to spare (thank you, thank you) and all the hikers were sitting on the picnic table clipping their nails. Classic.

Chapstick and Big Bear enjoying their Cinnamon Roll snack

Chapstick and Big Bear enjoying their Cinnamon Roll snack

We rode in front of the bus, per Bear Claws demand since mile 1,325 (we’ve talked about this bakery a lot in our short friendship). The bus stops at the bakery and gives you 10 minutes to get in and get out! Next bus doesn’t come for another 3 hours so if you want to stay, go for it, but there’s no cell service or wifi, so you better either be REALLY hungry or have a good book. Or borrow one of theirs and plan your next adventure…

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I struggled. Bear Claw and Lemonade led the pack and were first in line. Feeling the heat, they made excellent and efficient choices. One of everything. And a slice of pizza. Bear Claw even had time to circle back and coach me through my decision, Cinnamon Roll or Sticky Bun? Gah! But what about a kale salad? Can I have that to go? Will he be able to pack it before the bus leaves? Bear Claw both heard and saw my indecisiveness, told me I was on the struggle bus big time and deserted me. Thanks for your support, pal.

Sticky Bun. And Kale Salad. To-go. Oh and Coffee. Please. Thank You. Swipe. Exhale. Smile. Cheer. High-Five.

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So happy with my decision. I had a couple bites of my bun on the bus and it was delectable. So buttery and gooey and moist and buttery and caramelly and buttery. It was heaven. I ate my Kale salad first and then we got to Stehekin. Lemonade bought a bottle of Reisling (it was either wine or hard Apple ciders, the last batch of hikers drank ALL the beer, hah! Imagine that!) and Bear Claw gathered Adirondack Chairs. We sat on the deck of the lodge. Big bear, Chapsick, Raiden, Lemonade, Bear Claw and myself. Transfixed by the accomplishment of the insanely physical last 108 miles, the sparkling waters of Lake Chelan, passing around a bottle of wine, drinking coffee on the side, devouring our monster pastries. I can only speak for myself, but it was quite clear the feeling was mutual, it was one of the best moments of the summer.

Lemonade and Bear Claw enjoying Adirondack Chairs, Ice Cream, Wine, and really good lighting

Lemonade and Bear Claw enjoying Adirondack Chairs, Ice Cream, Wine, and really good lighting

We dedicated that time to just relax. After the wine was gone we got a group campsite and then hit up the post office and ran other “errands.” Basically we went to the post office and then jumped in the lake. It was cold for sure, but the clear green/blue waters were so inviting. The sun was sparkling off the lake and we all stripped down to our skivvy’s and dove in. We laid out on the boat launch dock for awhile, allowing the sun to hit our stomachs and backs and dare I say it, thighs, for the first time all summer. We passed around a bag of Juanitas, everyone had a 4-pack of ciders, and we continued to be obsessed with the day.

The lodge

The lodge

We got dinner at the lodge. Lots of hikers around so we ended up with a table of 10. It was so much fun, the overall energy of the hikers is bittersweet. I would say most are very much ready to be done hiking for awhile. I for one am ready to wake up and NOT have to hike all day everyday. That will be a great little feeling. I am excited to start running again, doing more recreational sports, pursuing other passions. But how can one NOT miss this life? It’s unlike any other. And you only get to experience it if you’re one of the few who have made it this far, who have overcome all the tough times, who have kept a positive mindset, who have committed to it long ago, and never, ever, given up on it. I’m grateful for it everyday. I love it so much. But I’m ready for at least an intermission. A long, intermission.

7th and final National Park!

7th and final National Park!

Can you believe I saw my first rattlesnake at mile 2,569 in the town of Stehekin? How does that work? Damnit!

Can you believe I saw my first rattlesnake at mile 2,569 in the town of Stehekin? How does that work? Damnit!

My friends left the next morning, and I stayed put. They will finish a day before me, but there’s a great chance of seeing them in Vancouver to celebrate. I think Laura would be kind of pissed if she booked a flight and rented a car just to see me walk out of Manning Park Lodge showered, drunk, and in real clothes. No, no, I am trying to time it so I am stinky, drunk, and in the same clothes she sent me in Northern California. She deserves that much, right?

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Thanks leesh for the calories!

Thanks Alicia for the package of calories!

I took the following day off and rented a bike to ride to the bakery. I spent 3 hours at the bakery writing letters and postcards. I stopped at a tiny organic farm on my way back and bought a peach and a pear. I returned my bike after taking in the lovely feeling of being on 2 wheels. Stehekin is a community only accessible by foot, boat, or bus. There is no cell service anywhere. There is only wifi if you pay to stay at either the Lodge or the Ranch.

Here I am, at the Ranch. I am in a “tent cabin” with no electricity. I have a canvas roof and a kerosene lamp. The bathroom is in another building. I have a bed, a night table, and a hammock. The floor is concrete, the walls are wood paneling, and the windows are more canvas that button to the walls. There is no lock on the door. There IS a fire extinguisher. I love this place. I got a big ole Ranch Roast for dinner and apple crispy for dessert. All made on site, I actually smelled the beets cooking while in the shower. Talk about a top moment. I ate dinner at a large table and made friends with a huge group of retirees here for a 2-day hike. The food was probably the best quality I’ve had on trail. It was so fresh. The Internet connection is terrible so I won’t be able to publish this blog post until Canada. Canada is 89 miles away. Well, the Monument (where I’ll be having a huge photo shoot) is only 80 miles away. Manning Park is 89 miles away. Either way, that is 3 nights. 3 back-country nights left. 2 nice days, 2 very bad weather days. America is literally going to kick my ass out of my own country.

Jesus take the wheel.

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Let’s Just Say 2,000, Shall We?


Day: 120

Location: Boise, Idaho (wait, what?)

Mile: 1998.5 (gah.)

Showers: 27

Avocados: 45

Quick Note: occasionally I’ll post this blog from a desktop at a library, and when I do all the pictures show up upside down. I then read it on my iPhone and all the photos look fine. So if you read my blog only from a desktop, no, I don’t pour a bottle of whiskey into my coffee before publishing this.

When the trail gets you down, strangers lift you up.

I love Ashland, and I can’t wait to go back and buy an old Victorian home with all the money I’m making this summer.

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After totally geeking out at the really cheap and amazing organic market, I got 3 new secret weapons for the week (I usually only have 1 secret weapon, but I couldn’t stop myself). The store had both apple cider vinegar and coconut oil in BULK. Filled up on those and grabbed some local Grass-fed cheese, ready for Oregon!

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Friday morning I went to the popular breakfast joint in Ashland (Morning Glory) and sat myself at the breakfast bar. The number of breakfast counters I’ve sat at this summer is very high, which makes me really happy because there is nothing more fun for me. I got a HUGE breakfast and the pancakes were topped with lemon butter. Lemon.Butter. It was possibly the best breakfast of my life. An older gentlemen named Miles sat next to me. I started small talk and before I knew it he was giving me a book to read. This book is called “Our Souls At Night” by Kent Haruf. I had just bought a new book at the library (1 buck!), but felt there was a reason he was offering me this book. I told him I would love to read it as long as he took my book to read or pass along to someone. He was really grateful for the exchange, and then started talking about how he was bullied when he was younger. Unfortunately, he seemed like a sad man, and the book he gave me is also a little sad, and as I am almost done with it, I still am not sure why he wanted me to read it. I’ll continue to search for the meaning and if I really can’t find one I’ll make something up! As we left the restaurant he nervously offered me a ride to the trail (you could tell he didn’t want to make me feel uncomfortable by offering a ride, a trait I totally respect) but I had already called my Geologist friend Ray to come pick me up, so we said goodbye and he wished me well. I hope something really good happens to Miles today, something really, really good.

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Ray dropped me at the trail at noon and it was HOT. The trail was pretty crappy for those 20 miles. I saw some friends at the only water stop and hung out for a bit. I spent the next 2 days doing 30 milers, being relatively bored of the flat and forested trail, playing limbo with all the down trees, adding lots of steps going all the way around them, trying not to scratch myself on the bark, and being sad about how UN-agile I am with a backpack on. I wanted to pretend I was training for American Ninja Warrior, and as I approached each log I pictured myself hurdling them, or doing front handsprings, or even at the very least treating them like a steeplechase —  but I just ended up belly-rolling over these huge trees like I don’t have one ounce of athleticism in me. I also made a lot of “gahhh” noises. It was a pathetic 60 miles.

A water fountain? Where am I?? The MALL

A water fountain? Where am I?? The MALL

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I like to call these types of obstacles, the "quad-burners"

I like to call these types of obstacles, the “quad-burners”

I got to Crater Lake on Monday afternoon and immediately went to the restaurant. There was an all-you-can-eat salad bar which also included Bison Chili and a Nacho Bar? Why even spend time looking at the menu? Waiter-man get me a PLATE! As I sat down with my first salad a gentlemen (I’m kicking myself for forgetting his name) sat down at the table next to me. My legs were completely covered in dirt, way worse than normal because when I wasn’t rolling over the trees I was on my knees crawling under them. He quickly noticed and asked if I was out for a hike — hah! “Yeah, a long one, sorry that I am so dirty and you have to sit near me.” He didn’t mind, he was blown away by my hike and couldn’t get enough information out of me. Part of me really wanted to focus on my lovely meal I’ve been dreaming about, but early on in the conversation he said he had just lost his wife and isn’t used to traveling alone. There was no way I was going to let this sweet man eat by himself. I answered all of his questions throroughly, and asked a bunch myself. He was so adorable, and he couldn’t stop telling me how inspired he was by my long solo journey. He couldn’t wait to look at the maps and plan his next hike, he came in looking rather lost and left really bright-eyed. Usually I’m uncertain of how people REALLY feel when I tell them that yes, I am doing this alone, but it was clear that he found it really admirable and inspiring, which made me even more confident and grateful for our interaction.

[[*Note: I finally became confident in saying this, I no longer give the extended version of starting with a group of friends, I finally don’t care how people view my decision to go off alone, I am finally proud to say that yes, I.am.alone. Took long enough huh?]]

Cheerleaders come in all shapes and sizes, alive or dead

Cheerleaders come in all shapes and sizes, alive or dead

Trail magic on a rather dull day! Perked me right up

Trail magic on a rather dull day! Perked me right up

He asked if he could take a picture of me, I laughed and said of course! As long as I could have one of him. I would never, under any other circumstance take this awkward photo otherwise, just want everyone to know that. This was the first of MANY encounters with the tourists at Crater Lake National Park.

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My plan was to get a meal, get my resupply boxes (a candle and the Poughkeepsie Journal from Clairebear and healthy treats and a BURGER BANDANNA from Alicia and Fand! And of course, an inspiring letter from Erin and Momma T!), and then hike a few more miles. Plans don’t normally work out, and this was no exception. There is a fire on the west side of the lake and part of the trail was closed, but I thought I could get away with hiking a bit. I’m glad I didn’t leave that evening because they shut down the whole PCT Rim Trail an hour later. It was a weird moment, my bag was packed, I said goodbye to everyone, and started to leave the parking lot. I stopped after 3 minutes, paused, and turned back around. It just didn’t feel right, I listened to my instinct and stayed put till morning.

I guessed my arrival back in April, NAILED IT

I guessed my arrival back in April, NAILED IT

This is Honey from Arkansas, her friend just sent her a POM POM. I haven't seen her since the 2nd week of the trail!

This is Honey from Arkansas, her friend just sent her a POM POM. I haven’t seen her since the 2nd week of the trail!

Classic Erin inspirational boost!

Classic Erin inspirational boost!

Thanks Ma!

Thanks Ma!

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Crater Lake is awesome in that they have a specific section where Hikers can camp for 5 dollars and they offer free showers! Basically they give us a patch of woods across from the actual campground and tell us to find a flat spot. I set up my tent and went to take a shower. I ran into Monique and Bert again and Bert was so excited about his recent purchase. You see, when I first met Bert I looked at his pack and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I thought I was dreaming, but yes, yes that is a glass bottle of wine in his side pocket of his backpack. This guy packs out a full bottle of wine? Belgians rule.

Anyways he just bought a new bottle of wine, but this bottle of wine is made for “outdoor enthusiasts” and is PLASTIC. He was so happy. I can’t wait to see them on trail again.

Ya don't say!

Ya don’t say!

I was 5th in line for the shower. The 4 people in front of me were car campers and they fired away with questions about my life. Pretty obvious ones at first, but after awhile the questions always get better. I didn’t mind this Q&A because most were coming from a very handsome English boy. He is on a 2-month road trip around Canada and the West Coast, he lives in London and is getting his PHD in Philosophy, should of saw THAT coming! His whole line of study is based around the question “why?” We hit it off, skipped our showers, hopped in his car and headed for Vegas. I am now married to an English Scholar. My tent is still in Crater Lake. Mom, I’M KIDDING.

Sweet Pea said she had to take a picture of me because I looked SO happy on this trolley with my coffee

Sweet Pea said she had to take a picture of me because I looked SO happy on this trolley with my coffee

After a wonderful warm shower, I dried off with my “Burger Bandana” (thanks fand and lee!) and headed back to my tent. I passed a group of hikers around the fire and it smelled like they were practicing their hobbies, hobbies in which I’m not very much into, so I decided to go hang outside the general store with a couple of beers. Beers, picnic tables, and hikers, now I feel more comfortable! I caught up with Old School and got the gossip of the break-up of her group. I knew the 4 of them pretty well, they actually were the guys who saw me at my absolute lowest physical point. It was during the snow storm in the Sierra when my lips were inflamed, my eyes were bloodshot, and I had mild hypothermia. They are all good people because they continue to talk to me after witnessing me at my craziest. Old School is now hiking solo and after just 2 sips of my beer I wanted all the dirt. My life has a negative amount of drama right now, so whenever I can get my hands on someone else’s drama, I eat it up.

Today's pretend lunch: Braised Rack of Lamb

Today’s pretend lunch: Braised Rack of Lamb

We were all bummed the Rim Trail was closed but I was telling everyone that if we all believe it will open in the morning, then gosh darnit IT WILL open in the morning! The power of positivity! Picnic table to picnic table I was rallying the troops. When morning came, it wasn’t open. Man I’m obnoxious.

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I knew one thing, I wasn’t going to wait around all day HOPING it would open. It’s a wildfire for crying out loud, they aren’t going to open and close it by the hour. Old School, Willy Wa, Shantyman and I hopped on the trolley and headed to the Rim Village. It was here when we finally saw the lake, and it wasn’t as clear as I remember. The smoke filled the sky and completely blurred most of it out, it was so sad. BUT we all still agreed, we freakin’ walked here from Mexico, that is still something to feel really good about.

No go.

No go.

Hitch-hiking is illegal in National Parks (bummer) so the only way around the fire was to ask strangers for a ride using our words, not our thumbs. I went off solo, and if I got a ride with a family who had extra room, I’d ask if they could bring my friends. My strategy was to play it really cool, not come off like a hobo, and smile a lot, but not too much. Look sad, but act positive. There was a nice looking family sitting outside of the RimVillage Cafe, they looked approachable so I went for it. Hey, I showered last night with soap AND I have a coffee in my hand, I got this! I introduced myself and asked if they were driving around the East Side of the Rim, they said they were but were planning to stop for a quick waterfall hike. I said that sounds delightful and if they were still willing to give me a ride to let me know after they finished their coffee. I left after we talked a little about the PCT and got better acquainted. 15 minutes later Richard found me and said they are ready to go and would love to give me a lift! Yes! I hopped in the back with Richard and Jeanettes niece Emma (from London!) and we started our family vacation. We were talking so much Richard drove in the wrong direction for several miles and no one noticed. Once we started heading east (the right direction) we stopped at a waterfall and took a selfie. We kept joking about how they adopted me for the morning and I kept telling them how much I’ve been craving a family vacation all summer and how much I was enjoying our little national park road trip!

Thanks again fam!

Thanks again fam!

Richard and Jeannette were so kind and friendly. They live in Vancouver, B.C. so you can only imagine how excited I was about that (I plan to move there this winter). I asked a bunch of questions, and they asked a bunch more. They were really interested in the PCT and support my journey so much. It was a wonderful morning and it made me really thankful for how things worked out. Yeah sure I missed a spectacular section of the PCT, but it was only 20 miles and the trail ended up being closed for over a week, so a lot of hikers went through the same thing. Instead, I got to meet and connect with some of the nicest, funniest people. We exchanged information and Richard said to let him know when I cross the border. Well Richard, I plan on doing just that, and I can’t wait to share a victory beer with you and your family, because that victory wouldn’t be possible without the help of all the strangers who became friends, just like you both. Thanks again for helping turn a negative into a positive!

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And that was the Crater Lake experience. It was a good tiny break to catch up with some of the other hikers I haven’t seen in awhile. It was even more beneficial to hear MadDog say “you know it’s funny, the closer I get to Canada the harder it is mentally, and the harder it is to get out of my sleeping bag in the morning.” I’m so glad I’m not alone in that feeling. The bottom line is that we all have invested so much in this hike. There are not many of us left, most of the people who started in Mexico have gone home or have skipped sections. At this point, what could possibly make us quit? We have so much to lose if we break mentally, we’ve come so far and have given up so much. A lot of people are racing through Oregon because it’s so flat (comparatively) and because it’s the smallest state. Once we get to Washington I think a lot of people will start to once again take their time, because it’s the chute to Canada (the longest chute ever, but still a chute in my mind). It’s also (besides the Sierra) the highlight of the trail. We race through NorCal and Oregon so we can take our time in Washington, I’m excited to see if it actually that plays out that way.

All downhill from here!

All downhill from here!

I’ve been doing pretty okay, but the days just seem to last forever. I’m averaging 30 miles a day, hiking from 7-7 normally. The first 200 miles of Oregon trail has been pretty boring, there isn’t much water, and the mosquitoes are driving me to an early grave. Southern Oregon is not known to be spectacular, and I knew that coming in, but I still thought it would be a littleeee bit more exciting. We are in a warm forest all day. Sometimes, for 5 minutes, it spits us out on a ridge and we feel the breeze, get a little reprieve from the mosquitoes, and stand in awe of the beautiful mountains and lakes that have been there all along. Oregon, why so modest? Keeping us in a forest all day when all that beauty is just right past your trees? Okay fine, your forest can be quite magical, and I enjoy a lot of it, but I need more ridges. Ridges I say! Views! Make me work for it!

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After my fabulous morning with my new Canadian family, I hiked 20 miles before I found a place to camp. As I approached I saw a girl sketching in her notebook, we looked at each other quizzically and asked “are you thru-hiking? Northbound?” We had never met before. This is weird because I know just about everyone within a 4 day radius, and especially being another solo female (there are VERY few of us) we were both surprised we hadn’t met yet. Her name is Lefty, and I definitely heard of her because she was hiking with Stoic (Syracuse native, Seattle transplant that I met 600 miles ago and have been on the same schedule with since) for a long time, so Stoic would bring up her name a lot. To my dismay she is NOT a lefty, she got her name because she eats everyone’s leftovers hah! Point being, we talked all evening. We gossiped about the other hikers (obviously), I showed her all the new stuff my friends got me, talked about my “secret weapons,” and as I did a plank workout she didn’t judge me, she just kept chatting. It almost felt like we were in middle school and having a slumber party. It’s funny how quickly you can become friends with someone out here. Some people REALLY keep to themselves, but for the most part, it’s a really social trail, and everyone is so open and friendly. At what other point in my life would I stumble upon a person sketching and then start doing planks as we talk about burger bandannas and “trailmances” between people we barely know? It was one of those nights I went to bed so at peace with everything. The day was filled with so many new people, but also filled with incredible connections. It was just another day of new, exciting, and extremely abnormal experiences. It was one of those nights I went to bed whispering to myself “I love this life.”

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At one point you are faced with a decision, take the Oregon Skyline Trail (OST) (8 miles shorter, more water, less climbing, but more mosquitoes) or stay on the PCT. I didn’t give it much thought, I was going to stick with my pal the PCT. I actually said that to, “my pal the PCT” and I’m not embarrassed about it. Turns out, everyone else chooses the OST so therefore, I had the whole PCT to myself! Party! Now when I pee right next to the trail I don’t have to constantly look both ways, I am ALMOST certain no one is going to turn the corner and see my butt. If someone told me that the OST is way more beautiful than the PCT, I would have considered taking it. But after missing 20 miles due to the fire closure, I didn’t want to cut out another 8. Plus, I like climbing, and I don’t care that there isn’t much water, I’ll make it work, especially if it means less mosquitoes.

There wasn't "less" mosquitoes.

There wasn’t “less” mosquitoes.

Taking the PCT turned out to be the best decision. You see, 5 years ago our trail crew with AmeriCorps worked on the PCT and we worked in Diamond Peaks Wilderness on TWO separate occasions, so lots of memories! You know what section I would have missed if I changed my mind last minute to do the OST? YEP Diamond Peaks Wilderness! I would have missed all those miles trekking down memory lane! Guys, I can’t begin to describe what it was like to walk through the area we worked in. We made sooo many check-steps and I think I walked over each of them twice so I could test them out in each direction. One check-step in particular was my baby. I spent ALL DAY on ONE check-step, it must have drove my leaders nuts! We should have been doing about 4 a day, but I put so much love into this one check-step my nickname at the end of the summer was “One-a-day-check-step.” I wasn’t sure if I’d remember which one it was. Every time I thought I found it, I took a picture, but it never felt right. But then, then I found it. Something stopped me and after I hiked over it I turned around and laughed, I laughed so hard. For taking all day to make it, it’s not the best. BUT it’s still there and holding strong! Just at an odd angle is all. It kind of makes me love it more actually. The black sheep. Anyways, I was flooded with memories and laughed my way through those miles.

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Whoa! Where's the ice ax when ya need it!

Whoa! Where’s the ice ax when ya need it!

We made so many check-steps

We made so many check-steps

This is my babay

This is my babay

That summer, that program, those people, those mountains, completely changed the direction of my life. After that I stopped looking for desk jobs and started looking for opportunities to travel and live a life more suited for happiness, rather than for a paycheck. I owe every experience I’ve had since to that summer trail crew, and a lot of my best friends stemmed from there. Heck, it was when I was first introduced to the PCT, I had not a CLUE what the PCT was! I would have only recently learned about it like everyone else, thanks to the efforts of both Cheryl and Reese. That trail crew summer changed my worldddd.

Please, camp on rocks.

One night last week I raced through swarms of mosquitoes. We all say the phrase “eaten alive” a lot. But it’s never been more factual until now. They were eating me alive. I almost threw in the towel, collapsed, and let them have me. I couldn’t move fast enough, I couldn’t swing aggressively enough, they were the worst of the trail so far. Biting through my clothes and buzzing so loud, I couldn’t find one bit of relief. I should have just peed my pants because now I have bites in places that really shouldn’t be bitten. I finally got to Summit Lake, and it was beautiful. I was hoping for a breeze coming off the lake to minimize the skeeters, but no breeze tonight! Sorry Charlie! But I did find 2 fishing buddies camped there. They fished and kayaked all day and were prepping dinner and hanging by a nice fire. I went over to say hello and they immediately offered me a drink and dinner. I couldn’t believe my luck, after an awful end to my hike, I came across the relief I desperately needed. I graciously accepted, set up my tent, and joined them for dinner: Kale Pesto Pasta with Ricks homemade bacon. It was the best pasta dish I have ever had. Even Tim agreed on how good it was.

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We chatted a lot about nutrition and life and Rick told me his wife did the PCT in the mid 2000’s and will be so happy to hear he fed a thru-hiker! After a glass of Merlot, I raced into my tent (throughout dinner I had at least 30 mosquitoes on me at a time, even with the fire roaring, they were relentless). I was disgusted, somehow 17 mosquitoes got in. I spent the next 20 minutes using my dirty towelettes to smoosh these skeeters to a bloody death. I finally got them all, and finally let myself relax. It’s odd how TERRIFYING mosquitoes can be in large numbers. I sat in my tent staring at them in complete horror. I mean it’s bad enough I sleep every night in a structure shaped and sized like a coffin, so I don’t need any further help feeling the wrath of death at night. (This is false, I’m never scared at night, I sleep like a baby in my yellow coffin.) I ended up sleeping really well that night and as I left camp early the next morning Tim ran over and offered me a sip of his coffee before I left hah! How did he know I was secretly hoping there would be some sort of coffee offering come morning. 👍

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I got into the (very) small town of Lake Crescent after a rather painful 18 miles. My feet were super sore and I could feel new blisters sprouting so I decided to spend the night in town. Boy am I glad I did because they had a VHS Movie library in the laundry room! So many classics! I also had a microwave in my room so I went to the store and bought a potato and butter. I microwaved that potato so hard and slathered it in butter and never loved life so much. I also opened my resupply package from home and found a few extra treats in there!

Toughest decision of the summer

Toughest decision of the summer

Doing Great Awesome!

Doing Great Awesome!

Thanks bro!

Thanks bro!

I left town after lunch and did a fun 17 miles past tons of beautiful and big lakes. Best part? The mosquitoes weren’t even that bad! I felt like I was on a Oregon Lake Tour but there wasn’t a guide, it was free, and I was the only one signed up. I floated to camp and found a lovely spot right on Lake Charlton.

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What I look like when the mosquitoes aren't "that bad"

What I look like when the mosquitoes aren’t “that bad”

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Just when you think you're alone, a guy floats by in his canoe while you journal in your tent.

Just when you think you’re alone, a guy floats by in his canoe while you journal in your tent.

Anyone lose a toothbrush?

Anyone lose a toothbrush?

Saturday and Sunday I did about 31 miles each. The terrain was flat and the trail was perfectly soft. I moved just like how I pictured thru-hikers to move before I became one. It was a swift and effortless movement, a glide. I like to imagine myself as looking graceful and coordinated, but I’m sure I was stomping my feet and wobbling all over the place. Fine, I was probably all over the trail but in my head I moved like an Angel damnit!

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After a chilly wake-up next to Lake Charlton I hiked for 3 minutes before I heard “hey you want some hot coffee?” “Ummm YES.” There is a unpaved forest service road by the lake and this guy was car camping there for a few days. He is a trail angel and he goes by “Crazy Joe”…he used to work in Law and traveled all around the world, now he lives out of his car and gives free drinks to hikers. He said “one day I’ll have to find a job, but that day ain’t TODAY and it ain’t TOMORROW neither!” His volume and laugh were right on par with what one would expect out of someone named “Crazy Joe” and I ended up sitting with him for an hour. He gave me his old army tin canteen to drink out of, and it was the weirdest receptacle I’ve ever drank coffee from. I loved it. Crazy Joe told me about a “lava field” that was coming up in the next 80 miles and as if I didn’t already feel like I am part of the worlds longest video game, that confirmed it.

Crazy Joe!

Crazy Joe!

I camped that night on what looked like a mini helicopter pad. Most of the day was spent in the forest but the last 2.5 miles I climbed up 1,000′ and was finally able to see what it was all leading up to. I was so excited to break out of the forest, the mosquitoes were quite bad and it had a nasty warmth to it. As I climbed it got chilly and the breeze picked up, I was so excited to see what was up top.

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Can you tell I've been out here for 4 months?

Can you tell I’ve been out here for 4 months?

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Dinner that night was my favorite, “breakfast for dinner”…oatmeal with fresh-picked huckleberries (a very yummy part of my day) and a dollop of almond butter. Since I don’t cook breakfast or lunch and had sent myself a big bag of rolled oats in my latest package (that I packed in April, I don’t remember what is in any package so it’s always a surprise from my former self, very exciting) I had a couple B’s for D’s that section. I layered up because it must of dropped down to the low 30’s that night, Fall is in the air and it’s been a lot of cold nights and crisp mornings until the sun hits! What this means in my life is that it’s getting MUCH harder to get going by 7 BUT hiking during the day is the best because all of my “Fall” memories and nostalgia are surfacing and that’s good because I am ALL OUT of summer topics to think about! Truthfully, when things get really boring in there I always turn to my favorite thought: Christmas, all things Christmas. I’ve crafted a list of gifts for everyone in my family for the next 27 years. Next week I’ll start working on the list 28 years from now.

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A Christmas tree EATING another Christmas tree, craziness!

A Christmas tree EATING another Christmas tree, craziness!

Sunday was a top day for me. I’d throw it in the top 5 backcountry days this summer. I entered 3 Sisters Wilderness and couldn’t believe my eyes. Huge mountains, bright wildflowers, gentle streams, ripe huckleberries, an interesting lava field, more lakes, a nice chilly sunny breeze, and of course, butterflies. I was having fun hiking again. I didn’t need/want any distractions, I was so engaged with my surroundings that the day flew by. Around 4:00 I saw a sign for Trail Angels at a nearby camp 4 minutes off the trail. I found Karen and Harold from Eugene making hot dogs and offering beer and sodas. Their son, Duckee, is thru-hiking THIS summer (a week behind me, never met him) and they wanted to get into trail angeling to meet, feed, and support as many hikers as they can. They were so sweet and it came at a perfect time of day, I was 25 miles in and only had 5 more to go. I hung out for about an hour, had a hot-dog for the first time since I was 10, and then had a great last few miles. Well, that’s not entirely true, the last few miles were over a harsh lava field with rocks spanning over 150,000 years old, my feet hated me for the 2475939 time this summer, it was REALLY windy, the clouds turned eerily dark, and I really, really thought I was on Mars. Positive? Epic sunset and sunrise, and I didn’t get rained on. And I had “burgers” and Mac n’ Cheese for dinner and the rest of my Rolos (I know, who eats rolos?!? I think about how weird it is every time I eat one).

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Lake Break

Lake Break

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Thank you Karen and Harold!

Thank you Karen and Harold!

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So this huge blog comes down to Monday. I woke up to an amazing sunrise in a lava field and had an easy (but very chilly) 14.5 miles to the highway. My friend, and old trail crew leader, Kyra, just so happens to be traveling around Oregon visiting friends. I told her I’d be in Bend on Monday and she offered to both pick me up at the trail-head (37 miles from town, would have been a tough hitch) and also treat me to a hotel room. Friend of the year? Just wait. After apologizing for not having enough pop music prepared for me during the ride, we got to Bend and walked into a restaurant for lunch. BAM! SURPRISE!!! Camel (Dugan) was there! I think my first words were “DID YOU PASS ME?!?” I’m sure no one is surprised by this, I have a slight competitor in me. Turns out he is 150 miles behind me (took a lot of time off in Crater Lake for a friends wedding and other casualness). Kyra got a hold of him (we all initially met in 2011 out here for the trail crew summer) and he was like oh yeah! So he hiked to the nearest highway and hitched 70 MILES to Bend, stayed with a friend the night before and then surprised me at lunch. I haven’t seen any member of Mile 55 since late June, it was beyond amazing to see him. We caught up and as we walked to dinner that night we saw the Warriors! (Combat Vets that are on a sponsored thru-hike whom we’ve known since practically the first day). It was SO random, we got beers and then dinner from food trucks and then more beers. It was a blast. After the first few sips of the first beer I found myself dramatically telling the story everyone always wants to hear: The day I served VP Biden (and both sons) chili, burgers, and pie. It was so good to have so many close friends around, and the night ended with a slumber party in the motel room!

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Reppin' the 845

Reppin’ the 845

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Wait, is that RANT driving a truck? down a residential street 40 miles from the nearest trail access? What the

Wait, is that RANT driving a truck? down a residential street 40 miles from the nearest trail access? What the

The Warriors! Taking over BeastMasters apartment while he's at work haha

The Warriors! Taking over BeastMasters apartment while he’s at work haha

Maggie already captioned this "aww look, Team Orange and the Old Prospectors, you guys could be a band!"

Maggie already captioned this “aww look, Team Orange and the Old Prospectors, you guys could be a band!”

Pals

Pals

Kyra and Camel dropped me off at the car rental place after a solid continental breakfast (soooo much cereal!). They both got out and inspected the car to make sure it was up to safety standards. Camel even started smacking the seats to make sure their comfort level was up to snuff. After Kyra told me not to forget to adjust my mirrors 17 times, we said a sad goodbye and I hit the road! So very thankful for their friendship.

Kyra clothed us both, she also only allows awkward group photos

Kyra clothed us both, she also only allows awkward group photos

I will be off the trail for over a week (eeek!). Laura’s bachelorette party is in a cabin in Montana and there was never a doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t be there. I may not make the wedding, but damnit, I’ll be on that couch in Montana doing hot tub laps and eating all of the carbs! Again mom, I’m kidding, I’ll be at the wedding! Jeez.

Leaving the trail for over a week has been an exciting thought. I’m trying not to be too worried about my reentry next week; although all hikers can agree “the first day back sucks, it ALWAYS sucks.” Physically, I’ll be better than okay, I’ll actually have time to repair and rebuild some muscles this week. Mentally? Yeah, a bit nervous about that. I had such a good rhythm going, and tons of momentum, but I’ll get those back in a few days. Just got to stay positive! I absolutely cannot wait to see my sisters, hang with Laura’s lovely friends, drink wine and recite Claire quotes all weekend and laugh, laugh soooo darn much. A chorus of laughter is only a couple days away, and although Laura says all she wants me to do is sleep 15 hours a day, I don’t plan on sleeping even half of that over the course of the entire weekend. Time to hit the pavement, on 4 wheels, and with an insane amount of SNACKS! Can’t wait to see what the TOP hits are on the radio now a days!

LOL

LOL

Also, really loving Boise's enthusiasm

Also, really loving Boise’s enthusiasm (!)

 

 

First Week of the Sierra — Best Buds & Whitney

Day: 67

Location: Black Velvet Coffee Shop, Mammoth Lakes, CA

Cumulative Miles: 906.6

Showers Taken: 17

Avocados Consumed: 34

First day of Sierra School Photo!

First day of Sierra School Photo!

The most talked about section of the Pacific Crest Trail: The Sierra Nevada. For 1.5 months you hear trail rumors of sky-high snow levels,
blistering cold temperatures, deadly river crossings, monster bear attacks,
and word of Big Foot himself. Trail rumors, they are a funny, funny thing. It didn’t take us long to ignore every.single.one. of them. The only way to know what is coming up next on the trail is to put your boots on and go see
for yourself. There is always a fear in the unknown, but how one handles
that fear is what makes up the character in each of us. What I am getting at here is this: the PCT tries hard to kill us everyday. It’s a love/hate relationship, I love the PCT,
the PCT hates me. Everyday something terrifying happens, and boy is it
toughening us up to no end. They say the trail changes you, you don’t quite notice while it’s happening, but it does change you. We are not even halfway done yet, but I can say with complete conviction, I am not the same person who started on April 12th. I’m way prettier

Without a doubt in my mind, the first 12 days in the Sierra were the most mentally and physically challenging of my life. Even though the toughest terrain on the PCT (I had no idea this was the case when I decided to do all 12 days straight) what was really tough was keeping my head on straight. Towards the end of the hitch I started getting frustrated more easily, and almost, ALMOST threw my poles in a hissy fit. Talking with other hikers, I was not alone in this, everyone was challenged in that regard. We all agreed it was the most amazing section, but boy were we tested in every way imaginable.

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It’s June 3rd, we begin our hike towards the mountains. The first couple days are spent climbing up to 11,000+ ft. and getting acclimated with the elevation. It’s hot, dry, and gorgeous. Lots of climbing, lots of phenomenal sunsets and prime campsites right where we needed them. Everything was picture perfect, we averaged 24 miles each day through the weekend. This is way more than most people do, but we were excited and hit the ground running. We all felt good with the high altitude, living in Wyoming for 3 years gave me a good base to work off of, and even the sea-level New Hampshire enthusiasts exceeded my expectations with their adaptation skills.

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New National Parks!

New National Parks!

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We also needed to hike that many miles because we planned to summit Mt. Whitney, a 17 mile round-trip hike off the PCT.  Can you say “DAYYYY TRIPPPPPP” woot woot! We were all so excited for Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48, 14,508ft. I have never been above 14,000 feet, so a little nervous with how it was gonna go, but so excited to reach a new height.

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Spoon and Chuckles put their winter hiking experience into effect

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We all started at different times that morning, somewhere between 4-5AM. We felt really lucky again with the weather window, just a week earlier no thru-hiker (well, I’m sure the extremely badass ones did it) was able to summit Whitney because of the snow and ice. It melted a lot since then and we were golden. It was such a nice hike, few miles of an easy approach, then up an ice wall, then conquering a bunch of dry switchbacks with the occasional snowy ridge, then to the snow-covered ridge line that led to a scramble of boulders to the summit. I was feelin’ good, so I kept my momentum and went ahead. I was .8 from the summit, at 14,000 ft when I realized I didn’t want to summit alone. I hung out on a rock really hoping one of them would turn the corner before I got too cold. 20 minutes later Centrefold popped out of nowhere and off we went. He said Spoon and Chuckles were behind quite a bit, so as much as we wanted to summit all together, we decided to keep moving and wait at the top.

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Centrefold contemplating life at 14,000ft.

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Mountain buddy!

The views up top were incredible. I will say this, the top 2 moments of this achievement came from Jon and Maggie. Jon is an amazing athlete and hiker, but he’ll be the first to tell you he gets bad anxiety and panic attacks when it comes to heights/altitude/ridges, so he was a bit concerned with how he’d react when he got so high up. He crushed it. I don’t even think he knew how deep his doubts ran because as we reached the summit I saw the biggest smile radiate from him exclaiming “I never thought I’d do this!” It was such a cool moment to witness, climbing mountains has to be the most rewarding endeavor out there.

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I love this picture because if people thought we were couples, they'd have it allll wrong haha

I love this picture because if people thought we were couples, they’d have it allll wrong haha

Maggie has the toughest time with altitude. Being a chain-smoker throughout her youth, she deserves it.

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Hah kidding, I just wrote that because I know it’ll make her mad at me for a second and that makes me laugh. Maggie is a complete badass, she definitely struggles with high elevation, which makes summiting Whitney an unreal accomplishment. Way more impressive than any one else’s summit, in my opinion. I’m really annoying and had a great time going up, just making it obnoxiously obvious how much oxygen my muscles were getting, if this were Maggie’s blog she’d probably describe it like this “ohhh look at me look at me, such a tall blonde sprinting up this mountain! I’ve never done anything easier! No water, no food, who needs calories! The last time I had a sip of water was in ’97, I’m fine!” (that was me, making fun of me, Maggie, hope you enjoyed it.) ANYWAYS, Maggie and her iron-horse she calls a husband (most supportive and encouraging husband I’ve ever seen, it’s also really obnoxious how nice they are to eachother, tough to be around for sure.) make it to the top and a clearly exhausted Maggie exclaims “I really didn’t think I could do this.” She almost called it quits I imagine, several times. She didn’t though, she kept pushing it. That is way more badass to me than anything else that has happened so far on this hike. I was so proud of her, I wrote allll about it in my journal that night, totally taking away precious time I like to spend journaling about MYSELF…betch.

Final steps!

Final steps!

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We were the last people down the mountain, but it wasn’t too bad. The reason why you don’t want to hike in the snow too late in the day is because it softens up and you begin to post-hole (when you are walking on top of what you think is stable snow, and then your leg disappears). Post-holing sucks. It’s not only dangerous (sometimes you’re hiking over large fast-flowing creeks, or sharp rocks) but it’s also incredibly exhausting constantly pulling your lower half out of the snow. I got stuck once, and it wasn’t fun – it was funny, but not fun. It’s also the main reason people run out of food in the Sierra and have to adjust their plans. You need a lot of calories with all the climbs, cold temperatures, and because you use a lot of different muscle groups hiking in the snow. One guy told me there was a very low chance I’d make it to Mammoth with what lie ahead, that a lot of thru-hikers had to hitch into a town halfway through. After careful thought, I labeled him a fear-monger and kept my head up. I will make this food last, and I will get my butt out of my sleeping bag at 4am to avoid any unnecessary exertion of soft snow. I will hike on ice, and make it to Mammoth, damnit.

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The day after Whitney was the toughest day for me. We again started at different times and I found myself alone for most of the day. I got lost several times trying to navigate the endless snowfields leading up to a climb of Forester Pass, the highest point on the PCT (13,200′). It’s really cute because the trail makes you start the day with a few miles of descent, so all the while you want to MAKE IT STOP, because you know you’ll need to make all this back up in a couple hours. It was a really sunny hot day on Forester, and the reflection of the sun was so bad that my lips blistered up, and are still severely blistered, 10 days later. I have to cut up my food and hope no spice hits my lips, it’s been dreadful, they keep me up at night throbbing. The bottom of my nose got burnt bad that day too, it’s peeling now, so that’s a positive!

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Finally, the day was done. It was our last night together for awhile, they were heading into town in the morning, and I was heading up another mountain pass, continuing my hike. We camped next to a lake and snow and then were surprised when we woke up freezing and soaking wet with condensation? Hah, worth it though, it was gorgeous. Before they left they gave me any extra food they had so I didn’t die. It was super nice of them, I know I was a bit crazy to take this on, but their support gave me such a huge boost going into the second week alone. I missed them before they left.

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"Hey guys is this how we stash our bear canisters??" #nailedit

“Hey guys is this how we stash our bear canisters??” #nailedit