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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September.

Day: 147

Mile: 2,390.6

Location: Snoqualmie Pass, Washington

Avocados: 54 (they’re expensive up here!)

Showers: 33

“It’s the hard parts that make it so great.” Right? RIGHT?!?!

Could have used a rain jacket. Could have used some rain paints. Could have used an extra set of extremities.

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When buying gear for this hike I looked into many rain jackets and noticed a theme: the more expensive the jacket, the worse the reviews. I gave up and told myself I’d buy a rain jacket when I got closer to the Northwest. Never got around to it. Oops.

I joined the Warriors for pizza on our last night in Packwood and I listened to their stories on the lovely topic of “the coldest you’ve ever been.” This proved to be an extremely helpful pizza party because this week I was really cold, but not even close to what those guys have been through, thus telling myself “you’ll be fine” more easily and actually believing it. I got back on trail Tuesday around noon. A trail angel named Holly gave me a ride back to the trailhead. Holly was in town shuttling hikers back and forth and thus gaining first-hand info from us to use towards her thruhike next year (excellent research strategy). Tons of enthusiasm that Holly, she was awesome.

How many thruhikers does it take to perform a common household chore?

How many thruhikers does it take to perform a common household chore? SOMEONE CLOSE THE BLIND, I CANT SEEEEE

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I had quite a heavy pack this time. I had 100 miles to hike and with the increasing elevation gain, colder temps, and bad weather, I needed more food. I also wasn’t sure how fast I was going to go, so instead of packing for 3 nights, I grabbed some pathetic looking oats from the hiker box in case I needed 4 nights to get to Snoqualmie. Unfortunately my pack didn’t get much lighter as I ate the food because with the rainy weather all my gear became water-logged.

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Anybody lose their frying pans?

It was cloudy out, but it stayed dry as I hiked 20 miles to camp. As I set up my tent in a tiny opening in a cluster of trees, it began to rain. Got really lucky with that one! It rained the rest of the night but all my stuff stayed dry so the morning wasn’t too terrible.

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I left a few notes on the trees outside my tent for the Warriors to see in the morning. As I was shuffling around my tent I heard Rant and so he came over to chat for a bit. He hiked ahead as I finally got myself to get out of my tent and take it down. There is nothing worse than taking down a wet tent when you can’t feel your hands. Nothing.

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I caught up to Rant a few miles later and we hiked to Chinook Pass together. He and the Warriors are on the Combat War Vets sponsored hike so they had a meeting at the VFW in a town off Chinook Pass. At this point it was wet, cold, and really hopeless looking. I considered hitching into a town and waiting out the worst of the rain, and then realized if I did that I wouldn’t finish this trail until 2017. So as Rant hitched into town for a hot cocoa, burger, and shelter, I hiked up Crystal Mountain and was rewarded with no view. But first, I took a picture of Rant taking his weekly selfie.

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The rest of the day was actually pretty okay. Intermittent showers. Whenever it WASN’T raining I was so hopeful. I was so happy. I was so confident. Hiking was fun! Then it would start raining 5 minutes later and I would consider eating the red berries for a quicker death. Sounds extreme, but don’t say the weather hasn’t ever had an immediate impact on your mood.

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The last 2 hours of the day it stopped raining and I was so grateful. I hiked until 7, pulled my wet tent out of my outside pocket, and set it up. Bad news, the whole tent was soaked. In a frenzy that morning I rolled the wetness into itself, now the whole inside was drenched. I didn’t have anything dry to wipe it down with (I forgot to pack out my beach towel) so I took a semi-dry bandana and gave it my all. I then laid out a garbage bag and a few other semi-dry items and topped it with my sleeping pad. I mistakenly threw in my soaking wet backpack inside my tent down towards my feet (like I always do, because it’s always been dry). It was a rough night. It didn’t rain tooooo badly, but it was so damp inside my tent that in the middle of the night I woke up to boil water. Another phrase I’ll never use lightly again is “chilled to the bone.” I was chilled to the bone. I wasn’t surprised though, I was sleeping inside a wet tent, in a damp sleeping bag, with my feet resting on a soaking wet pack. I also had to watch every movement because everything surrounding my sleeping pad was wet, there was no time for trail nightmares tonight toe touch! If you even as much as SKIM the wall of your tent you’ll die of hypothermia! Die!

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So where are we? Oh yes, 2:30Am. I boiled water, poured it into my water bottle, and threw it in my sleeping bag for my feet to play around with. It was heaven. I had a handful of almonds to aid in the warming process and fell back asleep. I woke up, stared at my wet ceiling, and geared myself up for another day. You know what the worst sequence of events is?

1. Sitting up

2. Changing from dry clothes into wet clothes

3. Putting on heavy, sopping socks

4. Putting on soaked sneaks

5. Taking the first step in your wet gear

6. Unbuckling your rain fly when you can’t feel your hands (I’ll save you the rant)

7. Handling your metal tent poles when you can’t feel your hands

8. Shoving your wet tent in your wet bag

9. Realizing you haven’t even pooped yet

The most difficult part of the week was knowing it was projected to get worse and worse. Wednesday was not suppose to rain until the evening. Thursday was suppose to be on and off. But Friday? Friday was suppose to rain, and then rain some more. Saturday was the light at the end of the tunnel, cold and rainy morning, but possible sun if you stick it out that long to experience it.

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Back to sleeping like a mummy!

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I woke up Friday ready and excited for a wet n’ wild day! Woooo! Whatcha got Washington! It was really cold, but didn’t start raining until 5 miles in (right around the time I start to gain strength back in my hands). I hiked the morning with a young married couple from South Africa, Hiccup and Flapjack and we stopped at a really random cabin in the woods. I first met these guys early on in the desert so it was great to see them. They mistakenly bumped up their cold weather gear so I’m not sure how they made it through that section in shorts. Insane. Once it stopped pouring I began to hike again and 5 minutes later it started raining again. Oh well, I tried.

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Friday, oh, Friday. Rain, cold, climbing. You know who was MVP of Friday? Roger. After hiking at an incredibly consistent pace (the grade didn’t matter, I actually probably hiked faster up the mountains than down) for nearly 6 hours, I stopped suddenly in my tracks. I crossed an unpaved forest service road and there was a big truck and canopy set up. I couldn’t see people, but I saw hiker poles laid out in the rain, good indicator. I peaked my head around the wall and saw 4 hikers huddled around a fire and then a guy named Roger. “Want a hot drink?” He laughs, as if it’s not even a question. Who would deny a hot drink? I don’t even need flavor Roger! Gimme hot water! First I’ll pour it all over my body, then I’ll chug it. I mean, hot cocoa please!image

He had a table of fresh fruit and was making hot drinks for us. He kept the fire going and it took a lot of discipline not to throw myself in it. I knew Gumby and Indie, 2 females hiking together since the Sierra, and then I met 2 new guys, Lawless and Crafty. Gumby and Indie decided to spend the night there by the fire and under the tarp, but the guys headed out for more miles, and I followed suit. Roger is an engineer living in the Seattle area and was out here because it was “something he’s always wanted to do.” We told stories around the fire, thanked Roger incessantly, and I watched as Indie lit a hole in her sock drying by the fire and laughing about it. “Ohhhh welp there goes that!” Laughter is the best way out of misery.

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I went another 6 miles and set up camp around 7 again. I did a better job packing up my tent that morning so it wasn’t completely soaked. The bad part was that I gathered water and decided to hike another 2 miles. I didn’t realize it’d be up a mountain. It was good to get my blood flowing again, but bad because I was now looking to spend the night 1,000 feet higher up than I should have been. Cold. It was windy, dark, rainy, and I pitched my tent on what I prayed was an “abandoned” unpaved rocky forest service road. Everything about it was dangerous and creepy. The last line in my journal entry reads..”I’m scared.” Hahaha. Another solid end of the day by Toe Touch.

Doom&Gloom

Doom&Gloom

I slept warmer that night because I stuffed myself in a garbage bag before stuffing myself in my damp sleeping bag: success! I also had a weird quinoa Mac n’ Cheese for dinner, so my tummy was warm and happy. Oh, and a pink frosted sugar cookie! Gas station special!

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I woke up on Saturday having 26 miles until my resupply point: Snoqualmie Pass, a ski resort with a motel and gas station. I decided that if I stayed dry, I would take it easy and camp a few miles from “town.” If I remained soaked, I was high tailing it to town. Luckily, 6 miles into my morning, I crossed another unpaved road and found Brian. Brian’s wife, ALTA (an acronym for “At Least Till Ashland”) is thru-hiking and since he just retired, is driving the camper up the country and making her dinner every 3-4 days when they meet-up. It’s adorable. It was a really cold morning, I tried eating an apple but I kept dropping it. My grip strength was pathetically low. When I saw Brian he said the sweetest of phrases “Coffee Bars Open!” I started cheering, I don’t care how embarrassing I looked, I was so happy. It was good coffee too, I even grinded up the beans in his Java Mill. Best on trail coffee, hands down.

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Naturally, after Brian told me it was going to 100% rain all day, the sun came out. I hung around for over an hour, dried out my tent and jacket, and we listened to a baseball game on his satellite radio. Pals. As he handed me my coffee he so carefully made, he said “oh! And one more thing….BISCOTTI!” He whipped it out from behind his back with such enthusiasm I began cheering again. Boy did we have a great time. His wife is a day behind me and unfortunately I haven’t met her yet, but with her being so close I hope to see them both again! As I packed up my stuff I asked if I could do anything for him for such an amazing cup of coffee, biscotti, and sleeve of Oreos, and he said yes, yes I could. “I do this for the same reasons I worked as an Emergency Room Nurse for over 30 years, I do it to help people, and the only payment I take is a smile.” So I smiled as big as I could and jetted off! Before I was out of ear shot he said hey Toe touch! You smell that? “No Brian, what’s that smell?” “CANADA!” haha, and I disappeared into the woods, continuing North into the patch of sunshine.

Using Brian's truck as a drying line

Using Brian’s truck as a drying line

I stayed dry the rest of the day. I hiked slow because I didn’t want to get too close to civilization too early, because then I wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation. In an incredible act of self-restraint, I set up camp early, only 3 miles from the pass. I took my time hiking, I actually stopped and picked berries and put them in a bag. Usually I just do a drive-by trying to pick them without ever slowing my perpetual motion. I sat on a rock and took a few deep breathes and enjoyed the quiet. I set up camp, made oatmeal, broke my spoon, and laid there so comfortably. I was warm, I was fed, I was so grateful for Roger and Brian helping me through this miserable weather, and I had plans to meet Camel for Breakfast at the Pancake House in the morning. I wasn’t scared anymore, I made it! What an incredible week to look back on, it’s been awhile since I did 4 nights without a resupply. Also kind of crazy that doing a marathon day after day weighted down constitutes my version of “taking it easy.” How normal this life has become.

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Sad day. I found this spoon in the hiker box at the most questionable “Trail Angels” compound in early May. RIP.

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I feel like getting to Snoqualmie Pass is a big accomplishment for Northbounders. We are about halfway through Washington, and the next 270 miles are said to be stunning (and thus extremely difficult). We are entering the Northern Cascades. The weather has turned on, so we will continue to do our best to co-exist with the low temps and rain, hoping to be granted as many views as the clouds will allow. As I hiked down to the Pass I felt such a large feeling of achievement, and I realized that from here on out I will be getting snippets of what Canada will feel like. Getting so close.

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Sucker cloud

Sucker cloud

The overall motivation level here amongst the hikers is low. Camel said it best, “I feel like a super-senior, doing whatever I can to stay in towns longer, like failing bowling 101.” Again, motivation is low. The weather is making things much tougher on us. Sure, we expected this, but it doesn’t make it easier. The positive I draw from it is how much easier it will make the end. I surely won’t miss it as much as I would if I glided to the finish amongst the soft sun and butterflies. It’s always an easier break-up when your boyfriend is an asshole towards the end, right? So thank you, Washington, for making it easier on us, in the long-term at least.

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To be honest, there were plenty of times I loved the misery of the weather. I felt pretty wild as I hiked through it and really strong as I tried to figure out ways to stay warm. I wouldn’t last longer than 5 minutes on one of those survivor shows, but I was really proud of myself for how I stuck it out. I didn’t even shed  a tear, just laughter. When things get really bad, laughter is my only way out. Yeah, I wouldn’t last very long on those survivor shows, mostly because I wouldn’t pass the psych test.

One reason I wanted to do the PCT, and a motivating component in which keeps me going, is delayed gratification. I love going a long time without daily occurrences. The gratification for these things is tripled when you are cold and wet for 4 days. Hands wrapped around a hot mug of coffee after a 100 mile stretch like that one? No greater feeling.

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Rumor has it we have one more storm and then a dry couple of weeks. I’ll take it. If you are a meteorologist or psychic and want to tell me otherwise, go for it. For once I am choosing to 100% believe in this rumor. After a shower, laundry, and a quality burger, my world has been turned around. I am excited to get back out there and hike with the elements again. I know I’ll get wet and my hands will be frozen to my trekking poles once more, but my confidence is high and this stretch is only 70 miles. 70 miles! A breeze!