Exit:Oregon

Day: 132

Mile: 2,144.2

Location: Thee HISTORIC Cascade Locks, Oregon

Avocado Count: 54

Shower Count: 30

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I kid you not, I spent several miles wondering if I could get away with introducing myself as “ToeTouch2000.” I’ve been too insecure on the idea to put it through trial, but since it just made this opening paragraph I suppose I still think it’s the coolest idea. There’s not many trail registers on the PCT, but in the next one I’m signing it ToeTouch2000, so get excited for THAT, trail friends.

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It took me 8 days to walk 1.5 miles, but I finally made it to the 2,000 mark. Laura’s Bach party was incredibly fun and I don’t think it could have gone smoother. She asked me at one point if I was experiencing any culture shock and I lied and said NOPE IM GOOD IM FINE. Just like our mom taught us, “ohh it’s just a little white lie, it won’t harm anyone!”

Troop Beverly Hills! 7 mile hike -- Beehive Basin

Troop Beverly Hills! 7 mile hike — Beehive Basin

Truth is, while I was at the cabin I was completely fine and had a blast with everyone, but it was the drive that shook me a bit. I spent my sweet time driving from Bend to Bozeman (13 hours). I listened to a ton of top hits on the radio and felt really relieved to know that nothing has changed in our world: Justin Timberlake still owns every station. What made me feel a little “off” was all the shopping centers I passed. So clean cut, so uniform, so big. So much stuff, why do we have sooo much stuff? It’s unreal, it gave me a nauseous feeling knowing people spend the day at these huge stores shopping for things they don’t need. Then go to the chain restaurant in the same plaza for lunch and are surrounded by people who don’t look you in the eye — who pass you by without a smile — who accidentally bump into you because they are doing a million things at once — who order a meal while talking on the phone. I mean, where’s the fist bump? Can I get a toe touch?!?

Just when I thought you were the COOL state Oregon

Just when I thought you were the COOL state Oregon

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Okay, I don’t expect a fist bump, but you hopefully see my dilemma. As Dreamer told me in Bend “this trip to Montana will be a great trial for your reintroduction back into the normal world.” He was right, it WAS a great trial. I learned that it will indeed be an adjustment period, and I will have to do my best to slowly accept that not everybody will want to talk to me and that most everybody will have their head down in their phone or at the ground. The nice part is that my efforts to connect and engage with people will continue, and I know that there are so many amazing people outside the trail world that will make me really happy. But the shopping centers, the shopping centers will continue to freak me out. I’m not sure I’ll ever be comfortable near one again. I’m gonna need to hire a personal shopper. Gah.

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On my way back from Montana I spent the night in Boise so I could resupply at a Trader Joes. Well, an hour after leaving Boise I stopped for gas in Oregon. The nice man was filling up my tank (it’s illegal to pump your own gas in Oregon) and I realized I didn’t have my sandwich bag of money (my ‘purse’). I started to get teary eyed by my mistake. I looked at him and apologized; I couldn’t pay for this. I called the motel and luckily they found it in my room. The cashier voided it as a “drive-off” and was SUPER nice about it. “These things happennn sweetie, don’t worryyyy about it, just get back here before the end of the day with the cash or I’ll have to call you in.” Haha, call me in? Could you IMAGINE?! With everything the trail has thrown at me, I would have had to quit because I didn’t pay for my gas. Classic Jules.

For brunch I made "Cinnamon Roll French Toast Casserole" all of Laura's favorite words in a form that she can eat.

For brunch I made “Cinnamon Roll French Toast Casserole” — all of Laura’s favorite words in a form that she can eat.

Since I am NOT writing this from a jail cell, I successfully paid for my gas within a few hours (I’m such a mature adult!), but the backtracking was completely and hilariously appropriate for this summer. Mile 55’s motto is “No New Miles.” This should be obvious since we named our crew after backtracking and hiking the 55th mile 3 times, among MANY other backtracking instances. Every morning we would pack up camp and Camel would yell “alright team! No new miles today! I expect NO new miles out of anyone!” And surely enough, one of us would find ourselves backtracking for one obscure reason or another. We’d vent about it over dinner and the group would give full support for the mishap, and then completely judge them. What an idiot! Can you BELIEVE that guy! (thumb pointing). So backtracking to Boise made more sense than it should of, and didn’t bother me one bit.

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After a week of little activity and lots of dairy, sugar, and alcohol, I got back to the trail feeling pretty weighed down. I started hiking at noon on Tuesday and accomplished 22 miles — it was okay. I had a light dinner of the most anti-inflammatory foods I know of and then an extra shot of turmeric and ginger coconut milk. I knew it was going to take a few days for my body to feel good again, so in taking Bear Claws advice for coming back after a long break, I “embraced the suck.” Just another challenge of the summer, I knew returning to the trail after a luxurious weekend of all my favorite things was going to be TOUGH. All the things I miss the most from home were somehow captured in that weekend, so going back to such an extreme lifestyle was a transition that I knew would test me. Luckily, I missed the trail, and was excited to get back to the movement and the ground. I actually couldn’t wait to get dirty and sweaty again, I felt really soft, and as it turns out, I don’t like feeling soft. Faith over fear, right Karyn?

Sardines and Avocado dinner, feeling like ToeTouch:DesertEdition

Sardines and Avocado dinner, feeling like ToeTouch:DesertEdition

Whoop whoop! Party!!

Whoop whoop! Party!!

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3 Fingered Jack

3 Fingered Jack

So I get to the 2,000 mile marker, Woohoo! And guess who is sitting there with a box of lucky charms, bottle of wine, and reeses peanut butter cups? Yeah I didn’t know her either. Her name is Slo-Mo and I met her for the first time, but guess where she is from? BREWSTER, NEW YORK. That’s the same area code as me! And you know what trail number we just passed a sign for? 845. It was pretty gnarly. She’s only 22 so we don’t have any mutual friends, but she was awesome and was waiting there for her buddy. I haven’t seen her since.

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I woke up the next morning and almost collapsed. My feet were SO sore. Really ToeTouch2000? 22 measly miles yesterday and now ya can’t walk? Should you call a carriage to come and escort you to Canada? Maybe they can feed you grapes during the ride, huh? How about that? PULL IT TOGETHER!

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It took 3 miles, but they loosened up. I wasn’t very pleased, but again, I knew there’d be ailments. Another one was back chafing, something I really haven’t had on the whole hike. Now I am going to use this term VERY loosely, but I don’t know how else to describe it: I felt ‘fat and out of shape.’ I was all swelled up (both inside and out), my breathing was very shallow, and my heart would start racing after only a few steps uphill. It was awful. Never again, I will do whatever it takes to not feel this way hiking ever again. This lasted 75 miles. On the fourth day my feet finally felt better, the inflammation went down significantly, and to put it plainly, Toe Touch got her groove back! I was dancing again, skipping around, marveling at the mountains, talking to all the weird bugs and asking them why they are so weird, and being just an absolute darling to all the weekend hikers. It was the breakthrough I was working towards, and I’m so glad the readjustment period is over, and am really proud I didn’t sacrifice any miles, I picked up right where I left off, 30’s. Phew.

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Milky water from the glacial run-off. Might not wanna drink this

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After 95 miles I made it to a place I’ve been wanting to see for 5 years: Timberline Lodge, at the base of Mt. Hood. My goal was to get there for lunch and a cocktail. After a pretty nice climb, I arrived at the lodge around 1pm. It was flooded with tourists, but nothing too outrageous. I changed into my “nice” town clothes (clothes that I don’t hike in but that  still smell, they just don’t smell AS bad and aren’t covered in dust). I went to the Blu Ox Bar mainly because I smelled something delicious and followed that scent. It led me to a lower level hole in the wall pizza bar, it was a dream come true. I had a lemon-basil ginger vodka soda (their cocktail of the day) and a salad.

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Walking through Jefferson Park

Walking through Jefferson Park

Before I ordered I heard “Julie?” I ignored it, surely someone didn’t know my REAL name in here. Then again, “Julie??” This time I turned around and yelled to the bar “ALRIGHT! WHO IN HERE KNOWS MY BIRTH NAME?!? Huh?!?” I’m kidding, I didn’t yell that, but how aggressive would THAT have been! I gently turned toward the voice and it was Sarah and her dad! They are doing the Oregon section of the PCT together for 4 weeks! I met them a few miles before Crater Lake. They skipped some sections and are, in their words, doing the “lazy resort to resort PCT hike” haha they are certainly enjoying themselves. We talked for awhile but they were spending 2 days at the lodge so I knew that’d be the last time I saw them. Sarah is 25 and her dad is probably early 60’s and they are both shocked they haven’t killed each other yet, it was one of the sweetest things I’ve witnessed all summer. Hey Bob, whaddya say, me and you next summer! I’ll bring the crosswords you bring the credit card! We’re gonna need a lot of burgers!

Sarah, her dad, Paul Bunyan, and Babe

Sarah, her dad, Paul Bunyan, and Babe

Climbing up to the lodge, Mt Hood getting really big

Climbing up to the lodge, Mt Hood getting really big

I spent 5 hours catching up with friends and walking around the lodge. They didn’t have a general store of any type and I was all out of snacks (breakfast and lunch). I had to get creative: Vending Machine resupply it was.

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I had 45 miles to the next town and all I had were 2 dinners and 2 cliff bars. I don’t require much, but I need more than THAT. So here you have it folks, at mile 2,116, ToeTouch2000 (has it stuck yet?) sat down in the dirt, back against a log, and ate her first PCT pop-tart. And you know what? It tasted just as good as it did when I was 13. Although I miss the foil wrapper, the blue plastic wrapper makes me feel like a millennial.

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Little Crater Lake, still creepy even the second time around

Little Crater Lake, still creepy even the second time around

Thanks for spelling that out for us, sign. We must be a really dumb demographic.

Thanks for spelling that out for us, sign. Being a thru-hiker I don’t know how to read, write, or follow instructions.

Later that day, my last full hiking day in Oregon, I met Nathan. Nathan is 20, going into his 3rd year at Princeton, and has spent his month thru-hiking the state of Oregon. Nathan completely reinstalled my faith in that age-group. We talked about so many subjects and in such depth that by the time I looked at the time 2.5 hours had gone by. We talked a lot about choices, lifestyles, holistic nutrition, thruhiking, and the differences between the community we are used to back East, and the community of the trail.

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What's the over/under on me eating these M&M's I found on trail?

What’s the over/under on me eating these M&M’s I found on trail?

Our conversation could have been on a lifestyles podcast. I’m not sure how, but he got me talking A LOT. I listen to so many podcasts and read so many articles, but rarely do I get a chance to talk about them with someone, so it was really beneficial to discuss the things that mean the most to me with a fantastic listener. I was also surprised on how much I’ve retained over the last couple years of research, it felt good to realize that a lot of it is in the vault upstairs!

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Nathan is such a smart kid, and an incredible listener because I definitely got going on certain topics and am not sure I took many breathes between sentences. Nathan said something that particularly resignated with me, he said, “I love talking about the power of choosing and the control we have on it, I believe there is a certain religion in choosing, and that once you make that BIG choice, everything thereafter falls into place. Take this hike for example, once you CHOOSE to thru-hike, everything will fall into place. You just have to wake up and CHOOSE to be enthusiastic and positive about the day.” I can’t wait to see what adventures this kid gets into, he’s got such a great grip on life and is already so aware of his surroundings. You wanna know how aware of my surroundings I was at 20?

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Nathan took a break at the next good looking log he saw and I continued on. We both thanked each other for a great conversation and were certainly grateful for each other’s company that afternoon. I pray a lot, and one of the things I pray for most is for God to bring the right people into my life, at the time when I need them most. I usually don’t realize why I needed them until they are gone, and then I reflect and understand how big of a role they played, and yes, how much I did need them, and how grateful I am for the lessons they taught me.

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What's the over/under on me eating this dog biscuit I found on trail?

What’s the over/under on me eating this dog biscuit I found on trail?

I hiked a few more miles and then said screw it, here’s a good looking flat spot. It was only 6:00 but my last night in Oregon, and I was ready to enjoy it. This week I approached the trail as more of an “everyday living” type of life. Does that make sense? No? Okay well basically, instead of really roughing it and saving daily practices for town, I began to take my time and take better care of myself and my things. I took more time at night with my feet, I washed my face better, I fixed little things concerning my gear, I did planks and push-ups, I made dinner slowly, and I stayed really organized. This is, after all, my life.

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I’ve managed to keep some of the same morning rituals I had while living in Jackson: my morning shot of apple cider vinegar, coconut oil pulling, water chugging, unbraiding and rebraiding my hair, and putting on the SAME clothes I wore the day before. Instead of going to work I hike 30 miles. Instead of getting home and going running, I set up my tent and take care of my body and belongings. I make dinner, filter my water for the next day, write in my journal, make my golden milk, snuggle into my sleeping bag, put a handful (or 2 or 3) of chocolates on my stomach, I read my current “NY Times Best-Selling” paperback that I got at the thrifty for 25 cents, I brush my teeth and spit it out of my tent, I roll back over, thank the lord for another day, thank my body, mind, and heart for another day, kill a few bugs, and fall asleep. Go ahead and tell me my routine is that far off from yours? It felt really good to truly get back to LIVING outside again because let’s face it, there’s nothing more fulfilling to me. It feels so natural. It makes me so happy.

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Oh, right, my last night in Oregon! If you remember, I spent my last night in California on a windy, rocky ridge with incredible views of sunset and sunrise closing out the state perfectly. Oregon ended with its best features as well: in a warm forest, with a view of a tree stump, listening to dead branches fall down all around me, and surrounded by weird bugs. It was perfect. I couldn’t even see the stars the forest was so thick and green. I slept in and got my latest start in almost 2 months: 8:30.image

I took the Eagle Creek Trail out to Cascade Locks, about 15 miles.  Since my vending machine resupply wasn’t ideal, I had only 1 cliff bar left. I ate it over the course of an hour, about 5 miles in. For whatever reason I was still hungry, and an hour later had a couple spoonfuls of coconut oil, the only source of calories left in my pack (besides my huge bag of spices, I take my spice kit very seriously). I’ve done this before, eaten too much coconut oil…it gives me a stomach-ache everytime. I get strangely defensive when it comes to coconut oil and I always have its back, so I usually blame it on bad water. But if I’m being honest with myself my stomach hurts because I just ate spoonfuls of straight OIL. Did I THINK that’d go over well? A little coconut oil is definitely very good for you, but when it’s in its solid form I forget how much I’m really ingesting, and that’s where it bites me in the ass.

Naturally, being from New York, I took out my knife, ripped it to shreds, and then stomped on it with my foot. 😉

Naturally, being from New York, I took out my knife, ripped it to shreds, and then stomped on it with my foot. 😉

Anyways, I made the clif bar and coconut oil work and as I walked into town Rant (one of the Warriors and Combat Vets) messaged me asking where I was. It was super weird because I was just searching for his number to see where they were that. Rather perfectly, they were at the Ale House with pitchers of craft beer and pizza. They generously took care of everything and it was so great to see them again. Rant says I’m the “daughter he never wanted” and I say he’s the “drunk uncle I never wanted.” We recapped the section, called Cheryl Strayed a quitter (sorry Cheryl, we didn’t mean it, well, Rant probably did), and went off. I couldn’t imagine a better introduction into a town after a long stretch.

The Warriors!

The Warriors!

Looks like a lot of hikers have been here...

Looks like a lot of hikers have been here…

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The Eagle Creek trail was spectacular, so many amazing waterfalls in a luscious green environment. It was an extremely ideal way to say goodbye to this state. Oregon started off pretty rough: lots of down trees, flat areas, no views, mosquitoes, all around boredom. But after 200 miles the crystal clear lakes became frequent, the volcanic mountains became monstrous as we inched closer, the forests became softer, the waterfalls became prominent. By the end of Oregon I was pretending I was living in the Jungle Book. If that doesn’t sum it up for ya, you’re on your own.

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Got a death wish?

Got a death wish?

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The community, resorts, and towns in Oregon blew me away. So friendly, so supportive, so interested. I met so many section hikers this month, a ton of PCT South-Bounders (most started started in Canada early July), and even more weekend warriors. I didn’t get rained on ONCE. Okay fine, I got hit by 3 drops the MOMENT I touched the highway for my 8 day break, how OBNOXIOUS is that! I wasn’t going to mention it because I don’t want to jinx myself for the wettest state of all, Washington. Big bad Washington. Big mountains, wild weather, remoteness, and the best part of the trail. 504.5 miles till Canada.

Caught blue handed...I ate SO many wild huckleberries and blueberries

Caught blue handed…I ate SO many wild huckleberries and blueberries

It took me a while to read this...getting crafty huh south-bounders!

It took me a while to read this…getting crafty huh south-bounders!

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Just please, do me a favor, and I say this as nicely as it can sound through text…please don’t say I’m “almost done.” 1. It makes me very sad (I am going to miss this so much) and 2. It’s just not true. I still have a very large state left, and this particular state will be physically challenging, unlike Oregon, it’s mentally challenging brother. It may seem like we are racing through miles now, but with all the climbing and shorter days coming up, my daily mileage is sure to decrease. The miles seem to be getting longer, I actually thought I crossed into a different time zone on Saturday the day was going by so slowly — “surely it’s not only 10Am, it’s gotta be at LEAST noon! Come on! But yes, in the scheme of things I am almost done, it’s just a scary thought is all.

Ramona Falls, our crew put those rocks in at the approach 5 years ago!

Ramona Falls, our crew put those rocks in at the approach 5 years ago!

This is Susan, she is probably 70, has a huge pack, wears a bonnet, and told me I walked through her backyard in Mt. Laguna (day 3). I love this trail.

This is Susan, she is probably 70, has a huge pack, wears a bonnet, and told me I walked through her backyard in Mt. Laguna (day 3). I love this trail.

Last state! I’ll cross the iconic Bridge of the Gods, tip my trucker hat to Oregon, and immediately climb back up to elevation. But not after an extremely large soft serve ice cream cone because it’s been Hot! Hot! Hot! here in Oregon this week…high 90’s! But don’t worry, I STILL have my umbrella, I’ve used it twice all summer but can’t get myself to ship it home. And the winner for most USELESS piece of gear goes toooo….

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Answers: I ate the M&Ms, and would have eaten the biscuit if there wasn’t a paw print on it. Rock bottom = Nothing left to lose. 👍

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 (!)

 

 

Exit:California

Day: 108

Location: Noble Coffee Roasting, Ashland, Oregon (!)

Mile: 1,716.2

Avocado Count: 44

Shower Count: 24

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Adios monster state! The last 220 miles of California were amazing. I left Shasta on a Tuesday afternoon, hitching a ride with the daughter of the mother who drove me INTO Mt. Shasta. What are the odds! Fabulous family, that momma raised her daughter right!

I left Shasta really excited to get back on trail. After spending 3 nights in a motel room I was feeling spoiled and undeserving of all the luxuries, it was time to get back to the dirt n’ vert and earn my next town stop. I was given antibiotics for my kidney infection and they started working right away. They made me nauseous every morning but I never actually threw up, so it was a success. The amount of probiotics I stuffed my face with was outrageous. I was scared of any side effect, and since I haven’t been too responsible about filtering my water, I didn’t want my gut to be filled with bad and weak bacteria. I needed only the good and strong bacteria in there! So after many grass-fed yogurt, raw sauerkraut, and kombucha parties, I got back to hiking.

Phew, just in time!

Phew, just in time!

I would have left a day earlier if someone didn’t charge $110 to a Party City in Illinois on my credit card. The lady with Chase shut it down immediately and I started crying on the phone saying she needed to reactivate it because that was my only source of money. “I’ll pay for the fraudulent party!” I cried out to her with no luck. With $29 in cash, and still needing to resupply for the next section, I would have been a very, very undernourished hiker. I cried and cried and she didn’t budge. “it’s for your personal protection, Ms. McCloskey, this is for your personal protection.” BUT I NEED FOOD. hah! I calmed down and we came up with a solution, she would overnight my new card to my current motel and I would pray it would get there in time…oh, and that the owners of the motel didn’t mind. Everything worked out, and I now have access to my bank account again :).  I hope that Illinois thief at least threw a killer party.

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Real world stress. How do you guys do it everyday? Man, one problem with my credit card and I was in tears. You go from floating through the wilderness everyday and then you get to town, switch your phone on, and are immediately flooded with responsibilities. It’s usually all fun and good responsibilities, but when it involves finances and being on the phone with major companies? Awful, hats off to you all living the life of a civilian, I clearly cannot handle it.

All I need

All I need

California toes

California toes

Back at it! A little climb out of town and I ran into Wood-Rat and Gal Pal (a favorite trail name). They are all over the place hiking southbound. This is my second time running into them and we actually stood in the middle of the trail for a half hour chatting. None of us even took off our packs. It was a great reintroduction to the trail after being off of it for 3 days. I was gaining more confidence with every step and after 10 miles tossed up my tent. The next day is when I had my moment. My moment of “yes, this feels right, this feels fun.” I took a selfie so I would remember that moment forever and ever. I gave a loud shout off the ridge, don’t ask me what noise I made, or what words came out, because I honestly don’t remember. I just remember the feeling of joy.

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This whole section was a lot of steep climbs to ridges that left you breathless. Up 1200′ down 1200′. The whole week felt like a rollercoaster. Winding in and out of forests to tops of ridgelines overlooking bright blue lakes. It was incredible. I have a deep respect for areas that make you earn their views. At the time I was cursing their name, but now, I love them for it. Trinity Alps Wilderness –> Russian Wilderness –> Marble Mountain Wilderness. A hell of a trio to cruise through and finish up the tallest state on the flippin’ planet. Averaging 29 miles a day, my blisters started to subside, my feet were no longer sore, and I started gaining a lot of rhythm, I was groovin’ my way to the state border!

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Indian Paintbrush, my favorite wildflower! State flower of?!?!? WYOMING!

Indian Paintbrush, my favorite wildflower! State flower of?!?!? WYOMING!

Aftet 100 miles I stopped in Etna for lunch. It’s known to be a hard hitch because there is no traffic on the road and the town is 13 miles away. After 45 minutes a car came by and the 8 of us jumped up and stuck out our thumbs. It was the only action of the hour! He stopped and Monique (NZ) and Bert (Belgium) squeezed in the back of his pick-up and fortunately, a much nicer vehicle stopped right after him and fit 4 of us in his truck. Etna is a tiny old mining town, I couldn’t wait to explore it’s character. I went to the café on the corner, got some lunch and then hit up the market because I was short a days worth of food. The same guy caught me as I was leaving the market and offered me a ride back up to the trail, score!

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Bert is a tall fella, he did not enjoy this seat very much

Bert is a tall fella, he did not enjoy this seat very much

I hiked the rest of the day with Maui (known for hiking in board shorts) and Juice (electrical engineer). It was today where I met a lot of the people that I’d be surrounded by the next several days. It was a fun group, and it’s always good to get acquainted as quickly as possible because you pass each other so frequently throughout the day. Also, it’s nice to hear a “ohhhh WUDD-UP toe touch!” instead of more introductions. Familiar faces are a really, really, helpful sight out here. Any break from being inside my mind is welcomed, I’m starting to drive myself crazy. By the way if anyone has too many things to think about, let me know. Outsource your thoughts to me, you won’t regret it. I’ll report back with a thorough analysis.

I'm in the weeds!

I’m in the weeds!

Trail?

Trail?

No one actually needs water here, we just want to sit and hang

No one actually needs water here, we just want to sit and hang

Seiad (sigh-ad) Valley is a town of 350, and fun fact from Early Bird and the Worm (awesome couple from Manitoba), its own state. They are too cool for California so they decided to be the State of Jefferson. 51 states folks, we got 51 states! Seiad Valley is literally on the PCT, you leave the forest and walk 6.4 miles along a paved road and pick berries to keep you from wanting to kill yourself. You finally hit “town” and it’s one of the best feelings in the world. “Town” is a café, post office, and general store — all in the same building. It’s exactly how all of America should be in my opinion, need we more? After walking the road with Monique and Bert, I saw Early Bird and the Worm at the café and immediately sat down and ordered coffee. They had milkshakes and coffee and were awaiting their egg, bacon and pancake breakfasts. I couldn’t have been happier.

The paved PCT

The paved PCT

Blackberries and raspberries!

Blackberries and raspberries!

Early bird and the worm!

Early bird and the Worm!

The café is famous for its Pancake Challenge, 5 Pancakes, all 1lb. each. 5 pounds of Pancakes, does everyone else’s stomach hurt from the thought? No hiker has won the challenge in 8 years, and no human has completed it in 4. I love pancakes; if I knew I was going to die within the next 5 minutes I would probably order a tall stack and go out with a bang. CityTime has been talking about doing this challenge for the last 300 miles. His confidence was high, and although I wasn’t there to see it, he said he ate 3 out of the 5 pounds. He got to take the rest of the pancakes back to the RV park (3 steps away from the tri-building) and ate the rest for dinner. He was really proud of himself, but even seeing him the day after he was still rubbing his stomach and moaning. I remember working at the Bunnery and my friend was scraping off a customers plate and the pancakes just stuck to it when she flipped the plate upside down. She was like “look Jules, these things don’t even budge when I wave around the plate, can you imagine what they are doing to the inside of your stomach?” We shared a good laugh, and as I still enjoy a good pancake from time to time, I did not attempt the pancake challenge. No one else I knew did the challenge, but everyone ate themselves to sickness at that café. A bunch of hikers were just laying around too full to function, let alone hike. It was an all to familiar sight, but that’s part of the thru-hiking culture. We hike so much, and burn so many calories, that we cannot control ourselves when we get to town. When you have fresh food AND someone else cooking it for you, you tend to go all out. It’s one perk of this life for sure, being able to get away with eating a lot of junk in the short-term. But thinking about the long-term possible effects? Bad news bears.

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After breakfast I scooted over to the post office and received a couple packages and letters from family and friends! I got a few snacks for the road and hung out at the picnic tables with the other hikers. The climb out of Seiad Valley, ohhhhh the climb out of Seiad Valley. I heard about (and contributed to) it all week. 4,500′ in 8 miles, completely exposed. I think I was the only person looking forward to it. It was 2:30, 99 degrees, and as I packed up my stuff everybody looked at me like I was a lunatic. No one else planned to leave until at least 5:00. I couldn’t help myself, I was really excited for it and I’m not good at sitting around, so I left. It was a sick form of fun, I loved it. I cruised up the trail sweating more than I have all summer. I pitched my tent on a really windy ridge, being careful to pin down my stuff so none of it flew away. I knew the wind would die down with the sun, so I stuck it out. It was my last night in California and I wanted it to be epic.

Good thing it was partly cloudy!

Good thing it was partly cloudy!

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'Mornin'

Mornin’

26 miles to Oregon! You couldn’t get me there fast enough. I got to the border and saw Donna Saufley (a trail angel who runs Hiker Heaven way back in SoCal!) I stayed at her house back in April and it was cool to see her out here finishing up a large section of the trail! After a huge photo-shoot I hiked 4 more miles and celebrated Oregon with a boxed pie I picked up in Seiad Valley and a nip of vodka I’ve been carrying for quite some time. First sleep in Oregon!

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Donna Saufley! A trail angel legend!

Donna Saufley! A trail angel legend!

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Oregon!

Oregon!

I woke up super early (for me). I was 25 miles from Ashland, the most anticipated trail town on my list. I was in such a good mood that I fired up some coffee as I packed my things, something I have only done 3 times all summer and WOW is hiking easier when fully caffienated. I had one sip and poured the rest in my Gatorade bottle for the road. 9 hours later, I took my final sip. Coffee over the course of 25 miles rules. It was 5:30am when hikers started passing my campsite, I was shouting “good morning, welcome to Oregon!” to all my friends who camped a mile or 2 back. You should have seen the gusto we all hiked with that day. There was about 8 of us, and we were flying. With 11 miles left there was a cooler of trail magic! All different flavors of soda that we dove into. We took a break, chugged down the carbonated goodness, and resumed our stride. We were all so happy and made it to the highway by 2:30pm. It was one of my favorite days on trail.

My fancy snobbish instant coffee that makes me FLY

My fancy snobbish instant coffee that makes me FLY

Water tied to a tree, don't mind if I do!

Water tied to a tree, don’t mind if I do!

Monique and Bert enjoying some cola!

Monique and Bert enjoying some cola! And chairs!

The hitch into Ashland took about 30 minutes, and it was a hot 30 minutes! Finally, Ray pulled over and completely reorganized his truck to fit me in. He was coming back from a camping trip and boy was he fully stocked. I sat in the passenger seat with my feet hoisted up on bags of rocks. Ray is a geologist and is in between projects, so he was out collecting rocks for fun. He even gave me a tour of Ashland before dropping me at the motel, which was awesome! I love getting a local tour, so many fun facts! That day I only had 2 energy bars to eat, it was the last of my food so you can say I probably didn’t pack enough. But it didn’t matter how hungry I was because Ray took me to all the parks and told me about lithia water and the Shakesspeare Festival and more fun facts about rocks. He even gave me his Geologist business card and told me to call him if I needed a ride anywhere around town. Basically, Ray is such a nice guy and offered to be my personal tour guide of Ashland for my short stay. Gosh I love the people I’ve met during this hike.

Lithia water fountains! So cool

Lithia water fountains! So cool

Southern Oregon University

Southern Oregon University

I have hit my rhythm and my body feels great, but I didn’t want to push my luck so I still took a zero (day-off) in Ashland. It’s been phenomenal. I walked downtown and went into every cafe, store, library, and market. I ate a ton of healthy food and a ton of butter. Perfect. Oregon is said to be a really fast section because it finally flattens out. I’ll be the judge of that. I just bought new shoes and only have 2 minor blisters to doctor up each morning. I have what I think is nerve damage in my right shoulder, it’s been in pain since May — only hurting when my pack is at a certain weight so I am really trying to keep it light, because well, it hurts. The shoulder pain is something I plan on getting checked out right after the trail, but it’s obviously been tolerable up until this point so I’ve just been doing what I can to not make it worse.

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Life is good when your day ends at a lake

I am so excited for the state change, and I’m not alone. The entries in the trail register at the border all basically say the same thing…”California I love you, but enough already, can’t wait for Oregon!” That made me feel better because I felt guilty sometimes dreaming of Oregon while still hiking through California. “Love the one your with!” Right? hah anyways, the mosquitoes are raging here in Oregon but other than that I am 100% looking forward to the change in trail and all the stops along the way! Holy cow, I can’t believe I walked the length of California, who does that?

For everyone following closely along, here is an update on the Mile 55 Crew:

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Spoon and Chuckles are still eating brunch where we last camped together, mile 968.4 – Smedberg Lake. Spoon is continuing to make his argument that the lake is in fact, Jewish, while Chuckles knows it’s probably true but plays devils advocate just for good conversation. They are on their 159th bowl of granola.

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Centerfold has returned to Southern California after a major relapse in his Cactus Cooler addiction. Cactus Cooler is an orange-pineapple flavored soda found only in Southern California, and Centerfold has been the companies only customer this year after discovering it in a trail magic cooler in the desert. He also has a package at HikerTown that he needs to go back and grab, gosh, what a burden he was that day.

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Camel has awkwardly configured his tall lean body to fit the only shade offered in Northern California. When not taking a nap on trail, you can find him in theatres across trail towns, watching Finding Dory for the 3rd, 4th, 5th….time.

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Both Centerfolds and Camels ego have taken a major blow by not being able to catch the girl who was peeing blood. To gain back some grit, they are meeting each other back at Mile 55 where they will hike it one more time, totaling more PCT miles than anyone else on trail.

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Clearly, I miss them a whole lot, but this solo experience has been an incredible growth period and I know, when the time is right, that I’ll hear our call from behind. And then hugs, lots of hugs. Maybe even one for Chuckles.

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Okay fine seriously?

Spoon/Chuckles: 1 week behind

Centerfold: 3-4 days behind

Camel: a few hours behind (dun dun dunnnn)