Location: Thee HISTORIC Cascade Locks, Oregon
Avocado Count: 54
Shower Count: 30
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.
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!”
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?!?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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….
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. 👍