Saturday, September 17, 2011

250 left!

Well, it started raining.  But hopefully I only have ten days left of hiking, then I can go back indoors! For the most part, the first half of Washington was dry and unseasonably warm, but that has all changed.  Now its cold.  And did I mention the rain?  There's alot of it.  And it sucks.  Not only am I miserable while hiking, but carrying a soaking wet pack is heavy, and its hard to keep essential gear dry.  But the way I see it, I will be incredibly miserable and cranky for 10 days, but I won't die. 

The majority of people that I hiked alot of the trail with are a day or two ahead, and while I tried to catch up, its too difficult in the rocky terrain of Washington.  Looks like I will be finishing this trail off alone.  Hopefully there will be atleast one other person nearby for some photos, but no big deal. 

On to the next task of thinking about what to do after.  Not really sure where I will land when I finish the trail.  There's a really good chance that I will be spending a few extra nights in my tent as I try and sort out a job/place to live/direction.  Needless to say, I am not really looking forward to the next few weeks.  The end of the trail will be very anti-climatic.  I could just as easily walk away now, 5 miles from the end, or once in Canada.  Oh well. 

Well, I'm headed back out to the trail now, its dumping rain, I will be soaked in about 2 minutes, and will remain wet for the next two days.  If you think that sounds awful, it will be.  But the next time you hear from me, it'll be over.  Atleast that's a good feeling.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

washington!!!

Well, its been way over a month since I last blogged, but its been a busy month on trail! Since I left Chester CA, near the halfway point, I have pushed hard through Northern Cali and Oregon, and made up for some time lost in the snow.  I hiked with the wonderful and hysterical Spoc, Twiggy and Dutch for almost all of No. Cal, and it was a great change of pace from the grumpiness of the Sierra.  We tried our hardest to hit every town, cafe, milkshake counter, and trail magic along the way.  It was a great way to re-vamp the stoke of hiking. 

The miles started getting really enjoyable.  Mileage went way back up, and it was easy to hit 25 miles every day.  Even with stops!  A comfortable hiking routine kicked in, and I really enjoyed the fun and games that ensued.  At one point, we found a machete on trail and Spoc and Dutch learned how to throw it rather efficiently, after a close call with Dutch's shin, and it has been in Spoc's pack for the last 600 miles or so.  Twiggy and I enjoyed the company of having another gal around and chit chatted away for miles and miles while the boy just threw crap, and all were happy! 


The terrain of No. Cal. was decent, and most importantly, very snow-free!!!  We barely needed the GPS, and the trail was beautiful, clear, and smooth.  I have never appreciated a trail as much as in Northern California.  We also found lots of fun things to do, such as playing in a lava tunnel, whacking miles of brush along the trail, splashing around in creeks, shooting a potato gun, and drinking lots of energy drinks.  These guys retrained me into a expert at packing-out awesome snacks, taking long-ass breaks, and being a jolly, long-distance hiker.

Unfortunately I had to leave the group upon entering Oregon to make a dash for the northern border with Washington, but not before crossing the CA/OR border, hanging out in Ashland OR, and eating a box of 12 tacos from Taco Bell in 36 minutes. The rather large gentlemen working the counter was duly impressed.


(last photo in cali!!)


Oregon had a completely different vibe to it for me, as I had all my food shipped ahead, and a very tight schedule to make it to Cascade Locks in time to meet my pops.  I had to average over 30 miles a day to make it, and needed to do even longer days to compensate for picking up packages and grabbing food in towns.  I left Spoc, Twiggy and Dutch just before Crater Lake, and then proceeded for the next 10 days mostly solo.  The trail walks right along the rim of Crater Lake, and dang, is it awesome! 



Unfortunately, right after Crater Lake, the mosquitoes attack in full force. They inspired me to hike some big days, from 33-36 miles to avoid stopping, but they were so frustrating.  I wore my bug net alot, and tried to keep my skin covered, but it was enough to make a person go crazy.  Since the only long layers I had were rain gear, I had to alternate between sweating to death, or soaking my body with a rapidly depleting supply of 100% DEET.  It eventually ran out right before Sisters, OR, but thankfully the bugs had retreated and I was able to restock before I donated too much blood.  My food package wasn't in Sisters when I arrived, so I ended up having to do a rapid resupply with what I could find and pushed on to Cascade Locks. 




As everyone probably knows, there have been super intense fires in the West and the winds from the hurricanes has stirred up more flames.  Lightning strikes over Oregon have created two fires that have created closures on trail, and one of which started the afternoon I was hiking out of Sisters.  It was located right next to the trail, and since I was alone, I freaked out and genuinely considered what it would be like to die in a forest fire.  I pushed super hard to hike away as fast as I could, and considered hitching into Sisters to get out and find more information about it, but other hikers convinced me we were fine.  We ended up being safe, but I felt pretty ridiculous about how I acted until I heard that the fire had grown into a really big area, and they evac'd the trail and the surrounding areas.






The next few days of the trail I hiked with Topsy Turvy and Data Muffin and really enjoyed their company.  We made it to Timberline Lodge on the side of Mt. Hood ready for the most amazing breakfast buffet I've had all trail.  Belgian waffles with fresh fruit, bacon, sausage, eggs, pastries, yogurt, awesomeness.  It was incredible.  And to top it all off, a ton of other hikers had pushed super hard behind us and were able to make it and there was a really large crowd of hikers that took over the place.  I was able to catch up with familiar faces and lounge around for the better part of the day before I realized that I needed to haul tushy in order to make it to Cascade Locks in time to meet my pops.  I ended up being a little late meeting him, but ran into him right near the super cool tunnel waterfall on the Eagle Creek Trail.  


Since then, I have had a great chunk of days off trail.  I have hung out with my pops for the last 5 days, and we have done a few short hikes to the local sights, hung out at the PCT Days event in Cascade Locks, checked out Portland, and eaten tons of food!  Its great having him out here so he can see this crazy lifestyle I love, and meet some of the amazing people that I share it with.  Tons of hikers were in town this weekend, and he was able to help some of them get to and fro with the rental car, and heard some of the stories from the trail.  After so many days pushing hard to get to Cascade Locks, it was super wonderful to take a break, and relax and rejuvenate for the next 500 miles.  Having only seen him a few times in the last two years, it was nice to have him out here and catch up on all the latest news back home, and give him an idea of how my last 4 months have been. 



Tomorrow morning I will have to hug my pops goodbye, then cross the Columbia River on the Bridge of the Gods, then keep pushing North.  I'm setting a conservatively aggressive pace for myself, and will push to do 25 miles a day until the border and don't expect any extended breaks along the way.  So three weeks to the Canadian Border.  I have my passport, entry papers, and a well rested body to make it there.  It's crazy to think this whole time will be done in less than a month.  Whoa.