Bicycling Beauty (Part 3) – My Solo West Coast Bicycle Ride

Alright, time to bust this joint! Oceano, it was nice knowin’ ya. I went on through a few shady towns before reaching Lompoc where I stopped for lunch at a cute little cafe. When I was finished eating, a young man approached me and asked, “why are you doing this?” with sincere wonder. I explained to him that I enjoy the challenge and that I want to experience beauty. He hugged me and saw me off as I continued my way toward Santa Barbara. I had a big climb ahead, one that took me farther inland than any part of my entire route. I cycled into the dry and dusty hills with old oak tree’s. During my ascent up this very large hill, I was ecstatic. I felt the power of the distance that I had covered. My smiles were contagious to the people driving the other direction, and I felt that by doing this, and by living my life in the way I felt I needed to, I was spreading happiness to those who witnessed me along my way. I gave my smiles to others, and was never depleted. Smiles are infinite!

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When I reached the top of the hill, I was ready for another long and thrilling descent to reward my hard work! I cackled and yelled out as I enjoyed the ride, keeping my body as low as possible to gain as much speed as I could. It would only be a few more miles before I would reach my destination at El Capitan State Beach where my best friend Danielle (aka Dandelion), her son Isaiah, and boyfriend Ryan would be meeting me to spend a couple nights reconnecting, swimming in the ocean, and giving me a well-earned day off with someone I cherish.

We parted ways after a wonderful time together, eating delicious food and hanging out! I rode my bicycle out to Santa Barbara. This city seemed to glow in the colors of summer. Flowers everywhere and white terracotta houses against the great blue ocean. The people on the boardwalks weren’t anything short of colorful either!

The ease with which I flowed made for another pleasant day of travel. I stopped at the farmers market for lunch and headed toward Ventura. That evening I stopped at the beach to watch the sun set as I usually do, chatting with locals and riding off toward KC’s house. KC has been a close friend of my family since before I was born, and he was enthusiastic and excited to see his best friends daughter getting into the sport of cycling – my dad and his all-time favorite way to recreate. So he and his partner Gail were very kind to host me and fill my hungry belly with food and beer! KC rode with me for my first 30 miles the next day. It has been so nice to be visited while on my journey!

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I ride through Malibu which is very busy without a shoulder, but by now I am used to imminent danger! I know I will get through it, just have to keep moving. The beaches are gorgeous all along the way. As a southern Californian, I often forget how accessible completely pristine and incredibly beautiful beaches there are! I am jaded by the ease I can get to all the usual spots near home.

My day ends as I wander around the bike paths in Santa Monica by the famous muscle beach and into Venice where I watched the sun set from the pier before getting to my hostel by dark to avoid the crazies. I don’t know if there is camping in this area, but I really would not even consider it! I wanted to sleep in a safe place. And it was. There was even a guard who made sure no one went upstairs into the guestrooms unless they were in fact guests. This strict enforcement made me feel locked in and safe.

 

I woke up the next morning before all other guests and chatted with the night guard as he cleaned the kitchen and I ate the complimentary breakfast. His name was Patrick, and I told him about my journey and showed him my route on a map. I left thinking I would never see him again – but he became my coworker this past winter at Mammoth Mountain! I intended on doing my first century this day, but the traffic was so slow-going through Los Angeles County that it was impossible. After riding through the sketchiest roads, seeing the most unhappy, and unhealthy people living on the streets, and inhaling pure smog, I finally made my way back towards nicer beaches. I breathed in the smell of salt water as I passed by Trestles and then rode into my proposed camping area at San Onofre. The campground was closed, and I couldn’t go any farther because within a mile was the entrance to the marine base, and I had no interest in attempting to be allowed to pass through when it is already dark. So I made my way down to the beach, which I am pretty sure is illegal, but hey a girls gotta sleep. I tucked my tent into the nook of a canyon in the cliffs. I was the only one on the beach besides a couple of coyotes playing together. It was so peaceful, and I was so happy for this place to be my last night on the road. It was perfect.

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I packed up and rolled my bike up the hill as the sun was rising to avoid getting caught by any rangers who might like to give me a ticket, and so began my final day on this 3,000 mile human-powered journey. I greeted the frowning military man at the entrance gate to the military base. I gave him my ID, looked him in the eye, and said “Hi!” with a huge smile. He seemed slightly sickened by my happiness. I felt bad for him, he obviously is very unsatisfied in his life, and that theme rung true as I continued my ride through the base. There were no colors on the buildings or apartments. Everything was grey, industrial, and boring as hell. How could anyone be happy in that environment? There are few things we actually need to be happy, almost all of which are nonexistent on a military base… Freedom to express ourselves authentically, physical outdoor exercise, whole foods, beauty for the senses, peace, and positive relationships. Riding through here, my heart ached for the people living their lives in a way that didn’t satisfy them, and that they might not even realize there is a better way to live not far from their reach. The area felt like a prison. I was relieved to reach the exit that took me out of there before they confiscated my happiness, too.

As I left the base I rolled into the many beach towns I have been familiar with my whole life living in San Diego. I was now in my home territory, and it felt cool to have ridden so far as I did for as long as it took to reach home. I hurriedly rode to meet my Dad near San Elijo State Beach where apparently the news would be waiting and my Dad and I would ride the last 30 miles home together. When I arrived, the news asked me some questions and had my do silly things with my bike for the camera. My mom brought donuts for me, which I devoured, and my Dad and I were on our way!

 

After some seriously arduous miles cycling inland towards home with my first flat tire(s!) on the whole trip, we finally made it for my homecoming party! I rode up Orchard and turned onto Sunset Road, where I had spent 20 years of my life. The sounds of cowbells rang and I saw all the neighbors standing outside all along the street. Many friends and family members stood at my parents driveway, Wesley my niece, and my big sister Anne held a ribbon across the road for me to ride through like a finish line! It was a beautiful moment of love and it made me feel so happy. It is a moment I will never forget. After my finish, the champagne came out and we all enjoyed lots of chatting and hugging. What a precious memory made possible by some very special people! I’m done! Over the course of 4.5 months, I traveled 3,000 miles, covering five states all under my own human-power. Thank you for reading!

 

As I write this to you all, I am sitting on a porch overlooking the Pacific Ocean from the big island of Hawai’i, my stories on this new journey will be flowing in throughout the summer. Stay tuned!

Bicycling Beauty (Part 2) – My Solo West Coast Bicycle Ride

I always push myself to go a little farther, so after finding a perfectly good place to sleep before Sundown, I decide to get to what I think will be a superior place to rest which happens to be much farther down the road than I realize. So I ride into the night, there are no cars on the road with me. I wonder about being chased by mountain lions and I scan the area around me with my headlamp every now and then. I see a ring-tailed cat cross the road as I come to an opening in the land. With the stars as my light I can see the Eel River carving its way through a valley below me. I can feel the wildlife active within it and around me now that darkness has fallen. Around 9 O’clock, I arrive at the campsite and I stop to find the hiker-biker site. I catch the glimpse of a reflective sticker on a small tent and a head pokes out and says “Hi!”. This person is Theo, a 40-something guy on a solo bike trip from somewhere in Oregon, on his way to San Francisco. He is humble and kind. Somewhere along his journey, he joined up with a 20 year old talkative kid who seemed to be his opposite, but they worked well together as a team.

He greeted me and told me about the available space for us. Alone, I found my own private place, set up camp, and went to sleep in my tent. For the next few days, I would share my ride with him and several others. It was nice to be with others. On my way out of Garberville, my knees were killing me (later I discovered it was because my seat was too low). It was hot and I was climbing. Two young men passed me with glee. This made me think to myself “boys, you have no idea”. I saw them at the campsite that night, as well as all my other new friends including Theo. I loved the look on their faces that morning when they saw me up and out of camp way before they were ready. I was going to give these guys something to work for, since they are so proud. On the first mile I decided to raise my seat. This was a big climbing day up a legendary hill called the “leggett hill”. My friend Theo started shortly after me, and we rode up the hill together. I was ecstatic, singing loud. We saw our Japanese friend who had given me “the best campsite” while I was in Oregon. He said as we passed, “you guys too fast!” with a smile. I left them both in the dust, my smile driving me all the way up to the top. I crouched down as I descended, laughing like a mad woman as I descended the shady, windy road of Highway 1. I didn’t realize I was being witnessed until Theo came barreling past me as low as he could be. Slightly embarrassed but completely elated by this moment I was able to share with others.

The two young boys never caught up to me. I didn’t stop for a break until 40 miles into my day, where I sat still for a couple hours at MacKerricher State Park. I gorged on a sandwich of bread, coconut oil, spinach, avocado, and cheese as I sat by the sea on a log. That evening at Gualala Point, everyone was there. The boys expressed surprise that they never caught up to me. I was pleased to have totally kicked their prideful booties! That evening I watched the sunset at the point while talking to an old couple driving around in a classic cadillac.

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Winding along highway 1 the next day, I see all my friends again at Bodega Dunes. I wander down to the beach on foot as my friend Theo comes dashing by on his bike. I wonder why I didn’t ride my bike? The walk is sort of far. I wander into the dunes and as night falls I realize I am lost. I hike through the dunes for about an hour into some random neighborhood and with a little bit of battery life on my phone, I navigate through the neighborhoods on foot and find my way back to the campground. Everyone was wondering where I had been when I returned. It was nice to know that someone cared that I was missing!

The next morning Theo left early to make it all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge where he would conclude his bicycle journey, and I wouldn’t see him again. I rode the many miles of the swirling highway 1. The climbing was constant and the shoulders were narrow. Not only were the views totally epic, but the riding was equally challenging and truly made me feel immortal. After tackling the windiest and one of the most beautiful sections of my west coast tour, I arrived at Samuel P. Taylor State Park, a sweet little spot set inland in an old oak forest. I shared camp with my French friend from the Eureka KOA as well as the young pair of boys. I conversed at dinner with a woman who was just doing an overnighter from her home in San Francisco. I liked her. She was in her 50’s but I could see a child in her eyes, wild and vibrant as ever. The next day, I rode through the sweet little towns of Lagunitas, Fairfax, and Marin which all had so much character. There were bike paths through marshes, old brick roads, parks full of ancient trees, and lots of other bicycles! I giggled when I saw billboards on the tiny town streets stating “spandex isn’t body armor!”.

After navigating through ridiculous crowds at the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge I enjoyed a long, slow ride across it. It was probably my favorite (and safest) bridge I’ve crossed on the entire trip so far. A lot of long distance cyclists stop at this point, because there is a sea of big cities to navigate through south of here. Earlier in the trip I had considered stopping here if it felt right in my heart, but now that I am here, it just doesn’t. I am ready for this trip to go on for as long as it will, because I am so in tune with this mode of travel now and I love the simplicity of my days. I love cycling for a lot of the same reasons why I love long distance hiking. My days consist of feeding myself and finding the next water source. I am moving my body all day long every day which makes me feel like Wonder Woman, and I am exposed to real natural beauty on a constant basis. There is not much else that can provide the kind of calm I feel when I am doing this sort of thing. I just love it.

 

After crossing the bridge, I (unrealistically) think that I have enough time to make it all the way to Half Moon Bay even though it is around three in the afternoon. I ride along the sandy bike path and make my way to some busy highway riding again and then through some fancy neighborhoods. The sun begins to set and I know that I’m not going to make it to my destination. I look in my book to see if there is anywhere else to stay before Half Moon Bay but I find nothing. I texted my mom to let her know what was going on, she is always handy when I’m in a pinch! She gets on the computer back at home and finds a place for me to stay at the Montara Lighthouse Hostel. She even calls him to make sure there is a bed for me there. I am grateful to have such a helpful mom! I had a new destination, but I would still have to ride my bike in the dark to get there. I pray repeatedly as I climb up a shoulder-less, windy road in the dark. I felt like I was living on the edge of being killed by a car coming fast around a corner. I pedaled as fast as I could but still slow enough so I could sustain my speed until I reached the top of the hill. Pacing myself is very important, especially when I am in danger. There was no place to stop and rest on this road, I just needed to get through it as quickly as possible. At last, I reached the top and there was a pleasant detour that bypassed a very scary night time tunnel! The bike path was gated and I had it to myself. I stopped and stood on the hill overlooking the ocean. A hill behind me blocked the sounds of the road, and once again I was alone with the sound of the waves crashing and the stars twinkling over my head. Woo! I made it alive!!

I arrived at the hostel before nine, met the man who had spoken to my mom on the phone, and took full advantage of their laundry facilities, the kitchen, and finally – the SHOWER! I listened to conversations in many different languages in the community kitchen and enjoyed the feel of being with all of these travelers. I shared my room with an older woman who was very intrigued by me, she joked about getting my autograph “for when I am famous someday”. She was very sweet.

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On the road again, I stop in Half Moon Bay for a bike check up and off I go, cruising along as I do. I am listening to my iPod all day, feeling ecstatic and enjoying the brown fields against the big blue ocean in the distance. As I enter the outskirts of Santa Cruz, the sun is setting but I have an easy cruise to my planned campground at New Brighton State Beach so this time I intend to ride in the dark, and I don’t mind it because it is almost entirely on bike paths along the beach and through the city.

The beaches at night are still swarmed with people surfing, running, and ocean gazing. The vibes were positive and people were very friendly to me. As I rode through neighborhoods people were tucked into their cozy houses and I loved the feel of the quiet streets and all the people inside having dinner and watching movies with people they cared about. It was so quiet and I rolled through without anyone noticing me.

Arriving at my tent space I find a lot of other cyclists whom I’ve never seen. I suppose they’ve all just begun and/or are on a very short trip. All the people I was riding along with, besides the french man, went home once they reached San Francisco. I chatted with a young couple on the first night of their week-long bike ride. One grumpy cyclist inside his tent growls to us to be quiet. I stay up late doing camp chores and I notice a car that is running in the parking lot. After about an hour I walk by it and see a man asleep in the drivers seat, so I wake him up and tell him his car is on. He is startled and confused, leaves right away.

The entire next day I spend riding through farm land, waving to workers as they stare at this crazy girl riding by with bags on her bike. I enjoyed seeing them, and I think they enjoyed seeing me too. There wasn’t much shade on today’s big climb, so I had my lunch under a bush on the side of the road. I met a couple touring on a tandem, having two people on one bike makes for very fast travel. I spent some time riding along side them and chatting about our trips before they took off ahead of me. They were kind to snap a photo of me in action! As you’ve seen, most of my photo’s are just of my bike – or a bad selfie!

I cruised into Monterey in style… happy and smelly on my bike-house. I ran into my tandem friends before exploring the famous pier and having lunch there. I had plenty of time today because it was a short (40 mile) day. I cruised along the bike path overlooking Monterey Bay on my way to the Monterey Bay aquarium where I spent about four hours wandering around. I felt like a kid again, full of magic and love for the ocean. I was surrounded by glowing jellyfish and sparkly tuna. I laughed at a playful penguin and an otter who couldn’t stop licking his butt hole for the audience. Classy little guy.

As I got my bike ready to head to my campsite, something amazing happened. A woman rode up on a bicycle and I immediately recognize her. Eager to know if my eyes are playing tricks on me, I ask her “what is your name?” she looks at me and replies, “Jamie”. I squeal and wrap my arms around her as she realizes who I am too. She was my best friend when I was four years old. We were friends after that too, but we both moved and weren’t as close anymore. The last time I saw her was when I was ten years old. My mom, brother, and I rode the train to Boulder, Colorado to visit her and her family. The squealing lasted about a minute, then we just smiled and jumped around like “what the hell just happened?! How is this real right now?!” We looked at each other as though we had to be dreaming. After some chatting, I told her I would be in Big Sur for my 28th birthday the following day and that I would be camping at Andrew Molera State Park. She agreed to meet me there! And off I went to go to bed, totally blown away by such a once in a lifetime “coincidence”.

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Before departing Monterey, I visited the Monarch Butterfly sanctuary to see the sweet beauties as they migrated south, like me! I decided to take a detour to see the famous “17-mile Drive” where many movies were filmed on the picturesque beaches. I had a lot of fun speeding through the quaint town of Carmel before I departed the busy cities for a few days as I traveled through Big Sur. Not only would I be visited by my friend Jamie on my birthday, but Ted was coming to see me too! We had been apart for something like two weeks and I was excited to see him soon.

I made my camp at Andrew Molera State Park, a walk-in campground that I figured would be less busy than Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park down the road. And since I wouldn’t be using the hiker biker site, staying here made more sense financially. I was expecting Ted that night, but I got sleepy waiting and so I went to bed, a little worried for him. In the middle of the night someone just came into my tent, which would have scared the shit out of me, but I was relieved to know it was Ted. In the morning, we were awakened by the heat of the sun green-housing the tent so we decided it was time to get up. Ted is the sweetest guy I know, and he brought all sorts of delicious healthy food to nourish us on my birthday. He also brought a custom made birthday cake from Schat’s bakery in Mammoth, where he had recently picked out an apartment for us to spend our second winter there. When my friend Jamie came walking up, I was elated to see her again. The three of us sat in the shade while we gorged on birthday cake. Jamie brought a cake, too! We were definitely not short on cake. Plenty of cake to go around. I wish life was always full of cake. Did I mention there was cake?

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After Jamie went home, Ted and I walked to the beach. I collected pretty rocks and we wandered aimlessly, breathing in the beauty of this beach, with our toes in the sand. After sunset, we had dinner at a fancy restaurant down the road and took showers at another campground before coming back to our tent. I was very happy to have my Teddy again, he always knows how to make my birthday a special occasion.

Ted and I say goodbye the next morning, and I ride on down the highway to spend a full day riding through Big Sur, which is a very special place to me. In 2010, I came to Big Sur for my very first solo backpacking trip to the Sykes Hot Springs in the Ventana Wilderness. I have come a long way since that trip…

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First Solo Backpack Trip (Big Sur, circa 2010)

Down the road I go, twisting and climbing and gliding on my bicycle. The land buzzing past me. Big blue always in sight. Today’s ride is not an easy one, ever drive the 1 through Big Sur? Imagine biking it! It goes up and down and around for over 60 miles. After Ragged Point, I began the descent toward San Simeon where I would settle in for the night. I really pushed through Big Sur and didn’t take much time to eat or rest, so once at the bottom of the descent, I stopped along the road and hid behind some bushes to relax and have a little snack to fuel the last few miles of the days ride. Always hiding in the bushes on the side of the road! What a glamorous life I lead….

I arrive at my campground by dusk and discover that all water has been shut off (except for spigots to fill water bottles with) due to the serious drought in California. I guess I will take a shower some other time. I share a campsite with cyclists that I hadn’t met yet. A young couple from France who were on their way to Argentina and an American man who had been on his bicycle for three months riding the Great Divide. He was on the last few days of his trip. I saw the French couple again the next day in Cayucos, a cute little beach town. I have spent the past six weeks with the Pacific Ocean (including the last week of our hike on the PNT) and I still had not gone swimming! It has been too cold – but today the sun was shining and the weather was warm and welcoming. I was so tempted but timid to be seen in my undies by all the people on the beach. Loren, the French girl, said a few words that were all I needed to throw down my clothes and jump in. She watched from the beach as I waded into the ocean. The more I travel, the easier it has become to laugh at nothing funny in particular, but just for sheer happiness. This was one of those moments.

Continuing on, I could feel that I was now in Southern California, the days were hot and dry. While riding, I discovered the song “The Well” by Dirtwire and Rising Appalachia (two of my favorite bands) which matched the mood very well. I listened a few times until I knew the words, and sang it loud as I traveled south along the open road. I sing a lot when I ride, no one can hear me (or so I think) so I just belt it out as loud as I can. It gives me such a great feeling!

I passed by Morro Bay and through the city of San Luis Obispo. As I got into town, a huge Sprouts grocery store stood before me like a gift from god. Organic food is quite a treat to find! In my spandex shorts, hairy legs, and messy braid – I walked inside in style. Many people look at me inquisitively. They notice something different, but can’t pinpoint what it is – besides that I must be on a bicycle – because who else wears spandex shorts with butt padding? With a jar of coconut oil, a loaf of bread, fresh spinach, and various chocolate food things I am out the door and on my two trusty wheels.

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After Pismo Beach, I finally reach Oceano. My planned campsite is only a few miles away when I stop to do some laundry. I don’t worry about the darkness outside because I am so close. I warm up some canned soup on my backpacking stove in the laundromat and wear my rain gear while my clothes are in the washer. I converse with a man my age while I wait. He is intrigued and inspired. It is always fun to see people light up when they hear about what I am doing. I am so happy to be an inspiration, to cause people to question what they do and consider following their dreams. I really love that.

I head out thinking I am just a few minutes away, but when I arrive at where my map says the campground is, I find nothing at all. It is ten O’clock at night and I am standing on the side of the road with my bike completely dumbfounded. Where the heck is my campsite? How is it not here? After a while I realize the campground is in fact there, but under construction. It is blocked off by a solid fence, even the sign is covered up. Now what?

Standing there with nowhere to go, I begin to really take in what is going on around me. I notice sketchy people wandering around in the streets and realize I am in a bad part of town. They saw me riding back and forth, sensing my nerves like a predator looking for easy prey. I was acutely aware of their eyes on me. A park ranger comes driving down the road and I wave him down. He turns around and can see that I am scared. I ask him where the closest campground is and he directs me to an RV park just a couple miles away.

Relieved, I ride into the small RV park next to the road. I shower and make camp while everyone around me is sleeping. I feel somewhat safe here, but I make sure to lock my bike up and keep all my panniers inside of the tent. I don’t like this place much, but I will be out of here in only a few hours. This is the first time on my trip that I don’t feel entirely safe, and it won’t be the last….

 

 

Thanks for reading! Please stay tuned for Part III (final) coming soon…

Bicycling Beauty (Part 1) – My Solo West Coast Bicycle Ride

We finished. Our hike through the mountains and valleys of the pacific northwest from Glacier National Park in Montana to the sparkling pacific ocean off the coast of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington was over. We walked 1,200 miles with our rugged little human feet. And just like that we were done. It is a strange feeling to finish a long walk. After my Pacific Crest Trail hike, I headed home and it was like experiencing culture shock in my own home town. This time I planned a whole new ending, or should I say, beginning! Now that the hike was over, it’s time to hop on a bicycle and ride it down the west coast to my parents door in San Diego, a 1,800 mile journey on pavement, with wheels! Fast!

I buzzed around the apartment my parents good friends were hosting us in on Bainbridge Island. I was anxious. How am I supposed to switch all my backpacking gear to my pannier bags!?! This felt so foreign to me. It was such a simple task that I could not wrap my head around. I have this tendency to throw myself into lots of transitions into the unknown which is actually quite stressful, especially for the third year in a row. It took me almost the entire day just to move my things from one bag to four small bags. I had to choose what would go where, as though it was my last chance to get it into its perfect place, to be convenient in all possible situations I imagined I might be faced with. I had to be reminded that I was allowed to figure it out along the way and that it didn’t have to be perfect right then and there. This was my first bike tour, and Ted’s too. We were a little out of our element.

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With full bellies, a few tears, and some sarcastic comments about the huge hill ahead, Ted and I rode off in the rain to a distant land called Home. We stopped a bunch of times to make adjustments and were trying to get into a new flow together. From the wilderness to the pavement, it was quite a contrast. Cars driving by made us both nervous. We intended to ride our bikes 50 miles that day and we only made it 25. We argued on the side of the road and almost called it quits right there. But on we went with rain drops falling in my eyes. We stopped in a busy city with no shoulder and slept in a hotel our first night to wash off the mud and dry ourselves out. It was a harsh first day on the road.

Ted was already feeling like this bicycle ride wasn’t right for him, but we decided to keep going after some discussion. In my head swirled ideas of whether or not I would continue on my own if Ted did leave. Would I make it? I was having doubts in myself, for what? I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail alone, despite other hikers on the trail even, I deliberately slept alone almost every night. That solo journey has become a foundation for who I am still becoming.

We continued on our wheels, the cars terrified me. They came by me too fast and didn’t seem to care about me. It felt like they said “fuck you” every time one passed. I was not having much fun, and neither was Ted. We were going through a different kind of culture shock – a concrete jungle full of wild animals called city people! And what a strange world it was.

Once we reached Shelton Washington, Ted and I were rescued by my lovely friend Bonnie when we found no where to sleep in town. We celebrated Ted’s 28th birthday while at her house and enjoyed time with her, her husband Carlos, and their daughter Maya. This visit was truly a blessing, a great example that the trail always provides. We would have had nowhere to sleep if it wasn’t for her!

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Back to the road we go! With optimism in our hearts we peddled on down the road, and within just a few hours I was on the side of the road at a rest stop with tears streaming down my face. After talking with Ted about how frustrated I was with the cars going so fast, we continued on to our camp that night and the next morning I called my Dad to talk to him about continuing on or coming home. He always tells me, “Abbi, no matter what you choose, you will make it work”. After he walked me through some basic bicycle maintenance, Ted and I rode on, and towards the ocean this time! After all the time we’ve spent navigating through busy cities, finally – the ocean. This is what we came for!

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For the first time on this bicycle, I felt amazing. The ocean to my right and a quiet road to my left. I was cruising. I started having better feelings about going all the way, but Ted still wasn’t sure. Gettin’ in our groove, we traveled through sleepy farm towns, along quiet bike paths, and up and over steep hills as the sun hung low in the sky. Comparing myself to the almighty Ted made it difficult to determine my own fitness level, but when we came across other long distance cyclists and passed them going uphill like they were standing still, I realized my strength, which both boosted my confidence as well as my desire to continue on. We camped at a deserted campground that night, watching the sun set from the beach as we ate dinner. Tomorrow we would leave Washington and ride across a really long Bridge over the Columbia River into the state of Oregon.

We had our bikes looked at in Astoria and snuggled in our tent at the hiker-biker campsite of Fort Steven’s State Park. It drizzled all night. When we awoke everything was saturated. I drank my Naked smoothie, ate strawberries for breakfast and we headed out. For the next couple of days we rode along the coast of Oregon while my desire to continue strengthened and Ted’s patience with this ride became less and less. We cycled alongside a beautiful view of never-ending sea stacks and stopped at the famous Canon Beach where The Goonies was filmed. Bicycling was actually becoming fun, I was loving it! We camped at the most glorious hiker-biker site at Cape Lookout State Park. I frolicked and did yoga as the sun was setting, Ted sat on a blanket reading a book. Smiling at my shenanigans with love in his eyes. We have done so much together, spent so much time in places so far from anything, we are partners. We are connected at the heart and we both know we will likely separate soon. We try not to think about it as we get comfortable by the campfire with our new friends Sarah and Dade, on their overnight bicycle ride.

 

We continue south and after a huge climb, I surrender to a long and blissful descent with a smile that takes up half my face. At the bottom we find a tiny community with a small store. I make a sandwich while Ted shops for less nutritious snacks. We sit at a wooden table by the front door, surrounded by open pastures, listening to an old man talk about how he could care less if California fell off into the ocean. We both look at each other, wondering how anyone could be so hateful. We are Californians, and think it’s a fine state indeed. In California I have seen some of the most beautiful wild places in the world and I’ve certainly met a lot of great Californians too! All ya need is love dude!

Ted and I ride out of there and it is slow-going. Ted simply is not enjoying this part of our trip and there is not much I can do or say to change it. Our friend Flanders from the Pacific Northwest Trail has made plans to visit us when we reach Florence, so with that in mind I convince him just to make it there and then we will part ways and I will keep going. So we call it a day at South Beach Campground and make our final stretch together to Florence where we show up at the hotel Flanders got for all of us to share and we are flabbergasted at how nice it is. It is a fancy hotel right on the beach! All the frustration subsides when we are greeted by the wonderful smile of our familiar friend. We eat fancy food, drink fancy wine, tell stories, and enjoy the comfort of a big fancy bed. Flanders offered to take Ted to the train station the next day, so this night was our last together for a long time. Ted and I didn’t realize just how hard it was going to be to actually part after so long together, so many adventures shared. Outside the hotel, with my bike packed and Ted’s in the back of Flanders Subaru, we hug. Tight. Tears come streaming like a river from both of us, faces red and smushed, we say goodbye. Flanders and Ted drive away as I mount my bicycle trying to keep myself together…

Suddenly… I am alone. Ted and I have been together nonstop for the past two years, and attached at the hip for the past 3 months! Now it is just me, going down the road on my bike. I probably shouldn’t have been riding with all those tears in my eyes, but I did. For all the emotion, I made it a short day to get to Umpqua Lighthouse State Park where I planned to pull myself together and gain a new perspective on how this is all going to be for me now that things have changed.

I had feelings mixed with sadness and excitement, too. I loved traveling alone, and I knew I just had a few days to get through the lingering feelings of something missing. I hurriedly rode my bicycle through fishing towns and missed the turn off to my campsite, tacking on an extra 8 miles or so to get back to where I made the mistake. The detour was lovely, no one was on the road and I was surrounded by sand dunes. I felt ecstatic, singing and riding and eventually getting to my campsite in the forest, overlooking the sparkling ocean. I set up camp holding back my tears then put a few things in my daypack and wandered off toward the ocean on a trail that supposedly went to it. The trail took me to the dunes and I went barefoot towards the ocean, but I arrived at a road and across it was a dense forest blocking me from the water, no trail in sight and the sun would set soon, so instead of trekking on, I walked along the road and put my thumb out at the first car to pass. An old man and woman drove me back up to the campground where I sat by the lighthouse and watched the sun set, just me this time. Just me and the lighthouse.

With so many low mileage days behind me, the next morning I woke up early because I had an 80 mile goal to get into my solo groove! I was up and out of camp before anyone was awake and I cruised for hours without stopping. I only stopped when I got to a cannabis shop because I had offhandedly heard that on October 1st it was going to be sold recreationally in Oregon. Today was October 1st! I had to stop. The line was so long and I was in such a groove I didn’t want to waste any time, so I got back on my bike without any goodies and had lunch at a little cafe before beginning a major climb called the “7 devils”. I kicked all 7 of those devils butts and kept on going going going until I made it to my destination – the great, majestic Cape Blanco. Fucking amazing place to stop on a bicycle tour. Most beautiful beach I have ever seen, and pretty far off the beaten track. I had the whole hiker biker site to myself. I felt so proud of myself…

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The following morning I woke up and got out of there to ride my final full day in the state of Oregon. The ocean waves crashing and flowing beside me all day long, except when I rode around a cape. The road took me winding in through a forest with pines and aspens quivering in the breeze. A didgeridoo song came on my iPod, and I was feeling it. Wooooweeewoowiiiwooooowaaaaaa🙂 I had lunch at a park beside the road. It had toilets, spigots, benches, and a river flowing through it. My day is silent besides the sound of the waves, the wind, my breath, and music from my iPod. I spoke to no one. I’ve gotten used to the buzz of cars beside me. I’ve developed trust in their ability to avoid me and the reality of their existence in my immediate environment no longer made me bitter.

With the ocean in view again after rounding the cape, I am in flow. I am a cruising lady, just rolling along, breathing in life, seeing beauty all around, legs spinning, mind full of song. I am content.

I find my last Oregon campsite at Harris Beach State Park just before sun set and I immediately go down to the beach so as not to miss the days finale. I carry my bike down to the sand to keep it safe and close to me. I explore the sea stacks with bare feet and see a lone woman eating beans out of a can. I sit by my bike and decide to make dinner, too. On her way back to her car she sits down with me and tells me she just came from Crescent City (a town I will pass through tomorrow) and that she is headed to Portland. We share stories and philosophies whilst sitting in the sand and hearing the crashing waves. She leaves me with a hug and I head back toward the campground to find a place to sleep for the night. A kind Japanese man leads me to the “best spot” in the hiker biker site and there I put up my tent and stash my food in the raccoon-resistant locker. Construction went on all night long and I barely slept at all! Which made me want to get the hell outta there as soon as I got up. Noise!!

Goodbye Oregon, nice flowing with you. Hello my lifelong home, California – my beloved.

After having lunch in Crescent City, I had a massive climb toward the Elk Prairie campground, my proposed destination for the night. I rode through bizarre communities who became famous for their giant sculptures of dinosaurs, Paul Bunyon and his blue ox. Evening began to set in after a lot of climbing, and less and less cars came by. I had the roads to myself. Once I reached the top of my last hill for the day, I breathed in the crisp fresh air of the great redwood forest as I descended fast toward my campsite. I feel complete and utter bliss when I descend, it is especially good when it is somewhere gorgeous like the forest! My bones were chilled once I reached the campground. The stars came out and darkness allowed them to shine so bright. It was so quiet as the fog began settling into the meadows. I camped with a couple who had taken a bus there from Arcata and were just backpacking around the area. In the morning I had the urge to leave, but I realized that I hadn’t taken a full day off in three weeks. So as my legs told me to ride, my mind said “um, why are we stopped?”, and my heart said to me, “it’s time to rest Abbi”. So I got a map of the trails from another cyclist and I walked through the ancient and massive forest to the desolate beach. I stretched and allowed the sun to shine where it usually doesn’t. There wasn’t a soul in sight.

I made a loop of my hike and wandered back through a fern covered canyon. Some of the fern species are as ancient as the dinosaurs! I splashed through the stream barefoot as I made my way, in awe of the greenery and the sound of the water. I climbed out of the canyon when it became too narrow and reconnected to a trail that would take me back to my sleeping place. I met a man who was hiking alone, we stood in the forest together and flowed right into a philosophical discussion about life and in his presence he honored me, and I felt acknowledged and satisfied after sharing that time with him. We wandered off in opposite directions never to see each other again, but with smiles on our faces. The walk was farther than I had anticipated and before I knew it, the forest was too dark to see. I was thinking about mountain lions and walking swiftly. I was relieved to find pavement that lead to my tent, and in those last few moments I met a fox whose eyes glowed in my direction. He scittered off without a sound…

 

The next morning I said goodbye to my new friends and rode off into the forest again, stopping in the “town” of Orick where I check the one store they have for some fruit to eat. I was approached by a man who wanted to talk to me about bicycle touring, which I am happy to do, but his energy came on a little strong, and I found myself trying to escape his grasp. I saw the white vehicle he was driving, and noticed it about half an hour later, stopped in the middle of the road as though he was waiting for me. Beyond creeped out! I never saw him again. I cruised past Patricks Point and into Trinidad, a really cute little beach town where I had lunch at the Beachcomber Cafe. They had homemade cookies and pastries, as well as healthy and delicious lunches full of veggies and greens! I spent a few hours here checking emails and writing in my journal. Children from the school across the street flooded in and bought all of their fresh cookies, one by one. I would really like to return to this town, it really stands out in my mind as a place that feels good to be!

Always beauty, beauty everywhere. Ocean beside me all the way. I am headed toward Arcata, a hippie-college town that I’ve visited in the past. I didn’t stay for long because I realized I didn’t actually like the vibes. This town seemed to attract hippie-looking people who yelled a lot and were drunk all over the town square. I didn’t like what I saw and hit the road again. I had to ride my bicycle on the freeway for a little bit, which was completely hellish. It was something like five lanes and everyone was driving 70 MPH or more. Luckily, the shoulder was huge, probably eight or ten feet wide. I ended my day at the Eureka KOA campground which was conveniently placed next to the freeway and some kind of a wood processing plant. It was ugly, noisy, and smelly. I cringed at the site of my campsite set behind the KOA store. At least they have a laundry facility and a shower and I was soon joined by another cyclist on the same trip as me. He was an older french man who was jolly and sweet. We shared light conversation over dinner. I was comforted by his presence.

The next morning I left. As I blew with the wind into the depths of the great redwood forests, my heart ached with the beauty of the journey I was on. Stopping on bridges just to look down to see the canyons and rivers along my way. Breathing and peddling, day in, day out. Breathing, peddling, seeing, smelling… Human-powered travel is one way to live in the present moment. While driving cars we miss so much, like the feel of the wind, the sounds of children playing, and the smell of a dead cat in the road. I sense the energy of the people passing me by, full of years of stagnant energy, tense and anxious. They need to go for a bike ride!

I ride through quiet communities along the Avenue of the Giants. Sunflowers swaying, red barns and stained glass in stillness beneath an indigo sky. I smell dinner cooking, I imagine it as fresh as the food I can see growing on the land around me. A homemade meal of fresh vegetables. I silently wish for them to see me and invite me inside to eat…

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Please stay tuned for Part II coming soon…

 

The Endless Sparkling of The Ocean

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We spent a couple nights in Forks, enjoying the usual luxuries of a town and preparing for the end of our hike, which was too near. When we hitch hiked out, we were picked up by a nice old man, Tom and his dog Tinkerbell. We could sense that he lived only with Tinkerbell and was very happy to have someone to talk to. He was just on his way to his favorite bar to have a cocktail. He told us of his life on the Olympic Peninsula and took us back to the trail. I had a small feeling of sadness when we said goodbye, wishing that I could have given him more than a few minutes of conversation. As we hiked on dirt roads I could feel the ocean in the wind, but I could not yet hear it. The mountain ranges were behind us, there were none to climb – now we are going to find the ocean, our final destination. At one moment I heard a voice of a man calling out to us “Hello.. Hello”. I responded with a questionable “Hello” and he repeated hello to us a few more times, ignoring my response – which just creeped me out so our pace quickened. He was somewhere on another road nearby and had heard us talking. We reached a dead fall blocking the road, and once we passed it I felt safer knowing no cars could access me where I was, and whoever that stranger was, we would never meet.

I walked through knee high grass and saw a mosquito hawk fly out, disturbed by my steps. We took a short break here, as I witnessed the end of this mosquito hawk who had flown right into the web of a hungry spider. I felt a little responsible. We hiked to the end of the road together and found a single track trail that would take us to the ocean. Like a portal into another world, we stepped into this enchanted forest, with its mushrooms, banana slugs, giant trees, and beams of light.

For the first time in almost three months, I heard the waves flowing onto the beach. Soon after I could actually see the sparkles over the water shining through the forest. My first sight of the ocean. We hiked forward, toward this elusive beauty we had traveled so far to reach. The moist brown soil soft beneath my steps. I carefully walked through bushes of ferns and over large roots reaching across the pathway.

Suddenly, like the turning of a page, the soil turned to white sand, and the shady forest turned to bright open light and nothing but ocean and sand existed in front of me. We did it. We walked to the ocean from Montana! We did it! We are here! The Pacific Ocean! We walked here! We did!

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But the journey isn’t over yet. We still have three more days to get to know this ocean a little more intimately than we ever have – even being born and raised San Diegans! We have never known this ocean the way we will come to at our journey’s end. We are going to follow the shoreline to our final destination at Cape Alava, the end of the Pacific Northwest Trail, and the furthest western point of the Continental United States.

There weren’t any volleyball courts, no bikini-clad teens, no boardwalk, and no dog poop! This was a wild place. Coming from a city with densely populated beaches, this is uncharted territory. This was a real beach – this is what beaches used to look like before people built resorts on them and roads to them. This is wilderness.

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The tides are something I never tried to understand, but walking along the ocean for a few days will get you accustomed. I carried a small tide chart, but we barely followed them intentionally. Our habits made us lucky each day, figuring we did not have a lot of miles to travel, we would sleep in and enjoy the morning. Leaving camp around ten a.m. we were already on a wide beach, by the time we came to a headland, the tide was just coming to it’s highest – and guess what, it’s lunchtime! Our long two to three hour breaks would send us on our walk as the tide went back down.

In some places, we could only pass a headland at low tide, so often times we had to take the high route up and over the capes. Climbing ropes and ladders, and traipsing through what had become familiar rain forest. The walking was easy along the beach, and the climbs were exhilarating.

Each day we felt the sun moving over us from the east and finishing it’s show on the horizon to the west. I have always made it a point to watch sun sets whenever possible, and by the time we reached this big beautiful sea, I was deprived. We arrived to our campsites by the setting of the sun, and would eat our dinners on the beach to say our thanks to such a glorious day.

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Roadwalks. And you thought they were over! Nope. We had to walk a couple of miles into the town of La Push along a sketchy road. We munched on snacks at their convenient store and then marched through town to the Marina where we hoped to find a local fisherman to take us across the river where we could continue our journey North to Cape Alava. We were unlucky enough to arrive their after the Marina had closed and no one was around. Ted and I ate a meal of fish and rice for unreasonable prices at the restaurant next door. Then headed down to the beach where we would camp, hoping to find a ride by morning. We tucked our tent as far away from the ocean as we could, noting how far up the tide line went, and we managed to stay within just a few feet of the water at it’s highest.

In the morning we headed back to the Marina and met a nice man who happily took us across the water. He filled our heads with history and Native lore before sending us off onto the sea stack and drift wood covered beaches.

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We ate our lunch at a rock fondly known as “Hole in the wall”. It was covered in waves when we arrived, but we stayed so long that the tide completely went out and like children discovering a new land, we went in. We stepped lightly as we moved over tide pools full of anemones and crabs, enjoying the deep crashing of the ocean like the heartbeat of the earth, beating at my feet and caressing my toes.

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Little did we know how much more tide pools we would have to travel over. It took us all day to travel eight miles, the rocks, capes, and algae made for a slow-going day. But not an unrewarding one.. no ankles were twisted and no heads were bruised. We were headed toward an official camping area when we found a magically unofficial one about half a mile early. The beach was huge and the sea stacks invited us for sun set. Our campsite was in the forest on the bluff. We had to climb a rope about thirty feet up to reach a small flat space with a driftwood bench, a fire ring, and a tent space – not to mention a massive mushroom and a view of the sun set. We had this spot all to ourselves, and we could do nothing but ravish in it’s perfection.

Once the sun had set, we seemed to be thinking the same thing, when I said “I’m going for a walk, want to come?” We climbed down our rope and strolled barefoot under the clear black sky dotted with billions of stars and a bright milky way galaxy smiling down at us. The ocean in it’s ever-flowing sounds, wet sand beneath my naked toes, Ted by my side, and peace in my heart. We walked.

The next morning was our last full day of thru-hiking the PNT and we knew it. We enjoyed every last moment at our campsite, the literal best campsite of the entire summer. And when it was time to go, our feet took us slowly along the beaches and tide pools to our final camp site on the beach. Goodnight, said the sun. Tomorrow is our last day.

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On the final day of our hike, we began to see day hikers. We also saw deer and found prints of coyotes in the sand. There was a lot of junk washed ashore, mostly from Japan. Plastic bottles written in Japanese is how I figured that out. A lot of plastic buoy’s, nets, crates, and all sorts of junk – as well as the huge bones of whales. Who threw a recliner into the ocean?

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Since the past few days had been traveled at unbelievably slow paces, we figured today would be no different. So we hustled. My parents were meeting us at the end of the trail and I had told them we would be there in the late afternoon. More and more people came into view and a family approached us to ask us about some petroglyphs at Wedding Rocks. I stumbled. Had we passed Wedding Rocks without seeing them? I looked around and I saw an island, one that I recognized. It hit me. We had passed Wedding Rocks two miles ago, and suddenly we were at the western terminus of the Pacific Northwest Trail. Our hike was over. How did that happen so fast?? It was unexpected and hit me like a train. Suddenly we had nowhere to walk. Our hike was over.

Not before a celebration with hot totties! We had packed in a bottle of Jack Daniels, some raw local honey, and a fresh lemon for this special occasion. We spent three hours cheersing, lying in the sand, sleeping, laughing and sharing a few tears. We did it. We are thru hikers.

But wait, we had such a long break that the tide went down again and there was land access to the ACTUAL furthest western point. So we stashed our packs and ran out along this strip. We circled the island before running up it’s practically vertical slopes. Nothing up there but pine tree’s and soft grass. We looked out over the ocean in great reverence for our successful journey through the Pacific Northwest. What an amazing walk!

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Our journey was 1,200 miles long which took us just under three months to complete, end to end from Glacier National Park all the way to the Pacific Ocean at Cape Alava.  Words can never express the challenges, the beauty, and the greatness of the personal rewards we reaped on our walk.

 

Thank you for following our journey! Stay tuned for my personal solo bicycle ride home from the end of the trail all the way down the West Coast and to my parents door in San Diego, California.

 

 

Thru The Cities and Into The Wild

While I was waiting for my clothes to dry in the laundromat in the old, run-down town of Concrete, I was given a handful of change by a young man with a toothy smile – clearly he thought I was homeless and in need. He had no idea just how fortunate I was to be so dirty, smelly, and vibrant from the true adventure I was on. He had no idea that I had voluntarily walked a thousand miles just to be there in that moment, every day, with all I could carry on my back, for the sheer joy of living life authentically in the most beautiful way I could think of. I took the change, because I could buy a soda with it. Root beer is my favorite, and I won’t turn down a cold soda on a long walk.

We walked out of town after a relaxing zero day, which marked the beginning of an urban hike. The path out of Concrete was an old railroad turned into a community bike/running path, which led us all the way into Sedro-Wooley. We saw locals using the trail with their kids, some on horseback, and solo cyclists and runners. The views were pleasant under the forest that engulfed the trail and the large river that flowed alongside it for some miles. The trail was so easy that we left at two o’clock in the afternoon, and traveled over twenty miles by the time darkness fell. We made it to Sedro-Wooley a little beat from the pavement, but eager to get through this urban section. We had no option but to stay in another hotel.

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We walked out of Sedro-Wooley on the rail trail, but it petered out after just a mile or two, and our path became the railroad. It was probably the worst walking I had ever done. The rocks used for railroads slip under your feet in each step and the sun was burning down on us, no views to speak of, and anxiety because we were probably breaking the law and we didn’t feel very safe being on the outskirts of big towns. I was struggling to stay positive until we came upon a funny little mobile coffee shop that was used by railroad workers. It was called “Perfect Ten” and had a naive eighteen year old girl working their in her uniform – a stringy bikini. We watched as a creepy old man lingered at her window for too long. We ordered drinks there and took a break under the shade of a bushy tree for a while. A few more miles and we reached our first sight of salt water just outside the town of Anacortes. This was a very special milestone for us. Although the walk was on a road, it was very pleasant compared to the railroad, and not many cars were passing by. Ted and I enjoyed each others company as we usually do, walking, laughing, and talking. We crossed an old trestle that was converted into a walking path that lead us into Anacortes as darkness fell. We could see the oil refineries on the other side of the water, all the lights reflecting on the water was strangely beautiful.

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Anacortes was a busy town, and I’ll leave it at that. We walked through some farmlands, residential areas, and along beaches of the Puget Sound where people were fishing. For me, the San Juan Islands were just a bunch of traffic, heat, roads, and just all around not that great. Ted and I were eager to get through it and into the Olympic Mountains. We are wilderness lovers, we walk to be in the wild – not in cities. The road walks were difficult for me. I felt like thousands of eyes were staring me down, judging me, but not knowing anything about the journey I was on. I experienced people at convenience stores avoiding eye contact with me because they thought I was homeless. These people were just normal looking people – who could have been my teacher, my friend, my coworker – but since I was dirty, they didn’t see me as a person who deserved to be acknowledged. This hurt me, as I imagine it hurts real homeless people every day who are treated like they don’t exist.

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Finally, a moment we were waiting for. We reached the ferry that would take us across the water to Port Townsend, our last town before going back into the mountains!

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We stayed in yet another hotel in Port Townsend which was a fancy little town on the water with a lovely food co-op with all kinds of wonderful things for sale. Ted and I walked to the co-op from our room and brought back bags full of kale, bananas, locally made smoothies, baked goods, and of course chocolate. We have trail-named ourselves “Team Late-Checkout”, because it’s true – there hasn’t been one single hotel where we didn’t dial 0 and ask for a late check out. How can we? We have a bed, a toilet, and a TV. That costs a lot of money, you know. Better use it up for all it’s worth!!

When we finally rolled out the door 10 minutes later than late check out, we realized it was time to eat more food. It’s always so hard to get the ball rolling… By three O’clock we were back on the “trail” which was the road, and then another “rail-trail” which lead to a crappy pipeline “trail”, which then lead to highway 101. Once we finally began heading west through the woods again we felt like we were trespassing but weren’t really sure. The “trail” was another pipeline that was right up against several backyards and just covered in berry bushes that pulled at me all along the way until we reached a forest road. The road was not on my GPS or the maps, but we both had a good sense of where we should be headed, so we walked on down the road and hoped it would lead to where we needed to be. The road did eventually take us back onto our maps but we weren’t able to get out of this web of roads in the Olympic National Forest before dark, so we had to find a flat spot to sleep that also had water. In my experience, a nice campsite is always just 20 minutes farther than the point where you feel like you’ve already gone too far, so I kept prodding Ted, “just a little farther”. Sure enough we found a creek under the road with a little flat spot on top of some cushy earth beneath moss-covered pine tree’s, hidden from sight of the road. We did our normal camp chores, cooking dinner, filtering water. I put up the tent while Ted prepared our food hang, as we do each night.

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The next morning was moist and foggy as we walked along the dirt roads. A truck drove by and stopped to ask us if we were okay. He was astonished to find that we had every intention on being where we were, and that we weren’t interested in a ride. As we followed tracks on my GPS, notes from our guide book, and our maps – we became aware that we were approaching a short section of bushwhacking. The route took us down into a creek bed and over a small ridge. I enjoyed the intimacy of bushwhacking. I had to touch the trees as I made my way through the forest, stepping gently on the mossy earth as it gave softly beneath my feet. Hiking off trail is very slow and deliberate, especially in the forest when you always have to be paying attention to which direction you are traveling. Since you cannot see your destination, it is easy to get off track. You know it is there – east, west, south or north. You just have to keep moving in that general direction – making your way around trees, ravines, and rocks. These cross-country sections of the PNT always keep the days interesting and exciting by challenging our skills and offering more sensations and connection to the land.
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After the bushwhack and a little more forest road walking, we came across a trail-head placed randomly in the middle of the woods which led us to the top of a mountain. It was cold and blustery, but we were hungry when we got to the top, so we found a protected spot among the trees sat down and ate some food. I could tell the rains were coming but what more could I have expected in the Olympic Mountains of Washington? Knowing a storm was on the way, we stocked up on warmer gear at the little outdoor shop in Port Townsend. That evening we made it to Gold Creek along an old road that hadn’t been used in what seemed like at least 50 years. It was now a single track trail, only passable by foot, horse, or bicycle. The only flat spot I could find to place our tent was completely unprotected from the coming storm, so I braced it the best I could and it rained on us all night long. In the morning, the wind gusts pulled out our doors. Lucky for us, we were up, dressed and ready to deal with it.  The storm soon died down and the skies opened up to the clearest blue I had ever seen. The clouds sparkled like gold and the trees danced with the remaining wind. We walked high into the mountains, being rained on here and there, but really enjoying the freshness and the golden sunlight in the forest.

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The beautiful weather turned on us at the end of the day as we climbed. The clouds returned and so did the wind. It ripped through my rain gear and slapped me across my face. I just kept thinking, “almost there, just a little farther”. I grasped my neck warmer over my nose, braced my umbrella, and squinted my eyes as I pushed forward to the idea of a warm shelter within a protected valley. As darkness began to fall, I caught sight of a small cabin, then as we got closer a ton of tents came into view. “Oh, no!” I thought, tents mean the shelter is full. As we arrive, we see our friend Flanders setting up his tent next to the shelter, and the shelter itself full of happy weekend backpackers drinking rum and sharing stories. We all sit around sharing food and drinks, telling the weekenders of our long journey to get there. Eventually, we ask what others plans are with sleeping in the shelter – some polite words are offered and ultimately the people who may have camped inside the shelter decided to set their tent up outside. Ted and I waited around to see what would happen, and somehow ended up being the ones to sleep under the roof. It was a miracle!

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There was no privy at the shelter. Who builds a shelter with no privy? Come on Olympic National Forest, get it together. Because of this, I discovered poop and toilet paper as I searched for my own “spot”. (Public Service Message: Bury your poop, and PLEASE pack out your toilet paper! It is your duty! No pun intended)

We were some of the last people out of camp that morning, as usual. We said goodbye to Flanders as though we would see him again, but we didn’t know it would be the last time before our hike would be finished. That day was cold, cloudy, and windy but not much rain came down onto us. We climbed up and back down only to climb back up into the cold, wet clouds. As we headed down into a valley, we searched for a shelter that was mentioned on our maps but never found it and ended up backtracking to a campsite with accessible water, but no shelter. The next morning we were unpleasantly surprised by a beautifully built, brand new shelter just another two miles down the trail that was not marked on my GPS or our maps. Signs showed that Flanders had slept here, probably expecting to see us.

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We hiked through another moist day of off-and-on rain, trying to stay positive even though our toes were numb and our spirits wet. We came across one person today, a solo woman on holiday. She was happy to see us, as she too had been alone for a while. She was considering ending her trip early because of the rain, having spent the night on a Park Ranger Stations covered porch to stay dry, we told her of the Bear Shelter that we wish we had known about the night before. That porch became our destination. Ignoring the signs, we tried with all our might to get inside when we finally arrived. We were desperate to be warm and dry after days of being wet, wet, wet! We failed and made home on the porch where we were able to dry out mostly. The water source was a big river filled with glacial silt. Not the best for drinking, but it was all that was available to us. I filled my water in the darkness next to the silent river, imagining creatures spying on me from the other side. I teased with the idea of how easily one could go missing with one slip into this muddy body of water, with nothing but the sound of a small splash.

 

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The rain slowed us down quite a bit and were behind on our permits for Olympic National Park, which we had traveled double the time we had intended to. Today’s hike was a mission to get into town for a respite from the storms. We had originally planned to bypass Port Angeles since it would be quite a hitch, but we both agreed it was well worth it. The morning was wet but the skies began opening for what seemed like the first time in about a week. We curiously explored old shelters as well as one hundred year old homesteads that still stood out there in the wilderness. We found old apple and pear trees planted there by pioneers, which were still fruiting! After feasting on fresh fruit, I pocketed the seeds like they were gold. In this time of Genetically Modified Organisms and Monsanto (and other corporations) trying to own the seeds of the world, these untouched seeds were precious! I found the purest seeds of them all, and I was happy about that. Thanks to the brave pioneers building their homes in wild places.

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As  we neared the road to town, I looked back at the Dungeness Valley we had come from. The storms receding, allowing the hills to shine in all their glory. As we got to the road, we immediately got a ride from some construction workers who were working to make the river more accessible to spawning salmon, after the controversial destruction of the dam that prevented their migration for many years. It made me smile to know there are people who fight for goodness and balance, thanks to them, the salmon are once again migrating their ancient routes. The construction workers drove us all the way into Port Angeles, a very lucky hitch. In fact, straight to the door of our hotel where we promptly hung all of our gear throughout the room so that it would finally air dry.

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After another wonderful town stop full of good food, beds, showers, and laundry, we hitch hiked out of town at a busy stop light. About twenty minutes later, we were offered a ride by a large, bald man covered in tattoos. Ted reminded me “we don’t HAVE to take all the rides that are offered to us”. I had a good feeling about this one and headed towards the car. He took us all the way back to the road we had hitched on, after hearing stories of his adventures as a prison guard. He was a kind man, who had seen a lot of things in his life. Our first stop was at the popular Olympic Hot Springs. We had just showered in town and were not keen to the idea of getting dirty on our first day and staying dirty all week so I just soaked my feet. Silly, I know. A sweet couple of older women who had been close friends for many years were on a road trip when they hiked to the hot springs. Their spirits were young and they were bright and free. They asked me to take pictures of them in the hot springs, and their comfort with me gave me a feeling of feminine connection to them. Wildly free women going on adventures! I am going to be a lot like them when I am their age. Ted and I were hurried out by the sleepy sun, still seven more miles until our destination on top of Appleton Pass. It was almost dark when we arrived, and the sky was open with the brightest stars I had seen all summer, but the freezing wind forced me into my sleeping bag inside the tent.

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Morning was met by a deer who wanted to eat my pee out of the ground, lucky for me, she made for a nice picture! We were in the high country in the Olympic National Park and since the storm was finally gone, I knew we were in for some epic views.

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We hiked into dusk, all the way through the high country and down, down, down into a deep valley – sadly realizing it was the last valley we would descend. After crossing many mountain ranges and descending countless valleys, this one, the Bogachiel River valley was our last. Where had the miles gone? How could we be so close to the end of our trail? The berry bushes flourishing in reds and purples, the high mountain foliage quickly turned into deep, dense, dark forest. It started to rain.

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We camped at an old shelter site which had long ago been destroyed by water. Again, the rain came down on us all night but by morning had cleared. We were surrounded by mushrooms and big green ferns covered in rain drops. Even when the sun was shining, it was impossible to dry off. Water is coming from all directions! We hiked down to the bottom of the valley where we followed alongside the Bogachiel River. Our planned campsite that night was in a nice meadow with a couple of logs to sit on. We ate dinner at the shore of the river that night, watching the clouds turn pink and then blue…

 

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The next morning we hopped over innumerable dead falls from the recent storms, but these fallen trees were huge and climbing over them was no simple task. The benefit of this, was most people wouldn’t make a great effort to pass them, so we had this walk all to ourselves until we neared the trailhead where we knew a parking lot would be. This parking lot was our chance to hitch into Forks, Washington – our last town stop before the end of the trail. We happened to be exiting at the same time as some older folks were headed home. They packed us into the back of their astro van and drove us into Forks where we took a zero day to deal with logistics and prepare for the final stretch…

 

 

Stay tuned for my end of trail blog, coming soon! Thanks for reading.

 

Chasing Rainbows in the North Cascades

We walked out of the scorched town of Oroville, not sure what was ahead. The maps say we are about to go into the North Cascades, and particularly, the raved about Pasayten Wilderness. Are the maps wrong? We are in the desert, how could we possible be going into a place with tree’s, rain, cold temperatures, and real mountains? Seems like some kind of mess up to me… But as we hike through private property that we got permission to pass through, I find myself having a good time. There is shade, and the huge Similkameen River with massive fish in it, and tons of people camped along its shore panning and dredging for gold. We walked through a very long tunnel that was very cold inside, a nice place to take a break from the sweltering 100 degree heat outside of it. We saw bald eagles and golden eagles flying together, giving us a show. We got a birds eye view of the Newbie Fire that had already been burning for a month by the time we could see it. Apparently, it was self contained and we had nothing to worry about.

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We walked through the old “town” of Nighthawk, after first being caught at the wrong moment. Like I said earlier, we had permission to walk through private land, however we still had to jump a huge deer gate, and not all the people in the area knew we had gotten permission, so the fence hop was nerve-wracking, especially when a truck started to approach from behind – of course during the only moment we are doing something that appears to be sketchy. We get over the fence and the truck comes through and asks us what we are doing. We explain, and the two men in the truck are like “Well if you got permission, we don’t care, see ya!” We saw them and the man who gave us permission on our way out.

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The valley we walked into next was probably the most peaceful valley I have ever seen. Wildlife bounded. We saw deer, eagles, and beavers! We were actually enjoying this road walk, barely any cars came by and it was just Ted and I, laughing and talking all along the way. We got to a campground and saw our friend Flanders tent set up so we stopped by to say hi. Ted and I decided to camp there too since the area was mostly private property and we didn’t want to camp illegally. The next morning we all hiked out together, Ted and I stopped in the tiny town of Loomis to get our packages and then headed up the Chopaka Grade to our high alpine campsite at the Cold Springs Campground, the beginning of our North Cascades adventure.

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Thus begins the epic beauty of the mountains and forests of Washington! The Pasayten Wilderness is everything it’s cracked up to be. Lots of open meadows and views for hundreds of miles all around. The trails were nice and we even saw some actual human beings out there. We walked behind the Newbie Fire on an alternate route to get around it, and saw the burn area as we passed.

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The weather got cold and blustery, but not a lot of rain. I had trouble staying warm while doing regular camp chores (getting water, cooking food, cleaning up, etc.) But we’re tough! As we walked, the moss got greener, and the tree’s were bigger, and the leafs on the forest floor were unusual sizes – what is this the rainforest?!

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We found berries again! And they were delicious, just as we suspected. Our trail took us through a very smokey valley, and then up and over Frosty Pass which was clear of smoke. We descended toward a trail we know too well, the Pacific Crest Trail! Hello long lost old friend!! We got to share 13.3 miles of the PCT on our thru hike of the PNT. It was very exciting. The walking was easy and smooth on the PCT, unlike the varied terrain and unmaintained trails that make up the Pacific Northwest Trail. It really put into perspective how different these trails are in difficulty. The Pacific Northwest Trail is almost half the length of the Pacific Crest Trail, but it is much more difficult mile for mile, and I am happy to be hiking a trail that makes me so tough!

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It rained a bit while we hiked along the most northern section of the Pacific Crest Trail and we saw a HUGE rainbow, we could actually see the pots of gold, but the trail called so we kept on walkin’. The scenery was amazing, classically PCT.

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As we finished up the PCT portion, we said goodbye at Holman Pass and immediately started walking over deadfalls and a much narrower trail. The PCT is so loved, it is very obvious by how well it is maintained. What an amazing trail! Back to the PNT, we met a girl named Jodi who had just begun her section hike of the PNT after doing 300 miles or so on the PCT. She was doing 25-30 miles a day on average while working on her thesis on National Scenic Trails for her Masters in Resource Management. As we hiked over the Devils Dome I enjoyed conversation with her, as the only conversation I’ve had with anyone besides Ted in what seems like months, and then we parted when Ted and I stopped to have dinner at a creek. Flanders was at our campsite and as always, we were happy to see his smilin’ face yet again. He said goodbye with words in the dirt above our tent because he always gets up hours before we do. That day we hiked 20 easy miles to the Ross Lake Resort before 4:30pm and were devastatingly disappointed when we found the rumors were true. They have no food for us to eat, no showers, no laundry, and no place for us to sleep (besides back on the trail). I said, screw this, lets go to town, I need a day off after 150 straight miles without a break or a shower or a meal with real food. Yeah, I am going to town! We got a boat ride across the lake where we hitch hiked for no more than 5 minutes when a solo guy living out of his van picked us up and brought us all the way in to the town of Marblemount where we were treated like second class citizens by the owner of the Buffalo Run Inn who shoved us into a hostel room when we wanted to pay for a nice private room with private bath. We weren’t allowed to eat the continental breakfast, and they even kept the second bathroom locked so seven people had to share one bathroom (after he had said there would be two bathrooms). Not to mention he was nowhere to be found when we needed him. He did show up eventually just to yell at us for not being out by check out, after we waited hours just to shower. We were definitely not going to get another night there, so we started hitching to the laundromat down the road. A young girl with purple hair picked us up, gave us some blueberries, and dropped us off a mile down the road. We hung out in the laundry room at the RV park as our clothes washed and some young guys started to filter through. We didn’t know there were all friends, working together for a raft company, or that they had passed us hitch hiking on the highway, until they told us and apologized for not picking us up. They invited us to go on a whitewater raft trip with them the following day. We took them on their offer and hung out with Akram, Randy, and Matt for the night and the next day. They were a fun trio who worked together leading raft trips for tourists. We were lucky to run into them and we had an awesome day rafting with them. Unfortunately we didn’t get any photo’s – but it is a memory we’ll both have for a lifetime!

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As we hiked on the west side of Ross Lake we hustled to get through the smoke from the fires all around the state and the new fires forming near the lake itself. The Beaver River was white and milky from glacial flour. I wanted to swim in it, then when I did, I was spooked because I couldn’t see what was beneath the water… river monsters!! As we walked into the North Cascades National Park, we got a few glimpses of glaciers before a big storm came in and blanketed everything with clouds and rain. We walked over Whatcom Pass in the pouring rain and camped at the Graybeal camp where we were rained on all night. Luckily the rain stopped by morning, but not soon enough for anything to dry (at all). It was one of those lovely days when we get to put on soaking wet clothes. Since it wasn’t raining though, our clothes kind of dried on our walk out of the park that day. We hiked up and over Hannegan Pass then got a ride into the town of Glacier to dry out. There were no rooms available, but a guy nearby took pity on us and offered us a shower and a place to camp at his place. Lucky again.

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Cable car river crossing in the rain!

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So we said goodbye to the national park and walked into the Mount Baker Ski Resort, the familiarity of the chair lifts was heart warming. Hi Mammoth! We miss you! Then we hiked on over to the Wild Goose Trail, bringing thoughts of wild geese running amok to my mind. We connected to the Lake Anne trail, walking through the enchanted forest that is western Washington, then to the Swift Creek Trail where we found a beautiful little flat spot to camp deep in the woods next to a creek. We learned quickly to be careful walking not only off trail, but on trail too – because there are HUGE spiders in theses forests that like to make their webs right where your face conveniently lands as you walk.

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The Swift Creek trail ended and we began a road walk to connect to the next trail about 7 or 8 miles away, the Baker Lake Trail. This trail is often bypassed by hikers because there is a “quicker, more efficient route” that happens to only be 8.5 miles, as opposed to 25.5 around the lake. That shortcut is a highway walk. Yeah right, I am walking around the lake. The lake was amazing. We saw no one on the trail and camped alone on the shore. Our campsite had a privy and a bear locker! The simplest of luxuries allowed us to lounge around camp the next morning, really taking in the beauty and solitude this area offered us. When we finally hiked on, we stopped for a swim in the turquoise blue lake before getting to the road that would lead us into our next resupply town of Concrete Washington.

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We are happy! We love hiking, only a few more weeks left, but we don’t want it to end. We are just loving the Pacific Northwest Trail. Hike on!!

Sunrises, Giant Burgers, and More Roadwalks

After a lovely night at Jami and Josh’s, the Pacific Northwest Trail’s new trail angels of Northport Washington, we learned of a fire in the way of our hike in the Kettle Crest Range, which is said to be a real highlight of the trail. Reluctantly, we decided the only thing to do was to get to the next access point beyond the fire closure, which was Sherman Pass outside of Republic. The local doctor, Craig, of the tiny town is a friend of our angels and he offered us a ride the next morning. Josh lent us his truck and kayaks to pass the day paddling at the Sheep Creek mouth into the Columbia river. I kept my distance from the swift waters of the Columbia, a little too deep and powerful in my opinion. It looked like that river could swallow me up without a trace. We stayed near the calm currents of Sheep Creek and even took a nap on a beach. We are grateful for the generosity of the people we meet along the way who give more than we could ever imagine. Thank you Josh, Jami, and Craig!

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Another hiker had caught up to us, he caught a ride to Sherman Pass as well. We all hiked along into the afternoon and evening along old dirt forest roads. We found a campsite with a nice view and decided to call it a night after about 15 miles, with a late start. Our hike the next morning brought us through mostly forest along dirt roads with the occasional view which always reminded me of home. Eastern Washington has a very similar climate to the mountains we have in San Diego. Dry, hot, hilly, yellow grasses, and pine forests. The only thing missing was our oak tree’s! We ate dinner at the Thirteen Mile trailhead after scaring off a group of people with our backpacks and huge calf muscles. The idea of people walking out of the woods and no car parked at the trailhead is just mind boggling. We started a short 3 mile paved road walk along the highway 21 out of Republic, which would only take us an hour, when the most bizarre thing happened! There wasn’t much traffic, maybe two cars passed us in the first 20 minutes. A red car coming toward us with a busted headlight came to a screeching halt and suddenly turned the car around. All the while I am bracing myself for who knows what, something strange is about to happen. I look over and all these smiling faces are looking at me through rolled down windows. They start to yell “WE KNOW YOU! CASCADE LOCKS!” over and over again until my glazed look transforms into a glimpse of recognition. These people I had met at the Bridge of the Gods while hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail two years ago! We had sat together and talked for a couple hours, and Stacey was the girl who walked me across the bridge. It was a chance reconnection, that couldn’t be merely coincidence. We visited in the road for a few minutes before they sped off in the direction they were headed and Ted and I began walking towards our next camp at the abandoned Ten Mile Campground a couple miles down the road. We were flabbergasted, completely blown away by what had just happened, laughing all the way by the irony of life.

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After another day or so of walking, we were at another road to get into Republic, the very long highway 20. We decided that we didn’t have enough food to get all the way to our next stop in Oroville, so we hitch hiked into town. Many people passed us, one was a young man, who I remember thinking he looked like someone who might pick up a hitch hiker, but alas he did not stop. About ten minutes passed and we saw his car coming back with his hazards on, he turned around and picked us up. He was on a solo road trip along the highway 20 and for some reason was pulled to come back and give us a lift. We were grateful. He dropped us off and I was charmed by this tiny town – everything within 1-2 blocks. An all natural, organic co-op! A mercantile/hardware store, a grocery store, pizza place, a hotel, laundromat, just everything a hiker could ever need. I was especially pleased with the co-op, that’s what made it stand out from the other towns. We reconnected with our friend Mike who started at the same time as us, we met him getting off of the same train in Glacier National Park over a month ago. After just one night we got a ride back to the trailhead with Mike.

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We had a nice trail to walk on for a little while, with good views, then we were back on the road again, walking along lots of private property. There were no houses, just lots of junk and trailers, we were a bit spooked by the people who lived there. They didn’t appear to have many hobbies other than perhaps drinking beer and target practice. When we reached the road intersection, there were real houses and people outside. They offered us a spot to camp for the night and we did. Mike was camped closer to their house and we could hear the one older man, who might have had a bit to drink, just talking his ear off for hours. Lying in our tent, I felt for the poor guy who was tired and wanted to sleep just like us. We talked for a bit before we fell asleep, and Mike’s trailname finally hit us. Flanders. We must name him. We fell asleep right then and there. Ted woke up with his water bottle left open. We were beat. As hikers usually are at that hour. Just done.

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Goodmorning more roadwalking, yay! We can make the best of it, at least it is fast walking. We even saw a bald eagle getting harassed by a smaller hawk. Flanders had headed out earlier than us, as usual and we were determined to catch up to him. In passing, a farmer called out to us, “You’re only about 30 minutes behind that other guy!” We kept hoofin’ it till we got all the way to the Lake Bonaparte Resort, where low and behold, Flanders was there. Just as I suspected…We ordered a meal as he packed his things and headed back to the trail. Ted ordered the Bonaparte Bloater, a food challenge. It was a burger with three 1/4 lb beef patties, with bacon and cheese in between each patty, with onion rings on top and fries. He opted for a salad instead of fries, thinking it would allow him to succeed in the challenge which would award him the burger for free if he finished it in 45 minutes or less. He stopped at about 2/3 of the way though, feeling the cholesterol pumping through his veins. Stupid idea, he thought. Digestion is a real cause for slowing down. We had a huge climb ahead and tons of food in the bellies. We took three hours to get out of there, three hours! Then hiked at an unreasonably slow pace all the way to the top of Mount Bonaparte, where we would spend the night. With a very serious effort, we made it to the top of the lookout tower within just seconds of the sunset.

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The lookout tower was full of neat stuff but the door was locked, dangit! It had a nicely made bed, binoculars, naturalist books, food, and anything a fire lookout keeper would need to stay up there for a while. Their job is to sit up there and look. I think I want that job. Note taken. The almost full moon moved over us through the night, lighting the valley below. We camped so that we would be able to see the sun rising, we set our alarm for 5:18 am, the earliest we’ve woken up in our entire lives, but it was worth it to see the day begin. I pooped happily in the keepers privy, relieved to not worry about digging another hole for a day. We loved this campsite, and because we got up so early, we were set to hike a nice big day of miles, getting almost all the way into town, but not before camping at another great spot on a ridge above the valley with the towns of Tonasket and Oroville.

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The walk into Oroville was over 100 degrees and we are here now watching the hillside burn up in another wildfire that we hope won’t get in the way of our route to Loomis, our next stop before we get into the North Cascades National Park. We are very excited for the second half of this trip. We have walked roughly 600 miles and have roughly 600 more to go! All is well out here with Ted and I.

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