After a spending a few days hiking through Mount Hood and down into the breathtaking Eagle Creek with Brian, we went into town at Cascade Locks, my last town in the state of Oregon. We parted there where I spent the afternoon at the marine park enjoying the beautiful Columbia River and preparing for my next section toward Trout Lake, Washington. As I crossed over the Bridge of Gods, stepping from one state to the next while suspended over a large body of water, I gazed all around at the 360 degree views of the beautiful river and the bridge I was crossing it on. The wind blew wildly as I looked down where I could see through the metal grids all the way down to the water below. It was breathtaking and exhilarating. I was excited to step into a new state, the last state. Washington!
I hiked into the evening that day and found myself on an unexpected and frustrating ascent in the dark. All I wanted to do was make camp but I had to keep moving forward and hope for a flat place to sleep. It is not uncommon for me to get a little sloppy at the end of the day and this evening ascent really got the best of me. I fell hard on some rocks right on my knee resulting in a nice big, bloody gash and a bruised knee cap. I yelled out loud in anger at the trail and felt pretty silly when I ran into some friends just a few minutes later. I had hoped they didn’t hear me whining at the forest. I camped with them that night in a nice little flat spot near some water. The next morning I completed the ascent alone and enjoyed some music in my ears. It was a gorgeous day and one of only a few that were left…
After a big day of 27 miles, I camped by Panther Creek and saw an almost full moon rise over the rushing water. I felt all sticky from the day of humid heat and lots of climbing so I rinsed off in the freezing water. It was refreshing. That night I made my heaviest meal, gnocchi, which is also my most hearty, flavorful, and favorite meal. I fought for my hot cocoa when a mouse kept coming back to steal a sip. I awoke in the middle of the night to rain drops on my shelter but when morning came it was only fog hanging over the forest. As I climbed, the clouds became thicker and thicker until I was walking through them, taking in the beautiful silence of this dark, wet day. That evening the wind was blowing like a tornado, throwing water at my face as I walked. Once again I hiked into the night, and exhausted from the beginning storm, I fell again and sprained my hand. I was just getting all beat up on this section. The next day was nothing but rain and I was pretty cold and miserable. I resisted the desire to hitch into town at a road I reached before my planned exit road, which was 15 more miles down the trail.
I got a ride with some other hikers into Trout Lake, WA which is a beautiful little town full of wonderful people. I stayed at the tiny grocery store which was run by a family who lived behind the building. They offered small, hostel type rooms for hikers at a very reasonable price and they did everything they could to provide us with what we needed. Trout Lake was full of angels and I’ll never forget how at home I felt there. The day I left the rain had finally broken and it looked like it might become a sunny day, which it did, just in time for me to head into the beautiful high elevations of Washington around Mount Adams where I could see for miles all around. Mount Adams had fresh snow on top which was beautiful and also threatening. The air was cold that day, but I strutted around in my shorts as I walked 3mph with music in my ears. I was on a roll, but by 5pm it was too cold and I had to put on extra layers. From this day on, I never walked again without those extra layers…
That night I camped at a beautiful lava field where water came out from beneath, forming a pool I could get water from. There were 11 other people there that night and we all sat around eating dinner, watching our breath, and making ridiculous jokes that would only be funny to people who have been on a trail for 5 months. The next day I was the last to leave camp (as usual). I passed a couple people while they took lunch, but I saw no one for the rest of the day. I was appreciating the sun as I climbed up high to where I could see lakes, hills, volcanos, and endless forests. As the day continued on I became grumpy, not for any reason in particular. Sometimes hiking can be monotonous and on top of it, I am simply not giving my body what it needs to hike a 25 mile day. A grumpy hiker is a hungry, tired hiker. Despite the beauty that surrounded me, I could not unfurrow my brow. My heart reawoke as I passed over Cyspus Pass and was transported to what felt like the High Sierra again. Rocky peaks engulfed me in an enormous, open valley of flowing water. I found the best campsite just after a waterfall. The site hung over the emptiness of the valley and seemed to float over nothing. I set up camp here and watched the full moon rise as I heard the hoo-ing of a dozen Great Horned owls as they retreated from their daytime sanctuaries in the thick trees of the forest and headed out into the last light of dusk. I watched them as they took flight and went off into the night sky. I love camping alone.
The next day was a blessing in disguise. I climbed up and up where I found marmots! It really was like being in the Sierras again. I had heard about a place I was going to, called the “Knife’s Edge” and when I saw it, I threw my hands up in complaint. Ahh I don’t want to do this! The Knife’s Edge is a 2 mile piece of trail which traverses over a narrow crest with thousand foot drops on either side, with nothing but glaciers to break a fall. My nerves were all buzzing as I crossed over the Packwood glacier and then walked along the edge very carefully. This was one of the most beautiful views I had seen on the entire trail. Mount Rainier in the distance with clear blue skies, mountains, lakes, glaciers, and rivers all around. I was one of the last people to see Mount Rainier from Knife’s Edge this season. There was a tiny cloud at the tip of the majestic mountain and as the day grew late, the cloud got bigger and bigger until the whole sky looked angry with darkness, wind, and cold.
I camped a mile from White’s Pass so that I could go in in the morning and resupply. That night the rain started, and this time it never stopped. It rained and I saw a bunch of hikers at the Kracker Barrel store who where talking about skipping to avoid the coming storm which was said to bring immense amounts of snow and rain. I wasn’t ready to give up yet so I got a ride into Packwood where I could wait out the storm at a lovely little hotel that charged only $30 a night. I ended up staying here for 5 days, and it stormed day and night, nonstop. I became depressed with the lack of hope to continue on. Other hikers were coming off the mountain describing 2 feet of snow and high winds as they traversed the Knife’s Edge. They were all thankful to be alive.
In a couple days I knew there would be at least one clear day, so I decided to get back on trail at that point. The first day out was very cold, but mostly no rain fell. The rain started again the next morning and never stopped. I met some southbound hikers who told me of a trail angel waiting for hikers at Chinook pass. I made it to the pass and waited inside of a pit toilet bathroom at a rest stop, on the floor, in my sleeping bag, because it was FREEZING. My fingers and toes had been numb most of the day, and now that I was stopped my entire body was losing heat fast. I did what I had to do to stay warm while I waited for the trail angel to come pick me up on one of her regular runs up to the rest stop to rescue hikers from the bathrooms.
Trapperkeeper, took me and my friend Backfire to her camp where she fed us a fresh cooked meal, built us a fire in the rain and gave us a dry place to sleep among her Tarp Town in the woods. It was amazing and necessary trail magic. I finally reached the point where I was deciding whether to go on. She checked the weather and assured me that snow was on its way and the weather would only get worse from here on out. The freezing cold rain had been enough for me. It was frighteningly cold. Hypothermia became a real concern and I couldn’t imagine dealing with colder temps. I simply was not equipped enough for winter weather, nor was I skilled in snow travel and navigation. This was where my hike north on the Pacific Crest Trail came to an unexpected finish. 300 miles from the Canadian border, and I decided to turn back.
Trapperkeeper drove me to Packwood the next day where I spent another night so that the following day I could find a ride to Seattle. After making a beautiful Seattle sign on a piece of cardboard, Trapperkeeper showed up in town again and said it had snowed overnight and she was shutting down her camp and going home, to Portland. I decided this was my best bet for a ride and took it. Feeling so far from the trail now, the anxiety hit me as we drove into the busy city with lights, cars, rain, and noise. I realized this was not a temporary ride into town, this was it, and in town was where I’d stay. Goodbye Pacific Crest Trail, for now.
I was then thrown into the oblivion of public transportation. I rode a bus to a train and rode the train to the real train, which I sat on for 30 hours going insane because I felt like there wasn’t enough oxygen on the train (I’m used to being outdoors!), then in the middle of the night I got onto another train from Union Station in L.A. and rode that to Santa Clarita where I spent the night and was picked up in the morning by the well-known trail angel of southern California, Donna Saufley.
Instead of going straight home, I decided I would fare better with some time to reflect and decompress. I skipped a section from Idyllwild to Agua Dulce so I am going to spend 3 more weeks hiking south from Agua Dulce to Idyllwild, or at least until I run out of money. Here at Hiker Heaven I am preparing for my final jaunt in the wilderness before going back home.
I walked over 2,000 miles and I thought there was no chance in the world I wouldn’t make it all the way to Canada, but Washington had different plans this year. Winter started in September, historically the most rain and snow ever received this time of year. Just my luck!
This was the most amazing summer of my life. I crossed through the desert and over the entire Sierra Nevada mountain range, and almost the entire Cascade range. I walked through California, Oregon, and Washington. I walked and I walked, all day every day. I saw the sun rise and set and became in tune with the moons waxing and waning. I slept under the stars every night sometimes alone, sometimes with friends. I met hundreds of wonderful people and for the first time I really felt part of a community. Everyday I was blessed with beautiful scenery, challenges, and time to think and go with the flow. Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail was the best decision I ever made, and I will do it again. This was an epic journey through the deserts, mountains, and forests of the west coast. I also had the unexpected opportunity to experience tiny mountain towns all along the way where I met people with unwavering generosity and kindness. There were times when I didn’t think I could take a single step, and then I did. I overcame so much doubt and became stronger than I have ever been. My mind has never been clearer, my life has never been simpler, and my body has never been stronger. Thank you to all the trail angels who helped me keep going and to all the people following me and cheering me on. I have never been happier!!!
Stories of my final journey to come, stay tuned.