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…

 

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.

 

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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