Somewhere Between Death & Butterflies on Mount Shasta

Let me tell you a story of what it was like for me to go too deep within the wilderness. On August 15th, 2019 I found myself upside down on a backpack sized ice shelf inside a glacial crevasse on Mount Shasta. This blog entry begins with the final day of a 37 day trek across the Siskiyou Mountains of Oregon and California on a series of rugged trails and cross country routes summiting seven sacred mountains. I will follow up with writings of the days leading up to my fall, so please subscribe to this blog to stay tuned in for the whole journey.

The Opening of the crevasse I fell into, note the rescue rope and Duncan’s hiking stick

The Wilderness exists within each and every one of us. We are part of the beautiful nature that we idolize through media and art, as though it were separate from us. In the materialistic human world we have created, our hearts long for something more – something beautiful, natural and Wild. It can be especially humbling to be reminded that the world doesn’t revolve around us tiny humans, but that we are merely One part to a complex system of life among the great mountains, plains, valleys, glaciers, rivers, and oceans of this incredible living planet. Leaving the confines of our domestic world is something we all need to do to gain a greater perspective on our existence and our role in the world at large – but it is possible to go too far beyond our own limits. How deep into the wilderness is too deep? In this blog I will describe one experience in all of my trekking that took me so deep into the wilderness, that it nearly swallowed me whole…


It was our final day of a long walk through the mountains, the seventh summit of the Siskiyou Peaks Trail, and the grand finale to an amazing journey as the first “thru-hikers” of this 448 mile route. We were excited and a little nervous to summit Mount Shasta, a 14,179 foot actively growing volcano in Northern California. We had been staring at her snowy banks for weeks now as we made our way through some of the most beautiful and least explored backcountry in the West.

Atop Harry Watson Peak, Castle Crags State Park

Duncan, my hiking partner, and I camped just above tree-line where a large pristine spring burst from the earth where we would refill our bottles by morning and continue the ascent. We had spent the last five weeks drinking mostly from natural mountain springs (filtering from streams and rivers when unavailable). At these springs we could truly take into our bodies the water from the mountains we walked through, assimilating its minerals and becoming more deeply connected to our environment. I felt it was a way for me to more deeply integrate with each landscape of my ever changing wilderness environment.


As we hiked upward, I moved in what felt like slow-motion to allow my body to acclimate to the high elevation. The terrain became steeper and steeper but by this point in our journey my body was very strong. My breath and my steps steady and in rhythm. All I could see around me was rock, snow, open sky, and the distant town of Mccloud down on the forest floor. There was only one kind of creature sharing the mountain with us, and I was aghast at their tenacity to be in such a harsh landscape. Hundreds of thousands of butterflies were flying up to the summit like a river of soft fluttering wings.

I took comfort in their gentle flight as I walked up the mountain alongside these heavenly beings, climbing… and climbing. The summit looked so close from our campsite but many hours kept passing. It was so much farther than I thought it would be. Nearly six hours had passed when we got to the headwall. Tears welled up in my eyes as I climbed the steep, rocky wall with my hands as volcanic boulders slipped beneath my feet. I tried to ignore the visions of massive rock slides burying me for eternity. I wanted to go back to that natural mammalian habitat below the tree-line where I belonged. I pushed through my fears and continued moving forward until we topped out on the summit plateau of Mount Shasta.




The summit was still another hundred feet or so up some crags. I was grumpy and just wanted to go back down and nearly did not even get to the official summit until Duncan said his plan was to go up and he invited me to come along. I went without any convincing. I made it this far, I thought I may as well. I probably won’t die… It was not the most ecstatic summit of my life, I’m embarrassed to admit. But hey I made it to the top! We completed the final summit and it was finally time to go back down, but I knew going back down was not going to be easy.


The kaleidoscope of butterflies were still flowing up to the summit from the forest thousands of feet below, skimming above the icy snowfields and freezing cold rocks. I didn’t understand what they were doing there and why they were the only living things on the mountain besides us. I saw one of them standing still on a rock, wings erect and torn to shreds. Amazed by her simultaneous strength and fragility, I witnessed her knowing she would surely die…

I checked my watch. It was already after four p.m. How did so much time pass? I pondered the idea that we might not have enough daylight to get down and we may need to camp at the summit. I pushed the thought away, wanting to stay committed to just getting down this mountain. The thought escapes my mouth and so we discuss. We agree that it is safest to stay the night since we don’t know how challenging the route ahead is, and we don’t want to get caught in the dark hiking cross-country down a mountain covered in glaciers and cliffs.  I was filled with anxiety. My instinct telling me to get the hell out of there but my logic telling me that there is no other option. I needed to sit tight and be patient, at over 14,000 feet elevation in a place where no other animals dare to visit.

We made camp earlier than normal knowing it would get very cold. Duncan cooked dinner while I put up the tent, made my bed and put on all my clothing layers. We ate a hot meal and got into bed for the long night ahead, still bright outside at six thirty. I got up to pee at around eight thirty and was mesmerized by the otherworldly landscape before my eyes. The moon was full and just rising while the sun had just set, sending a beam of orange light across the world. A barren landscape of rocks and snow surrounded me, nothing but the sound of gently whipping wind.

To calm my nerves Duncan told me the second chapter of a story he had been making up while on our trek. It was the story of Chen Wo and Kahn, two boys on a magical journey through the mountains to find their father who had gone looking for the rivers of gold and silver. Free-style story telling is one of his gifts. I fell into sleep when the little brother, Kahn held the silver egg his father had given him and wished to go back home.

At three a.m. I awoke to strong smells of sulfur flowing into the tent from the sulfur vent up on the peak. I knew the oxygen was much thinner at fourteen thousand feet elevation, but because of the breeze and open space around us, I had some confidence that the tent would not fill with sulfur. I convinced myself I was safe but laid awake awaiting sunrise. When the sun was up I felt relaxed enough to fall back to sleep, telling myself it would be too icy if we left too early in the morning, anyway. When the sun hit the tent we arose from our mountain nest and began preparing for the descent.

I tried eating breakfast while we packed up, but I was unable to take any food in without feeling sick. So on an empty stomach, we began walking down from the summit plateau toward Misery Hill. I kept telling myself it wouldn’t be so bad, and that it would likely be easier than I originally thought. As we descended, rivers of butterflies were still flowing up the mountain over the snow. I watched them in awe and held their symbolism of strength and fragility in my heart. I came to one that had fallen and died in the snow and melted a small hole into it with the heat of its tiny little body. I spent a moment with it and shared it with Duncan before hiking on.

We got down the first little hill we mistakenly thought was the bottom of Misery Hill and started heading north toward a valley that Duncan believed was the beginning of the West Face. I kept looking at the route photo in our guide book. It looked like we were supposed to climb another hill to the west. I didn’t think we were going the right way.

The Wrong Way. This is not the West Face, this is the Whitney Glacier – California’s second largest glacier.

I sat down and stared at the map, the guide instructions, and the GPS. I saw what he saw, but I also saw the way I thought was correct. Unfortunately, I was so anxious to get down that my normal highly rational and practical nature was compromised. I just wanted to throw it to the wind and follow him and get off the mountain as quickly as we could. I wanted to trust him because I was not feeling confident. I was out of my element, and he was brimming with confidence.

We arrived to the edge of a cliff with ice and water rushing over its edge, tears unabashedly flowing as I carefully make my way across them trying not to imagine my death. I look down into the valley covered in what looked like snow, and said to Duncan “in the guide book this is supposed to be scree”. He justified that it was a big snow year and so we would glissade it. I mention again that in the route photo the West Face appears to be over there, I pointed West. He told me we could no longer see the route from the vantage point the photo was taken and that it was of no use to us anymore. I acquiesced, still unsure and afraid.

Duncan says again we can glissade it, and that it’ll be fun, apparently. I look down the slope seeing about three miles of white with some inconsistencies and small rocks. I point to what looks like a “ditch” in the snow down the way. Certainly that ditch couldn’t be a…crevasse? No… I suddenly had an image of myself inside a crevasse pass through my mind, but I have watched so many “I Shouldn’t Be Alive” episodes that I figure that the extreme image in my mind is just from fear and my memories of crazy things that have happened to other people. Thoughts of calling for rescue cross my mind, but I know there is no reason for that. I begin positioning myself above Duncan at the lip of the cliff onto the “snow”.

Together we slid, digging my heals into the hard, icy “snow” (it isn’t snow because it is a glacier, but we haven’t figured this out yet) to create traction and slow us down. Only a few seconds passed when suddenly our bottoms left the snow and we were launched into the air. I held tightly onto Duncan until we hit the ground. He smashed into the snow hard and broke my fall. I thought it would end at our landing, reassuring thoughts flashing through my mind that this wasn’t so bad, but I kept going and sliding headfirst on my back downhill, until I stopped.

Time slowed down as I began to cognate my situation. Now lying on my back, my head was downhill of my feet. To my left and to my right were tunnels of ice going farther down into the darkness of the glacier, beneath me an ice ledge just big enough to hold my small body. It was a lot like you would imagine sliding down a slide head first on your back and stopping at the lip of the slide. Fifteen to twenty feet above me I saw the blue sky through the opening of the crevasse, and all around me and on top of me were giant dripping icicles. I carefully removed two large icicles from on top of my body that had broken off and fallen on me. Duncan’s voice called down to me, his words straight to the point, “Are you alive?”

“Yes I’m alive” I responded, “Can you stand up?” He said, “I’ll try” I told him. He watched me struggle to get up and told me to unbuckle my backpack. Once unbuckled I was able to stand up, grab my headlamp, my whistle, and cell phone from my pack before leaving it on the ledge. I walked the few feet toward the ice wall where I began digging holes into the wall with my trekking poles for my feet to stand in. I climbed up one step at a time, checking the service bars on my cell phone until I was ten feet above where I landed and was able to make the call to 911. It was a miracle. I was soaked from all the freezing water that poured onto me from the melting snow and icicles inside the glacier, including my phone and yet it worked and even somehow had enough service to make a call.

All the while as I climbed and took all the steps I could to get myself out of this ice cave, I was calm and had no concept of pain in my body. I noticed a chunk of something black on my nose in my peripheral vision, wiping it away and seeing that it was blood. I noticed it again multiple times, wiping it away, and becoming somewhat aware that I must have hit my face but still I had no pain. I spit some blood onto the ice in front of me. I saw more blood on the ice lower down near my leg and I investigated, noticing my knee was scraped. As far as I could tell, I was doing pretty well for what had happened.

Duncan was feeling frustrated and helpless up top, yelling down constantly until I asked him to be quiet. I was afraid he would cause an avalanche that late in the afternoon on such a warm summer day. I also thought it useless and stressful for him to be calling down to me. On the phone with the dispatcher, I asked when the helicopter would be there and they kept telling me just a little while longer. My perception of time was very disoriented, as hours passed while I held my body tense against the wall, waiting, breathing, leaning my head against the ice in silence.


I knew I could not climb any higher, the ice was too old and too hard and slippery for me to even try without crampons. I would surely fall again. Finally, I could hear the helicopter. They kept passing over us and going somewhere over the ridge out of Duncan’s view. I could hear Duncan grunting with frustration, helplessly waiting and wishing he could do something to help me. The helicopter came back and I looked up, feeling that soon I would get my first glimpse of it. Sure enough, I saw it.

The belly of the helicopter read RESCUE and I felt a sense of relief. I remained still, patiently waiting until I heard Duncan’s voice, this time he wasn’t speaking to me. The rescuers had landed somewhere safe and the Mountain Ranger made his way by foot to us. Their voices sounded so casual while I sat down in the ice hole clinging for my life. Impatiently, I cried out “Please get me out of here!!!” and finally I saw him. The mountain ranger, Nick Meyers, sent down his jacket on a rope and instructed me to tie a really good knot around my waist. I tied a million overhand knots and let him know that I was ready to be extracted.


As soon as they started pulling, the rope slipped up around my ribs and hurt terribly, I couldn’t breath. I cried out in pain because I couldn’t use my feet to help since I had no way to grip the ice. I was like a limp fish being pulled out of the water. They pulled me out without breaking any of my ribs somehow and sat me down onto Duncan’s yellow foam sleeping pad. I cried out in pain and in liberation of being freed from the icy abyss of hell. Nick put his down jacket over my legs because I was shivering violently after having spent three hours soaking wet inside the crevasse. I asked him about my backpack and he said he would get it later. I assumed it was possible that I would never see it again, but that would be okay since I did get to survive the event, after all.

The pilots sent a hoist down to me and scooped me up. Once I reached the helicopter a CHP officer helped me inside. I wrapped my arms around the large man and held onto him like a baby koala as I watched the mountain landscape get further and further away from us. I was overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude to be off the mountain and to feel the sun warming my skin. I was on my way to safety. I get to live another day.

At the hospital, they found no serious injury and sent me home after a warm reunion with some of the rescuers and my hiking partner Duncan who delivered my backpack! It is quite a miracle to be alive at all, and especially to walk away with only some bumps and bruises! I am unbelievably grateful I was able to find cell phone service inside the crevasse and to all the rescuers who helped to save my life. I really love being alive. Can you tell?

This summit experience had been more intense than any of the others. As a woman who spends a lot of time adventuring and navigating in the wilderness, I am usually quite comfortable. This is where I found an edge of my limits and went beyond it. I also definitely had some strong bad feelings about being out there, which may have been telling me danger was ahead.


Thanks for reading! Please subscribe to my blog for further writings on our wild adventure through the Siskiyou Mountains on the Siskiyou Peaks trail, passionately created by Aria Zoner (Author of The Siskiyou Peaks Trail, and The Hot Springs Trail)

Blog written by Abilene Bushong (Aug. 2019) You may not use my content without my permission.




The Endless Sparkling of The Ocean


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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!



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!


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.


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!


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!


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.


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.


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.


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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Howling Wolves, Huckleberries, and Bushwhacks

As we walked away from Eureka Montana, our pace was slowed by the lazy river inviting us to cool off. I got wet every chance I could to keep cool in the sweltering humid heat. I used my umbrella to shade me and with the wet clothes I was pleased with the air conditioning effect I created. We did a lot of road walking, some of it on a busy highway. We were rewarded with views of the massive Koocanusa lake. As we crossed the Koocanusa bridge I was mesmerized by the distance between us and the water, imagining what might happen to a person if they jumped from there. A boat floated under the bridge and all the people in it saw us and waved. The lake was still in view at our camp that night at the base of Webb mountain. The moon was almost full, making the lake glow through the night. In the morning we climbed up and up and lots more up until we must have summitted what felt like a dozen mountains before collapsing on the peak of Mount Henry for the night. Our first 20 mile day on the Pacific Northwest Trail. Before setting up camp, we watched the sun set over the mountains of Idaho, where we would be very soon.

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Before long we walked into Yaak Montana, our last Montana town stop. We made it by fourth of July and enjoyed watching the locals swim in the Yaak river while we ate and relaxed our bodies. We took another zero day because Ted needed to wait for a package to come in, which was delayed by the holiday. Temperatures were going down, as well as the biting bugs. We were having a lot more fun without them. We got a little cabin there for cheap, with no water or electricity but that was fine. Once the package arrived in the late afternoon, we hit the trail again.   As the afternoon faded into the night, we were startled by the sight of a big brown butt running away from us. After a good look we realized it was a young moose. Spooked by the encounter, knowing critters big and small were all around us, we kept walking along the old logging road until we found a small creek and a flat spot to sleep. It rained long and hard while we slept, clearing by morning as if to say, okay I’ve rained enough now it’s time for you to go on a nice dry walk. The clouds were refreshing, keeping us cool all day. We came along two hillbilly type guys logging along the road we were walking, in the middle of nowhere. The tall skinny man was standing with a beer in his hand. He called out to us as we passed, “where’s yer rig?”. Ted, pointing to his backpack, replied “right here”. Without a smile, the skinny man said “that’s straange…” a chubby man sitting on the ground next to his cut logs just watched quietly as we passed. Feeling vulnerable, we were relieved to be on a trail just a few minutes later. Most people don’t walk far so we feel pretty safe out in the roadless wilderness.

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We camped high on a ridge just before our first cross-country route began the following day. We loved navigating the ridgeline without a path. We had a 360 degree view of mountains for a hundred miles all around. We had a lovely day, giving ourselves a sponge bath when we finally found a flowing creek. We took a long break at the creek to say goodbye to Montana and hello to Idaho! We were on the state border. After another 20 mile day and a new state we got to our campsite just before a small town stop. Ted went to fetch water at the creek a few hundred yards away. It was dark and I could hear him calling to warn the bears, as we often do, “Hey bear!! Heeey bear!!!” We are always a little spooked when we get into camp late and have to do chores in the dark. Lions, wolves, and bears! Oh my! We felt sticky, soggy, and smelly the next day, so before going to pick up our resupply boxes at the Feist Creek Falls Resort, we washed up in the Moyie River. Smiling and waving at the locals who stopped on the bridge to stare at us. I guess we are a sight to see! We were treated like family when we arrived. The owner, Cliff, sat with us as we ate. He brought us homemade food for us to try and even gave us a free hotel room to stay in for the night. I called my Uncle Roger who lives in Idaho and invited him to come visit. He was glad I had called, jumped in his car and was sitting with Ted and I by a waterfall drinking a beer 3 hours later. It was nice to be in the presence of family. Seeing him made me see my dad, his brother, who share a lot of similar features. I never really noticed before. I had always seen my Uncle with family, never one on one as an adult. We hung out for a few hours before he headed back home. It was very sweet of him to drive all that way just to see me.

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When we finally got out of there the next day, it was three o clock in the afternoon and we had a big climb and a long dry stretch that we knew would be unreasonable to start so late in the day, so we camped at the base and started the climb after a night spent painting, listening to Ted’s ukulele, and sleeping next to a babbling brook in a green, moist forest. It was foggy all day and there were huge purple Huckleberries everywhere slowing us down as we climbed. We are finding it difficult to move quickly on this trail. It is nothing like the PCT which is a hard packed, continuous trail all the way to Canada from Mexico. The PNT is a collection of many trails joined together all the way to the ocean from Glacier National Park. It is more of a route with trails, roads, and cross country/bushwhacks connected together. We stop at almost every junction to be sure not to stray from the route, we hike slower because of rugged, extremely steep trail, there are so many berries that we can’t refrain from eating, and overall we just hang out too much! I am feeling the itch to start traveling more efficiently. I am also feeling strong and ready to make more miles. My mental state has evolved from an overwhelmed scatter brain in transition to the trail bliss I once knew while hiking the PCT two years ago. I am feeling good. Strong. Happy. Now let’s get some miles!!!!

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Wait no, how about another town stop? We got to the road that led into Bonners Ferry and decided it would be smart to go into town, the biggest town near the trail for about 600 miles. I had lost my bear spray and Ted had lost his compass and a few other important items. We rushed to and from town, hitchhiking and shopping took us 5 hours and we found ourselves back where we had left off, walking across the Kootenai river valley until evening. Clouds hanging over the Selkirks and miles of farm land in all directions. We slept near Parker Creek, then spent the day climbing about 7,000 feet. Once we reached the crest, we were surrounded by huge storms in the mountains all around us, but we stood under a clear sky. The sun shone gold on the hills and tree’s around, and black clouds marched through the sunshine. It was so dramatic I couldn’t believe my eyes! We camped that night at Long Mountain Lake where we watched the sky light up from the storms and listened to the song of thunder.

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We wandered out of the high country and down into the woods where we had our first bushwhack, that means no trail at all, through bushes, and down a steep embankment for a total of about 5 miles. It was really rough. When we got to a road we walked by a busy campground full of screaming people swimming, drinking, eating, and being merry. We stood out like a sore thumb when we stopped to use the bathroom. A few miles later we saw a family in the wilderness on a bike ride who recognized us from our short moment in the campground. They were excited to hear about our journey and shared their food with us. It was our first on trail trail magic, and it was wonderful. We hiked a few more miles that day on a great woodland trail that no one else was on because of a ton of blown down trees made it very difficult. We didn’t mind hopping over tree’s. It was easier than bushwhacking. We came upon a tiny campsite along this huge lake. We swam and watched the sunset. The next morning we saw a moose! Who politely moved off the trail for us to pass.

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After quite a bit of road walking, we were back on the trail again in an ancient grove of cedars. That night we heard wolves howling as we lay down in our sleeping bags to sleep. It sounded like a moan in the wind, and I couldn’t quite figure out what it was until Ted said it. “Those are wolves…” My body was motionless. I even stopped breathing, trying to hear the sound with all of my being, and being afraid of the possibility of a confrontation. I knew my bear spray couldn’t deter a pack of wolves, but I comforted myself with the thought that there is plenty large game out here. They don’t want to eat me.

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After some more great berry picking, we realized that we crossed over the Idaho state border again, and into Washington, our third state. Very exciting! Again lots of road walking and people looking at us like we’re crazy. We arrived in Metaline Falls Wa and Ted’s Mom and husband Rich met us there on their way home to Texas from their long journey (by vehicle) across Alaska and Canada. They fed us and we hung out together for a couple of days before we parted ways again and headed back into the wilderness. Backpacks full of goodies! Our first day out was climbing up to the peak of the second highest in NE Washington, Abercrombie Mountain. The views were beautiful, and there was even a recliner built out of rocks!

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Now I am sitting in Northport a couple days later, writing this blog from the computer of a young man and woman who took us in for the night. We were sitting by the post office opening our packages when Jamie saw us and brought us home, giving us showers, laundry, food, and great company. We are well fed, clean and ready for the next stretch. Hopefully I will find more opportunities for blogging as this journey continues. Thanks for reading!

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Rattlesnake Bite & Wilderness Rescue

So here’s a quick story… my friend Julie and I were hiking to a peak we’d both seen off the highway and wanted to hike. To us, it had no name and possibly no man had ever peaked it. We found the “trailhead” which lead to a single track trail which eventually led us away from the mountain we sought to climb – it was then we decided to venture into the bush where we spent 2 hours crawling and walking through what was at times – head high chaparral. Image

We kept the spirits high and would rest when we reached boulders that took us out of the bushy bush. We were very pleased when we finally reached the rocky peak. We spent some time up there discussing our route down the mountain while having lunch. Image

When we headed down, the vegetation was a lot denser than we both expected. In the beginning of our descent I spotted a baby rattlesnake sunning in a coiled position on a rock, we carefully made our way around the little guy. We hiked through the rocks as long as we could until we reached a point where there was no way to get down but through the bush, where we moaned and yelled to release the tension and to make each other laugh. At one point, it was no longer funny when I felt the two sharp fangs of a snake enter my ankle. I screamed to Julie and ran from that location. I turned back around to look and see if I could identify the snake that bit me to be sure if it was a rattler or not, though deep down I knew it was, the snake was gone. There was a short time of panic between both of us when I addressed it immediately saying that we just had to get back and we couldn’t panic in a situation like this. So we started hiking, Julie taking the lead so that I could follow without too much more work than necessary. I was in a lot of pain, trying to keep the weight off of my swelling foot and ankle. After a little while Julie screamed and I looked ahead of her to find a racer snake eating a rattlesnake (pretty cool) and only a few minutes after that saw a very long racer snake in the trees we had to go through, so I poked at it with my stick – it darted away like lightening! I started thinking about Brian and my family. I wondered if this would kill me or leave me without a leg in the end. I had no idea, but I prayed that the snake was just a garter or something harmless, though I knew it wasn’t due to how much pain I was experiencing….. We walked like this for about 45 minutes until we came to a point where we expected to find the trail and did not, we walked to a vantage point where we could reset our navigation plans and it was that point I sat down and called 911 because I couldn’t go any further. I got to use my whistle for the first time, while Julie climbed higher and yelled at a place where she would be visible to the people coming to find us on foot. I stayed on the phone with the dispatcher for about an hour until I heard the voice of the fireman who had heard my whistle and used the GPS coordinates that I provided the dispatcher over the phone to find us. They checked me out to see if I was okay and soon the helicopter came and lowered another man down, who also checked my vitals and marked where my swelling was when he found me. He put a big harness on me and hooked me to him saying he was going to give me a big bear hug and it was going to be a fun ride. I watched my friend Julie as I was lifted into the sky, at this point I was very thrilled to be rescued via helicopter. I got inside where a woman grabbed me around the waist and held onto me until we landed at Pine Valley park where there was a bunch of kids watching as they transferred me into another helicopter. The 2nd helicopter flew me to Grossmont Hospital where I was given antivenin and lots of pain meds. The hospital experience was interesting but pretty damn crappy so I’ll leave that outta the story. I was interviewed there by 10News and on the 11 o’clock news that evening. Pretty cool!ImageImage

Here are some progress photo’s from hospital to couch to yoga mat, with a cool scar 🙂