Day 7. Kindred Folks

Since I made my double miles goal and knew I was looking at a potential off-trail situation (yes, I knew it was coming), I figured on keeping with the same miles and winding up at a PCT camp. A PCT camp is a campsite away from a main camp area where they put the smelly hikers. Let’s just say my attempt at bathing the previous night did not have any effect on the clothing odor. Pick any barnyard animal.

I created a Mountain House egg scramble breakfast, and can only describe it as “bouncy”. I am taking notes of course as I go what I will adjust for my next long hike. Mountain House is not a favorite. I see why people dehydrated their own meals. Duly noted.

The walk was gorgeous as usual, but warmer than the previous day’s and felt fantastic. The water I was carrying from the spigots at the campground tasted horrible and I considered treating it, but it was from a spigot so how gross could it be? Why ask that Terra, why even ask.

It was a perfect pleasant walk despite the “things that will not be named” plotting against me in my shoes. I rested as needed, and even forced myself to slow down and soak up the remaining hours. I passed a few folks thru-hiking/section hiking and we did the quick once-over of gear, travel points, conditions etc. It was like being part of a mini secret -society.

I made a few more interesting direction decisions and eventually found a slightly obscured trail offshoot to the hiker camp. Lo and behold there were two happy faces to greet me! We all compared stories, and Sally aka “Scaredy Bear” regaled me with her first night out bear encounter! Her situation was much more up close and personal with so said fuzzbutt, and she still was reliving her experience.

After a nice hot shower, campfire visiting, and a refusal to look directly at my toes we all settled into our little campsite for a decent night sleep.

Only interrupted by Jessie (6’5″ man) screaming like teenage girl when he thought a spider was on his face.

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My “good luck Uni” given to me by my oldest sister 35 years ago.

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Leisurely morning of drying and repacking. I am a sucker for ritual.

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Artsy fartsy shot. Necessary.

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On the side of the road, trying to adjust shoes…for reasons that will not be named.

Day 6. I Made it to Mordor!!!

Only Lord of the Rings folks will understand my epic reference. And be properly rewarded below in the photos.

I took inventory of my foot situation and determined a few things:

1. They were a frikkin mess.
2. I felt excellent otherwise and wanted to double my miles that day.
3. Gorilla Tape says it is duct tape, sooooo we will just use that.

I made Gorilla Tape bindings to hold my toenails on. (Go ahead and judge, I paid for it). I covered my blisters with it also. I shall forecast for you this does not end well either. I will admit though that I mentally weighed my options and I knew damned well that if I kept going I would be causing damage. I was willing to because the mental and emotional benefit would outweigh the soreness. Because I absolutely chose to deal with this, I will not bitch about the subsequent pain. Much. Maybe a teeny bit later.

Day 6 was so far the most exhilarating walk I’ve had. The sun was out and the terrain walking from Hyatt to Howard Prairie was ever-changing and alive. I find myself holding my breath even remembering. I over doubled my miles, partially from taking a couple “creative” turns, and also schlepping from the resort to the trailhead.
I hit my first swarms of mosquitos right past Hyatt and broke out the 1000% Deet, praying it wouldn’t melt my flesh or my clothes. It was fine. Mosquitos just winked at me, as if to say…uh huh, next time.

I reached camp at a decent time and spent the evening setting up camp and cooking dinner without fear of weather, weirdos, or wombats. I was at perfect equilibrium with life. Ahhhh, Life.

Except for my smell. Gag; polyester and my pits combined with 8 hours of hiking in the sun was gnarly.

Cooked up dehydrated lasagna. Man. I wish I had packed some hot sauce. That stuff is bland. But it filled me up and attracted an assortment of interested unidentifiable flying critters and a 30 lb squirrel.

Knew something bad was happening under the tape. Ignored it. Might have snuck in one game of offline Candy Crush.

My favorite day. So far.

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This sucker rocks!

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Au natural.

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Cool signs on this well maintained trail.

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I MADE IT TO MORDOR MF’ERS!!!!

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Seriously. This.

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Prepping

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Looking for a lunch spot.

Day 5. Zero Day and Gear Review

Ahhh, the fantastic Zero day. Hiker term for, “I am hiking zero miles”!. I took day 5 to hand wash my muddy, sweaty ensemble and dry out all of my tent parts. I rigged a dryer out of turning the heat lamp on in the bathroom, heat up to 80 in the cabin (felt amaaaaaazing) and directing airflow from the vent up through the shower. Pure genius. Not really.

I scrutinized my foot situation and drained anything I could, and I will keep it at that. Blek.

Since describing loafing is not entertaining, I’m going to do some gear and supplies review. Every hiker has to go through this shakedown and figure out what works for them.

Tent: Impressed with my BA Ul2, it is the perfect size for one person and gear, easy to put
up, blocks the weather, and I haven’t ripped it.

Pack: I cannot say enough good things about the Osprey Exos 58. After I adjusted the weight, it became a part of me. We were one. 58 ltr is a perfect size, and the pack is an internal frame and mesh back and super customizable. I didn’t use the hydration system till later on, but it works well and I used a 2ltr platy internally. Rad. It also has enough pockets, attachers, doohickeys, loops, cords, and thingamabobs to satisfy any need for, uh… those items.

Shoes: turning out to be a big nope. I understand super light trail runners if you are going for speed/distance but I need more support and less foot-murder. I have seen most women with my hiking style use Meryl, Merral …need to check that spelling, so I will be more careful picking out my footwear for next time. I have narrow feet with high arches, well I used to 5 days ago.

Cook system: all good. My Etekcity works well, but I might try a better built one like msr for a longer trip. Love my Toaks items.

Sleep system: BIG FAT STUPID FAIL!!! 
Yes, I screwed this one up. I used a synthetic bag, rated for 20°F, which is fine at 50°F but a hell-no at 30°F. Even with all of my clothes and liner I was never completely warm. Also, my “pad” was like spreading a nice layer of rocks over the rocks. In discussions with the other fine ladies I crossed paths with, an inflatable is the only solution. Or a hammock, but no. I will repurpose my Z-lite into a sit pad. Or a hat. Or a robot costume.

No worries, tomorrow is more fun and a HUGE surprise. 😀

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Drying out one chunk of tent.

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Repacking, drying, seeing if I have anymore Poptarts.

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He wants a Poptart also.

Day 4. Met my spirit animal, sortof.

Woke up wondering why it was still dark and my face and bag were dripping wet, but warm drippy, and odd. My emergency blanket had unfolded in the night over my head and with all of my breath condensation it was raining, um…my own breath fluids? Eww.

My tent did the best it could, but with a relentless downpour and my rain fly draining directly onto my ground cover, I was in a pool. You can only be so waterproof and tents aren’t made to sit in a pond. Anyoldsoakingwethoo, everything was a freezing-ass nasty wet mess. I even made a video I can’t upload till later, but it captures the moment. I did my best to shake off water, but it was still raining and when I checked the forecast, it was supposed to get colder and worse. Really??!! Didn’t I just have this conversation about snow?

Another long walk to have a buddy meet me at a trailhead. No big deal. I HAD to get things dry, I had no idea how to do that without shelter. But dammit, I made a cup of hot coffee first.

It was a magical and stunning walk back. Everything was glistening and the sound of rain in the forest was a cadence I set my pace to, or with really.

Oh yeah, my spirit animal! Well, it was actually a person and her trail name was “Mouse”, she was a beautiful white haired, super fit woman who was bouncing around a bit like I was; like all hikers I had met were. We compared stories and our love of the woods, the hike, the peace…but neither had the desire to through hike or prove anything. We talked about a lifetime of understanding in under ten minutes. She was me in 20 years. If anyone knows Mouse or runs into her, tell her Terra (just Terra, no trail name yet) said Hi, and I will see her again someday.

Back another downgrade and my toenails, which had previously been pulled from the nail beds on day were now in shoes full of water from the saturated brush and ground cover, were swelling and the skin beneath them filling full of water. Soooo weird. And the sopping shoes slowly rubbed blisters that I did not

image Misty, rainy morning.

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Yeah, that is damp. O.o

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Clouds on the top of a mountain. And a rock.

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I forgot why I took a picture of a tree. This is a tree.

feel yet, but oh boy….it was coming.

On my way down also I passed a family of five, out for a stroll near the trailhead, but in my attempt to be social (oops) I said, “Wow. You guys look fresh!” Only meaning compared to them I was a muddy, soaking mess. The Mom looked horrified and mumbled, “We’re just day hikers…”. Like I was going to have them for lunch!! Gawd being socially awkward has its excellent moments. Ha!

I decided to bounce ahead to Hyatt Lake, dry out, assess foot damage and go from there. I had a good chunk of miles behind me, and I wanted to step up my game.

P.s. ***tmi alert*** This whole first 4 days just happened to be, uh, my moon time. Can I have a restart!!?

Day Three. Euphoria.

By the time I was dropped off in the morning I was too excited to eat. My pack was lighter, my plan was solid, and my head was in the game. It was 41 degrees and I might have stayed in the warm car a few extra minutes, but I needed to get our there and warm my muscles back up.

Now to try and describe the next several hours would read like a sophomoric melodrama, because it exactly was that. I found myself in tears of joy as I walked through scene after scene straight of my childhood memory bank, and adult longings. I was making Hobbit/LOTR references in my head, and stopping whenever I wanted to just to breath in the damp pine and unscathed mountain air. I told myself I wouldn’t share this part but wtf-ever, I am. THIS is what I came for.

I did not need a race, or a competition, or to prove myself, or anything more than what was happening in that moment. This was mine. My own. My Precious. (Had to. Bahaha)

I walked in a slow, intentional pace the rest of the day. I was still climbing a mountain but it wasn’t on a drop-off, I didn’t have to watch my feet; I simply enjoyed. No, no need of mine would be met by thru-hiking, that part was clear. My story was changing, as life does…with each step.

My Ego understood and went back to plotting something else. Meanwhile it dawned on me, something I will wait till this hike is over to share. It’s about social media and is a tangent so I’ll digress for the moment.

As I was saying, stories change quickly and the more I let mine evolve as a walked, the lighter my steps felt and a euphoria of sorts took over. Either that or it was time for a snack. I could do this hike again and again, and hope to. I decided tonight I wanted to camp it up right with a fire and cook my dinner. A campsite was on the map with a pit toilet!! Score. I would get there too early but didn’t much care. This was my vacation. I rounded a corner and saw my home for the night, complete with a fire pit. I squeaked out loud, put down my pack and did nothing but focus on getting a fire started. I never found a latrine though, might have been behind or underneath a massive felled tree. When you are camping, the world is your latrine!

Remember the cliffhanger from yesterday? A young German hiker passed as I was working on my fire. We chatted about our treks, and he had come over the pass I had previously pulled out of. He was alone. He had slipped on the path, one of his trekking poles went over the edge and the other had broken. This was a well- geared, fit, young man with a beard. (The beard is supposed to add relevance, lol) And he had that close call in the snow…my guts went cold. How terrifying for him. Thank God he was ok, and that I didn’t attempt that pass.

*Exhales*. He kept on, and a while later after I had camp set up, another young person, a med student/sent stopped by. He and a buddy were through hiking, but buddy had twisted his ankle and pulled off the trail, so he was day hiking. We compared gear for a bit and he was astonished at my weight for three days. After he showed me his full sized bug spray, sunscreen, cookware, etc…I told him to read some Ultralight books. Nice kid, hilarious conversation.

I cooked my meal on my stove! Hung my bear bag, and stood by the fire until the sun set.

The cold was worse than the previous night but I was ready. I thought. It just turns out I am a giant freezing baby all of the time. I put on all of my warm clothes, took out e-blanket, and made my cocoon. Then it started to rain.

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My bestie, sending me off again

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The fairytale shot. The tears and crap happened here.

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I created FIIIIIIIRE!!!

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Glamping?

Glamping? Hahaha

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Cold a/f

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Warming my tiny hand?

Day Two. What goes up.

Thank you for the replies, I am grateful for the comments and comfort with my candid style. I write my reality which most of the time amuses me in my head only. If you liked that, good thing because it’s all I know how to do! 😀

I woke up the morning of Day Two, actually “wake up” is not accurate, I arose and looked at my maps, redid the math, chose life, then texted my friend Kristy to see if she would make the journey to meet me at the trailhead. I was going to hike out and bypass the certain doom. No shame in staying alive, just wait till you hear about Day 3 😉

It took me a good while to break camp. My body was stiff, not pained really but just not moving very well. I didn’t have the energy or appetite to eat, so I ate half a Cliff bar until Buzzles the bee became interested. No biggie, stomach was weird anyway. Such friendly critters up in this hill. Then…it was that time. We’ll call it “dig a hole” time. Bleh. When your legs are not working very well, it is like doing a wall squat for way longer than you should. I’m surprised I’m not still stuck there. Buzzles did not seem as curious for this event.

Moving on. Let me tell you… climbing the mountain was one thing. It was difficult, and slooooow, but not painful. Coming down on the other hand introduced me to hurts I didn’t know existed! How many feet parts do we have (??), because every single one was screaming, and ankles…uhhhh, ouch. Was not expecting that. Plus trying to be cautious of the million-mile drop I was avoiding with my stiff legs. Still took me half a day to get down. “Switchback to switchback. One step at a time. I don’t get closer by stopping”

The last mile I wasn’t even walking, I was falling forward with The Hulk (my pack) pushing me. My beautiful friend was waiting at the trailhead with a MTHRFKING DONUT!!!!! Dammit, I have good friends.

Now, for one minute I did not consider quitting, but knew a re-eval had to happen. So we went to her house. she made me a hamburger, I repacked and resituated everything until I had at least ten lbs taken off my pack. It made a world of difference.

I had been at a “threshold” before, where lifting and trying to get my pack on was a feat every time. Over 40 lbs was plain stupid, and I had no business trying to pack in 8+ days of food. Hint: Poptarts weight about 17 lbs each! Whose bright idea was it to call them trail food? Jk. So with a pack weight I could manage, closer to 30, some warm clothing additions, and a comatose sleep…I was ready to hit a more doable section in the morning.

Oh yeah, I could feel my toenails pulling off of my toes on the downhill. Ick. O.o

Day One. Day Won.

First of all I have to admit an error in judgement. I was told straight up that I chose a trailhead that immediately led into a 3000 foot elevation rise. I knew that but Ego said, hey let’s go for it!

I was so pumped up I agreed with Ego, and we went for it. Katrina sent me off from Seiad Valley where I first signed the registry and had a decent breakfast. The waitress was even kind enough to wrap my extra pancake for the ride. I carried that pancake with me all day. I was also told a storm was expected and several people have hiked back out. :/ But I don’t want to talk about that anymore.

It was slow from the get-go, because my pack weighed in at over 40 pounds from me trying to stuff a 8 days worth of food into it. That was mistake number two. I basically went from switch back to switch back feeling every muscle in my body come to life. I trained a little bit but nothing slightly compared to this ascent. It was up, up, up the mountains. Just when I thought I was reaching the top of a mountain, a bigger meaner mountian was waiting behind it. Hours went by and I stopped off and to enjoy the view, breathe the air, and acknowledge the various bugs, flowers, and the gorgeous Cedars that have been there longer than us.

By the time I reached what I thought was the final tip top of the mountain, I checked my GPS and was told it was still a half-mile away. The sun was starting to go down and I had to find camp.

Let me explain a little bit about me. I am terrified of heights. More specifically I am fearful of small walking paths with steep drops immediately next to them. I told my dad before I left that if I encounter any of those that I was going to turn around and come straight back. Well joke’s on me, that happened immediately and the entire 5 miles uphill were all those. Meaning that you can’t just stop and make camp, or even stop and sit down until you find a Switchback or a fallen log. Also if a log has fallen across the path you have to navigate over it, generally next to the what I call a cliff, with a massive backpack. That is where my cuts came from.

Moving on, by the time I got to camp I could feel the change of elevation in the temperature, and when I saw my campsite I was thrilled to finally be able to set my pack down for awhile.

The brown bear with the white fur on its back was not thrilled that I set my pack and he/she made one of those loud sounds that only a bear can make as it’s running down the hill through leaves and sticks. Fortunately he was running down away from me; I tried to snap a picture of his fuzzy butt. Someone with a good editing program can blow it up and see his butt.

I was too exhausted physically and mentally to be scared, but it certainly set the tone for the rest of the night and I was hyper-aware of every sound and armed my bear spray, hung my bear bag up as far away as I could, and talked loudly to the forest as the instructions say to do.

It was too late to cook dinner, and at this point I didn’t want food anywhere near me in case fluffy buns decided to get curious. So I grabbed a Clif Bar out of my bag and called it good. Everything else was hung.

Setting up the tent was easy, I absolutely adore it. I didn’t need to stake it down all that the wind was blowing pretty good. I was freezing and just wanted to get inside. It was then that I noticed the absolute cold, and I changed into the pants my dad insisted I buy. When I got in my bag, I knew immediately that it was too cold and I would need a better bag. I got out put all of my clothes on and took out my emergency blanket. That seemed to do the trick and I was able to make a cozy shell. The truth is, everything hurt and it was impossible to get comfortable. But I just took that as a sign that I had worked my body over, and was totally okay with that. To be expected.

It was then I realized I had to pee. Awesome timing. Oh well.

The wind and some rain started picking up and it was pretty loud, that on top of the bear anxiety I didn’t sleep at all the first night. I questioned my sanity, the entire reason I did this, and then I started doing math for the next day. The math did not come out right.

It had taken me all day to ascend 3000 feet and 5 miles, granted it was a straight incline. But now I knew how the campsites are set and you couldn’t just set camp when you got tired. The next day I would have to ascend 2000 more feet and go 15 miles before I hit the next campsite. Mathematically it wasn’t working out. I am not fit enough to do the 15 miles in one day yet especially all uphill and if I didn’t reach the camp site I would be stuck hiking in the dark.

I ended night one feeling frustrated with myself, and even wishing another human were nearby. Day one…they will get better.

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Pinecones

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Dirty

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Camp

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Bear hang.

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Bear running away.

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Nap time yet? (Walked ten feet)

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Pancake and I