Day 148 06.08.18 – 20 Miles / 32km
After two days of rest in Cascade Locks we finally felt good about getting back on trail for a change. Knowing it was poison oak territory Four Eyes left early for a head start up the hills in tights before it got too hot. I wait around until 9am for the post office to open so I can send my final resupply box. After breakfast burritos and coffee with Glamourpus and Wifey we join the cue of hikers now forming this Monday morning.
I eventually get back on the trail at 10am, crossing the significant Bridge of the Gods alone. Time slowed down and the moment seemed strangely significant as I recognised the bridge straight out of the movie Wild, marking the place where Cheryl Strayed completed her PCT hike. To know I’m walking further than she did in the movie which made the trail so popular resinated as a huge accomplishment for me, leaving me in a strange headspace. I listen to the Forest Gump soundtrack and silently celebrate the fact that I’m starting on my final state, Washington, and should finish the trail in just a few short weeks. I imagine myself opening the final box I’d sent myself packed with extra treats and a beer for the finish line. The finish line that now feels within reach.
As I climbed up the hot humid hills of Washington my attitude soon shifts and I try not to celebrate too early, having the reality of the looming Northern Cascades put back into perspective. I’m sweating a lot, it’s gross and I feel salty. My thighs start to chafe for only the second time this trail, my mind spirals into weight gain negativity (don’t even go there brain), but in reality this is just the most humid weather I’d experienced so far. I tie my bandana around one leg to avoid the skin contact which to my surprise works.
In the sudden terrain change I find myself now in what resembles a jungle. Thick lush green mossy trees keep the air still and stop any cool winds from relieving us in the humidity. I start to wonder if I’ll make it to camp before dark since it’s taken me much longer than normal to climb the hill in the heat. I stop for lunch at 3pm and Squeaks passes me. We first met way back in Kennedy Meadows, California. Squeaks is a year or two younger than me, works on a horse ranch in Lake Tahoe and is a total go getter. Her boyfriend Camo had hiked with her up until just a week ago when he left to return to work, and now she’s on her own. We chat briefly throughout the day as we pass each other and eventually camped together when reaching Four Eyes at 9pm.
I cook and eat my mash next to Four Eye’s tent as we plan our next day then exhausted I lay out just my mat and sleeping bag, cowboy camping for the night.
Day 149 07.08.18 – 25.5 Miles / 41km
Waking up at 2am I feel a rat climb over my sleeping bag, run along my leg towards my body where I flick it off with my arm from within my bag. “Rude” I think to myself then instantly drift back to sleep.
Getting up with my alarm at 5:30am, I hit the trail by 6:30am preparing myself for another hot uphill day. I had almost finished hill #1 when Everest caught up to me. Pacecar and Groover weren’t too far behind, they’d only camped a few miles behind us the night before. Relieved to have Everests company we chat while trying to ignore heat. I complain for the last mile to our lunch break, and Everest politely coaxes on with the promise of a long break. Everest’s patience with tired struggling hikers is one of his best attributes.
As promised we take a two hour break by the river in the shade of a tree, barely bothered to move for a water run. I dunk my shirt in the river and groan in annoyance once it dried on me within 10 minutes. I decide to continue hiking up hill #2 while Everest waits for the others. [Turns out they were chilling with trail angels who set up after we passed the road junction].
My water consumption climbing hills in the heat was much higher than usual, catching me off guard with just a litre to get me to camp. It was muggy, I was chaffing again and now thirsty, too scared to drink my water and run out before I got to the top. It was the longest 10km (6miles) of my life. Crawling I slowly inched my way up the hill, taking small sips of my water until there was just 200ml left which I decided to save for camp just in case the spring there wasn’t running and I had to push on. 5km (3miles) from camp I stopped for a dry dinner of wraps since I felt so drained. The break was needed and I knew I’d be arriving late. On top of thirsty I didn’t need to be hungry. Walking again I ate as many huckle berries as I could for the drop of moisture inside them. It improves my moral.
I arrive at camp at 8:30pm in surprisingly good spirits once Four Eyes confirmed the Spring was running and ice cold. I head down and fill my bottles from the pool and watch a hummingbird hover around and drink from our shared water. I drink a litre, set up my tent and fall asleep.
Day 150 08.08.18 – 26 Miles / 42km
Exhausted from the last two days I don’t get up until 7am and am slow to move. Four Eyes was long gone and without a chance of catching her I give up on trying.
I usually try to go until lunch without music or podcasts, but lacking motivation for the day I start the morning with a podcast. The trail turned to sand, and surrounding trees blocked the views but didn’t provide any shade. I feel totally ripped off, stopping for an early lunch.
Reaching a large pond I’m grateful to be back in woodland and fill up my bottles next to a frog in the water. “Don’t move buddy, I don’t want to accidentally suck you up”.
It’s a constant gamble of carrying enough water for the next stretch, conflicted with not wanting to carry too much, making my pack any heavier than it has to be. While hiking I miscalculate the distance to the next water (good old miles vs kms still tricking me) and stressed for an hour until I double checked the map and realised. Immediately I sit down and drink my now spare litre.
While drinking the last litre of water I look out over the mountain views and become disappointed in myself. It’s beautiful out there and I hadn’t appreciated it until now. I realised I’d become complacent out here; no longer blown away since I’m struggling through the last of the trail with eyes on the finish instead of looking around.
Groover soon passes me and welcomes me to lunch in a mile. Having already eaten I still agree for the company. Everest and Squeaks walk with me to the break spot and Groover suggests I start walking with Pacecar who is struggling as much as I am in the heat and uphill terrain. We simply didn’t feel like walking. Pacecar eventually made it to lunch and it was so refreshing to be around someone who understood my mood and we complained together about our tired bodies. Staying consistently a few miles behind I say goodbye to the group again to then catch up with Four Eyes at camp.
The southbound bubble is upon us as we passed around ten of them over the course of the afternoon. I had a brief conversation with one while collecting water, encouraging her keep going and that it will get easier. I think back to us during our first month and how out of sight the end seemed.
I arrive at camp at 7:30pm, so grateful to have a few hours rest before bed, having missed that the last two days had significantly affected my mood. Four Eyes is getting to camp hours before me and we discuss the viability of us staying together. We’re lucky to communicate so well together, and ultimately she is still happy with the distances she covers each day, and just gets bored waiting at camp. No pressure. I fall asleep the least flustered I’ve felt in days.
Day 151 09.08.18 – 11 Miles / 18km
We shared the site with a section hiker I’ve secretly named Midnight Poo. He woke us through the night shining his torch around our tents and the surrounding area while sorting himself out. I would usually have more patience for lack of camp etiquette, but he was also the same person who watched tv on his phone for hours without headphones. It’s amazing how much we’ve come to respect the sounds of nature out here, and are now totally disrupted by any sounds of civilisation.
Knowing it was a town day I magically find my legs and fly the 16km (10miles) of rolling hills to the highway. Four Eyes couldn’t believe my pace, which I credit to the prior evening’s rest.
Four Eyes and I agreed to meet at the final peak and see if we could get service to call a Trail Angel for a lift into Trout Lake for our resupply. There was no such luck but reaching the top of the climb I find Four Eyes in a meadow collecting wild strawberries in her bottle. Exhausted I plonk down and join her, only bothering with the tiny strawberries within arms reach as I’m not interested in walking any further.
Coming down the hill for the last two miles before town I could hear cars driving past on the road below. I feel my pace subconsciously pick up. Every passing vehicle is a potential hitch into town that I missed.
Waiting by the highway there was no sign of cars so Four Eyes and I pick flowers for our hair and eat the plump strawberries growing by the side of the road. After a content 20minutes of this a car came past and pulled over. It was a family that had cleared a space in the ute ready for hikers…and they were towing a trailer with LAMAS! You just can’t plan this stuff.
Arriving in Trout Lake we head straight to the cafe where I order a delicious teriyaki burger and we look up our upcoming fire detour in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. The PCTA website had just been updated to say “Do not proceed, detour is now on fire, more information coming soon”. Great. Pacecar, Groover, Squeaks and Everest all arrive and we do our chores together while waiting on updated fire information.
We all rinse our bodies and clothes in the creek behind the cafe and Pacecar and I indulge in a face mask together. I get the spare bars and meals from Groovers and Four Eye’s resupply boxes, then score freeze dried broccoli, a melted chocolate and nut mix, caffeine gum and other goodies from the hiker box. I only needed to buy burger buns (sick of wraps) for my resupply and that was it!
I email Salomon the delivery address for my final pair of shoes, and attempt to sew the holes in my current shoes hoping they’ll last the next 160km (100miles) until I can pick up the new pair.
A fire update finally came through with a new detour and we made the decision to hitch back to trail. It all happened so quickly I was thrown off since I was about to cook dinner. What! But dinner! I seem to be adjusting horribly to change.
After the hitch we walk a mile, set up camp and cook my dinner, finding myself content again.
Day 152 10.08.18 – 26.5 Miles / 42.5km
Despite waking up feeling rested I still had a usual slow start as I stopped a lot through the eerie but beautiful burnt out section. Mt Adams became visible from the trail and I was blown away to by the gorgeous mountain views. I felt an overwhelming wave of gratitude come over me, which had been missing the last week. I was so grateful to be on the trail, experiencing this place, these views and this terrain…as hilly as it is.
Meeting the others finishing their breakfast we walked together to lunch. Approaching a fast moving creek we find Four Eyes waiting for us, not willing to cross alone. There’s some logs down across the river, though optimistically we look for a safe fording spot. There wasn’t one. Squeaks went first testing out the logs as she slowly crossed. Groover stood at the end of the loose log, helping the rest of us to inch our way across one by one. Once across I realise I’m shaking with adrenaline…I’m not called River for nothing.
Stopping for lunch we take off our wet shoes so they can dry in the sun while we relax. My hiker box haul of chocolate melted over peanuts had set, so I also left it in the sun until it was soft enough to be scooped onto my burger buns like Nutella. It was delicious and I’m so glad I thought of it.
Walking together I spent the rest of the day in deep conversation with each of the group, arriving to camp at 7pm feeling still happy and not nearly as flustered as the same length day on my own. Time flew, and I really do keep a faster pace when I’m hiking with others.