Art In The Valley

I’ve been walking by this cute Gallery for years now,  a few weeks ago, something steered me inside… where I started up a conversation with one of the artists in this darling cooperative gallery.

Long story short, I’m now a member of Art In The Valley!  So, if you are ever in Corvallis, Oregon and would like to see my work in person, come on by!  It’s on second street in the beautiful downtown area, right by a great bakery, bookstores, great food and boutique shopping. We all take turns working the gallery, so who knows, maybe I’ll even be there that day.  Or, send me an email (Skyevans@me.com) and check with me for a schedule. I’d love to meet my readers.

Two of my horses and an abalone shell.

Alone in a field of Poppies Acrylic on Yupo approx 2′ x 3′

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Gone Girl Comes Back

I’ve been thinking about my blog and how I’ve neglected it for so long.  Poor blog!  The longer I stayed away, the harder it got to make myself sit down and write a post.  I’ve been painting, and I’ve been writing, I just haven’t been putting it HERE!

So here’s a brief update:  I hiked in Sedona… and painted this:

Red Rocks of Sedona

Sedona was magical, I came home with a renewed love of the desert and so many more images to put onto canvas.  This is the first, but won’t be the last.

I hiked in the Three Sisters Wilderness with my dear friend, Amira and painted this next image. I struggled with capturing our faces and still feel out of sorts whenever I look at it.  But, I decided to add it to my blog so you can see that while I may personally have trouble with some of my work, I’ve learned that other people LOVE them!  And pieces I love, other people feel somewhat “meh” about. Who am I to say it’s good or bad?  It comes down to your own taste.

Cold July Camp

I was commissioned to paint a beloved family member.  Elkton was an older dog, and his photo’s didn’t do him justice.  I managed to shave off a few years and pounds and drop him into a regal hunting pose.  Here he is, surveying his kingdom:

Elkton the Wonder Dog

And I painted a portrait of my son and his girlfriend.  He was heading out for a job interview and Karen sent me a quick shot of their morning and a glimpse into their thoughts as she titled the photo.  I loved this selfie she took; I had to capture that smirk!

Dressed for Battle

Then I painted a view of my willow that seemed poignant, yet crisp and quietly vibrant. I hung it in the newly remodeled guest bedroom to bring a bit of the outside, inside.

Winter Willow

Followed by a few fantasy images to get in touch with my feminine side and to reflect the deep introspection I had been exploring of late.  I sustained an injury the previous fall that just managed to get worse over time. When you are dealing with chronic, long term pain, it helps to spend time listening to your body.  I kept asking that question…  what are you trying to tell me?  I think my body just wanted me to sit down for awhile.

The Hermit Girl Meditates

Connections of Love

Besides these images, I’ve tooled around with some odds and ends art projects and did some remodeling on the house.  I’ve had to readjust my life in the past year as I’ve been dealing with a shoulder injury that really set me back in my activity level.  You wouldn’t know it by the new flooring and slate tile I managed to lay down, but still, 2017 has been my year of recovery.  I couldn’t ride or hike or do my normal kinds of things, so instead, I took my “Wilderness of Women” paintings on the road.  Literally.  I created a presentation about my art and hiking, how each one influenced the other and gave my lecture/slide show at REI stores from Portland to Medford. It was inspirational for me as well as for others and after it was over, I began to focus on a writing project that germinated from this dog and pony show.  I’ll devote another post to it, later, but for now, this one will have to do.

I think it’s time for this hermit girl to come on out of her cave and say  hello to the wide world of life.

Hello world!

On BEing: a trail journal part 8

I finally take a zero day on the trail.  A “zero” is a day where I don’t make ANY miles. I had one at Timberline, but I like this one better.  I am tucked away on Mirror lake and while the lake is a popular destination for thru hikers as well as the day hiking and horseback riding set, I still have plenty of alone time.  I spend the day lazing about, swimming, reading, journal writing and generally not moving much at all.  I’ve left all my hiking on the trail.  It’s a complete opposite from my previous backpacking life where I short hiked in, spent my days exploring the surrounding lakes and trails and didn’t move my camp until it was time to go home.20160812_063236

Today I awoke at dawn and am listening to the birds as they start their day.  I heard a sandpiper family earlier. I peek out the tent window and see a mama and her two fluffy babies on the shore near my tent.  A gray jay swoops in to investigate my camp.  A flutter of wings, a shadow crosses the thin tent wall, then woosh!  He’s gone and surely disappointed that there are no scraps to be found.  I’m sure he’s hoping for some sort of handout as I hear him squawking and talking overhead.

I’ve opened the tent door to watch the sunrise.  There is a heavy mist over the lake, sun has yet to touch the surface except for the face of South Sister which rises to my left.  Yesterday she was on my right side, but I walked 9 miles around her and past her Rock Mesa flanks and now, here I am on a misty Mirror lake.  20160812_065725There is some condensation on my tent, but I’ve managed to stay dry.  Yesterday atop the ridge, even in the dry volcanic sand I collected moisture from the air the second I set up the tent, it acted like a perfect dew collector.  The sand may have been dry, but the air was not.  Strange how on this damp lake shore there is hardly any dew!  I’m sure there is some science to explain this, but for the life of me, my observational skills of what are the right conditions to assure a damp tent (or for that matter, a dry one) fails me.  I’m not alone.   Carrot Quinn, a woman with prodigious trail miles also attests to this “who knows?” phenomenon.

Oh my, it feels so good to go nowhere.  I’ve had the opportunity to practice “rock toilet paper” and it is surprisingly easy to do if you find a good rock and are somewhat limber.  I read about this in the on-line hiker community pages… hikers like to talk about how to “go” in the woods at length and most are far more descriptive than I am being here.  Here’s where being more old school and private comes into play, however, in the interest of sharing a way to lessen one’s impact on the land and promote Leave No Trace principals using native TP is something  the serious backpacker should consider.  As well as lightening you load by carrying less TP, by using a rock or two or three or four…  you cut down on what goes in your wilderness cat hole.  It’s a good thing and not that difficult.  Also the squat position helps and is far more natural and maybe even more hygienic than the Western “throne”.

As I was returning to my cozy tent for more lazing about, campers across the lake were hollering at another nearby camp.  Geesh!! What the hell… I mean, I know you are outside but use your quiet “in church” voice please!  Why do some people insist on disturbing the peace? By 9 AM they were hiking out, which had me suspicious they were section or thru hikers.  Tsk, tsk boys!

I had a lovely breakfast of rice, coconut and chia seeds.  I mixed in some dried fruit and let it all soak overnight in a Ziplock tub.  Wow!  So good.  I’m thinking I could go stove-less if I had more awesome no-cook meals like this.  One less thing to carry would be nice.  Though only on a trip like this where I’m moving every day.  Not sure I’ll do more trips like this.  The goal setting and planning aspect as well as the absolute need to move to make those goals, well, they set me up with a sense of urgency.  One feels the need to make time and I’m not yet so zen that I can do all that goal setting without the whole stress/anxiety-gap issue.

Just this morning I found myself looking at my maps and plans, yet again! I can’t seem to relax, I seem to be worried I’ve miscalculated and that longer miles are in store for me.  Sure enough I discover an error. Funny how I didn’t notice it the first, second and even third time through!  But just now have seen that following the PCT will not only add 3 miles to my day tomorrow but will also have to climb Mt. Koosah.  Sigh. I was going to take the Skyline trail and visit some old camp sites from my bygone days in the Horse Lakes area.  It would cut off those 3 PCT miles but the lakes are in a bowl, so I’d loose and gain another 500 ft. of elevation and there could be lots of blow-down to clamber over and under.  I had been thinking I could get farther down the trail if I took the shortcut, but I am loathe to loose elevation and dip into a bowl of mosquito hell. The hikers I talk to shudder at the mosquitoes.  They are thrilled to finally be out of the lakes basin. I do not have favorable memories of those trails and I see no point of taking an unmaintained trail and possibly missing a turn or two as well.  Even though I am the Pathfinder, I have become very, very fond of the PCT and her wonderful tread.  She’s well marked and mostly cleared.

I’ve hung out in the tent for so long this morning, the sun has begun to heat up my little home away from home.  I rigged up my chrome dome umbrella for an extra bit of shade. That thing is the absolute best piece of equipment ever! Having my own shade has helped tremendously.  Love, love, love my chrome dome! ❤

20160812_103634

Chrome away from home.

After all the campers cleared out this morning, things returned to just how I like it, empty of noisy humans!  It’s been quiet and peaceful and I’ve enjoyed my nothing day. I’m happy that I’ve been able to camp alone each night on this leg of the journey.  Definitely different than the first part.  And now that I’m not caught up in the miles I can relax more, although, I still have to pay attention to my planned route as I have to meet friends on Tuesday, 33 miles away.  No worries!  I got this!  I’ve planned and mapped and planned and re-routed until I am 100% sure I did not miss a thing.  Now, we will see how all this unfolds for the second half of the second part of my journey.  I had managed to hike farther than planned, but now I’m adding 3 miles (not a big deal by thru-hiker standards, but still, 3 miles is 3 miles). Finally, after spending another hour pouring over the maps and plans, I’ve laid to rest all my concerns and anxieties. I’m content.  I’ve turned off my phone. Now that I have a signal, I don’t want any interruptions from my other life. I don’t want my mind to wander back there either. It feels so good to have no one to attend to, no animal to clean up after, or feed, or pet, or exercise. Three dogs and three horses are a lot of work. (It’s worth the effort, but I needed a break!)  It’s nice that there is no garden to water, no house to clean, no beans to can, no raspberries to pick and jam, no floors to sweep, no studio to straighten, no obligations of any kind.  And today, no miles to hike.  I’m happy to just BE here, with no where I need to go.

Time is a funny thing

I only say that because I am learning how much I do not know about time and how I am realizing there is no time.  Just now.  Always now.  I mean, I remember the past.  And I can think about the future but neither one of those things really exist.

I used to be fascinated by the concept of time travel.  I loved thinking about how you could change the past, or influence the future. One of my favorite books is Audrey Niffeneggers’ The  Time Traveller’s Wife.  Such a great story and so well written.  We zip back and forth in time and as a real fantasy treat, they play the lottery, win (of course) and pay for their lives without toiling “for the man”.

BUT, the more I read and learn and think the more I agree with Eckhart Tolle, there is nothing but the now.  I’m coming to see time travel as what happens when you revisit old memories or project ideas into the future.  Suddenly one wakes up and realizes they pretty much left their body behind as they fantasized or maybe even tried to influence a past event by saying the things they wished they had said.  Well, we all know you can’t change the past… that’s the time travel paradox.  Now is where it’s at. So I go around and say things like: Learn from the past, Plan for the future but LIVE in the NOW.  And then I write it on a sticky note and post it somewhere prominent.  So strident of me!

I write this post because it has been 5 years since my mom passed and today I finished her portrait.  I’m not much of a figure painter… I didn’t think I was very good at it and frankly, I hardly ever try. In my life as an artist, I’ve done maybe a half dozen works with people and then a huge mural of the entire OSU baseball team after they won the World Series, (it’s in the Gallery under murals if you are so inclined) but I still thought I wasn’t very good at it.  However, this painting was to be a personal memorial by which I would embed Mom’s ashes into the image itself. It wouldn’t matter if it was poor or badly rendered, it was for me and I felt compelled to put a part of her into something more meaningful than just a little container on my shelf.

I’d like to think I was granted a stroke of genius with this idea, but I Googled it and I’m not the first.  Apparently though, there is a world of “funerary art” to choose from ( I especially like the ashes being made into glass sculpture, those are cool). And no, I don’t think it’s weird or morbid or even odd.  People put up huge stone markers and mausoleums to their loved ones, a portrait seems quaint by those standards.

Well, I perused the old photos and found this one where she is holding onto my toddler self on a cold fall day.  The leaves are gone, the sky is bluer than blue and she looks chic and stylish and oh so very young.  I love this image, even though I never really knew her like this.  I did know her well enough to know that if she could choose an age to be for eternity, provided she was still Claire, with all her personality traits and memories, if she could choose, she would choose to be this age.  With that face, hair and body and looking like a model on an exclusive photo shoot.  She did like to look nice.

I cropped myself right out of the picture… that would be an odd thing to include while I was dabbing ashes into the piece.  As I worked on it, I listened to her favorite music and some new stuff I’m pretty sure she would have liked.  I thought about how she was now adding texture to her portrait as well as becoming part of the sky and the trees.  I had a few “circle of life” thoughts and even shed a tear or two as it emerged better than I could have hoped.  My muse really came through for me today.  She looks awesome.  I think she would have approved.

mom

Golden Hair Claire

Thanks mom, for giving me your strength and courage and bravery.  I’ve taken them farther than you ever did… I know because you showed me your fear every time I went beyond your comfort zone.  And even though you were scared for me, you still encouraged me to explore. Thanks for rooting for me and for always, ALWAYS wishing the best for me.  You may have had a hard edge at times, most tough women do, but I knew your love was unconditional.  That is a precious thing because that is what real love is all about.  Thanks for teaching me that a mother’s love runs deep and true.  I became a better mother myself because I knew this. I love you, Mom. Always. Timelessly.

 

Post script:  A few days after publishing the above, I journaled about my experience, just as a way to record it for myself.  But what emerged was lovely and I’d like to share it with my readers:

Dec 5, 2016

It took painting a portrait of my mom as someone she used to be,

seeing her as a spirit that existed in a body

in a fleeting moment captured on film,

to teach me to remember what I really am.

Such is the nature of reality,

images captured on a sunny day-

a moment that passes

a now that is preserved

a ripple in time

where there is no time

only now.

By recording the moment we only preserve a  memory

but we never can capture what actually is.

We distort our memories

with these static images

and turn our present into flat,

2 dimensional realities.

Whereby we miss the essence and truth,

that we are more than what can be seen or felt or witnessed.

More than can be captured on film

or paper

or canvas

or even our memories.

We are more than can be imagined.

Trail Magic

Good Morning South SIster

Good Morning South Sister!

Trail magic is when you find something you need or suddenly someone is there with food and water or even an ice cold beer.  It’s incongruous things that seem to be provided magically.  “The trail provides” is an oft bit of shared hiker wisdom, but I think it’s really life that provides.  If “provide” is the right word, really.  It’s just that on the trail the need that is provided for is seen so clearly for what it is, it doesn’t get lost in the chaos that is most people’s day to day struggle.  But trail magic happens all the time.

The other day I had misplaced my keys.  As I was searching for them, I found a letter that had fallen under a table.  A letter I needed because it contained key information about a project I was working on.  Immediately after finding the letter, I found my keys.  Coincidence or “trail magic”?

I could probably come up with a list of these kind of serendipitous moments, but really, they’ve become so common place I just go “ahah!” then move on with my day. However, their common place-ness doesn’t detract from their wow factor.  They are for me the exception that proves the rule, with the rule being, life is an amazing and magical place.  We are here to remember our connection to the magic, the universe, the “god-ness” of it all.  These little markers are our verification that that kind of energy exists and we are a part of it.

The above painting is from the day after my own magical day on the PCT.  The day I met Mowgli and Raven and blissfully walked  from the Minnie Scott Spring to this exact spot.  I set up my tent just outside of the above image and took the snapshot first thing in the morning as I got back on the PCT.  South Sister was indeed that blue in the morning and I was full of joy and happiness as I made my way to Mirror Lake.

It seemed fitting that it was my very first painting after I returned home from the trail and this seems exactly like the best spot to leave it in my running commentary/transcription of my trail journals.  I still have a few more days to put together, sadly however, I recently lost most of my photos from the last leg of my journey.  A crappy SD card is to blame, but I managed to upload some images to the cloud so I am still able to illustrate my journey.  For now, I thought the painting would do, along with a reminder that trail magic is all around.  It doesn’t exist solely on the trail. You just have to notice that it can be anything from a stranger’s smile to that $20 you found when you were hungry.

On BEing…. a trail journal part 7

Day 12  Onward to Mirror Lake

August 11, 2016       9 miles

Awake by 7 and on the trail  by 9:30.  Mosquitoes and condensation slow my packing up as I dried my rain-fly before stowing it in the pack.  I don’t want to carry any more water than I need to! Eventually I am on my way and I tell myself it doesn’t matter that it took me 2 and a half hours to get on the trail.  What difference does it make?

Camped just to the left of this picture, I took it first thing in the morning.

Camped just to the left of this picture, I took it first thing in the morning.

I wonder what marvelous things will happen today?  I am amazed at this part of the PCT, I’m on new ground, and it’s simply wonderful!  There are great views, nice campsites and a neat unnamed lake that had me very tempted for an early stop.  Alas, the surface was buzzing with mosquitoes so I go on by after taking a few pictures.  I run my battery charge down by taking too many panorama shots, a phenomena I suddenly notice for the first time. No wonder my phone was so inconsistent with holding a charge.

There is a climbers trail to the north side of Faith. I didn't find it, but I will one day!

There is a climbers trail to the north side of Faith. I didn’t find it, but I will one day!

I cross paths with an older solo woman hiker by the name of Honey.  We nod and keep walking, not even exchanging a word. I only learn her name later from 2  women I meet further down the  trail when we stop to talk about how unusual we all are (they were older too). I encounter few solo women, fewer still the ones who are closer to my age. There seem to be lots of 20 something guys, in pairs or alone.  Sometimes they are with a 20 something woman/girl/gal… chick?  I don’t know which term to use to describe a female 20 something… all my choices seem wrong.  Old fashioned or condescending, a product of a misogynistic culture that I am only recently becoming very aware of.  I don’t know how I’ve missed this part of the world around me, I guess I just never paid attention.  Maybe if I had taken a woman’s studies class in college it would have opened my eyes a bit wider to the injustice of it all, but I seem to be making up for lost time.  In the past few years I’ve been studying this subject most intently.

I remember being 17 and sitting in my mother’s living room as she and her girlfriend groused about life. As divorcees with children and no career options  in the 1970’s they had something to grouse about, life had not been easy for them.  “It’s a man’s world” said mom’s friend.  Being the know it all I surely was at 17, I completely disagreed.  “It might have been for your generation, but it’s not for mine!” I said ‘wisely’.  They were kind enough to let me figure it out for myself, but damn, it’s taken  me a long time.  I must have believed that the woman’s movement had changed everything and leveled the playing field, and I went on with my life as if it had.

For decades I thought it was just me if things were unfair.  I never saw it was because I was a woman… if some of the unfairness was because of my gender, I was blind to it.  I didn’t notice discrimination. Hell, I never even saw the blatant sexism in a job where the men used me as bait for customers!  I was an uninformed idiot, truly, and being unaware meant I could be manipulated and used. At some point I felt so used up, without even knowing why, I just wanted to hide in my quiet country life and not interact with the world at large.  As for gender roles, well,  I always just did what I wanted to do and didn’t think who’s “job” it was.  I was proud when I could run a skill saw or build something  better than my husband. He was proud of it too and gave me support to try all sorts of things.  I never heard messages that I couldn’t do something because I was a woman.  The day my girlfriends teased me about being more of another “man” around the place because I did things that their husbands usually did, (such as mowing, splitting firewood, building fences, sheds, a barn, my studio!) was the day I started to really wonder why they had limited themselves to traditional domestic chores. How had our society reinforced these kinds of roles? I see much of our cultural bias as restrictive but I think the things I’ve done fall under the category of “I didn’t know what I couldn’t do” more than a conscious rebellion against sexism.

As I write this it’s two days from a critical historic moment for my country.  I feel the sexism and misogyny here has reached a height that is surprising to say the least.  The persecution of a woman candidate who has dared to be herself and who did not play a submissive game and thus has felt the wrath of our media and any political hack who could post on the internet for not fitting the mold, is beyond belief.  It has been hard to hold on to my center, to my peace of mind, to my surrender.  The recharge that the trail gave me has been drained as we’ve gotten closer to this election process… but it’s no wonder as I’ve been taking some sweeping political panorama shots.  I’ll have to go hiking again as soon as possible for another charge of my emotional battery!

I cruise down the trail, happy and content in my solitude.  I’m glad I haven’t let my age or my gender stop me from doing what I wanted to do.  I preen a little when I come across a group of 7 women who are circumnavigating the Three Sisters together and they all admire my bravery.  I walk on feeling a little like the kid who got a gold star on their schoolwork. But my self satisfaction doesn’t last long as I consider how I was being proud of something that wasn’t really that hard for me. I figure it’s not really bravery if the emotional cost is low.  Courage is facing your fears and doing it anyway.  Hiking alone doesn’t worry me…. my brave moments were crossing the rushing glacial waters of the Muddy and the Sandy.  Both events witnessed only by myself and the universe.  I’m proud of myself for doing that. But hiking along this section of the PCT?  It’s a privilege in so many ways.

The women’s group offers me trail bars and food to help me on my way, but I decline, I’m carrying way too much as it is.  I need to lighten my load, not theirs!

Trees grow right out of the walls of the secret canyon.

Trees grow right out of the walls of the secret canyon.

I listen to Carrot Quinn’s interview on Real Talk radio  (listen here) and learn that she often cache’s food and only carries 4 days at a time.  I’m thinking this is a very good idea.  8 days of food is too much.  I’ve tried to eat more but that’s not always easy to do.  The trail falls easily downhill and I hike past a darling mini canyon surrounded by lava cliffs with a flat grassy floor.  The only way into the box canyon is to push your way in between a narrow grove of fir and spruce. I force myself in, I want to see this little canyon I had glimpsed from above as the PCT dropped down then veered off. I walk the perimeter and think about how this would be a good horse camp, you could practically let the horses go and they’d be corralled in among the lava walls.  The whole canyon is about 2 acres and is exactly the kind of side trip thing I’m glad I have time to explore. No water, so not a perfect camp, but I admire the secret space among the expanse of towering mountain views.

I get to Rock Mesa creek by noon and settle down for a rest/lunch break.  I was supposed to stay here after camping at Obsidian but again, it’s too early and when I look at the map again, I realize Mirror lake is only 4 miles away.  I’d rather end my day there and zero at the lake than stay here.  Not that I need a trail zero, but I wanted a day where I didn’t have to pack up… a day to just BE in a place.

I wander about, looking at an area near the creek where I camped over 20 years previously.  It’s odd to be at these spots full of old memories, I recall sitting out an afternoon of thunder and lightening in a very small tent with two large, wet dogs.  The places haven’t really changed much… the trees in the high country don’t grow like they do in the valley.  But they do grow and so too the brush.  The camp spot was still there, I recognized it immediately.  And 20 years later I see what a crappy little spot it was.  It had been much more remote… now there was a trail nearby, following the creek downstream. All those years ago we bushwacked our way down a half mile to the waterfall that was hidden below the Mesa Creek crossing.  Now, there’s a bridge on the PCT and trail heading downstream.  Who knows, 20 years from now, it could be forgotten and grown over, a faint line leading nowhere.

Mesa Creek and meadows.

Mesa Creek and meadows.

After about an hour rest, I hike out and avoid the large group of thru hikers who are congregating in the sunny meadow.  They are laughing and full of fun, but I’m still in my solitary zone.  I don’t really want to interact right now so I wave at them in acknowledgment and move on. Some wave back.  The southbound trail is busy… perhaps I’d have had a better chance of hiking all day in my alone-ness by going north, a better chance of getting in a solo bubble and staying there. Oh well, that’s not what’s happening, so I surrender and accept.

Later, I meet a gal and her barnacle… I nick-name him the barnacle because she tells me he started hanging out with her and she hadn’t been able to get rid of him since the California border.  We exchange trail names, but I promptly forget them as all I can think about is the barnacle phenomena.  Earlier I met a hiker, Sweet Pea, who also had a tag-a-long dude.  I wonder if the guys are hoping for more or maybe the girls are liking the security and friendship?

Then I meet Safe Bet, a Brit who quit his job and moved in with his parents so he could hike the PCT.  He was carrying too much water, because he likes the safe bet… hence the name.  I climb up the Rock Mesa and laugh at how I used to think it was so hard (I’ve climbed it 4 times now).  After climbing up out of the Gorge, nothing seems as difficult.  SOBO Mt. Hood was a real bear of a section but the views were absolutely stunning!

I get mistaken for a SOBO thru a lot… one gal says I look so serious.  But I’m not sure if it’s my outfit or the determined look on my face she is referring to.  I hope it’s the outfit since I’m totally blissed out on the trail.

Your first view of the Mesa wall.

Your first view of the Mesa wall.

The views as I hike are not as steep and epic as Mt. Hood,  but the Sisters have their own charm.  Rock Mesa continues south along the flanks of Faith (South Sister).  It’s open and arid and beautiful to travel the Wikiup plains which stretch way out into the distance.  It was hot by the time I got there but with my umbrella I did just fine.  I was listening to another hiking podcast, Sounds of the Trail and it was so perfect because it was all about how the hard days cause us to question why are we out here.  These challenging days cause us to rise above the hardship and release our inner grit.  And when you’ve risen to the challenge and have beaten it, then you are stronger.  Mentally as well as physically.

The start of the Wikiup if you are heading south.

The start of the Wikiup if you are heading south.

Today was that mental challenge for me.  The unrelenting heat on the plains, well, I had some doubts that I should be venturing out.  I’ve had a few bouts of heat stroke, so when it hits 90, I try not to do anything physical in the sun. But under my personal shade, it was fine. Slogging along, I thought of my days in endurance riding.  Sometimes you are in the doldrums of the race.  It’s hot, you’re tired, your horse is tired, you just want to get to the next vet check or you think longingly about the end of the ride and never going through all this nonsensical torture again.

Looking back at the way I've come. Hello South Sister!

Looking back at the way I’ve come. Hello South Sister!

But you can’t quit.  You are in the middle of nowhere and you have got to press on.  I’ve had some hard moments on the endurance trail and sometimes you kind of hit a wall but you still… just…keep…going.  And then, you round the corner and you are done.

I trudged across this sandy desert of a plain and then, I was in the forest again. Ahhhh, shade!  On I march, now I’m listening to Amira’s book, (how cool is it to have an author as a house-sitter?) the second in the Seeds Trilogy.  The resistance fighters are turning to guerrilla tactics as well as infiltrating and destroying from within.  Listening to these stories keeps my mind occupied as I march through the miles in the heat of the day.  I save them for times like this and they transform the trail into something different from what I’ve experienced in the past.

I’ve been a backpacker for over 30 years now, before cell phones and the internet.  (Back when dinosaurs ruled the earth.  HA!)  Technology has changed the wilderness experience, true.  I no longer feel so remote or out of touch.  But listening to a story or a song, lightens my load in the same way my hiking poles help me on the trail.  They are tools however, and not a crutch.  I still have to do the work out here, they just make it easier.  Sometimes I listen and sometimes I’m quiet and in the moment. It just depends on what I want to get out of that part of the trail.

I cross paths with a hiker who has her phone pressed to her ear.  She steps aside as if we were meeting in the cereal aisle at Safeway rather than on a remote trail in the wilderness.  She’s calling Elk lake to say she forgot something and would they…. at this  point, I’ve moved out of range.  I still think it’s odd to have phones in the wilderness, it’s so incongruous.  I forget I even have a phone… I think of it as a camera, an audio player and a GPS but then I remember and stop to check my own signal.  4G!!  Hurrah!  I turn off airplane mode and the Galaxy begins to ding.  Messages are checked (there are a few well wishes from my family) and I send out a few of my own.  Now people once again know where I am and the world feels a little smaller and definitely less remote.

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I used my umbrella to shade my tent while I lounged about inside after my swim.

I cruise into Mirror lake and walk it’s perimeter before I settle on a site on the far side, tucked up into a stand of young pine.  The mosquitoes aren’t too bad, but I do get stung by a yellow jacket when I was bushwacking between possible camp sites.  I’ve taken 2 Benadryl but think maybe one more might be a good idea.  I’m glad I don’t have to hike any more today as Benadryl sleepiness will soon creep up on me.  It’s the only thing that will minimize my reaction to wasp stings which seem to have gotten worse the more times I get stung.  I hate to say I hate yellow jackets, but I kinda do.

I’ve got a nice little spot among the trees, the lake is a short walk away across the soft mud flats and I’m far enough away from the usual camp sites that I’m alone even on a well used camping lake.  I do my laundry and take a good long swim across the lake where I haul myself out on a rock in the middle and sun myself like a turtle.  I feel so good!  Another 9 miles down and now I can take a zero.  Finally, my first zero on the trail.  The hotel thing was nice, but not quite what I was imagining when I put this whole trip together.

Later, I have a wonderful meal, another one of my homemade dried creations.  Curried sweet potato, vegetables and rice, so delicious.  I thank my past self who made this  for me now and chuckle at the concept of time.  There was a Sky in the past who cooked, dried and packaged this meal and then here I am, opening and re-hydrating this little packet of nourishment and love.  It feels complete.

Time… I’ve been thinking about time on this leg of my journey.  Reading the Power of Now will do that to you but being away from my normal time centric life also puts these concepts and ideas into the forefront.  Everything happens in the now… even planning for a future event is something you do in the now.  Ruminating over the past happens in the now.  I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of time travel.  As if one could leave the present now and actually zoom forward or past and actually make that your now.  But in a way, when we project or remember, we are time travelling!  In our minds, we leave the present now to visit these memories or imagined futures.  Problems occur when we cannot see the difference between what goes on in our heads with what goes on in our NOW.

I’m getting it… slowly.  I keep re-reading these concepts and each time, it becomes more and more my reality as it reminds me how to focus on the now.  How to be kind to myself as I learn, how to withhold  judgments of others and  judgments of myself.  The more I release these pains and sufferings, the more I surrender, the greater (faster?) my growth.  My peace, my understanding… my accountability to my soul.  The less ego, the less mind…  the more integration of my body, mind and spirit.

That’s a lot to digest for one day.  I step out and take pictures of the setting sun.  The sky is on fire with the end glow of another glorious day and I feel immense gratitude for my place in the world.20160813_055903

On Being… a trail journal Part 6

Feeling better and ready to GO!

Feeling better and ready to GO!

Day 10 Return to Trail! August 9, 2016

I’ve made it to PCT mile 1974 (northbound mileage), just shy of the Minnie Scott Spring. It’s been a lovely day; sure, there was some amazing wind and the other hikers looked pretty blown away but things died down and by the time I got to camp, it was quiet and peaceful. I only went about 8 miles today, my first day back since getting Giardia. I’m glad it wasn’t my backwoods skills that had me getting sick but instead my dog’s love of rolling in nasty poop. We are both much better and even though I lost a week at home with recovery, I have re-evaluated my hike and have come up with an alternate plan.

It seems I was not destined to hike this Oregon section end to end. Before I even got on trail, circumstances came together so I had to cut off the end of the hike. So, then I was heading to Crater Lake. That was fine… still a long hike. But with all the fires and the PCT closure at Crater Lake, I wasn’t sure what would happen once I got down there. Had I gone northbound, I would have had to re-route and skip that part. Plans for a long hike have to be flexible. Getting off trail for a week changed everything.

Leaving South Matthew lake heading south on the PCT.

Leaving South Matthieu lake heading south on the PCT.

I’ve skipped the Mt. Jefferson secion but I still had a pass for Obsidian Limited Entry area in the Three Sisters Wilderness. I also had a Bed and Breakfast suite that was pre-paid and waiting for me in the town of Sisters. When the husband started talking about going backpacking with me again, I opted to skip the last leg all together. The new plan was to take a slow trip down to Charleton lake where friends were planning on meeting me with a resupply, then catch a ride home. I’d re-sort my pack, put together a pack for Joe and together we’d hike in to Jefferson Park. From there I could pick up my missed hiker box from Ollalie lake and check out the Russell Creek crossing that had been the subject of many a PCT hiker discussion. I wouldn’t have to actually cross it, but knowing what it looked like would help me in the future if I ever wanted to redo this entire section.

North Sister (Faith)

North Sister (Faith)

Originally it had been planned that my friend would pick me up at Hwy 20 and we’d spend the night at the B & B in Sisters. Since that was scrapped, we instead drove up, did the tourist thing and then she dropped me off at McKenzie pass early the next day. It rained that night so I missed the wet conditions, but the clouds were heavy and hanging low as I left the lava fields at the Dee Wright Observatory.

This trail volunteer was sawing a dead tree by hand so it would't bump a horse's pack as it went by. Very conscientious!

This volunteer works at removing a dead tree that may fall onto the trail.

I began the slow trudge up to South Matthieu Lake, stopping to talk to trail volunteers along the way. There was a large group doing trail maintenance and I got to be the first hiker to walk the refurbished tread. I thanked them for all their work and was given huge smiles in return. Apparently some of the workers were former PCT thru-hikers and they seemed very glad to see me “doing my thing”. I guessed the guy with the beard was probably a thru-hiker as he was grinning madly, giving off those good hiker vibes. At that point, I am so happy to be back on trail I am open to all the good vibes I can get so I absorb his cheer like a sponge.

 

 

I like this portion of the trail as it winds through the lava fields, open sandy washes looking for all the world like a desert with rivers of pumice sand. There are wildflower meadows and peeks of North Sister, AKA, Faith. I like that the Three Sisters are named Faith, Hope and Charity… these names are so much more meaningful than North, Middle and South. Faith is the roughest and the oldest, her spires point a toothy smile into the gray sky. She is showing her age and I am feeling mine as my heavy pack has me pausing after each uphill climb. I’m carrying 8 days of food and after a dose of Giardia and a week off, I am not as tough as I was before but I don’t really care. I’m so thrilled to be back here I am singing in my head and sometimes even out loud.

Yapoah crater on the right.

Yapoah crater on the right.

I enjoy every mile and even take a short break off trail, exploring a fold of a lava meadow. It’s quietly still down here and the sun begins to shine between clouds. I take off my pack and lay on the pumice sand, absorbing it’s warmth after being blasted by the winds as I rounded Yapoah Crater. I stare up at the cliffs in this little canyon and also at the flowers and plants that eek out a living on the dry soil-less earth. There doesn’t seem to be much nourishment in this volcanic sand, it’s so porous and fragile, but I know that volcanoes belch up minerals from the earth and are fertile grounds for growth. I’m literally on the rim of the Ring of Fire on the Pacific Rim and seeing first hand the results of tectonic instability. Our lives are such specks in the grand design, no where else shows this to me more blatantly than the spine of the Cascades. The mountains are teeming with deep, thrusting energy… the volcanic release point for that big Cascadia subduction zone off the Oregon coastline.

On the way to Minnie Scott Spring.

Lava flows on the way to Minnie Scott Spring.

But today all is quiet and calm in my little fold of lava. I relax before shouldering the heavy pack and moving on. Just short of the spring I come across a PCT hiker campsite. You can tell these are thru-hiker made as they are right off the trail and well used. I think about staying and drop my pack to explore my options. I have decided that this portion of my trip will be as quiet and possible. I know this wilderness very well, having camped here off and on for 30 years. I can’t believe it’s been that long, but it has; I’m not your typical hiker. I don’t see many women over 50 out solo-ing the trail, I feel like a rebel. I also I feel like I’m home, even though I haven’t seen this particular part before. As I wander about the campsite, a group of hikers stroll by, chatting and announcing their presence long before they come into view. I stand motionless and they never even see me there, so absorbed by their conversation and the trail in front of them. I feel like a deer, invisible in plain site. This is also somewhat how I feel in up-country life now that I’ve hit the half century mark. I’ve been the focus of masculine attention since I was 15 and I learned how to harness that power to my advantage from an early age in a “use what you got” philosophy. But women of a certain age fade from view and while it’s taken a bit of getting used to, I now enjoy my super power of invisibility. 

After they leave, I bushwhack in a northeast line, moving about a quarter mile off trail. I want privacy and alone time out here. Being so close to the spring, I’ll be seeing and hearing other hikers if I don’t do some back country stealth camping. I pay close attention to my surroundings and note landmarks to help me return to the trail. I have the ability and skills to navigate by compass, but I prefer to follow the sign posts of tree, rock, hole or brush. I stop and turn around every 50 to 100 feet, noting what my “trail” looks like in the reverse direction. My love of maps and navigation comes from a love of “off trail” exploration and a healthy fear of getting lost. I like to see new things, find corners of the land where no one but the local animals have gone before. Following a game trail to see where they drink, where they bed down, where they live and sometimes even where they die. I’ve brought home skulls and bone, feathers and fur, the last remnants of a life lived off the grid and free. The trail name of Pathfinder is quintessentially me in every way.

I find a meadow and scout about for a flat spot. There are many to choose from but I want something that won’t trample the vegetation or leave an impact on this fragile timberline environment. I find the remains of an old campfire… a few stones blackened and only a lump or two of charcoal. I kick apart the ring and take the time to toss stones randomly as I don’t want another hiker to use the site one day. Not that it will happen, all evidence suggests this place hasn’t been used in decades, but still, it’s my way of taking care of the wilderness. A small bit of housekeeping as it were.

View from my off the beaten path stealth camp. Not too shabby!

I set up my tent, lay out my gear, fluff up my bag. It’s all so familiar now and this small ritual is comforting and adds to my contentment.  I like feeling settled in camp.  It’s quiet in my corner of the world.  I eat, read, write in my journal musing over personal relationships.  This is my last entry about other people for days as I release all tensions and issues.  Being a highly sensitive introvert takes it’s toll at times, I can emphatically absorb other people’s pain and it takes effort to let it go.  It’s draining. Time spent in nature charges my batteries.  Being in the wilderness revitalizes and super charges me… it’s like getting an upgraded operating system and back up charges.  Once I dump all the words out of me and on to the page before me, I feel ready to take in all the energy the earth has to give me.

Day 11 Opie to Obsidian and BEYOND!

Obsidian Area, off trail near an unnamed lake.

Four miles so far, I’m moving at a snail’s pace! It’s 1PM and I started from the spring at 10 AM even though I was packed up by 8:50. I had to get water once I got to Minnie Scott Spring, so it took a little while to filter a few liters.  There are lots of good camp sites all around and I spent time wandering about looking at the interesting terrain.   No hurries today.

On the way down the Opie. I used this pic from last year with Scout so you could see the scale of these switchbacks.

On the way down the Opie. I used this pic from last year with Scout so you could see the scale of these switchbacks.


After getting water, I cruised up the Opie Dildock pass and hung out, looking at the place I had lunch last year with Scout. She was not a happy camper on that trip, who knew she’d be such a princess in the wilderness? She’s such a good trail dog, but she doesn’t like tent life. I’m not missing the dogs, the horses or anyone for that matter. It’s nice to just take care of myself and not have to be “on” with my alter ego persona .  I’m a friendly upbeat person if you meet me, I don’t like sour puss people.   I figure if I can act in a pleasant manner even if I don’t feel it inside, then everyone else can too!  But seeing this in print has me considering how dishonest that is.  Not that I plan on showing my inner grump.  Ever. Oh, it’s so complicated being a human being!

Just in case you missed how adorable this dog is.

Princess Scout, the unhappy camper.

It was a short hike to the limited entry area and I am thinking about skipping my earlier planned Obsidian zero day. I’m not ready to park myself yet. The 2 mile hike is lovely with epic views and glittery bits of volcanic glass everywhere.  Last year I stayed here 4 days with Scout and worried about her cutting her paws as she ran about off trail.  No such worries this time.

Still nice to have some daylight hours and lots of nice territory ahead. It’s 6 miles to the next creek. I could do another dry camp if I don’t want to go that far…  but for now I’m hanging out on the lake shore, considering a swim and a wash but really, not feeling that either. Without a goal I feel somewhat like a rudderless ship.  Just happy to be here taking the trail with a lot less pressure this time.

Obsidian cliffs.

Obsidian cliffs.

Also, I am still of the mindset of listening to my body. What does it want? If my mind can’t figure things out, then my body can decide. Maybe I’ll take my zero at Mirror Lake, or cut my miles down to more bite sized portions. That 13 mile day at the end does not sound like something I want to do. I keep telling myself not to even think about that, just hike to suit my body, but I haven’t yet learned how to quiet my inner comptroller.

Day 11, continued.    8.5 miles

Feet at the bottom... I sense a theme.

Feet at the bottom… I sense a theme.

What a DAY! I opted not to swim. I ate lunch at the lake-ette and after journaling the above entry I finally realized that I really didn’t want to blow off a day waiting for my permit date to stay at Obsidan. What I wanted to do was to go down the trail! So, that’s what I did. I got to the Sisters Creek and filled up on water so I could opt to dry camp wherever it suited me. I carried 3 liters of water the rest of the hike… ugh.

As I was finishing up, a thru-hiker stopped to chat. We had such a nice visit! He even sat by me in the shade and we talked about existentialism, of being in the moment and why we are out there hiking… big picture stuff. He said he’d hiked 1500 miles before anyone even asked him WHY? He told me about a word he’d been mulling over for a few hundred miles: SONDER. It’s an “Obscure Dictionary” word meaning, other people’s lives are as complicated and convoluted as yours. (While writing this part at home, I looked it up and found this very short but compelling video titled Sonder:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkoML0_FiV4)

I introduced him to “surrender” as opposed to “letting things go” and how it’s a word I can get behind and actually practice. How “letting go” always seemed so impossible, as if the verb usage of “letting” was undo-able. Surrender however, is about acceptance. I can do acceptance.

The scene of my existential conversation on the PCT. Great setting, awesome conversation.

The scene of my existential conversation on the PCT. Great setting, awesome conversation.

My hiker/philosopher’s name is Mowgli and he’s a high school science teacher from Massachusetts. I told him I grew up in New England and we compared notes a little about the east coast. It was refreshing to talk about the deeper aspects of trail life and how it will change your soul. How to even find the words to explain what it all means is, well, maybe not even necessary. I said words were just a pointer, but not the actual thing so don’t get too hung up on trying to explain what the experience means to you. He liked that.

I can’t take credit, that’s from Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now.”

I talked some about what I had been reading and how just this morning I had been reading about the ‘anxiety gap’. This is the concept by which you are so afraid of a future event that has yet to arrive that you are unaware of your present moment. That all we ever have is the present. We talked for at least an hour, maybe it was more? It seemed timeless but eventually we parted ways. I headed south and he continued on, bound for Canada.

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Sheer bliss!

On the trail again, the day was magical and so beautiful. The lupines were blooming and scenting the air with sweet perfume, it was like incense to my blissed out state of being. I talked to everyone I passed, the thru-hikers are really thick on the trail and most of them were having the time of their lives. Of course, the setting was awe inspiring, it seemed to affect us all with smiles and joy, everyone was brimming with such happiness. We were all ‘high’ at 6000 feet.

Hands free shade. No hat needed.

Hands free shade. No hat needed.

I chatted with a large red-bearded hiker about his cuben fiber pack, it looked like it was made of Tyvek! Too ultra light for me, I’m liking my structured Osprey pack even though it weighs about 4 lbs. It’s all broken in now, fitting better than ever. I’m even fond of it’s eggplant color and shape. Red Beard liked my Chrome Dome umbrella too, I used it all down this part of the trail as I was exposed to the altitude and sun. He liked my hands free paint roller set up, we both agreed we disliked wearing hats when it’s warm.

The thru-hikers I met were loving their time in the Three Sisters Wilderness. I heard so many complimentary comments, like this was the most beautiful place since the Sierras! Wow! So nice to hear.

The “girls” were in good form and the weather was cool but sunny. I stopped to look down on Linton Meadow and thought about one of my favorite hidden spots down among the lakes below. I’ll return another time, for now, I didn’t want to leave the PCT. There were so many new parts to see. I continued to listen to my body, after an almost 3 hour stay at the Obsidian area I hiked on until 6:30 PM. It was the latest I’d been on trail, usually I was all snugged down by then, enjoying a long evening of relaxation. I passed a hiker and asked about the upcoming creeks weighing the distance against another dry camp. I could use up all my water that night if I knew it was a short haul to water the next day. That system worked well last night and I was about to find a campsite when a young woman passed me, all smiles. I asked if she was a solo thru-hiker but she stopped to explain that she was hiking with the guy I’d just questioned. She asked if I was going SOBO, I said yes, on my way to Crater lake (I was cagey about my destination, I guess I still wanted to believe my trip hadn’t changed and I was going to finish… I don’t really know why I said that, but it was a good thing because it triggered something in her!) She looked at me pointedly and asks if my name was Sky.

I stared at her… what the?? “Uh, yes,” I said.

No, really… not your trail name. Your name is really Sky?”

Yes! It really is!” Now my mouth has dropped open and I am wondering what’s going on. A Facebook connection?

She yells, “Amira!”

I’m still dumbfounded. This girl’s name is Amira? How do I know TWO Amira’s?

I’m friend’s with Amira! She talks about you!”

OMG, this is the thru-hiker that Amira was telling me about! Her sister’s close friend, they went to school together. She has come out from the mid-west and had been hiking since April. We start laughing and hugging and it’s like she’s my long lost cousin or something. Raven had been thinking of me the past 2 days wondering if I was out here and then out of the blue she asked ME if I was Sky. She’s not even sure why as she couldn’t even remember my name until she saw me. She had no idea where I was on trail, how old I was, what I looked like… just a solo woman in Oregon. ‘Heading to Crater Lake’, must have been the trigger!

The guy hears us hollering and comes back. After we tell him what happened, he wants to know, “How do you know Amira?”

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We magically found each other on the PCT! What are the odds?

She’s living at my house while I do this!” and I wave my arms out expansively.

He wants to know how Raven even thought to ask who I was. She shrugs but I say, “That was a nudge from the universe.” We all nod in agreement, another serendipitous trail magic event.

We laugh and visit for a bit before they move on north. We get our picture taken for proof and posterity, I will text it to to Amira ASAP. And suddenly, no more cell service. It will have to wait. Oh well, such is trail life.

A quarter mile later I am hunting up a site. It’s almost 7PM and the latest I’ve set up camp on this trip, but what a day I’ve had!

 

I’m on a little rocky ridge with South Sister out one window of my tent, and Middle on the other! It’s a dry area but for some reason there are mosquitoes giving me a reason to hang out inside the shelter. I figure out how to put my stove just outside the vestibule and cook while I stay safely out of biting range. (It’s a system I come to love and use for every morning and evening meal afterwards.) Dinner was a gorgeous meal of home-dried pasta, olives and zucchini that was so damn good I take time to write about it in my journal.

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It doesn’t get any better than this.

I’m content to have done 8.5 miles today. The trail feels different. Welcome. Happy… just like home. It feels good to walk and see my beautiful, beautiful 3 Sisters, I feel complete. Why go anywhere else?

 

 

On Being… A Trail Journal Part 5

Day 8 Barlow Pass to Buggy Camp

In the morning, the amazing and much talked about (among the hiker community) breakfast buffet of Timberline is served. I am up early, all ready to get this next part over with so I can get down the trail. Some of my breakfast agrees with me and some does not, but the tasty vinegar, molasses, cider and ginger palate cleansing aperitifs really settle my stomach. I ask our server for another and this helps me over my weird bout of nausea and I am able to partake in as much of the buffet as I am able. We linger at the table and I watch the thru hikers hunker down with plate after plate. Some have come prepared with cards and begin playing games between what’s now become a 12 course meal. The sun is streaming in and I take the time to really enjoy the view, the lovely and rustic room, the guests, the food and my husbands’ company. I decide to relax about the trail. We are spending a small bundle on this tiny vacation in the midst of my trail journey so I decide to forgo my morning hike and “hitch” a ride down to Barlow pass. By cutting off 5 miles, I can spend more time with Joe and still have plenty of time to get to my campsite, wherever that may be.

We stuff ourselves as much as we can then wander about taking pictures and learning more of the history of Timberline lodge. We even step up on chairs to peek into the curators office, which in itself, looks like one of the educational display windows on the lower level.

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The Timberline experience.

Eventually it’s time to go and Joe decides to hike with me for a bit before heading back to work. We drive down the mountain to Barlow pass and everything goes by so fast! We are there in minutes, it would have taken me hours as the trail is steep and I have been babying my ankle, especially on the down hills.

I hoist my pack off the tailgate of the truck and together we go off on the PCT. I’m amazed he’s on the trail, it’s been 20 years since Joe packed with me. He seems to be enjoying himself and something about my hike has sparked a memory. He says he wants to backpack with me again and this makes my day. We talk about what a “return to hiking” trip would look like when I remember my socks.

I forgot my extra socks in the truck.

And so we go back and lo and behold, they are in my pack already. But all is not wasted as something tells me I will want my cashmere sweater. I sigh, not really believing that little voice, but since it’s more of a gut reaction, I go with it. I’m listening to my body on the trail, so it gets stuffed into my clothes bag. The weather does feel a bit cooler, maybe I’ll want it. Joe says goodbye at this point and I get to restart my trail solo… and that feels right too.

The trail is easy at this point. A gentle grade that follows a ridge-line. I get occasional views of Hood above the Salmon river meadows and stay under the cover of trees the whole way. It’s shady and so flat, I am surprised by the few times I have to climb up a hill or clamber over roots. Such a change from the previous trail. Miles roll along, nothing of note happens and I see very few hikers as I cruise along.

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If you look carefully at the timberline, you can see the ski runs of Timberline!

I finally arrive at a spring, the first water in miles and the first place that offers a campsite before a road crossing. I’d prefer to stay away from roads but I get to the spring so early, I start the inner debate… stay or move on farther? I get out my water bottles and filter from the spring, slapping mosquitoes as I do. This is a buggy little camp site, but the woods at this point are brushy and not looking very camp friendly.

There is a very nice young man camped here, we chatted a bit about school and how he’d quit his job to hike the trail. He was camped right past the spring, he stopped early so he could rest and read which suddenly sounded so absolutely wonderful, I decided to stay, bugs or not. It’s quiet here and I’m getting used to this communal camping scene. It actually is comforting, though I really did like my solo spot the day I crossed the Sandy. This camp has few choices and the spot I chose is a bit hilly, but there is a nice indentation for my hips, so I should be able to sleep comfortably on my side for once! I get all set up then return to the spring for more water.

Quiet camp indeed, there are two hikers who’ve been hanging out, filtering water and talking among themselves. D and Laura are two hikers from Switzerland and they are contemplating where to spend the night. We talk about trail, how far they’d come, miles and the challenges of the trail. I take another opportunity of find out more about Russel creek. They say it is very do-able. He jumped, she mostly jumped but for the last leap where he pulled her over.

Only the toe got wet,” says Laura pointing at her shoe. It wasn’t very deep, they tell me not to worry.

Okay,” I say, “but imagine your eighty year old grandmother wants to cross it. Can she do it?” I am using this matrix to judge point of view. If someone thinks an 80 year old can make it, then I can relax. D just narrows his gaze at me. Is he thinking “crazy American”?

Ya, well, you’re not 80,” he says logically. There is no arguing with this fact. I guess I am spry enough for Russel, but Russel is too hard for grandma. I asked about the snow bridge, they tell me it’s still there, and while snow doesn’t bother them as, “they are Swiss!”, the bridge was too dangerous. They’re only a couple of days behind the guys from the lodge, so that gives me an idea of their judgment. It seems quite sound.

Funny thing though, as we went on to talk about mileage and battery power for our phones, the intrepid Swiss reveal an Achilles heel.  D says he doesn’t have any issues with his battery lasting as he puts in big miles and can get to places to charge without trouble. He keeps his phone on airplane mode at night, which I find surprising.

Really? Even at night? You don’t power down to conserve the battery?”

No, I like to listen to audio books when I fall asleep. I need the books to help me sleep otherwise I listen to all the sounds in the woods and wonder, ‘what was that?’”

So there you go. Not afraid of rivers or snowy slopes or glacial creeks, but rather, of the sounds of the woods at night. Even after months on the trail. Which is something that doesn’t bother me at all. Fears are not universal it seems.

Joe and I talked about fears while at the lodge. He opined, “Fears weigh you down.” Which makes sense, fear being a thing that would make you more dense and thus, less enlightened.  Now if I could only talk some sense into my gut reactions to thoughts of river crossings, I’d be as light as they come out here. Sometimes the hubby has good insights. He has his moments.

I really do need to work on getting mentally stronger.  It feels like I’ve been climbing some mountains in my mind as well as with my legs.

I’m glad I was able to surrender at the lodge and be okay with skipping 5 miles. I felt so much better once I relaxed. With all the planning and prep I’ve done, it was hard to just let go and roll with what was happening. I get into a “have to get on the trail” and “how many miles do I have to make today?” mindset. I find myself being swept along with the rush even though I am going against it. Maybe because I am going against it, I see so many thru-hikers and section hikers with agendas. Everyone is on a clock of some sort.

Even the Swiss. D talked about his miles and how Oregon was a vacation because that’s when Laura joined him. Even though they are doing 20 miles a day, every day. Laura talked about when she had to get back to Portland, when her flight left, how she’d be flying to Turkey which would take 3 hours more. “But it was a significant cost savings, so the 3 hours would be worth it.”

See? Time and money… no escaping it, even if you are on vacation. Well, considering the uprising in Turkey, I can see why it is cheaper, I sincerely hope she makes it home safely.

Oh, time, such an intriguing concept. If fear is the mind killer, then time must surely be poison to your soul. Tolle talks about how the egoic mind needs time to stay in control. So it’s no wonder that living and dying by the clock is so universal. Especially in 1st world countries.  Time is the pathway of the ego, by focusing on it you forget where you are in the Now.

It’s contagious too, here they were in this nice, albeit buggy camp, with fresh water and a lovely, flat surface and they wanted to leave. All because they needed to make 2 more miles. They have a schedule to keep!. So I found myself pouring over my maps and wondering if I should have gone all the way down to Timothy lake to make better use of my day.

Argh! I riffle through my half mile maps, consult my app, check my elevations, and think about my hike tomorrow. I am debating my over night at Timothy so I can make some stupid arbitrary deadline. Really, who cares? I have to meet my next resupply at Hwy 20 nine days from now. I have the ability to slow down, I built the trip this way deliberately but just talking to other hikers has me second guessing and wanting to do more miles. I even have permits to stay at Jefferson Park for 2 nights so I can relax and hang out… but those are on specific days so I have to stay on some kind of schedule. Suddenly all my plans seem so restricting and they bind the edges of my journey in such definite ways, I am wishing I didn’t ask anyone to be involved and that I had just mailed boxes to resupply points. A box can wait as long as I need it to. Reservations and people, not so much.  At the time I made my plans, it seemed like fun to have family and friends meet me, but now they are targets I must hit so I can’t slow down or speed up or re-route on the fly.  I can change plans as long as I have cell service and if the reservation can be changed or the friend can be flexible.  Well, speaking of flexible, now is the time for me to be IT.

I probably should set aside my journal and read some more Tolle. That always helps to take the edge off and recenter me. The weather has cooled down and it’s starting to get darker in the woods. I’m glad I brought that cashmere with me and I’m finally wearing it for the first time. It’s so cozy! Wool makes me feel good for some reason. Silly sheep.

I’m tucked up in my bag with my wood leggings, wool socks, wool sweater and wool beanie. Wool me!

 

Day 9 Down to Timothy and Home Again

It’s cold this morning, glad for that sweater, I wore it all night. I awoke feeling off and have spent the last hour trying to figure it out. I started getting ill at the lodge, thought it was the food. Now, this morning I’m not quite right. On the trail I was fine and last night I just had Ramen, didn’t want anything complex after the big Timberline breakfast. My early morning constitutional wasn’t as good as I’d like it to be, I actually felt a little dizzy as I was coming back to camp, so my thoughts are running wild now. Could I have Giardia? How did that happen? I’ve filtered everything but the one spring where the water came out of a crack deep in a cave! No animals could have possibly contaminated that water… but my mind is feeding my paranoia.

Are you sure? How are you going to get out of here? It’s over 30 miles to Olallie, are you going to be okay?

On and on, it’s loving messing with me. Truly, my mind is saying some weird things and I want to tell it to shut the hell up. Instead, I have a cup of peppermint tea to calm my stomach, which is actually very helpful. I made grits for breakfast, but the first spoonful had me wondering if I was going to be able to eat at all. It’s like my fears are trying to stop my progress down the trail! What the fuck, mind?!

Ooooh! Scary water! Go back! Oooooo! Hmmm, okay you won’t go? Then we will make you sick… or make you think you are sick!

Two cups of tea later and the grits go down followed by a fig bar and I feel like myself again. I read in my book and that helps stop the run away train that is my mind. I’ve identified with my mind for so long, it’s become detached from my body so I no longer trust the things I feel. And by living in the future of what might be, I get all wound up and further removed from what is.

I came to the woods and trail to find the pieces of myself I may have missed while excavating my heart and soul these past few years. I came to reconnect with the simplicity, to disconnect from the never ending rounds of chores and daily farm life. I came to read, to think, to process, to just enjoy the wilderness.

But I’ve found something else. I’ve found that most hikers have an agenda and a schedule, they march hellacious long miles to get to the end. And then what? They keep busy as they take on the never ending footsteps through the wilderness, on and on, they have got to get somewhere. Every day, there is a somewhere that needs gotten to. There is a goal, a purpose, a point, a place or a number that must be achieved. And I find myself being tugged along in this tide of purpose.

I see now I may have made an error. No, not an error… in this case, error is a judgment. I’ve come to a realization. The months in preparation, in talking with friends, family, in gearing up for a goal that was met with astonishment, envy, surprise, and excitement only fed my ego. And my journey, the one I take internally, doesn’t need to be a trip for my ego.

An ego trip.

Why do I need to get to the end? Why do I have to do all these miles day after day? So others can get excited by it? (Oh! I know someone who did this!) Some want to live vicariously through me and knowing that I carry them along with me, drives me too. I’m feeling pressure to finish what I started for their sake but I don’t want that responsibility. It’s not what I want. I’m searching for enlightenment, illumination, understanding of self.  It’s funny, that even while I was preparing, I felt as if I was running away from home, I see now that I wasn’t doing that either.

I’m making problems where none exist. So what if I feel restricted. So what if I woke up feeling off. That’s happened before, at home even… so what? So it’s cold and I don’t have my gloves or heavy socks. So what?

So it’s 7 miles to Timothy lake. So it’s 3 days to Olallie resupply. So it’s 10 mile to water. So, so, so… so what?

My mind rambles on, catastrophising and issuing warnings. But I’m here to be. Be in the moment, be in the Now. I am being tested in my beingness when I meet other hikers and it’s all, “gotta get going!” They are racing time and I’ve been swept along with it. I went SOBO to learn what was ahead, but all I’ve learned it that everyone has their own perception of danger and they pass along their fears as truth. I now have to wade through these truths and perceptions.  I’ve set myself up to weigh, discern and judge, sifting through the opinions to see what is real for me.

I’ve also come into contact with so many personal stories. Most everyone wants to share who they are, what they are doing, where they are from and where they are going. Some want to share, and some want to know my story too.. they have time to stop and chat on the trail and treat it as if it was a speed dating party. How much information can they squeeze out of you in a few minutes of a chance meeting? There were a few of an interrogative nature that felt invasive. Others don’t have the time, a friendly hello or a nod, they are in the zone, in the groove. Some don’t even have time to say hello and after a week on the trail myself, I hardly notice. It doesn’t even blip on my radar as unusual or unfriendly, it just is.

And so, I find myself this morning wondering what many hikers have probably contemplated as they trudged the long miles… what am I doing this for? All my other trips where I lazed about in blissful enjoyment, that’s not happening. I’m swept along with the tide of hikers. I’ve joined the movement and the movement is north or south but either way it’s about the trail and getting the fuck down it!

This is not the path to enlightenment, for me, this is the path to self destruction. I feel that this goal of miles and an endpoint is just another focus on the future and takes me out of the timeless Now that I’m seeking to experience. I’m in the Now as long as I walk along and focus on the trail and my steps and even when I look at my maps and my journey. But then, I cross paths with a fellow traveler and the hiking community (it’s bonding and joyous and totally lovely in it’s welcome camaraderie) which takes me out of the Now and back into the Goal. This very thing I am liking is redirecting me from my own purpose. I have yet to learn how to not be affected by others.

And here is where I part ways with the madding crowd. Today I walk to Timothy lake… my first lake on the trail. Still water always helps calm my mind. I will gaze upon the waters where I hope to find a relief from the goal of “finish”. When I did long distance endurance riding, the motto was “To Finish Is To Win”. But that’s bullshit. There is no “winning” at the end, the journey is the win. I seem to have inadvertently supplanted one long distance endurance sport with another. Minus the horse, but still, there seems to be something about making miles that draws me but also now distracts me too. To be still and at peace… that’s the present goal.

I set aside my musings and got about the business of packing up camp. I’m getting faster, I’ve developed a system that makes things easier. When I get in my tent I put my empty bag at my feet, my kitchen things to my left, my paper things (map/journal/kindle/plans and TP) to my right. My hat and beanie at at the head of the bed where I need them, the stuff sacks, under my pillow. I can stuff my bag, then roll up my thermarest, my pillow and sleeping clothes. I set it all aside, pull up my backpack and toss it outside onto my thin mat. I’ve brought a body size sheet of thin foam under-layment that has had so many wonderful uses. It was a remnant from installing a new floor and is tough and provides a a thin pad for sitting during the day, a little extra insulation at night or even a door mat.

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A place for everything and everything in it’s place.

Before leaving the tent, everything goes out the door and onto the mat. I pull up stakes as I walk around the tent releasing the fly which gets balled up and stuffed into the tent bag. Then I can pick up the tent and shake out needles and dirt that have hitchhiked their way inside. While holding the partially opened tent in the air, I can unhook the tent poles and gather up the deflating structure of sil-nylon and mesh, ball it up and stuff it next to the rain-fly, all without touching the ground. The ground cloth goes in last, I fold it dirt side in so it doesn’t get my tent dirty. I know I’m living outside and dirt is a part of the package, but every little action that minimizes contact, adds up and ultimately saves on the amount of water and clean up I need to do at the end of the day.

Tent and sleeping pad goes into the bottom of my pack and has to go in first. I miss my old frame pack where it was compartmentalized with pockets and dividers. I never had to unpack it totally when on a trip and used it as a sort of portable cabinet. But the new pack has to be completely emptied and repacked every day. Other than my locator beacon and my rain gear, everything gets used and has to come out. It’s time consuming, but it is a lighter system so I’ve surrendered to the exchange of weight for time.

Next in line is my clothes then food bag, cook set, electronics. Toiletries, first aide on top of that, water purifier goes on top. The whole pack is structured with heaviest items on the bottom, things I need to get to on top. Lunch for the day has to be separated from my food bag, otherwise it’s buried too deep to get to without a major excavation.

I head out onto the trail after all is stowed and tucked away and realize I never took a picture of the camp. It’s my ritual to take a pic of the tent in camp each evening, but I guess I was too distracted by my body . I keep thinking my stomach is acting up because I am anxious about another glacial river crossing, which bothers me that I can’t control my worries. I’m worried about worrying… argh! It’s exhausting!

As I leave camp, I notice a pile of black poo next to the trail. I stop to toe it, checking to see how freshly laid it might be, softness an indicator of time. It seems to be a few days old so I continue on and wonder what animal left that so near the spring. I see these black poo piles at home and usually attribute them to coyotes or raccoons. I’m glad I filtered the spring water, no need to give my mind more ammunition for worrying!

The trail is an easy grade through the woods, I’m doing about 2 ½ to 3 miles per hour and at this rate, I figure I’ll be at the lake by 11 AM. And so I was! At the north end is Little Crater Lake. An odd turquoise blue pool of subterranean spring water that undercut the land and formed a steep sided pocket of water in the midst of an open meadow. The water is 34 degrees and looks so freakishly blue. I stop off for a few minutes of contemplative rest but find a group of man/boys jumping off the banks and doing a great deal of hollering. Not a place to relax, nor even linger. I guess they hiked in from Timothy where you can boat all the way to the end for easy access to Little Crater.

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Freaky blue… like big Crater, only little and not a crater.

 

 

I backtracked across the boardwalk trail to the PCT and headed south for Timothy. I kept expecting it to show up, but it was another mile and a half before the lake actually hove into view. From the north end, the trail comes out first on a leg of the lake and is intersected by the Timothy lake trail. The sign says it’s 15 miles to circumnavigate the lake and I’m surprised. I had no idea this lake was that big. When I finally see it however, I don’t feel delighted or joy at the prospect of a swim. What I feel is very, very tired. I think I need to rest and to eat, I feel shaky and lightheaded. I had snacked on the trail and managed to keep down my breakfast but I felt poor which is odd, the trail was so easy. According to my app, it was only about 6 miles or so to the lake trail bypass, so why do I feel so awful? It’s at this point I realize something far more than my anxiety or a vegan reaction to eating a bit of lox is going on. Something is definitely wrong.

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Surprisingly large Timothy Lake.

 

 

I picked up a 4G signal at the end of the lake so I shoot out a text to my house sitter, Amira.

Hey… what are you doing tomorrow? I may need a bail out. I’m at Timothy lake and I have some weird symptoms. It started at Timberline Lodge but I wanted to push through. I’d like to camp for the night and see how I feel in the morning. But I feel like I’m going to throw up or faint. Was trying to pretend this wasn’t happening. Damn it. Just want you to be aware and maybe available?

I walk on and in a few minutes she replies with an affirmative on the bail out, she’s able to come get me. I text back but it fails. This starts a frustrating on again off again signal that corresponds to the further I go down the lake, the worse the connection. But every once in awhile the phone dings I have a message… sometimes it’s from her, sometimes it’s my own failed text coming back. I plod on looking for an empty site but it’s Sunday and every place is taken with boat campers. I follow a side trail to the lake shore where I am accosted by two very large and very hairy Newfoundland type dogs who vigorously protest that I have walked too close to their camp. A woman holding a baby comes screaming up at the dogs and once the slobbery guards back down she asks me questions about the PCT and trail life. I am too tired to be scared of the beasts or to be more than baseline polite to her. I move on.

I am passed by an international tour group. They all wear matching packs and take up a 100 yards of trail with their strung out line of hikers. There must have been two dozen of them all together, a violation of wilderness rules and basic trail etiquette but I don’t suppose they know anything about that as they are obviously part of some organization. For all I know they are here to hike the 15 miles around the lake and will stay out of the wilderness proper. One can only hope.

A half mile and no signal later, I find a rocky point that’s unused. It’s high above the shore and windy, but there is a sunny spot between the rocks and I throw out my thin pad and sink down onto it whereupon I curl into a ball and doze just enough to take the edge off my utter exhaustion. I get up after a bit and still feeling woozy, find a lower, more protected cove to set up my tent. As I am setting up, two seagulls come and hang out on the little beach. Is mom watching over me?  If so, who is she hanging out with?

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My 2 hour camp.

 

I think I had a bite to eat, I really don’t recall, my thinking is muddled and I lay down again. This time, inside my down bag where I shiver trying to stay warm. And that’s when I know I am really sick. I thought it was a cool day, but there were people in bathing suits, swimming and playing in the water… those guys were jumping in Little Crater lake for crying out loud!

My symptoms were very much in keeping with what I knew about Giardia. So that did it for me. I needed to go home and get some medication, no way was I hiking 30 miles to Olallie like this.

All I needed was a signal but I really didn’t want to hike a mile and half back to where I got that 4G band. I climbed the hill behind the camp until I got a 1X and a teeny, tiny bar. A sliver of texting hope, I sent out a signal to Amira.

Test

Got IT! She replied.

So I called and it was decided that she’d leave right now to come get me. We agee to meet where the PCT comes out near a horse camp and she Googles how long it will take. I’ve got 3 hours to meet her there so I go back to my camp to rest before packing up. I don’t get another chance to sleep as some day boaters come into my cove and hang out for almost an hour, talking and laughing loudly.

The wind dies down after they leave and now I can smell something really bad in this camp. Something has died nearby and this really adds to my happiness quotient. Not!  I pack up again for the second time today. It’s 2 miles to the horse camp, I have plenty of time to get there. But as I climb back onto the PCT and check my Halfmile app, it says it’s 3 miles and I have only an hour left to get there. Ugh… 3 miles an hour with how I feel? This will not be an easy stroll.

I hurry along and work to keep my momentum as I climb over roots and rocks. The trail climbs away from the lake and adds elevation into my hike, not too hard but tough enough. I didn’t even stop for water even though I really wanted to and needed it. But I make it to the trail-head only 15 minutes late, hoping there is a bottle of water in the car for me as I’m down to my last swig.

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End of the line for now.

Amira shows up shortly afterwards and we take a series of back roads down towards Olallie where I think maybe we can swing by, I’ll pick up my hiker box and that will save me an extra trip later. But the roads twist and turn and we take several dead ends. I’m too tired to navigate and there are no maps in the car that show where the hell we are. She’s relied on her phone to get her here, but of course, there is no signal.  She’s a different generation, my old school ways aren’t her way, which is fine providing the phone does its job.  After a few tries, we agree to quit messing around and get back on the road we know and head home. It’s 10:45 before I make it to bed, the end of a very long and disappointing day. I can’t even think about what just happened. I’m off trail and sick and WTF? So I set it aside and snuggle in my bed, the dogs nestled around me like sentinel lions. They were so happy to see me, though Scout has lost a lot of weight for her… it’s odd that she got sick and does’t seem to be recovering.  

Just before turning out the lights I pick up my phone and do a quick Google search for Giardia symptoms and the very first thing that pops up is “symptoms in dogs.”  What?  Could my dog have Giardia too?  I click and read and from what Amira has described to me, it sounds like that could be Scout’s problem and then it hits me.  Symptoms show up 1 to 2 weeks after exposure.  Both Scout and I started to get sick at the same time and 10 days ago, the dogs drug home a possum.  But it was only Scout who rolled in the black, tarry, nasty possum poo and it was ME who bathed her without gloves or any concern at all for touching the gunk.  And black, tarry poop?  That’s the calling card of Giardia.  

All this time I am wondering what these animals in the woods are eating (a picture of the black poop I saw this morning flashes in my mind) when I should have been wondering what was eating them!  Why did I think wild animals are running around all healthy and happy in the woods?  Hello?! Some of them are sick!  

Well, that’s all it takes to convince me… we both have the same symptoms and we both got sick at the same time.  I am so very happy to have come home.  Poor Scout would have been sick all month… no one else knew what had happened.  Even if she had been taken to the vet, she still might not have been treated properly without this part of the puzzle.  Finally, I can rest easy knowing a trip the doctors is in store for us both.  I give her an extra hug and turn off the light.

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Her Scoutness… why yes, I’ll eat that!

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

On Being… A Trail Journal Part 4

Day 7 Timberline Lodge and Beyond

Zero Miles! My first one! Well, I just polished off a $12 salad of lettuce and dressing. I asked if they could make it extra large but I watched the cook put it in a to-go box and it was just a big handful. Sheesh! Not quite the welcome I was hoping for at Timberline.

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Carved fox on a stair post.

The lodge is an amazing WPA project, full of history and craftsmanship, hard work and ingenuity. In the downstairs museum I learned that the workers made .90 cents an hour during the depression and were happy for it. However this place is somewhat exclusive.  I feel rich just being here. At about $300 a night, Timberline is out of reach for most people. Granted, it is awesome, the luxury and the location is worth the price but the people who work here now (and the ones who built it) probably couldn’t afford to stay here. I’d like to see some part of the lodge that was economical so that more people could enjoy this historic public works project.

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Art everywhere!

I’ve been wandering around here all morning, since I was “up with the chickens” as we say on the farm. I had been awakened around 4 by noises and lights on Mt. Hood. I thought at first it was for climbers as a string of fricking alien-beam-me-up bright lights lit up the mountain. But the noise and movement of machinery soon let me know I was looking at snow cats grooming the trail on the glacier. Who knew you could ski here in July? Apparently, lots of skier know, the Wy’east lodge is crawling with them! I have since learned Mt. Hood is the only place in the lower 48 you can ski all summer long.

Went back to sleep for a few more hours then made my way down to the lodge proper for a facilities usage and to get put on a list that would somehow grant me early entry to our room. With that, I also got laundry privileges! I “hiked” over to the store, bought a Timberline T shirt, swapped out my dirty clothes in the bathroom and had my laundry done by 9 AM. For the rest of the day I was asked by tourists for instructions and help as I apparently looked like a member of the staff in that shirt!

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Would you like help finding your room?

It’s really kind of weird to be here after 6 days on trail. All these people! I don’t live or work in the city and actually see more people on the trail than I do in my regular life. I get that I’m unusual that way, I probably could be quite content as a hermit. Crowds make me nervous. Well, crowds of people anyway. I’m pretty chill in a flock of chickens, a herd of horses, a pack of friendly dogs.

About a year or so ago I heard about a personality description called “highly sensitive” and after learning more, took the 28 question test. Turns out I checked off about 26 of the boxes on that list. Artist, introvert, animal and nature lover, crowd and loud noise avoid-er, picks up and is affected by others emotions, stress and general vibes. Yep. Check, check, check! Learning about being “highly sensitive” has helped me understand why I’ve felt so different for so long and to finally be okay with it. I no longer feel the need to “fit in” and the relief and insight and self acceptance has been very, very freeing. So, no wonder the chaos at Timberline stands out in stark relief to my last week.

But I’ve got things to do, so I put on my game face and get with the program. After taking down my tent (which I longingly looked at as a tiny nylon refuge) I packed up and retrieved my hiker box from the store. In the ski lodge, I took over a table and laid out my resupply and jettisoned things from my pack that I didn’t use or need. My 8 ounces of camp shoes, gone. Really, I was only wearing them 5 minutes or so a day. My unused, extra-just-in-case water bottle, gone. The back-up packages of Ramen? Gone. The ultra light cashmere sweater? Gone. Winter gloves… what was I thinking?! Gone!

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I hogged a whole table with my resupply.

It felt good to see what I needed and what I thought I needed part ways. Even with all my backpacking experience, I’d learned so much about what to carry and what to pitch. But this was a trip unlike anything I’d ever done. I’ve never hiked so many miles or moved every night. In the past, my hiking buddy and I would set up our trips to mostly hang out at a high lake where we’d relax, swim, read and pretty much vacation in the wilderness. This PCT journey has been about goals.

Once all the sorting chores were done and I had my $12 salad in hand, I found a corner table to sit and write, charge my cell phone and people watch. But the first thing I see is a huge chipmunk run across the battered but well polished wood floor. A brown shadow, it heads towards the center couches that flank the fireplace. At first, I think it’s a rat, it’s so big, but then it reappears and skitters off looking for an unattended bagel. I flag down an employee who’s setting out coffee for guests.

Uh, excuse me, there’s a chipmunk in here. It’s under the couches,” and I point helpfully in the general direction.

Oh, those aren’t chipmunks,” he explains. “Those are Timber Tigers. They’re squirrels, actually.”

Squirrels? They look like chipmunks.”

Yeah, they are all over here. They come in as soon as it gets warm, we can’t keep them out. They don’t do much harm.” And off he goes to finish his duties.

Now, I’ve been pretty familiar with chipmunks and squirrels of all kinds for longer than this kid has been alive but I’ve never heard the term “timber tiger”. I shrug and figure he must know something I don’t, seeing as he works here but lo and behold, Google holds all the answers. Timber Tiger is another cute name for chipmunk and that is what is prowling all around the lodge. They are big, well fed and bold, and just like every other chipmunk I’ve ever seen. So much for the taxonomic knowledge of lodge workers.

Tigre Timberious

And so I eat my expensive salad and then notice the sad dog tied to a pole just outside my window. The sun is streaming down, hot on the concrete patio and this beautiful little French bulldog is tethered in a square foot of shade without any water. She is at the end of her rope (literally) as she tries to stay out of the sun but the sun is slowly winning. I am worried about her and look around the lodge, where are her owners? Surely they are coming back? She inches back but she’s gone as far as she can go. An internal debate starts, do I untie her and move her? Do I bring her water? Do I bring her inside? I fixate on the dog and write in my journal about bad owners who don’t seem to realize that the sun actually moves for crying out loud.

An old woman in a wheelchair is pushed near to where I am fretting and writing and eating. I look up as her attendant parks her in front of the view of Mt. Hood who rises so closely above the lodge one can literally walk out the door and up on his muscular flanks. The attendant turns out to be a granddaughter and she catches my eye.

My grandmother climbed Mt. Hood when she was 18 back in 1942. I’m just bringing her to see it again.”

The old woman nods towards Hood, her eyes deeply set in a face of worn lines, her hair a thin nest of gray white curls. Her skin is paper thin and she doesn’t speak, just gazes at this mountain she once climbed. Back when wool and waxed canvas were the only things between you and the elements. Before women were known as adventurers, though we know they certainly were adventuring all over the place. Back when she was young and lithe and powerful enough to climb this 11,250 foot giant of Oregon.

I wonder how much she remembers, how much she is aware. She looks so tired, propped up in her chair. There are 74 long and short years between the woman in the chair and the girl she used to be, the one who braved the wind and snow and rock and did this amazing thing. I hope she remembers it all like it was yesterday. Those deep memories are the last things to go when we get that old… I hope she sat there for what most probably would be the last time, and remembered how brave and young and fearless she was. I hope I remember things like this about myself one day. And that someone who loves me will wheel me to the edge of my adventure before I too have to pass beyond this earth and on to my next great journey.

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Old, amusing version of a Mt. Hood map.

 

I follow her gaze out the window and see the hot dog… her owners have come and are bending over her. The dog’s nose was just in the sun but she is rescued and they make a big fuss over how she had run out of shade, the poor darling! I learn her name is Daisy and she is untied and picked up and cuddled. Daisy is stoic about her fate and simply sighs in relief. As do I.

And now I see a parallel. The old woman in the chair, the dog in the sun. Each quietly enduring their place in life, with dignity and composure. No fuss, no drama, they were serene in their acceptance, they had surrendered to the moment and in the moment, had found a sense of peace.

I take a deep breath, let it go and do the same. The noise, the people, the chaos falls away and I am happy in my corner, jotting down my thoughts of the day.

And then, Joe is there! Our reunion is not marred with my internal anxiety, but feels surreal in it’s absolute rightness. Now if only our room was ready…. no sooner do I think this, when my phone rings. Our room is ready! We gather up my gear and box and head up to the cozy space. It’s lovely and charming and everything you want a lodge to be.

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Pendleton blankets on the bed!

Knotty pine walls, old dressers, refurbished bath… sadly only a shower. I won’t be using the Epsom salts for a soak as I had planned. We tour the lodge and the grounds and catch up on the week. Later, we treat ourselves to a fancy dinner and I order from the vegetarian menu. But while the dining room is rustic and lovely with its crisp napkins, its amuse-bouche, its palate cleansers and all the 101 touches that make it a 4 star meal, something sits on my stomach like an ill wish. I feel hot, too hot and I wonder what is in the lentil loaf. There are so many rich ingredients and I have had some issues with eggs in the past. Are there eggs in here? Did the teeny piece of salmon I ate mess with my vegan flora? I keep thinking I am missing vital enzymes to break down meat, as I seem to have reactions when I stray from my usual diet. I feel like I have let down this amazing meal by not being able to enjoy every last bite. And just like that, I am exhausted. We wrap up our experience and I go to bed, sleep finds me fast and holds on until the snow-cats start up again at 4 AM. Really Timberline? Really?

On Being… A Trail Journal Part 3

Day 6   Quick miles to Timberline Lodge

It was an easy hike to the lodge, even with the climb out of Zig Zag canyon. Since I knew I had all day, I woke up late, took the time to do my yoga stretches. Had a nice breakfast and even a second cup of coffee. I read a little in my Power of Now book and packed up slowly. I was on the trail by 10, stopping here and there for pictures. At the Paradise Trail turn off the signs were oddly placed and I found myself heading down a side trail. Before I went too far, I checked my trail app and it said I was on the PCT. I continued on, but a few minutes later, I paused. The trail didn’t look like the PCT. It was narrow and brushy and just didn’t feel right. I checked again, and now my app said I was 400 feet off trail. Huh! Somehow, I missed a turn.

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Here’s where I missed the trail. Too busy taking a picture, I guess.

Back up I went and discovered my error. The PCT had a switch back right at what I thought was a picnic spot with a view. I didn’t even see it. I must have checked the app when I was so near the PCT, it showed me on trail correctly. Well, good thing for technology but also for listening to one’s instincts!

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Bear Grass along the way.

Before I left for my trip, I’d been reading a book called “Awakening Intuition” by Mona Lisa Schulz. She talks about listening to your body and using your intuitive, gut feelings for insight and clarity with your life. If you rely solely on your mind, you loose touch with what your body is trying to tell you. I’m trying to get more in touch with my intuitive network on this hike, that’s why I listened to my body when I fell the other day. My mind was trying to say, you got this, go on! But my body was saying, hey, we need to REST, alright?

My ankle is a little sore and swollen, I feel it mostly when I am doing my morning and evening stretches. So I try to baby it a bit and even taped it up for yesterday’s climb. I’ve taken a couple of ibuprofen, but for the most part, I’m doing fine without the need for medication. I’d like to keep it that way.

I meet more hikers today, there seem to be more and more people on the trail the closer I get to the lodge. Most are just out for the day, or heading towards Paradise Park where the flowers are spectacular, or so I hear. I thought about checking it out, and I had the time, but it was another 1500 ft. elevation gain (and loss) and after day 2 and day 5, I just couldn’t do it. I really get why people go NOBO… the climbs have been a killer way to start my journey.

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The Zig Zag approach.

I drop down into the ZigZag canyon, not a bad descent but at the very bottom, the trail was a steep, rocky, mini cliff, just perfect for messing up your day. I tread lightly and make it. There are planks across the water and suddenly there are people in abundance. They seem to be milling around the water, taking pictures, doing God knows what. As soon as I cross, I meet a couple with their shiny, new, clean packs. I say “Hi” and I must look trail hardened, because the woman begins to ask me all sorts of questions. The regular credential questions to start, then when she learns I’m on my way to Crater Lake, she gets super excited. She congratulates me and says how brave I am to go it alone. I say, “I don’t feel alone, look at all the people on the trail!”

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The Zig Zag crossing and the slide down into it!

Now, while there are solo women on the trail, there aren’t very many my age. Actually, in the 6 days I’ve been out, I have yet to seen one out by herself. I seem to be an anomaly, but I also seem to be approachable so the day hiker continues to ask questions. I squint in the sunlight as we stand there with the hot sun bouncing off the stark canyon walls making everything too bright. People are streaming around us as they head for the plank crossing. Her husband smiles then talks trail… questioning where I’ve been, sharing where they’ve been. The inquiry comes to a close and I start up the other side.

It was nice to meet some enthusiastic wanna-be’s. Most hikers are very nice but as I got closer to the lodge, the tourists start to pepper the trail. Some were oblivious, standing in the trail taking pictures. One guy with a big pack stepped to the side but his pack was totally in the narrow trail. I said, “Uh, I still can’t get by.” Then he turns his body, swinging his load off the trail. Some day hikers come at me on narrow portions and don’t seem to realize we will have to pass and I am carrying more than a water bottle in my hand. They hog the trail and are surprised when I stop in front of them. I won’t risk a crumbling edge with this 30 lb pack (down 5 lbs from the start!). I figure I have a long way to go and if I’m going to get hurt on the trail (again) it’s not going to be from being overly polite. Usually though, I anticipate on-coming hikers and step off onto a safe spot so they can go by. It’s easier that way.

The most surprising tourist to me was the malicious “mean girl” who encouraged me with “You’re almost to the top! The lodge is just just around the next switchback!” then laughingly flounced down the trail. I was working my way up out of the Zig Zag canyon, carefully hauling my pack up another 1200 foot gain. The mean part was, I had just started the climb and I knew (because I studied my maps) that the lodge was 4 ½ miles away. No where near “around the next switchback”, so it was a very weird thing to say. Hard not to see it as just plain mean, really. I felt sorry for other hikers who might have fallen for that false encouragement.

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A little spot off the trail for a rest, a snack and a view!

As at Eagle Creek, there were the under-prepared day hikers with flip flops and no water. The women clutching purses, the smokers and the baby carriers (and by that I mean the people actually carrying babies… not wearing baby packs… which seems like a dangerous thing to do).  The middle age spread set and the slathered-in-sunscreen-vampires. After 6 days on the trail, the day hiker tourists really stand out.

 

Tomorrow night I have a room booked at the lodge and Joe is meeting me. We’ve never been to Timberline Lodge and it seems like a cool thing to do, a bit of a late 30th Anniversary celebration. We actually spent our 30th at the Olallie Lake resort where I dropped off a hiker resupply box since I couldn’t mail anything to the remote “resort”. I use quotes there because Olallie is a resort of rustic cabins, no electricity or running water. We stayed in a yurt and had a wonderful time. By comparison, Timberline will be a palace.

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Timberline Palace

But when I get there, as impressive as the structure is, the place is swarming with people and noise and too much energy. I feel out of place and everyone looks wealthy and clean. Regardless of my sudden discomfort at being in a real resort, I walk right in like I own the place, my trekking poles tucked under my arm. I wander about gawping at the architecture and the richness of it all. The beams and timbers circle a gigantic multi-sided stone fireplace in the center of the lodge. Everything is of a scale that makes me feel small, but it’s also rustic and old and a real ski lodge.

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Even the furniture is sturdy and unique.  Most everything was built on site!

I spent many a day in ski lodges during my New England youth, so I find a great deal of familiarity and comfort being in one right now. There is a beat up edge to Timberline, something that comes from decades of abuse at the hands of hard equipment, snow and outdoorsy people. I circumnavigate the center fireplace and stop when I get to the circle of couches taken over by a trio of thru hikers… or “hiker trash” as they are often called. Ahhh, now here we go!

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A PCT hiker and her pack taking advantage  of the great 4G signal and the ability to recharge in comfort.

Hello boys!” I say with familiarity, though two of the boys may very well be older than me. 

“Hi there!” they reply.  I stop to chat with the trio, one of which is waiting for the delivery of an ice cream sundae from the dining room. After about 30 seconds of back and forth I say,

So… Boston?” It’s so obvious, he has a wicked accent.

His eyebrows raise, surprised. “Yeah!”

I point to myself, “Nashua!” Which is the closest New Hampshire town, about 45 minutes north of Boston and where I went to school. I sit and talk to the guys, trail names are exchanged but for the life of me, all I can remember is “Boston” and not his actual trail name.

Trail names, by the way, are hiker nicknames that are bestowed upon one (or adopted) in lieu of using your regular name. Usually they are accompanied by a funny story, so that’s always an additional amusing twist. My trail name of Pathfinder was given to me over 20 years ago by my backpacking buddy because I was the map reader, and general which-way-er as we hiked. I am always taking short cuts down deer trails and pretty much ‘finding the path’… so it was a name that made sense.

My new hiker-dude friends for the moment were Fly-Fisher from Germany and “The Man In Black”, TMIB for short. Fly was talking about wanting to fish more, not enough time while hiking the trail. He had a Visa that said he could come back again so he had dreams of buying a F-150 pick up and traveling America, camping as he went. And fishing, I presume. We talked about hiking in Europe and the novelty, to him, of these long, long trails. He was soft spoken and serious and kind to say that my Oregon hike was still a very big deal. Considering he was finishing up a 2600 mile trail, my little piece didn’t seem to be that much but he put it in perspective. There were no trails at all (in Europe) that were even as long as what I was attempting. “Don’t ever say “just” 400 miles!” he admonished me. I had to agree… the word “just” is a bad habit. But distance is relative. I bequeath upon him, this choice bit of wisdom: “In Europe, a 100 miles is a long distance, in America, a 100 years is a long time.”  Fly Fisher nods in agreement.

TMIB was, well, dressed all in black. Which seemed like a hot choice given all the exposed parts on the trail. He was most enthusiastic about being at the lodge, he and Boston were actually a bit loopy from the trail… or from all the sugar they were ingesting, but they were laughing so much at times, it was hard to follow what they were saying.  It was noisy in there, but perhaps there was more than just sugar that had them grinning and giggling like naughty school boys. 

TMIB asked if I had any trail questions, and so I asked about the upcoming Russel Creek in the Jefferson Wilderness. This would be my last sketchy glacial creek crossing and I had heard some stories already. The lively narrative that followed had Boston running over the snow bridge that spanned the cliffs above the creek. But when TMIB and Fly-Fisher got there, no tracks were seen and they decided the snow bridge was unsafe. They jumped from rock to rock, avoiding the rushing waters but TMIB fell and a rock crushed his foot. He was glad he hadn’t broken it and pulled out his phone to show me pictures he had taken immediately afterwards. That’s when I noticed the time stamp, it had happened on Monday, just 4 days ago! These guys had been doing some serious miles!

Which means just 4 days ago the snow bridge was still intact. And that the creek was still, as TMIB said, seriously dangerous and I’d have to judge for myself when it came to crossing it. That bit of information was disconcerting to say the least.

I bade farewell to the dude-bro hikers. Fly-Fisher was cool to chat with, but the other two were getting ramped up. Between them and the loud, packed conditions of the lodge I needed to get outside and find a place to park my tent. We took pictures to commemorate the event and wished each other good luck on our journeys.

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Evidence: me and my gear are at Timberline.  We walked there, together!

A cheerful, ice cream filled Boston exclaimed, “Bye Nashua!” as I hefted my pack and threaded my way through the rich tourists. I heard some of them whisper, “A hiker!” in my general direction. It kinda was like TMIB said, we were rock stars! Dirty, scruffy and looking a little like homeless people, but I felt eyes on me as I wandered about, people wondering where I was going and what, maybe, I had seen.

Above the lodge, near the PCT was the ubiquitous communal hiker site where scores of hikers had waited out for the trail famous Timberline Lodge all you can eat epic breakfast. This breakfast is so well known, it’s down as one of those “must do, must see” trail moments. Right up there with climbing Mt. Whitney. I would have one of those breakfasts, with the hubby, before I headed back out onto the trail. Though being vegan is tough… most breakfast food isn’t made without eggs or sausage or some kind of porky goodness. I miss the taste, but I don’t miss anything else about animal food. No judgment, its a personal choice.

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I find a spot away from the communal camp, I’m still craving some personal space, but the whole area is noisy with people, cars, equipment. Its hard to settle down. I set up in a hillside of lupines. They are purple and beautiful, I take pictures then hide out in my tent and write in my journal.

I looked at my maps and think about where I am going next. The information about Russel Creek bothers me, I figured the snow bridge would be gone by the time I got there, but didn’t know the rock leaping was difficult. I think about how just today, as I was leaving the wilderness boundary, there was a huge sign about river crossings next to the self issue permit kiosk.

Apparently, the sign was placed by the family of an experienced hiker that had died crossing the Sandy River! So glad I hadn’t seen this until after I had crossed. That’s all I would have needed to ramp up my own anxiety.

Going alone has that drawback of feeling more vulnerable to dangers. I have to be extra cautious as I don’t have anyone to rely upon for emotional support if nothing else. Well, I won’t attempt a crossing that seasoned thru-hikers who have braved the mother fucking Sierra’s, think is dangerous!

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Lupines surround my tent.

But then again, as I have learned, there are all levels of perceptions on the trail. Some say it’s cold, it wasn’t. Some say it’s easy, it’s not. Some say it’s hard, and it’s a piece of cake. Conditions on the trail change all the time. The Seven warned me of all the blow-down I’d have to climb over and under. I had heard that a crew was clearing trail. Well, they’d heard that too, but that wasn’t their experience. I did the same trail, the very next day and the crew had been out and cut every blown down tree all the way to Timberline. They must have been right behind the Seven the whole way.

I’ve had a great 4G signal on Mt. Hood, there’s a big tower near the lodge, so I call home. The horses are fine, so are the dogs. Except for Scout. She’s not eating her breakfast and is depressed. Not like her at all. News from home takes my mind off the creek crossing and I eat my solo dinner (homemade smokey pea soup, yum!). I have too much food still left in my bag, I’ll have to do a better job packing for this next section.

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Nite Mt. Hood and all!

I get ready for bed and jot some final random thoughts from the trail in my journal:

Breath is life… focusing on breath is a powerful connection to the spirit within.

Being overly critical of yourself or others causes one to doubt and question their abilities.

Place your feet carefully as if your life depends upon it. Because out here, sometimes it does.