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.

 

On Being… A Trail Journal Part 2

Day 4    Down to the Muddy Crossing

It’s a funny thing about going SOBO.  While I am out there, I meet most everybody on the trail who are heading north. I cross paths with NOBO hikers, and there are a lot of them. I get to ask what’s ahead. I also get to hear a variety of reports based on their individual perceptions, opinions and confidence level. My first clue this may be a problem, was the woman who warned me about the narrow Eagle Creek ledge. I kept looking for a part that was so death defying, I’d have to take off my pack and push it ahead (like she did). I never found that part.

Now when the Seven told me of the upcoming Muddy Creek crossing, they said it was no big deal and there was even a rope to hang onto if I was worried. So, I put it out of my mind and focused instead on the Sandy River. This one they said was more, well, sketchy. A bundle of narrow trees was the one and only bridge; they crossed by getting in the water and hanging on to the bridge for support. This seemed like a good fall back position so while the crossing had me worried, I tried not to focus on it. Well, not too much.  Even though I was recognizing I was getting a variety of perspectives on the crossing, I did continue to ask for the opinions of many of the thru or section hikers coming my way.  Like, most all of them.

And then, there was today. Where I learned much more about being in the moment and paying attention to where I was actually at, as opposed to where I would be in 11 miles down the trail.

Nothing to worry about!

Nothing to worry about!

When I get to Muddy Creek, I am taken aback.  It’s a silty, glacial, roaring torrent of a creek! The water was much more than the “walk in the park” I had imagined when I arrived after an eventful and long trail. I stood on the bank and looked at the 20 foot wide stretch of white water.  It was moving fast so I dropped my pack and tested the crossing. I took my shoes off and barefoot, used my trekking poles to probe the depth.  It wasn’t too bad at 2:30 in the afternoon and I  got half way across before I retreated back to contemplate my next move. Camp or cross? Camp on the other side, or continue on? After everything that had happened, I just wasn’t sure, it seemed too early to stop for the day. Hungry and tired, I sat under a tree by the log crossing and ate. I was surprised by the strength of the creek and suddenly, I was overwhelmed with fatigue so I lay down and took a nap.  The noise of the water drowned out my thoughts, the sun was warm, the grass was soft and I was just so tired. I felt like Dorothy in the poppy fields (Wizard of Oz reference here).

Some time later, I awoke and decided to try the log crossing…  just to see if I could.  Across the creek lay some seriously large trees.  Amazingly, they had fallen over right at the edge, they bridged the creek and they were level!  A natural bridge of two big logs with exposed roots on one side (that you’d have to climb over), then using the rope on the top log, you could walk on the bottom log right across. Easy, right? Shades of Eagle Creek, right?

Wrong. Imagine if you will, very large trees, and when you crawl out on the bottom one, you notice the rope you are clinging to is frayed and somewhat rotten. Added to that, the top tree is so round, it pushes you away from the log in an arch…. and you are carrying a heavy pack AND you have fallen 3 times already today so you doubt your surefootedness.

After my nap, I thought I would try it without the pack. For practice. Did I mention how these logs are at least 10 feet in the air above the creek? Fear of heights? What fear of heights? I got to the logs, walked out away from the edge about 5 feet and was scared by the drop. And the weak rope and my own weak grip. No way I’d do it with a pack on. I’d have to lean out over the bulge of the log and all the stubby branches too. Dear GOD! I got back to safety and stood at the end of the root side as a young hiker approached the logs from the south side. He was thin and tan, his long light hair swung about as he nimbly leaped on some lower downed logs. He was wearing neon yellow running shorts to go with his lightening print gaiters. Then he came over to the double log rope nightmare. He tested the ropes, walked easily across and right up to where I was standing at the root ball.

Are you a thru hiker or a section hiker?” he asked.

A section,” I replied, shouting a little over the noise of the rushing creek.

Cool,” he said, then asked, “How far?”

I’m going to Crater Lake.”

Cool.”

His level gaze was unsettling.  I stammered, “You made that log look easy! It’s too scary for me, I’ll have to ford it.”

Well, I can take your bag across for you if you want,” he offered.

I took a split second to ponder this offer and I did not turn it down! “Really? That would be great! I was just trying to decide if I should go over now or in the morning.”

He looked at me seriously. This was one serious kid. He said, “Well, you’ve got to cross it sometime.”

We talked a bit about campsites and he said there were some on the other side but they were expecting people to be coming in later and if I went now, I’d get to pick my spot. Well, there was no denying this young man’s logic. He scouted about while I put my pack in order and then he hefted it up and nimbly waltzed across the top of the log like a squirrel.

Note the squirrel hiker.

Note the squirrel hiker. Looks easy from here.

I made my way down to the ford and took my shoes off again, tied them together and draped them around my neck.  Taking a deep breath, I began to wade. The water was higher from when I first got there. I didn’t think that much time had gone by, but what had been up to my knees was now pulsing up mid thigh and seemed even stronger. I used my poles, trying to find the shallow places, the water was white with silt, I was stabbing blindly, feeling around the submerged rocks. My focus intensified to one step, hunt with my pole, another step, shift my foot. Then the next step. Then a deep drop off, hunt again, there, upstream it was shallow… step forward then over and then, finally, a few more steps and I was out. Phew! I was so glad someone had been there, just in case! But when I turned to look, my trail angel was gone. My pack was there to greet me, but I was alone.

I laughed a little at myself, I’d heard you should never cross alone.  But just knowing someone was there boosted my confidence.  Looks like I could cross a creek alone if I had to. It helped that I didn’t have the pack though… that thing had already tossed me about enough today. My heart was pounding when I got to shore and I sat down on a rock to put my shoes back on.

I shouldered my pack and climbed up to the south bank campsites. The forest was lovely, moss covered old growth trees in a grove of soft moss bedding that stretched up along the creek. I found a wonderful place to pitch my Ultra Light tent and while I did, my trail angel and his friend came over to visit. They were two High School students from Southern Oregon. The tent was admired and stories were shared. I was impressed that two young men were on the trail together.  They hadn’t even finished High School yet.  What an adventure for them!

Earlier today, while on the trail, I vowed to “stop telling my story”.  Everyone does it, ‘where are you going?  Where are you from? ‘ It’s become a right of passage, or, your ticket into the trail club. I think about it and wonder why. I feel like my ego is getting off on this whole trip. “Here I am! Here’s what I’m doing! Yes, I’m going solo! Yes, all the way to Crater Lake!” Which I already feel weird about since I had intended to go to Ashland, but now my trip is truncated. And sometimes I even add that in the story, for what reason I don’t know. I get to practice this vow and break it over and over… frankly, my lack of self restraint is bothering me.  I found myself narrating my tale again to this new audience, then later feeling annoyed at myself for yet again, breaking my promise.

This morning I got on the trail early, skipping breakfast because I knew I had 11 miles to cover. I went 4 miles in 2 hours, past a logging operation, past the sizzling high voltage towers, past the car at Lolo pass who’s back window had been shattered and presumably its’ contents ransacked.

Hood peeks thru the towers of power.

Hood peeks thru the towers of power.

I was walking along and eating “second breakfast” when I tripped and flipped forward into the huckleberry bushes. There are bushes everywhere along the trail, the berries are at their peak and have been a big part of my breakfast/snack routine for the past few days.  I crash right into them and roll onto my poles. I’m okay, but a little shook up. It was such an utter surprise, I did not see it coming, nor could I stop it from happening.

I climb a few more miles when I cross paths with a 70 something woman and her younger companion who were hiking all of Oregon and Washington. You GO girl!! She was inspirational… I wish I’d gotten her trail name. She teases me for eating all her berries, I tease her for eating all of mine. I was glad to meet a hiker who was taking the time to enjoy the wonderful huckleberries, they really were everywhere and so worth a pause here and there. I climb on before finally hitting the ridge then down into the Muddy Creek basin. I was thinking to myself I was making such good time, I could cross the Muddy and continue on. I felt great! And then, before I knew it, my foot slips, my hip rolls and off I go, pitched right off the trail and into the pine needles along the side of the trail. WTF? Again?! I’m glad it’s a soft landing but my ankle rolled a little on the way down. I’m stunned that it happened so fast and for the second time. I think of all the sketchy places where a fall like this could mean very bad things. Places where there is no side of the trail to land. Probably need to put my personal locator beacon, the INREACH…. actually in reach!

I also think about how the previous night, talking to my camp-mates, when they say they are scared of cougars… I reply with this nugget:

You’d be lucky to see a cougar. The things to be scared about are falls, spraining your ankle, maybe even lightening. You’re much more likely to encounter one of those fears.”

So prophetic. Well off I go again, I focus on the trail and tell myself I had better just stay at Muddy and rest up before crossing. Then, in a few more miles, I begin to think about how much ground I’m covering and how I’ll get over the creek and get closer to the Sandy when, WHAM! A rolling rock slides out from under my foot and this time I went down on one knee and the PCT has her payment as blood is drawn.

Okay! Okay! I get it! I’ll stay at the Muddy! I promise!”

You can bet I was focused on the trail after that. Every single footfall. I made my mind stay on the present moment, And having focused so intently, I was so very tired by the time I reached the Muddy. My body was tired and told me so in the only way it could. Just because it was early didn’t mean I could push past 11 miles. I hadn’t really rested, just a quick stop or two all day. I need to take it easy and stick to my plan. My body needs to rest, it’s having some issues with the trail. Tomorrow is some major elevation gains, another 3 thousand feet, and now my ankle is a little tweaked.

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The trail down to the ford. High water in the evening.

Anyway, SO GLAD that is over! I went back down to the creek before bed and it had rose even more. Tomorrow is a two mile hike to Sandy. Gulp. I will be getting to it first thing, so it should be easy to ford. I keep hearing how the logs are narrow and sketchy and even slippery and wet. But, as wonderful as that sounds, I will leave it for tomorrow. Right now, I’m all cozy in my tent. I don’t have a problem right now. I trust in the Universal energy to make my way smooth, the trail do-able. I’ve been learning about the power of NOW (reading EckhartTolle lately) my mind is not in charge. So, there, mind! You and your fears can just step aside for now.

Mossy site. So cushy!

Mossy site.

Day 5 Crossing the Sandy (lived to tell the tale). And finally, a solo camp!

I know I am sometimes all over the map chronologically, so today I will do my best to be sequential.  But wow… what a day!

I awoke just as it was starting to get light, the birds were singing their first song of the day and I was eager to get the Sandy River crossing over and done with!  I packed up as fast as I could and this time, made a hot breakfast to fortify me for what I saw as my greatest challenge so far.

My mind had been entertaining me with looped songs the past few days, yesterday it was Sarah Bareillis’s “Brave”, but today, out of nowhere, came an old Neil Diamond song from the Jonathan Livingston Seagull album.  This is an old soundtrack from a movie, circa 1973.  The movie and the book it was based on, was a favorite of my mother’s.  If ever there was a spiritual theme that resonated with her, it was Jonathan Livingston Seagull.  So to have Neil Diamond in my head, first thing, and that particular song… well, I felt my mother’s presence so deeply that morning.  I felt she was watching over me, she was there to help me face this river.

I was the first hiker out of camp that morning, it looked like tent city right down the trail from me, but no one was stirring.  I was on the trail by 6:50 and it felt good.  The air was crisp and Neil was singing:

LONELY LOOKING SKY
Lonely looking sky
And bein’ lonely
Makes you wonder why
Lonely looking sky
Lonely looking night
Lonely night, lonely looking night
And bein’ lonely
Never made it right

Sleep we sleep
For we may dream
While we may

Dream

we dream , for we may wake
One more day

Glory looking day
Glory day, glory looking day
And all it’s glory
Told a simple way
Behold it if you may
Glory looking day

Lonely looking sky

He was right there in my head, the violins, the piano, the horns, the whole orchestra pulsing around me.  I didn’t walk far before I began to cry.  Quiet tears of joy, of love, of the sheer beauty of the world that was waking up all around me.  I watched the sun kiss the top of the canyon as I took the Ramona Falls bypass up to the Sandy River, just 2 miles away.  And I felt my mother, who had passed away 4 years ago, I felt her presence…  she used to be so scared of my wilderness trips.  But now, she wasn’t scared any more of any thing, finally at peace and lending me her strength.  Somehow, I knew I would be across by 9, just a few hours from the start of my day.  I’d be across and I’d be safe and all was as it was meant to be.

On my way to the falls, 2 crows stopped to shout “Caw!  Caw! Crrook! Crrook!”  I stopped to “Crrook !” right back at them.  I’ve always felt crows to be messengers for me.  My mother’s bird of choice has always been seagulls but that would have been something very strange indeed to see a seagull up here.  I asked the crows if they were sent to watch me,  in keeping with the magical theme of the day.

“CAW! CAW! Crrook! Crrook!”

I told them, I would take that as a yes and continued on to the falls.

Ramona Falls

Ramona Falls

I spent a little time at the falls, but mostly I walked in a blissed out state up and around until I came across 3 hikers who warned me of the crossing and jolted me right back into reality.  They talked about the logs, and how they had wanted to ford the river but it was too cold.  Startlingly cold.

I’m starting to think I am suffering from “too much information” anxiety!  But as I leave the nervous hikers behind, I slip back into listening to Neil Diamond sing and focus on the moment as it unfurls before me.  And then there is the Sandy.

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The Sandy River lived up to its hype.

I inspected the narrow logs.  They did not look very supportive so I tested out a ford by sticking my poles in as far as I could.  The water was swift and deep at that spot so I began to walk upstream looking for an alternate crossing.  Last winter I read a blog by an Oregon  woman who had hiked the same trail solo. When she came to the Sandy, she walked upstream until she found a safer crossing and in messages, she advised me to do the same. Now last year, it was a very low snow pack year, so the strength of the rivers were not quite what I was seeing.  But still, sound advice.  I kept testing along the way, until finally I came to a bend in the river where a gravel bar jutted out into the stream and the water fanned out into a shallow channel and one short narrow stretch.  It was an easy stroll across the shallows and the short part was not as deep.  I found my crossing!

I unhooked my pack and loosened the straps a little so if the worst case situation arose, I could get my pack off.  I took the time to attach my phone (in a waterproof bag) and location beacon to my body and tucked it into my shirt.  Crystal had done the same thing at this point and I thought it was a very wise idea.  I left my shoes on so I’d have better traction.  The Sandy seemed to have more volume than the Muddy and the day was going to be sunny and warm.  Better to have wet feet than a broken ankle.

I stepped into the channel and noticed the water wasn’t as cold as the last hikers had thought.  Cold, yes, but teeth chattering cold?  Hardly.  One foot after another, I thought heavy thoughts and planted myself firmly with each step.  The river was swift and strong and pushed back at me, wanting to uproot and sweep away.  No time to be anxious, I was in the midst of it all and there was no where to go but across.  It was narrow at this point, so just a few steps and I was scrambling out the other side.  I made it!  Hurrah!

“WOO HOOO!”  I shouted out loud and danced in a little circle.  Another solo crossing.  I snapped a few pictures and noticed the time.  9:01

The Sandy River

Things to do today: cross the Sandy River.   Check!!

After my celebratory dance, I filtered water from a clear stream (glacial silt streams are not good for water filters) and prepped myself for the 3 K climb to come. It would be another short mileage day, but that was how I had planned my trip.

Mileage and elevation and fitness were a consideration when I was sitting at my dining room table thinking about where I would camp and how many days I would need to hike. I then made reservations at Timberline Lodge, Jefferson Park, Obsidian Limited Entry and Crater Lake’s campground at Mazama. These dates gave me structure to what seemed to be a major undertaking. Like rocks in a creek, they served as stepping stones along my path. But, like a random creek crossing, they also wound up being too far apart or too close. It became hard to adjust as I was mid-stream. Adding in the friends who wanted to meet me, the zero days and additional hotel accommodations for such a short segment of the PCT (all of the PCT in Oregon is only about 450 miles), I wound up tying myself to a timeline that soon felt constricting. It’s hard to be in the moment and “see how you feel” when you have to meet a deadline. Sometimes I gave myself too much time, other times, not enough.

But on this day the 6 miles seemed just about perfect. Pack adjusted, I stepped on the steep trail with my wet shoes and immediately came upon a crow feather. It was soft and black and just waiting there for me as if to say, “see, you made it!”. I smiled to myself then noticed Neil had quit singing in my head. I was alone on the trail once again.

Alone, but not lonely. Loneliness is not something I usually experience, I’ve always been quite content in my solitude. Maybe it’s because I feel connected to nature, the world around me, the stillness I find within. But the handful of times I’ve experienced loneliness were always the result of being with people who wanted nothing to do with me, not necessarily in a malicious way, but more of an “insider” vs “outsider” fashion. So it’s interesting that I would experience this on my first day out and yet, not feel lonely. Just different. I don’t always notice the ways in which I feel different from others, but really, deciding to hike solo across Oregon… yeah, how different is that?

For the first time, I put in my earpiece and listened to Radio Lab podcasts as I hauled my pack up the ascent. I was climbing Mt. Hood proper now, the views below of the river canyons and glacial washes affirmed I was up on his flanks. And since I started at sea level and was going to be spending the night at above 6 thousand feet, it was pretty much a climb in my book. Not a summit, but definitely a climb.

And then there was this interesting rock on the trail.

And then there was this interesting rock on the trail.

Mt Hood is a big, beefy mountain. Called Wy’east by the natives and given a masculine gender, I felt that big, tough guy persona. He’s one impressive dude and he got my attention at all the best places. It was quite the haul up and my feet squished along in my wet shoes. They felt a little cold and good on that warm day. I had had some issues with my shoes, actually and had been taping my heels every day to ward off blisters. So far, so good but I wondered how long my luck would hold out. Blisters seem to be a normal part of trail life and something I was trying to avoid. Much to my surprise, the wet shoes actually molded to my feet as they dried and became a better fit as I went along.

Getting higher!

Getting higher!

I remembered a day hiker I saw, she was limping down the Eagle Creek trail, a shirt tied around one foot, a running shoe on the other. She apparently lost it while exploring one of the waterfall pools. Well, that’s what happens when you play in the water, which is why I had tightened my laces before I crossed the Sandy. Miles and days from a trail head, I did NOT want to suffer the same fate. Wouldn’t that have been a bummer of a tale?

Beefy Wy'east

Beefy Wy’east

The wildflowers began to show themselves in abundance, a mile from my destination, a hummingbird zoomed past me after feasting on the Indian Paintbrushes. I marveled at it, as I had named my pack Hummingbird with the hopes it would be light and fly down the trail. At this point however, Hummingbird was still heavy and weighing me down.

Avalanche Lillies, no avalanche required.

Avalanche Lilly, no avalanche required.

The views continued to be glorious and I followed the trail from one wonderful place to the next. I met many hikers along the way.  Most everyone was friendly and feeling those high mountain vibes.  One guy had managed to hike all of Oregon in 13 days.  He was averaging 35 miles a day and looked pretty wrung out. Another was on his way south after pretty much mountaineering his way through the Washington snow.  It’s been a late season for snow.  Just as I was about to look for a camp in a level bit of topography, two hikers came down the trail. They were a couple of guys around my age and once again, the credentials were exchanged. “Two Guys” asked about water, they were running a little low, and they wanted to know about the upcoming trail. I asked if they had the Half Mile app for their phone, as it lists all places for water along the PCT. Guy #1 said they did, but he was proud that they had yet to use it on their entire trip across Oregon. They were relying entirely on maps which were buried in their packs.  And apparently on other hikers to fill them in on things like, well, where’s the water? You know, unimportant things like that.

Now, I love maps as much as the next person. Well, maybe even more as I went back to school a few years back for surveying and mapping and actually worked as an intern in my local county’s cartography department for a year. So, yeah, I get maps. And I have them and they are accessible. But I also appreciate new technology, the apps and GPS on my phone are pretty dang impressive and helpful. Especially in situations such as these.

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The water was down here. Literally, right around the corner.

I gave Two Guys instructions about the upcoming trail and water. Guy #1 asked me again, the same question. I repeated my instructions. Again. He chatted on about where they had been and what they were doing… maybe just in case I had missed how important his story was? Then he asked again about water. WTH? How have these guys made it this far with this short of an attention span? I gave him the shortened version of what I had just said, twice and moved on down the trail.

“Okay, bye.  Have a good hike!” and I left before my face could contort itself into a shape that said, “Dude,  you have got a problem.” 

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Wy’east getting ready for bed.

Two Guys  moved on and I slipped off the trail and down a path that led to a frequently used campsite. I moved deeper into the wilderness, still looking for that elusive solo camp before settling on a lesser used spot tucked away behind some fallen trees.

Hood over my tent.

Hood over my tent.

That night, no one stopped at the communal site… it wasn’t listed on the Half Mile app, so I guess it wasn’t on the thru-hiker radar. And finally, I had my solo night. It was peaceful, beautiful in it’s solitude and the perfect end to an absolutely epic day.

On Being… A Trail Journal Part 1

This post will take a step sideways from my usual art blog format.  I’ve made some changes in my life… mostly to the way I think and process and thus, believe and behave.  I no longer feel driven to create art as a way to keep my head on straight. I still want to create and paint and feel closer to that muse than ever, it’s just that I no longer feel driven. And while I have yet to get myself back into the studio to see how all this shakes down, what I did do is return to the hiking life that used to fill my soul with an extreme form of joy in being alive.

And so… I hiked.  130 miles.  In the wilderness.  Alone.

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What I hoped to find was a greater presence of peace within myself as well as more imagery to add to my series, “The Wilderness of Women”.  I did find those things, and along the way, a few more unexpected truths.

My solo journey began in late July after many months of planning and packing.  Testing gear, training, making my own vegan trail food and modifying equipment.  The trip was planned, but then, before I could even start my border to border hike across Oregon on the Pacific Crest Trail, changes were made.  Circumstances shortened my time away from home.  I compromised and rearranged the journey.  Friends got involved and stepped up to bring me resupplies… which was great, but it meant that I now had to schedule within their availability.  This had an unforeseen affect on the length of my hike, but was really just another facet of the gem that was my journey.

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Sorting out my resupply.

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Lets see, do I have everything?

I kept a journal and took the time to write every day; details of things that happened along the way, thoughts that came to me.  Observations and musings…  sometimes it read like a log book, other times it’s profound and poignant. I’ve whittled down the entries to include what I consider the most interesting and relevant parts.  Here it is… my trail journal, part 1:

Day 1: Eagle Creek Trail (PCT Alternate) (AKA Too Many Tourist Heaven)

Joe drops me off after a quick goodbye. Later I feel bad that I was so distracted, but I was eager to GO and focused on getting to start my hike after all this planning.  He wanted to help me so much, but I wouldn’t let him.

“No, no… I have to do this!” I exclaim when he moves my gear about.

“Fine,” he laughs and teases, “Get the hell out of my truck!”

“Okay, BYE!” And I pretend to walk off.  After 30 years of marriage, we know we don’t mean anything by this exchange. We hug and laugh but then I really am on my way.  It’s hot and mid-day and the trail is full of tourists.  Some are coming back to the parking lot, some heading out to see the waterfalls along the Eagle Creek Trail.  Some are slow, wearing flip flops. clutching purses or carrying small children.  Some are fast, unencumbered by 35 lb packs on their backs, they skim over the rocky trail and quickly climb out of sight.

As the trail snakes up the canyon, it hugs  basalt cliffs.  In places it’s so narrow and precarious, only a cable hammered into the wall keeps you from pitching into the abyss.  One woman says she was terrified and couldn’t look down.  I focus on the slick rock and hope I don’t meet anyone coming in the opposite direction.  I do, but in places where I can safely be passed.

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The dangers of Eagle Creek. Don’t look down.

It’s a Saturday and the place is LOADED with people.  I didn’t bother to count, but I probably passed a 100 people by the time I got to 7 1/2 mile camp. At this point, the trail is brushy and the forest deeply shaded. I made  good time,  climbing 1500 feet by 4:30 PM, but the site is right on the trail and unappealing so I continue on.  There aren’t many places to camp, Eagle Creek is mostly a canyon and any other possible campsites are taken.  I hiked another half mile, taking my pack off twice to climb over, then under fallen trees.  I needed water to camp, I was running out, but the trail left the creek and began to climb up into the deep forest.  The thick under-story of Devils club, salal shrubs and cedar trees did not lend itself to rough camping.  I tried to find a place but it was getting darker in the canyon and I was tired.  I finally gave up and retraced my steps.  I had to climb over and under the logs again then asked a group if I could use the empty  tent space next to their camp.

They were very friendly, two University teachers and their friend, so I felt quite at home among them for my first night on the trail.  The creek was right off the camp but I had to walk through their “living room” to get to it.  They are welcoming to me, especially after I say I went to the same school and had been a teacher myself.  But later, the friend is quite interested in my journey and asks many questions … and I get very talkative, which results in the teachers getting quiet.  I feel like I’ve overstayed my welcome so I retreat to my tent, whereupon the laughter and camaraderie resume, loudly.  It confirms my party crashing vibes.

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My damp home away from home.

They stay up rather late, there is bourbon involved after all.  It feels strange and I wonder if I feel lonely, but I don’t. I feel more “out of place” and knowing that, I choose to be okay with all that is happening. This is a journey of discovery and of being in the moment. This particular moment is noisy and a little annoying as they laugh and shine their headlamps on my tent. Accidental? Maybe. I do wish I had the chance to camp alone my first night, but there were so many people up and down the trail, I’d rather camp near these intellectuals than the group of flannel wearing men with furrowed eyebrows I saw just around the corner. My camp-mates may run hot and cold, but I feel safer here. And so I sleep as they party on into the night.

Day 2:  Up to Indian Springs (Brutal Climb)

I made it to Indian Springs!! It was a grueling day, I climbed about 3 thousand feet…  in 5 ½ miles. Ugh. The most gain was the last 2 miles and it took me almost 3 hours. At first, I’d count 100 steps then stop and take a breather. Then it was 50. Then 20 and finally 10. I’d plod 10 steps and stop to breathe. It was brutal, grueling, hard…. how many words can my tired mind come up with for steep and exhausting? Not many apparently.

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Destination, top of the ridge. And NO this picture does not quite capture how hard this trail really is!

Long, low miles,  it was 3 PM when I stepped out of the woods and into a party. The abandoned campsite of Indian Springs had a truck, tables full of food, water, BBQ grills, lounge chairs and 7 women. One looked up at me and said, “You made it!”

I made it!” And wondered what the hell was going on. Turns out, these 7 women, all from the same family ( sisters/aunts/in-laws) had hiked from Timberline lodge to this spot. Where they were met by an uncle/brother who drove the difficult road bringing the party trimmings, including a propane shower!

I was welcomed into the family party and plied with water, food, wine and a hot shower. I declined the last two items, (I don’t really drink… much) and the shower? Well, that’s some amazing trail magic, but it was only my second day after all! I didn’t feel deprived enough of the luxury of showers that taking one in the abandoned Indian Springs campground was worth the effort. I was holding out for a high mountain lake!

The Indian Springs party was so warm and welcoming, such a difference from how I started my day. The Eagle Creek women were rather cold to me, I barely got a good morning and it was very quiet as I packed up. One of them pointedly turned her back to me, whenever I looked over at their camp all  I’d see were backsides.  It was odd, I mean, you have to work at maintaining that position. Finally, I shouldered my pack and said “Bye, have a nice hike out!” One quiet “Bye” was all I got in return.

Well, I hoofed it out of there by 9 and had a laugh at myself for even noticing the morning cold shoulders… was my little ego wanting to take a “poor me” ride? Silly ego!  I focused on the trail and the moment and in a short time I met two very friendly thru hikers (hikers trying to go from the Mexican border all the way up to Canada). They both stopped to chat about the trail and were happy to answer my questions about the river crossings and other trail conditions. They asked where I was going and where I started and suddenly I felt like I was part of the trail hiker community. Not just a camper or a day hiker, but someone who was out to do some real mileage. Someone out to accomplish something bigger than themselves.

They  warned me that the Indian Springs trail was steep and hard.  I gulped a little inside.  If a thru hiker who’d already seen so much, including the Sierra Nevada range, said it was steep… uh, yikes!  But that was the way I had to go, so go I did.  Just at the trail junction, I came across a group of women who were cheerfully day hiking from a nearby lake.  As they went past me, I noticed one of the had a Hamsa tattoo on her leg.

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And since I’d drawn a few and happened to be wearing a shirt with a Hamsa on it I called out, “Nice TAT!”  And for some reason, they came back.  They were chatty, but mostly wanted to know how to find Indian Mountain.  Then they showed me their directions for a loop hike that would take them back to their lake.  No map, just printed directions from an internet hike site.  I pulled out the map, had them take a picture of it, then pointed at the Indian Springs trail which they had just missed.

“You’ll need to go that way for 2 miles, then turn left to get back to the lake,” I told them.  They were very happy they had come back and asked for help, as they would have gone all the way to Eagle Creek before they had figured it out.  As they left up the steep trail I told them the Hamsa was a sign of protection.

“I guess it’s working!” said the tattooed girl.

I took a big swig of water then started up the trail myself.  The thru hikers did not exaggerate.  It was steep alright.  At times I had to roll myself up a step as high as my waist.  There was no way to “step up”.  My calves were screaming, so to shut them up, I’d turn around to rest, just so the incline went the other way while I paused.  After an hour and a half, I looked up my location on my phone.  I have an app that works off satellite GPS and tells you where you are on the trail.  Unbelievably, I was only half way up the trail.  I was pretty shocked and since I was hungry and tired, I sat right down on the trail and had lunch .  Food always helps.  20 minutes later I pressed on.  I met some more thru hikers, this time from England who were already disheartened by the steepness.  They were hurting, just different parts.  Everyone I met seemed to agree, downhill is worse, though it was hard to relate as up, up, up seemed to be my only experience so far.

And then, 3 hours after I saw the Hamsa tattoo, I found the spring and the end of the trail.  And the most welcome welcoming committee ever.

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Best trail magic EVER! The Seven.

So tired… will write more tomorrow.  Reminder:  write about the lost hiker and her brother.  And about the 54-Days-Out-Boys.

Day 3:  The Ridge Above Bull Run Watershed

I went to bed early, but the party lasted into the night.  I was tired from my hike, they don’t call 9 PM “hiker midnight” for nothing.  Most are pretty wiped out by then.  But the “Seven” (as I began to call them) had a pretty flat hike the day before and were jazzed by the family trail magic.  They had a campfire, which generally means you are staying up late and enjoying the fun.  It would be quiet for a while, voices murmuring in the background as I drifted off to sleep, then the group would erupt with laughter, startling me awake.

OMG, What kind of trip was this going to be? So weird to start off with my second communal camp and second night of a trail party. I sincerely hoped things would quiet down once I got further down the trail.  Indian Springs ends, or begins, depending on which direction you are going, at the PCT.  Maybe getting on the Pacific Crest Trail will make a difference.

Before I wrapped things up for the evening, a hiker came up the Indian Springs trail with a frantic look on his face.  He asked us if we had seen his sister, describing her in detail.  He hadn’t seen her since 2:30 that afternoon when he stopped for water.  She, however had hiked on and rather than wait at the trail junction, had kept going.  Apparently she missed the turn off just like the Hamsa tattoo girl.  Her brother, thinking she had made the turn and wasn’t waiting for him, hiked up the Indian Spring only to come out at the top and discovered she wasn’t there.

I helped him look at a map, pointing out what she had probably done.  And suggested he go back down Indian Springs and meet her as she was most likely climbing up right now.  But he opted to drop his pack and head the opposite way in case she completed the loop and was circling around to our campground.  We told him we’d be on the look out for her and not let her leave should she arrive.

About an hour later, the sister popped out of the woods… she’d figured out she was going the wrong way and (as predicted) had backtracked and climbed up Indian Springs.  She was entreated to stay and given “Seven” hospitality.  Since she was in very good hands, I retreated to my camp where I listened to my neighbors chat about Harry Potter books for another hour.  These guys had come in right after the brother and settled into the site next to me.  They had been on the trail for 54 days and this was their last night.  Three 20 somethings, they appeared all trail hardened and looked every bit the bearded survivalists they had become.  And then they started chatting about Harry, Hermoine, Dumbledore and Snape.  It was rather adorable actually.  First thing upon awakening in the morning, they picked up where they left off… who had the greater challenges, who was the best character, what Harry would have done if Ron hadn’t…  so cute.

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My camp at Indian Springs in the morning. That table came in handy.

I packed up, did some yoga stretches and said bye to the Seven.  In my first 200 feet on the PCT, I met a group of older gentlemen who also had hiked down from Timberline.  They were very interested in my “hands free” umbrella set up.  As we chatted, I found out that I was meeting the Chairman of the Board of the Pacific Crest Trail Association, John Crawford!  He gave me his card, solicited my membership and shared his trail name, StormChaser.  The other two were also on the board, apparently there had been a meeting at Timberline that year and they were using the annual meeting as a springboard for a section hike.

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And just like that, I was above the trees! I believe that is Mt. Adams back there.

Around the “corner” I came across the brother and sister team (Will and Anne) who’s reunion last night was met with cheers from the Seven.  I could hear Will shout from my camp,  “Where the FUCK were you??!!” as he came back from his search. Apparently that was accompanied by leaps of joy and huge hugs all around.  We chatted a bit about how to avoid that situation in the future, and considering they were hiking SOBO (south bound) from the Canadian border to Mexico, it was a good idea they develop a strategy.

The rest of my day was rather uneventful.  I met section hikers Smudge and Toaster, two 63 year old women who were on their way to Canada.  They had started at the Oregon border and looked great.  So capable and strong.  They actually looked better than many other thru hikers I saw later, which goes to show you, wisdom and experience really do make a difference.

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For you Star Wars fans: The forest of Endor? Nope, the PCT above Bull Run!

I met “In and Out” who chatted about gear with me.  Again, my hands free umbrella set up was the icebreaker.  He took a picture of it so he could make one for himself.  I probably should explain…  I have, along with many other hikers, a silver colored umbrella that works as a marvelous portable shade as well as a rain cover.  But, if you use trekking poles, like most hikers are now-a-days, you can’t hold your umbrella.  I figured out if you cut a paint roller, drill a couple of holes in it and attach it to your backpack strap, you can stuff the handle of the umbrella down the short tube and voila!  Hands free!  It was the talk of the trail as hikers asked what my roller was for…  if it wasn’t being used.  Otherwise, many were envious of my set up.  That shade saved me more than  once!

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Hands free shade!!

It was nice to have relatively flat day after climbing up out of the Columbia River Gorge.  I was starting to understand why even section hikers went NOBO (northbound).  Day three was mostly ridge walking along the Portland watershed known as Bull Run.  I caught a glimpse of Mt. Hood, it was nice to see where I was going for once! I also caught glimpses of jumbo jets.  Apparently this portion of the trail was right on the flight path of PDX.  Every 10 minutes or so a big old jet would wooosh on by.  I’m sure the passengers were getting gorgeous views of Mt. Hood, but for me, it was definitely disturbing the peace of my hike.

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My first glimpse of HOOD!! Hey there, big guy!

There were signs all over warning hikers to stay on trail, no camping allowed.  So I headed for a site at a trail junction.  Just as I was checking it out, a group of women came in, also looking to bed down for the night.  They graciously offered to move on, but the site I had just passed was so fly and mosquito infested I wouldn’t wish that on anyone!  So I stepped across the trail to a flat spot that wasn’t a part of the camp and let them have it.  I’d rather camp with the 4 women then an unknown mixture of who knows who.  I was literally feet from the PCT but the flat spot was far more cushier than the regular site.  It was full of fir needles and was my softest bed yet.

And better still, everyone was tired.  My friendly neighbors who had been buddies for over 25 years all tucked themselves in by dark.  Finally, a quiet camp!

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A good nights rest was had by all.

 

Painting Mt. Hood

As part of my Wilderness of Women series, I decided to paint the iconic Mt. Hood.  Judy Flexer sent me a fabulous photo of Mt. Hood from the PCT, and while I liked it, somehow living in Oregon and actually painting the one big iconic volcano in our state was… well, maybe too big of a project.  I was so reluctant about the subject matter that I pretty much filed the image under “do not paint… like, ever!” in my mind and that was that.  Until I was searching for my next project.  And I kept coming back to that image, it was big, and bold and compelling as all hell.

So I wondered… why not?  I proved to myself I had the ability, so what was stopping me?  I couldn’t think of anything other than my own little fragile ego.  If I compared my work to the quintessential hero of the landscape, Albert Bierstadt, I felt I was falling short of greatness.  But why compare?  He was a great painter, yes, and while it is true that he has a particularly nice rendering of Mt. Hood that happens to hang in the Portland Art Museum, surely that’s no reason.  Intimidating, yes, but really, that’s a silly reason to not paint something. It’s not like the PAM is calling me anytime soon to ask what was I thinking?!  Damn it, I wanted to do it just because at first, I didn’t.  It may be a perverse kind of determination, but it’s how I spurred myself to get over myself and just do it already!

In Judy’s photo, Mt. Hood is bathed in sunset colors, the viewer stands between the sunset to the west and looks east at the mountain.  The eastern sky is a deepening blue, as opposing sky lines often are; the foreground is shadowed, you only know it’s sunset because of the spectacular glow of Hood.  The Multnomah Indians called it, Wy’east, and he was one of the sons of the great spirit.  Wy’east is a big beefy volcanic guy and without his deep mantle of snow, we see all his orange, golden, tan and ochre tones. You can tell it’s late in the summer and the white cape he usually sports has mostly disappeared.  Hood is pretty much naked in this picture… and something about that really appealed to me.

And now, for some other perverse reason, I decided to not only paint him, but document myself in a whole new medium to me, film.  Well, digital anyway.  Last time I made a film was in a class where we actually spliced real film!  So, not only did I have to learn the software, I had to hang up my phone on a tripod and upload, upload, upload.  Argh!!  It tested my patience and because it was a distraction, I skipped filming portions of the painting.  So, it’s not a great piece of movie making, but it is kinda fun and explains my delay at posting to my blog!

Without further ado, Painting Mt. Hood.  A digital short by Sky Evans… enjoy!

Mt Hood

Mt Hood

If you’d like to learn more about Albert Bierstadt and his amazing talent, here’s a quick link to his version of Mt. Hood:  http://www.wikiart.org/en/albert-bierstadt/mount-hood-oregon-1865