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 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.