Day 8 Barlow Pass to Buggy Camp
In the morning, the amazing and much talked about (among the hiker community) breakfast buffet of Timberline is served. I am up early, all ready to get this next part over with so I can get down the trail. Some of my breakfast agrees with me and some does not, but the tasty vinegar, molasses, cider and ginger palate cleansing aperitifs really settle my stomach. I ask our server for another and this helps me over my weird bout of nausea and I am able to partake in as much of the buffet as I am able. We linger at the table and I watch the thru hikers hunker down with plate after plate. Some have come prepared with cards and begin playing games between what’s now become a 12 course meal. The sun is streaming in and I take the time to really enjoy the view, the lovely and rustic room, the guests, the food and my husbands’ company. I decide to relax about the trail. We are spending a small bundle on this tiny vacation in the midst of my trail journey so I decide to forgo my morning hike and “hitch” a ride down to Barlow pass. By cutting off 5 miles, I can spend more time with Joe and still have plenty of time to get to my campsite, wherever that may be.
We stuff ourselves as much as we can then wander about taking pictures and learning more of the history of Timberline lodge. We even step up on chairs to peek into the curators office, which in itself, looks like one of the educational display windows on the lower level.
Eventually it’s time to go and Joe decides to hike with me for a bit before heading back to work. We drive down the mountain to Barlow pass and everything goes by so fast! We are there in minutes, it would have taken me hours as the trail is steep and I have been babying my ankle, especially on the down hills.
I hoist my pack off the tailgate of the truck and together we go off on the PCT. I’m amazed he’s on the trail, it’s been 20 years since Joe packed with me. He seems to be enjoying himself and something about my hike has sparked a memory. He says he wants to backpack with me again and this makes my day. We talk about what a “return to hiking” trip would look like when I remember my socks.
I forgot my extra socks in the truck.
And so we go back and lo and behold, they are in my pack already. But all is not wasted as something tells me I will want my cashmere sweater. I sigh, not really believing that little voice, but since it’s more of a gut reaction, I go with it. I’m listening to my body on the trail, so it gets stuffed into my clothes bag. The weather does feel a bit cooler, maybe I’ll want it. Joe says goodbye at this point and I get to restart my trail solo… and that feels right too.
The trail is easy at this point. A gentle grade that follows a ridge-line. I get occasional views of Hood above the Salmon river meadows and stay under the cover of trees the whole way. It’s shady and so flat, I am surprised by the few times I have to climb up a hill or clamber over roots. Such a change from the previous trail. Miles roll along, nothing of note happens and I see very few hikers as I cruise along.
I finally arrive at a spring, the first water in miles and the first place that offers a campsite before a road crossing. I’d prefer to stay away from roads but I get to the spring so early, I start the inner debate… stay or move on farther? I get out my water bottles and filter from the spring, slapping mosquitoes as I do. This is a buggy little camp site, but the woods at this point are brushy and not looking very camp friendly.
There is a very nice young man camped here, we chatted a bit about school and how he’d quit his job to hike the trail. He was camped right past the spring, he stopped early so he could rest and read which suddenly sounded so absolutely wonderful, I decided to stay, bugs or not. It’s quiet here and I’m getting used to this communal camping scene. It actually is comforting, though I really did like my solo spot the day I crossed the Sandy. This camp has few choices and the spot I chose is a bit hilly, but there is a nice indentation for my hips, so I should be able to sleep comfortably on my side for once! I get all set up then return to the spring for more water.
Quiet camp indeed, there are two hikers who’ve been hanging out, filtering water and talking among themselves. D and Laura are two hikers from Switzerland and they are contemplating where to spend the night. We talk about trail, how far they’d come, miles and the challenges of the trail. I take another opportunity of find out more about Russel creek. They say it is very do-able. He jumped, she mostly jumped but for the last leap where he pulled her over.
“Only the toe got wet,” says Laura pointing at her shoe. It wasn’t very deep, they tell me not to worry.
“Okay,” I say, “but imagine your eighty year old grandmother wants to cross it. Can she do it?” I am using this matrix to judge point of view. If someone thinks an 80 year old can make it, then I can relax. D just narrows his gaze at me. Is he thinking “crazy American”?
“Ya, well, you’re not 80,” he says logically. There is no arguing with this fact. I guess I am spry enough for Russel, but Russel is too hard for grandma. I asked about the snow bridge, they tell me it’s still there, and while snow doesn’t bother them as, “they are Swiss!”, the bridge was too dangerous. They’re only a couple of days behind the guys from the lodge, so that gives me an idea of their judgment. It seems quite sound.
Funny thing though, as we went on to talk about mileage and battery power for our phones, the intrepid Swiss reveal an Achilles heel. D says he doesn’t have any issues with his battery lasting as he puts in big miles and can get to places to charge without trouble. He keeps his phone on airplane mode at night, which I find surprising.
“Really? Even at night? You don’t power down to conserve the battery?”
“No, I like to listen to audio books when I fall asleep. I need the books to help me sleep otherwise I listen to all the sounds in the woods and wonder, ‘what was that?’”
So there you go. Not afraid of rivers or snowy slopes or glacial creeks, but rather, of the sounds of the woods at night. Even after months on the trail. Which is something that doesn’t bother me at all. Fears are not universal it seems.
Joe and I talked about fears while at the lodge. He opined, “Fears weigh you down.” Which makes sense, fear being a thing that would make you more dense and thus, less enlightened. Now if I could only talk some sense into my gut reactions to thoughts of river crossings, I’d be as light as they come out here. Sometimes the hubby has good insights. He has his moments.
I really do need to work on getting mentally stronger. It feels like I’ve been climbing some mountains in my mind as well as with my legs.
I’m glad I was able to surrender at the lodge and be okay with skipping 5 miles. I felt so much better once I relaxed. With all the planning and prep I’ve done, it was hard to just let go and roll with what was happening. I get into a “have to get on the trail” and “how many miles do I have to make today?” mindset. I find myself being swept along with the rush even though I am going against it. Maybe because I am going against it, I see so many thru-hikers and section hikers with agendas. Everyone is on a clock of some sort.
Even the Swiss. D talked about his miles and how Oregon was a vacation because that’s when Laura joined him. Even though they are doing 20 miles a day, every day. Laura talked about when she had to get back to Portland, when her flight left, how she’d be flying to Turkey which would take 3 hours more. “But it was a significant cost savings, so the 3 hours would be worth it.”
See? Time and money… no escaping it, even if you are on vacation. Well, considering the uprising in Turkey, I can see why it is cheaper, I sincerely hope she makes it home safely.
Oh, time, such an intriguing concept. If fear is the mind killer, then time must surely be poison to your soul. Tolle talks about how the egoic mind needs time to stay in control. So it’s no wonder that living and dying by the clock is so universal. Especially in 1st world countries. Time is the pathway of the ego, by focusing on it you forget where you are in the Now.
It’s contagious too, here they were in this nice, albeit buggy camp, with fresh water and a lovely, flat surface and they wanted to leave. All because they needed to make 2 more miles. They have a schedule to keep!. So I found myself pouring over my maps and wondering if I should have gone all the way down to Timothy lake to make better use of my day.
Argh! I riffle through my half mile maps, consult my app, check my elevations, and think about my hike tomorrow. I am debating my over night at Timothy so I can make some stupid arbitrary deadline. Really, who cares? I have to meet my next resupply at Hwy 20 nine days from now. I have the ability to slow down, I built the trip this way deliberately but just talking to other hikers has me second guessing and wanting to do more miles. I even have permits to stay at Jefferson Park for 2 nights so I can relax and hang out… but those are on specific days so I have to stay on some kind of schedule. Suddenly all my plans seem so restricting and they bind the edges of my journey in such definite ways, I am wishing I didn’t ask anyone to be involved and that I had just mailed boxes to resupply points. A box can wait as long as I need it to. Reservations and people, not so much. At the time I made my plans, it seemed like fun to have family and friends meet me, but now they are targets I must hit so I can’t slow down or speed up or re-route on the fly. I can change plans as long as I have cell service and if the reservation can be changed or the friend can be flexible. Well, speaking of flexible, now is the time for me to be IT.
I probably should set aside my journal and read some more Tolle. That always helps to take the edge off and recenter me. The weather has cooled down and it’s starting to get darker in the woods. I’m glad I brought that cashmere with me and I’m finally wearing it for the first time. It’s so cozy! Wool makes me feel good for some reason. Silly sheep.
I’m tucked up in my bag with my wood leggings, wool socks, wool sweater and wool beanie. Wool me!
Day 9 Down to Timothy and Home Again
It’s cold this morning, glad for that sweater, I wore it all night. I awoke feeling off and have spent the last hour trying to figure it out. I started getting ill at the lodge, thought it was the food. Now, this morning I’m not quite right. On the trail I was fine and last night I just had Ramen, didn’t want anything complex after the big Timberline breakfast. My early morning constitutional wasn’t as good as I’d like it to be, I actually felt a little dizzy as I was coming back to camp, so my thoughts are running wild now. Could I have Giardia? How did that happen? I’ve filtered everything but the one spring where the water came out of a crack deep in a cave! No animals could have possibly contaminated that water… but my mind is feeding my paranoia.
Are you sure? How are you going to get out of here? It’s over 30 miles to Olallie, are you going to be okay?
On and on, it’s loving messing with me. Truly, my mind is saying some weird things and I want to tell it to shut the hell up. Instead, I have a cup of peppermint tea to calm my stomach, which is actually very helpful. I made grits for breakfast, but the first spoonful had me wondering if I was going to be able to eat at all. It’s like my fears are trying to stop my progress down the trail! What the fuck, mind?!
Ooooh! Scary water! Go back! Oooooo! Hmmm, okay you won’t go? Then we will make you sick… or make you think you are sick!
Two cups of tea later and the grits go down followed by a fig bar and I feel like myself again. I read in my book and that helps stop the run away train that is my mind. I’ve identified with my mind for so long, it’s become detached from my body so I no longer trust the things I feel. And by living in the future of what might be, I get all wound up and further removed from what is.
I came to the woods and trail to find the pieces of myself I may have missed while excavating my heart and soul these past few years. I came to reconnect with the simplicity, to disconnect from the never ending rounds of chores and daily farm life. I came to read, to think, to process, to just enjoy the wilderness.
But I’ve found something else. I’ve found that most hikers have an agenda and a schedule, they march hellacious long miles to get to the end. And then what? They keep busy as they take on the never ending footsteps through the wilderness, on and on, they have got to get somewhere. Every day, there is a somewhere that needs gotten to. There is a goal, a purpose, a point, a place or a number that must be achieved. And I find myself being tugged along in this tide of purpose.
I see now I may have made an error. No, not an error… in this case, error is a judgment. I’ve come to a realization. The months in preparation, in talking with friends, family, in gearing up for a goal that was met with astonishment, envy, surprise, and excitement only fed my ego. And my journey, the one I take internally, doesn’t need to be a trip for my ego.
An ego trip.
Why do I need to get to the end? Why do I have to do all these miles day after day? So others can get excited by it? (Oh! I know someone who did this!) Some want to live vicariously through me and knowing that I carry them along with me, drives me too. I’m feeling pressure to finish what I started for their sake but I don’t want that responsibility. It’s not what I want. I’m searching for enlightenment, illumination, understanding of self. It’s funny, that even while I was preparing, I felt as if I was running away from home, I see now that I wasn’t doing that either.
I’m making problems where none exist. So what if I feel restricted. So what if I woke up feeling off. That’s happened before, at home even… so what? So it’s cold and I don’t have my gloves or heavy socks. So what?
So it’s 7 miles to Timothy lake. So it’s 3 days to Olallie resupply. So it’s 10 mile to water. So, so, so… so what?
My mind rambles on, catastrophising and issuing warnings. But I’m here to be. Be in the moment, be in the Now. I am being tested in my beingness when I meet other hikers and it’s all, “gotta get going!” They are racing time and I’ve been swept along with it. I went SOBO to learn what was ahead, but all I’ve learned it that everyone has their own perception of danger and they pass along their fears as truth. I now have to wade through these truths and perceptions. I’ve set myself up to weigh, discern and judge, sifting through the opinions to see what is real for me.
I’ve also come into contact with so many personal stories. Most everyone wants to share who they are, what they are doing, where they are from and where they are going. Some want to share, and some want to know my story too.. they have time to stop and chat on the trail and treat it as if it was a speed dating party. How much information can they squeeze out of you in a few minutes of a chance meeting? There were a few of an interrogative nature that felt invasive. Others don’t have the time, a friendly hello or a nod, they are in the zone, in the groove. Some don’t even have time to say hello and after a week on the trail myself, I hardly notice. It doesn’t even blip on my radar as unusual or unfriendly, it just is.
And so, I find myself this morning wondering what many hikers have probably contemplated as they trudged the long miles… what am I doing this for? All my other trips where I lazed about in blissful enjoyment, that’s not happening. I’m swept along with the tide of hikers. I’ve joined the movement and the movement is north or south but either way it’s about the trail and getting the fuck down it!
This is not the path to enlightenment, for me, this is the path to self destruction. I feel that this goal of miles and an endpoint is just another focus on the future and takes me out of the timeless Now that I’m seeking to experience. I’m in the Now as long as I walk along and focus on the trail and my steps and even when I look at my maps and my journey. But then, I cross paths with a fellow traveler and the hiking community (it’s bonding and joyous and totally lovely in it’s welcome camaraderie) which takes me out of the Now and back into the Goal. This very thing I am liking is redirecting me from my own purpose. I have yet to learn how to not be affected by others.
And here is where I part ways with the madding crowd. Today I walk to Timothy lake… my first lake on the trail. Still water always helps calm my mind. I will gaze upon the waters where I hope to find a relief from the goal of “finish”. When I did long distance endurance riding, the motto was “To Finish Is To Win”. But that’s bullshit. There is no “winning” at the end, the journey is the win. I seem to have inadvertently supplanted one long distance endurance sport with another. Minus the horse, but still, there seems to be something about making miles that draws me but also now distracts me too. To be still and at peace… that’s the present goal.
I set aside my musings and got about the business of packing up camp. I’m getting faster, I’ve developed a system that makes things easier. When I get in my tent I put my empty bag at my feet, my kitchen things to my left, my paper things (map/journal/kindle/plans and TP) to my right. My hat and beanie at at the head of the bed where I need them, the stuff sacks, under my pillow. I can stuff my bag, then roll up my thermarest, my pillow and sleeping clothes. I set it all aside, pull up my backpack and toss it outside onto my thin mat. I’ve brought a body size sheet of thin foam under-layment that has had so many wonderful uses. It was a remnant from installing a new floor and is tough and provides a a thin pad for sitting during the day, a little extra insulation at night or even a door mat.
Before leaving the tent, everything goes out the door and onto the mat. I pull up stakes as I walk around the tent releasing the fly which gets balled up and stuffed into the tent bag. Then I can pick up the tent and shake out needles and dirt that have hitchhiked their way inside. While holding the partially opened tent in the air, I can unhook the tent poles and gather up the deflating structure of sil-nylon and mesh, ball it up and stuff it next to the rain-fly, all without touching the ground. The ground cloth goes in last, I fold it dirt side in so it doesn’t get my tent dirty. I know I’m living outside and dirt is a part of the package, but every little action that minimizes contact, adds up and ultimately saves on the amount of water and clean up I need to do at the end of the day.
Tent and sleeping pad goes into the bottom of my pack and has to go in first. I miss my old frame pack where it was compartmentalized with pockets and dividers. I never had to unpack it totally when on a trip and used it as a sort of portable cabinet. But the new pack has to be completely emptied and repacked every day. Other than my locator beacon and my rain gear, everything gets used and has to come out. It’s time consuming, but it is a lighter system so I’ve surrendered to the exchange of weight for time.
Next in line is my clothes then food bag, cook set, electronics. Toiletries, first aide on top of that, water purifier goes on top. The whole pack is structured with heaviest items on the bottom, things I need to get to on top. Lunch for the day has to be separated from my food bag, otherwise it’s buried too deep to get to without a major excavation.
I head out onto the trail after all is stowed and tucked away and realize I never took a picture of the camp. It’s my ritual to take a pic of the tent in camp each evening, but I guess I was too distracted by my body . I keep thinking my stomach is acting up because I am anxious about another glacial river crossing, which bothers me that I can’t control my worries. I’m worried about worrying… argh! It’s exhausting!
As I leave camp, I notice a pile of black poo next to the trail. I stop to toe it, checking to see how freshly laid it might be, softness an indicator of time. It seems to be a few days old so I continue on and wonder what animal left that so near the spring. I see these black poo piles at home and usually attribute them to coyotes or raccoons. I’m glad I filtered the spring water, no need to give my mind more ammunition for worrying!
The trail is an easy grade through the woods, I’m doing about 2 ½ to 3 miles per hour and at this rate, I figure I’ll be at the lake by 11 AM. And so I was! At the north end is Little Crater Lake. An odd turquoise blue pool of subterranean spring water that undercut the land and formed a steep sided pocket of water in the midst of an open meadow. The water is 34 degrees and looks so freakishly blue. I stop off for a few minutes of contemplative rest but find a group of man/boys jumping off the banks and doing a great deal of hollering. Not a place to relax, nor even linger. I guess they hiked in from Timothy where you can boat all the way to the end for easy access to Little Crater.
I backtracked across the boardwalk trail to the PCT and headed south for Timothy. I kept expecting it to show up, but it was another mile and a half before the lake actually hove into view. From the north end, the trail comes out first on a leg of the lake and is intersected by the Timothy lake trail. The sign says it’s 15 miles to circumnavigate the lake and I’m surprised. I had no idea this lake was that big. When I finally see it however, I don’t feel delighted or joy at the prospect of a swim. What I feel is very, very tired. I think I need to rest and to eat, I feel shaky and lightheaded. I had snacked on the trail and managed to keep down my breakfast but I felt poor which is odd, the trail was so easy. According to my app, it was only about 6 miles or so to the lake trail bypass, so why do I feel so awful? It’s at this point I realize something far more than my anxiety or a vegan reaction to eating a bit of lox is going on. Something is definitely wrong.
I picked up a 4G signal at the end of the lake so I shoot out a text to my house sitter, Amira.
Hey… what are you doing tomorrow? I may need a bail out. I’m at Timothy lake and I have some weird symptoms. It started at Timberline Lodge but I wanted to push through. I’d like to camp for the night and see how I feel in the morning. But I feel like I’m going to throw up or faint. Was trying to pretend this wasn’t happening. Damn it. Just want you to be aware and maybe available?
I walk on and in a few minutes she replies with an affirmative on the bail out, she’s able to come get me. I text back but it fails. This starts a frustrating on again off again signal that corresponds to the further I go down the lake, the worse the connection. But every once in awhile the phone dings I have a message… sometimes it’s from her, sometimes it’s my own failed text coming back. I plod on looking for an empty site but it’s Sunday and every place is taken with boat campers. I follow a side trail to the lake shore where I am accosted by two very large and very hairy Newfoundland type dogs who vigorously protest that I have walked too close to their camp. A woman holding a baby comes screaming up at the dogs and once the slobbery guards back down she asks me questions about the PCT and trail life. I am too tired to be scared of the beasts or to be more than baseline polite to her. I move on.
I am passed by an international tour group. They all wear matching packs and take up a 100 yards of trail with their strung out line of hikers. There must have been two dozen of them all together, a violation of wilderness rules and basic trail etiquette but I don’t suppose they know anything about that as they are obviously part of some organization. For all I know they are here to hike the 15 miles around the lake and will stay out of the wilderness proper. One can only hope.
A half mile and no signal later, I find a rocky point that’s unused. It’s high above the shore and windy, but there is a sunny spot between the rocks and I throw out my thin pad and sink down onto it whereupon I curl into a ball and doze just enough to take the edge off my utter exhaustion. I get up after a bit and still feeling woozy, find a lower, more protected cove to set up my tent. As I am setting up, two seagulls come and hang out on the little beach. Is mom watching over me? If so, who is she hanging out with?
I think I had a bite to eat, I really don’t recall, my thinking is muddled and I lay down again. This time, inside my down bag where I shiver trying to stay warm. And that’s when I know I am really sick. I thought it was a cool day, but there were people in bathing suits, swimming and playing in the water… those guys were jumping in Little Crater lake for crying out loud!
My symptoms were very much in keeping with what I knew about Giardia. So that did it for me. I needed to go home and get some medication, no way was I hiking 30 miles to Olallie like this.
All I needed was a signal but I really didn’t want to hike a mile and half back to where I got that 4G band. I climbed the hill behind the camp until I got a 1X and a teeny, tiny bar. A sliver of texting hope, I sent out a signal to Amira.
Got IT! She replied.
So I called and it was decided that she’d leave right now to come get me. We agee to meet where the PCT comes out near a horse camp and she Googles how long it will take. I’ve got 3 hours to meet her there so I go back to my camp to rest before packing up. I don’t get another chance to sleep as some day boaters come into my cove and hang out for almost an hour, talking and laughing loudly.
The wind dies down after they leave and now I can smell something really bad in this camp. Something has died nearby and this really adds to my happiness quotient. Not! I pack up again for the second time today. It’s 2 miles to the horse camp, I have plenty of time to get there. But as I climb back onto the PCT and check my Halfmile app, it says it’s 3 miles and I have only an hour left to get there. Ugh… 3 miles an hour with how I feel? This will not be an easy stroll.
I hurry along and work to keep my momentum as I climb over roots and rocks. The trail climbs away from the lake and adds elevation into my hike, not too hard but tough enough. I didn’t even stop for water even though I really wanted to and needed it. But I make it to the trail-head only 15 minutes late, hoping there is a bottle of water in the car for me as I’m down to my last swig.
Amira shows up shortly afterwards and we take a series of back roads down towards Olallie where I think maybe we can swing by, I’ll pick up my hiker box and that will save me an extra trip later. But the roads twist and turn and we take several dead ends. I’m too tired to navigate and there are no maps in the car that show where the hell we are. She’s relied on her phone to get her here, but of course, there is no signal. She’s a different generation, my old school ways aren’t her way, which is fine providing the phone does its job. After a few tries, we agree to quit messing around and get back on the road we know and head home. It’s 10:45 before I make it to bed, the end of a very long and disappointing day. I can’t even think about what just happened. I’m off trail and sick and WTF? So I set it aside and snuggle in my bed, the dogs nestled around me like sentinel lions. They were so happy to see me, though Scout has lost a lot of weight for her… it’s odd that she got sick and does’t seem to be recovering.
Just before turning out the lights I pick up my phone and do a quick Google search for Giardia symptoms and the very first thing that pops up is “symptoms in dogs.” What? Could my dog have Giardia too? I click and read and from what Amira has described to me, it sounds like that could be Scout’s problem and then it hits me. Symptoms show up 1 to 2 weeks after exposure. Both Scout and I started to get sick at the same time and 10 days ago, the dogs drug home a possum. But it was only Scout who rolled in the black, tarry, nasty possum poo and it was ME who bathed her without gloves or any concern at all for touching the gunk. And black, tarry poop? That’s the calling card of Giardia.
All this time I am wondering what these animals in the woods are eating (a picture of the black poop I saw this morning flashes in my mind) when I should have been wondering what was eating them! Why did I think wild animals are running around all healthy and happy in the woods? Hello?! Some of them are sick!
Well, that’s all it takes to convince me… we both have the same symptoms and we both got sick at the same time. I am so very happy to have come home. Poor Scout would have been sick all month… no one else knew what had happened. Even if she had been taken to the vet, she still might not have been treated properly without this part of the puzzle. Finally, I can rest easy knowing a trip the doctors is in store for us both. I give her an extra hug and turn off the light.