A table for 1 at the Gratitude Cafe (aka The PCT)
Except there's no poached eggs or almond milk lattes here. It's just you and the wilderness.
Day 1. Seattle to Harts Pass to Windy Pass
It's extraordinary. This makes it worth it. But it's still hell. Ha!
No one can ever call me precious or a princess! I'll never deal with that shit ever again. Ha!
With each rock and dirt pass, the views just kept on getting better and bigger. Pictures cannot even depict the vastness of this land.
And it was quite nice and green in parts, before the arid terrain took my life away from me.
Yep, today had moments.
There was a lot done. Yet so little. I posted 14 of my boxes and things were off to a slow start for the day. We didn't end up getting our ride until 11.30am and even so, the car we had wouldn't make it up the trail towards the Harts Pass PCT trail head. I knew I should've trusted my instincts. I should have prebooked a mountain cab. I'm going with my gut from now on. So we had to walk an unnecessary length and time to get to Harts Pass. I was offered my first trail angel magic with an awesome guy who offered us a ride from half way! I thank the lord above for him, as that hike was ROUGH. I only hiked roughly 8.3 km on the PCT today and an additional 4.8 km up the trail road. Yep, I had moments.
Once on trail, the proper PCT trail, it was an overwhelming rush of YES. Yes, this is what I'm set out for. Still hideous incline, but it resembled what I really wanted.
And of course, I saw a Grizzly Bear. Not on trail but going up the hideous road. It resulted in a lot of yelling and singing and bear spray prep to scare it off. My fellow hikers, I love that I have a team, but I truly feel like I'm letting them down. They are all close to 6ft tall, so one step of theirs, is 2 steps of mine. That sort of sucked the fun out of this experience so far. I feel like I'm rushing to keep up and it's sending my body into overdrive. I slowed down a lot to get my body to adjust to terrain and just caught up when I could. Carrying nearly 4-5 litres of water, crampons, ice axe, bear canisters, 7 days of food, tent, first aid kits etc is really bloody heavy and on my size body, it's so hard to incline with that much weight on my back. I'm sure I will adjust, it's just that right now, it's hell!
But the views...
It's extraordinary. This makes it worth it. But it's still hell. Ha!
I set up tent at Windy Pass for the night. I was very pleased with my dinner. Gluten free rice ramen with dehydrated carrot, broccoli and corn. I added my Vegemite and nutritional yeast for flavour! Very happy! Washed up and prepared for the morning. The mosquitoes are pretty bad at the moment due to the snow melt off, so they were delicious at dinner time! Haha
Anyways, I need sleep. Day 2 tomorrow and I'm already exhausted!
Day 2. Windy Pass to Woody Pass
Elevation, snow and more elevation.
Still F****** epic, but incredible.
Words cannot describe today. This is possibly the hardest thing I have ever done, yet the most rewarding. Out here, you are nothing. You are a speck. A particle. A literal atom in space surrounded by the most extraordinary of landscape. There is nothing but you and the world. It's overwhelming and confronting, but no comparison to anything out there.
But besides this beauty, this trek is not for the faint hearted. People do it for all different reasons, but my main reason is not to hate the experience or myself. I need to take my time and hike my own hike. It's scary at times, walking through woods alone for kilometres, but this trail redefines 'alone'. We all think we are alone in the world. People throw around words like 'he's a loner', 'she's lonely' and 'I've got no one'. It's all bullshit until you are actually ALONE with no one to pick up the slack. When you are wandering solo, just you and trees and wild animals and cliffs and snow packs and signs that point in different directions, then you are truly alone. This is a true solo hike. I am alone out here. When I cross snow, I'm alone. When I walk over cliff rock passes, I'm alone. When I hike over rock avalanches, I'm alone. And yes, it's scary.
I want to enjoy this vast landscape and take my time. My hiker legs will come very soon, but right now, they could do with some reflexology! I stayed with a guy in Seattle who is also from Australia, and I have never met a more encouraging human. I am lucky to have met him. I've been doubting myself a lot these last two days, as my initial team storms ahead, I'm a lot slower. I don't consider myself unfit, I just put it down to my careful and cautious personality, and the measures I take to prevent injuries and fatigue. I suppose I know my body well (which is why this health thing has really knocked me over, because I know me better than anyone)! But my fellow Aussie hiker started yesterday completing 50kms to the border in one day! We would've been a little further along the trail had we not had transport issues, but that's beside the point. Fifty kilometres!! I would never have made that! He's a hiking legend. He's hiked many trails across Australia and New Zealand, and is now completing the PCT. Now, he could be a total ass and fob me off, seeing all my fellow team hike way ahead of me and me look like a fool. Instead, I'm filling up at a stream and washing my top, and on his return from the border he stops to chat. I feel a sense of comfort around him; a bit of a mental safety net. Knowing how incredibly hiking savvy he is, plus a fellow Australian, also adds comfort. I explain to him how far ahead everyone is and how I feel pretty behind it all, but he encourages me more than anyone I have passed on the trail. He said to slow it down and go steady. Take it in. He said he did his big 50 km yesterday and was taking things a little more gently today. So even the hiking gods slow down! Ha! We both agreed on how exquisite this landscape was and I thank him for encouraging me to keep going at my own pace. My legs will catch up soon, I trust.
Now, I'm quite well known for not being emotional. I've only ever been upset and shown it to a couple of colleagues. Maybe it's a sense of pride, but I try to hold tears back, under any circumstance. It can't be good, and that's something I am working on. But it also has its positives, because when I am upset, people know it's for real. I do associate being emotional with weakness, which I shouldn't, but I've always despised drama queens! Anyways, here on the PCT, you quite literally travel through 50 different emotions a day. Today it started with anger, because walking uphill for nearly an hour straight at 7am is hideous. Then relief, because going down hill is superb after trekking up so high. Then frustration, because in the mountains, what's goes down must go back up! Then fear, because all of a sudden you are alone in the woods. Not pretend woods. Bloody real woods, tall trees, strange sounds, possible bear sightings. Then happiness, because you see the alpine sunlight and a field. Then tiredness, because you've been hiking since 7am non-stop and it's 12:30pm.
Then I just look to my left, and start crying. Why? Because it's beauty that can't be described! It's like your body and mind can't deal with how insane this is and there's no other way to express it. It's an overwhelming sense. It's good for me. This is good for me.
This trek comes with a lot of dealing with fear. Facing your demons one by one. Fear of the unknown. Fear of failing. Fear of death. And even fear of life for some.
I'm camped up at Woody Pass for the night and leaving gear here tomorrow to hopefully make the 35km return trek to the border/monument! It's a scary amount of miles but with a much lighter pack, it should be ok. Plus, tent is already set up, so no time wasted packing up and setting up tomorrow night.
I continue on tomorrow. My Eye of Horus leads me.
DAY 3 - Woody Pass to Canadian Border (return)
I did what Mum would've said to do...
Today was hard. Difficult, long and tiring. But I made it! One step a time! It's incredibly corny and quite predictable to say something like that, but on this journey, it is literally one foot in front of the other. There is no other way.
My feet are killing me today. The pain on the soles of my feet are horendous! Let's put this into perspective; I've danced in how many different shoes, danced hours on pointe, performed in 6 inch Nine West stilhettos 8 shows a week, but nothing compares to this. A show ends after a few hours, you go home to a nice warm bath or ice bucket and recover and go again in a days time. Here on the PCT, you just have to keep going until you can set up camp somewhere and find water! There's no showers, or hot baths or microwave heat bags. This is life in its most minimal form. I'm currently laying horizontal in my tent with a make shift 'elevation' system with everything in my pack. I packed a small jar of bruising cream and voltaren pills, so that's been applied! My feet have never looked prettier, plus the dirt on my legs has actually gone through my Lorna Jane tights! Yes, I know, I need a shower, but I have another 4 days at least! Beware gross pic!
No one can ever call me precious or a princess! I'll never deal with that shit ever again. Ha!
Aside from the feet pain, which I am ditching the hiking boots once I get to Stehekin (I'm also ditching my Samsung tablet, Camera, Charger and some other stuff too - pack weight is too heavy for me) today's hike was luscious. I was green, alpine, snow and all those wonderful things Washington has to offer. The hike down towards this Lake was breathtaking, however because of the return trip from the border, what goes down must come back up. That was when I RIP'ed!!
The scenery was by far the most spectacular and part of me was saddened to not be seeing it again. You forget that once you hike past it, it's all in your 'past' on the PCT!
But guess what, I made it to the border of my favourite country in the world - Canada!!
Trumps hasn't put up a wall yet, but there is a massive clearing in the background that separates the US and Canada. It's illegal to exit and re-enter from Canada, so I chilled out and ate lunch here before having to head nearly 17km back!
The trek back was harder, because everything was uphill and plus the sun had moved from the morning shade. The woods have so many fallen trees at the moment, it took a lot of effort to constantly jump over them!
Climbing back up after the lake was significantly poposterous, but I took my time and with every switch back, I looked at the view. It makes it all worth it when you see how wonderful the earth is after hauling ass up a mountain. It's breath taking.
But still, the feet! Soooo aching by this point. I still had another 7 kms to go. However, I did remember all the snow we had to walkover.
PERFECT!!! Ice bath!! I'm guessing Mum would've suggested the same. I thought of her immediately, and my fear for snow went out the door and I immediately appreciated the dreaded stuff! Damn cold, but definitely numbed them for a good 15 minutes until a bee tried to attack me. So back on with the boots and pack and head to camp!
I washed my top in a stream and trying to make it smell not too bad. It's hiking. There's nothing here, but smelly humans.
I'm off to sleep, legs still elevated and hopefully tomorrow feet are not too sore to go another 31km to camp at Harts Pass! Keep on keeping on...
DAY 4 - Woody Pass to Harts Pass
Horus vs Set
Today my Horus was fighting. Set was significantly trying to attack me today, but I pushed on. I hardly took any photos, because today was all about anger. So much hatrid and anger. Having to hike back through all the same terrain is the most inconvenient and painful experience for any SOBO hiker! Why can they just not allow you to enter the PCT from Canada!? It's so frustrating, and the worst of it is that you know what's coming, because you've been there before. And again, what goes down must go back up!! So many switchbacks. After the horrendous return of Rock pass (which is currently snow melting), I suddenly remembered the 5 other incline switch back sections between there and Harts Pass! I was determined to get to Harts Pass today, as I need to get rid of this excess gear sooner rather than later!
But, more importantly, I hated so much about today. It's ironic me addressing the emotional side of the PCT in my previous post, however today truly got me mad. No picturesque view could pull me out of this anger. I could not give a rats what anything looked like. I was angry that my feet are failing on me. Me! My feet!! They never let me down. I was annoyed that I brought hiking boots and didn't just wear trail runners from the beginning. I was furious that I had to transport around nearly a kilogram of hiking boots for over the last 100 kms! I was also fed up with carrying crampons and ice axes with no guarantee of snow crossings, and also carrying litres and litres of water in case there wasn't another alpine stream (which there is plenty)!! And I was irate that I had to incline for over 75% of today's hike. It was one of those days, and nothing could pull me out of that mood.
My feet were debilitating today. I had to stop every 500 metres to rest them and every 5km to take my shoes off. I iced them in a freezing stream 2 times and snow bathed them on the top of the mountain. My little team of boys and me constantly kept catching each other and we are all suffering. Ankle soreness, shoulder aches, knee pain. Ah, injuries, the PCT, swelling, 35kms, fatigue. It's all fun and games, but then again, not really. It just really got to me today that the landscape could not save my headspace. I was angry and the PCT was allowing me to be angry. The PCT doesn't pretend.
I arrived at camp tonight, but before I did, I bathed myself Pocahontas style in the stream nearby. That was strange, yet exhilarating. The water was ice cold, so I rested my feet in it. I washed my shirt, AGAIN, because I cannot stand the smell of myself. There's no deodorant out here. You can't attract bears anymore than they already are! The person who created deodorant however, does deserve a Nobel prize. The stream was a good freshen up!
It's strange here at camp tonight. I'm here with 8 other men. No women. There's a few women on the PCT, but generally hiking with their partners, so tonight I was the only girl around the campfire. In all honesty, it didn't feel strange at all. I had only noticed! I fit in out here.
With the anger of today, I had realised that life on the PCT is actually a true cliche. That saying about only looking forward and never looking back (or something along those lines, I have no internet, I can't check!)... if you go to physically turn around on trail to look back at where you came from, you quite literally nearly fall over. Your ruck sack nearly takes you off the trail, off a cliff, or into a bush. Go figure! The trail is simply about conquering life one step at a time. Moving forward and never going back. And I'm getting there. Mind you, it's only day 4. But in the rage of today, it's sad to never see that terrain again.
Oh ps. There was one thing that made me smile today.
A squirrel eating a nut. Goodnight!
DAY 5 - Harts Pass to Brush Creek
A Thousand Miles
That song 'A Thousand Miles' by Vanessa Carlton? I have come to the realisation it's bullshit. Not one person alive would walk 1000 miles just to see someone or hold someone! Seriously. No one even knows what a thousand miles is until you actually walk it!! And if you are walking 1000 miles to see someone, you seriously have to sort your head out. Nobody needs to be walking that far just to not be alone!
Today was different though. Just like I talked about regarding emotions, today was blissful. New and untouched terrain, extraordinary views, alpine trekking and cliff edges.
Walking along the top of these mountains was exquisite. It was a freezing cold morning today, but the fresh air really helped with the incline and climb towards the alpine. I was taking so many photos today.
After climbing up to nearly 2060m, one of the most spectacular views was whilst I ate my lunch. I sat on a rock at the edge of a cliff opposite Glacier Pass. The name says it all. It certainly felt like being in a postcard. I looked down to my left, however, and saw the next 22 switch backs to get down the mountain. So I quickly captured an iPhone picture before I was going to turn into a ruined human.
I started to think about yesterday. The hatred. The lack of pictures taken. I realised that pictures are a memory, either to share or simply for yourself. If something is horrible, why would we want to remember that? It's a reason we don't look back at old photos that make us recall depressing, sad, angry or hurtful times. Sometimes we just don't want to go there. I don't need to remember yesterday's hike. It is in the past and the PCT is giving me other stuff to remember by the day.
As I switch backed down the mountain, the pain started to come back. My feet were suffering badly! But then the trees opened up and I saw this:
Something special to keep me going.
But then came the rocks. It's like the PCT truly tests everything about you. When you think you are fine, you most certainly are not! The pounding on my feet. The feet are killing me again. They start off great for the first 4 hours, then they start to die on me. I snow iced them again and also stuck them in a stream tonight. I'm trying to elevate my legs as much as possible so I skipped dinner with the boys around campsite and have been tucked up in my tent massaging them.
Tomorrow is meant to be a big day. Ideally, nearly 38kms! I don't know if I'll hold up. But I'll get up super early and take my time. I have all day. I don't want to rush or feel pressure to be anywhere by a particular time. There's options for campsites to stop at, so tomorrow will be for me.
Ps: happy birthday, dad!! Love you with all my heart and wish you were here. This is something you'd love! Xox
DAY 6 - Bush Creek to Twisp Pass
I think I'm getting used to this.
So nice not to have excruciating foot pain today! I popped two voltaren pills before hiking and heavily massaged my feet with hirudoid and comfrey cream before bed. I hike 37.5 km today and it was only really a struggle towards the end. It was a huge day, but oh my Horus, it was spectacular. Today was by far my most favourite day so far! The landscape was never ending. From brush shrub, to forests, to rocky passes, to cliffs, to snow passes, to green valleys, to snow capped mountains you cannot describe. It was a day of sheer bliss. A long day, but my ultimate. I journeyed into the woods for a lengthy time today. It was a little scary. I feared that I would lose my singing voice out here on the trail, however, with all these woods and possible bear encounters, I am singing at the top of my cords!
The woods were never ending. Every time I entered, I wished for daylight. It's stressful being in there so afraid of these bears. It takes so much more energy to hike, incline, not step on rocks, climb over fallen trees, sing AND look out for bears! It's energy expenditure to the max.
But on the other side of the woods came this incredible view. The climb up was intense, but it was gob smacking.
As I continued to summit, switch back after switch back, I was enjoying the pace at which I was moving. There was no pressure to keep up to anyone else's pace. You simply hike your own hike. I've come to terms with that. I am always out here, solo. I walk alone, every day. It's magical. Something I would never say I would describe hiking solo as, but it really allows you to take your own opinion of it all. You don't have someone else controlling your thoughts. You also aren't caught up in mundane conversation that can distract from the world around you. It's so incredibly 'city' of us to walk around and not actually look at anything. Think about it. When was the last time you actually stopped and admired a structure around you? Try it sometime.
After having these incredible thoughts, I then saw this...
NOBO's (north bound hikers) put cobble stones around in places to show how many miles they are up to. It's such an awesome milestone for them to look at how far they have come! It's also an ugly reminder to me that there's 4,184 kms to go! Ha! That made me feel heavy! Haha
I crossed a lot of snow today. Most of it blocking the trail which I needed my GPS to triple check where the trail was going. It was a little scary and dangerous. Snow is a fear of mine. I didn't grow up around it and it's a bit of an enemy to me. So becoming friends with it on the PCT has been a journey in itself.
There was one section in particular where the snow was at midday melt point. It was slippery and steep. There was no clear view of the edge. It was a cliff. I contemplated my ice axe and crampons, but then saw all the rocks surrounding the snow. I instead decided to rock climb around it. So I did. The rocks and I are friends. Us Australians know our rocky terrain and I trusted them more than that snow. They had my back. I also like rock climbing and walking better than snow trekking. When I got off that pass, I looked back and sighed tears of relief. The land guided me in that instance, and I was proud of my choice to avoid the dangers of that snow. It's not my comfort, so I found another way. Trust.
With each rock and dirt pass, the views just kept on getting better and bigger. Pictures cannot even depict the vastness of this land.
As I passed overtop of Granite pass today, I saw 3 female day hikers. I was envious of everything about them. Fresh faces, Lululemon outfits, clean hair, having summit photos, looking glamorous and all things beautiful. I looked down at myself. Mud around my ankles, dirt up my arms, hair greasy and hiding under a hat, nails filled with dirt, a busted up left shoulder from a tree encounter, bleeding nail beds, mosquito bites and the smell. Just a real sight for sore eyes. But then I thought about what my story was in comparison to their beautiful pictures and smiled at them with adoration and kept hiking on. In other news, I cannot wait for a shower.
I did realise something today. There's many reasons I am out here walking the PCT, and I'm not delving into them right now. There's one thing that crossed my mind. When our bodies are broken, we tend to focus on the negative things that have occurred to it and forget to embrace the great things we can still do. My incline up hill may be a little struggle street at the moment, but I sure as hell can balance across streams, limbo under fallen trees with 15 kgs on my back, leg kick over chopped tree logs and tip toe over loose rocks. There's still awesome things I can do that others struggle with. So I'm going to end tonight with that. Thank you PCT, for allowing me to embrace the still great things about me. Sometimes we forget and need that little reminder.
Ps - Happy birthday to my goddess of a manager, Barbara. Sending you every bit of love from the trail, raising a hot cup of vegetables to you and thank you for supporting me on this journey! You are my lifeline.
DAY 7 - Twisp Pass Trail Camp to High Bridge Station Ranger to Stehekin
Another day of hatred. I didn't sleep enough last night and that's the biggest mistake when trying to hike out early. I was up at 5am to pack up camp, cook breakfast and set out on the trail. I had a 23km day ahead to be done between 6am and 12pm. Next to impossible when it involves a lot of incline! I was quite literally running the last 5kms to make it to the bus to Stehekin on time. It was leaving at 12:15pm!
It was a disgusting terrain section today. Nothing nice about it. Actually, I would compare it to most Australian hikes. Lots of ferns, hot, sandy, dirty, dry and oh, did I mention hot? The elevation I was at created no air! As I was under the gun for time, I was determined to get to the bus in time. It was so frustrating and an awful experience of a day. The hike itself had not one decent view. It was just up and down and up and done. I was pretty amazed I did 23km in 6hrs - I won't be doing that again. However, it was nice to make to the bus in time. I was seriously breathing like I was going through labour. I kid you not. Running up and down with 15kgs on my back, not a good choice. It was an emotionally challenging day and I felt as though I had set myself an awful goal and was 1 step away from failing. I didn't like that feeling. I always like to make attainable goals. This was just stupid. Sure, 23km along a flat road is easy in under 6 hours, but when you are walking over undulating terrain, rocks, dirt, mud, sweating, half dehydrated, looking out for bears because of the abundance of blueberry bushes and carrying your house on your back, it's just not a smart choice. Someone said it was 8 miles of travel today. That was also another stupid statement. They were off by about 7 miles!
Before things went to shit, it was quite a pretty sight. Crossing the river was gorgeous!
And it was quite nice and green in parts, before the arid terrain took my life away from me.
I believe a little part of me died on the PCT today; either that, or the PCT just got a huge dose of my blood, SWEAT and tears - emphasis on sweat. It was actually the first day I have felt under hydrated. I didn't take anymore photos of that part of the trail as I was too busy running through the woods like a headless Chook!
When I arrive at the bus, the thought of going into town freaked me out. All of a sudden, I did not know what to do. Money? Phone signal? Post office? What?
Oh transport. It felt great not to walk. I have never appreciated a pair of wheels more!
The town of Stehekin. It's so quaint. A total population of 65. Heaven. One school, with the class of 2017 having 7 students. It's the simple life and I appreciated everyone here. Man, the smells they must deal with! Ha! It's situated right on the lake. (The haze is from Canadian fires)
I picked up my resupply package and then thought about accomodation for the night. Myself and two other guys I had just met on the bus, didn't feel like camping tonight. We needed showers, good food and a place to repack ruck sacks. The Stehekin lodge was booked out and the next closest was the ranch. We booked in at the ranch, with laundry, showers, electricity, dinner, breakfast and transport all inclusive. It's what we need right now. The important thing about this PCT is to keep in good mind. It can get hard out there. Actually, I'll rephrase that. It IS bloody hard out there. I have a moment everyday where I think 'Why in the world am I doing this to myself??' This is not easy. The world makes the PCT look like a piece of cake. Yeah, you wish, until you are actually out here and there's nothing you can do about anything! Your day revolves around hiding food from bears, surviving until your next water source, working out how much food you need for the day, calculating distance and time over elevation, finding campsites, digging holes for 'fun stuff', setting up house and tearing it down everyday, trying not to get eaten by mosquitoes, fording rivers, climbing rocks and snow, dealing with hand blisters and calluses from walking poles, getting blood noses from alpine trekking, rolling ankles on rocks, smashing legs on sticks, rocks smashing your feet on descent, legs burning on incline, lips cracking from heat, looking out for mountain lions, stepping ankle deep in mud... there's not a lot of glamour there. But everything I say here is true. It's not all fun and games. That's not what the PCT is about. It's you and the elements. So keeping a level head about it all, is integral. Thus I'm laying here in a bed, freshly showered, fed and laundered. :)
Our little ranch cabin. Myself and the two guys I met today are bunked here for the night! Whilst the others pigged out on steaks, carrot cake, blueberry pie and cream, I actually throughly enjoyed my plate of vegetarian veggie goodness! I was craving salad. Whilst they were all trying to go back for seconds, I was very happy to feel full and couldn't finish the plate.
So here I lay tonight eternally grateful for this bed, shower and laundry. I will head back into Stehekin tomorrow for one last resupply before the boys and I will head back to the trail tomorrow evening, maybe. That needs to be discussed because of lack of campsites.
And one last image to sum up the many reasons why I've always wanted to live in the USA or Canada... My drive to the ranch. Could this be any more American? I love it.
And guess what? At the end of an absolutely gut wrenching morning, I'm ok. I'm doing good and the PCT is still calling my name.
ZERO DAY - Stehekin
To rest or not to rest
Rest. It's what keeps you going. I am quite well known for not taking a day off until I have to. Yeah, I know. I'm hated in my industry for it and stuff has definitely been thrown around about it. As far as I'm concerned, Producers pay me to keep well, be on my A game, stay healthy and do my job each day, unless otherwise unable to. And each Monday is a 'rest' day. Here on the PCT, we call them Zero days and you HAVE to listen to your body. You can't just keep pounding the pavement (or trail so to speak) until your body gives in. That's the only way to get through day after day, hiking 12 hours every day. So I forced myself to rest today. It was hard because I definitely feel tired for stopping though.
I woke up this morning to this view on our porch.
The boys and I headed to breakfast at the ranch. I ate a little too much but it filled me up for the day. I actually felt sluggish being so full, but this feeling has been with me all day. The ranch is such a gorgeous place. So simple. Breakfast by the fire this morning was a treat.
I headed back into the town of Stehekin around 9:15am on the ranch truck. We bypassed Rainbow falls, which is a popular waterfall in the area that flows heavily through summer and freezes over during snow fall. A nice tourist opportunity to take pictures and relish is not having to hike to a view.
After arriving in town, I did some last minute errands but also utilised the opportunity to connect to the satellite wifi. It was so great to hear mums voice and actually sort out some package and shoe woes. We realised after some research that the Altra Lone Peak 3.0 Neoshell trail shoes of mine are made for people with flat feet... yeah. If you have seen my feet, you know they ain't flat!! So the debilitating arch and heel pain has stemmed from them not keeping my arches up where they should be. So my parents are sending new shoes for my next stop in Skykomish, but in the meantime, mum shipped some gel heel pads to help with the continual pain. It's just something I must manage right now until I find the right shoe for these troublesome feet!
Getting back in to town today, I saw my hiking pals. They were quite down and I felt helpless. A lot of hikers sitting around elevating legs, icing knees, limping with walking poles or just fed up. I'm a problem solver and I didn't know what to offer them. One has a bad ankle injury that is making him take a few zero days to get back on track. The swelling is quite obvious and looked quite irritated. Of course, my remedy of vinegar and brown paper would be my go to, but people would think I'm crazy suggesting that. My other hiker friend has feet riddled with blisters. They've been inflamed and continuing for 6 days! He asked me for blister advice and I gave him my mums needle and thread remedy. I used it the other day when I got a blister 3 days ago. Was gone the next day. Thanks mumma!! But his blisters are definitely at the nasty stage that are causing him to limp and that's quite far gone. They seemed really depressed and my heart broke for them. I wish they were doing better.
Whilst chatting to them, they updated me on the numerous people who had already left the trail and called it quits. That made my soul sink. I thought about how awful they must feel. I also thought about how far I had come and how little I had really achieved in the scheme of the trail distance. I became heavy and worried. Am I in over my head? Is this as ridiculous as it sounds? I then had to remember to take each day as it comes. Step by step. There is nothing more you can do out here. It's just about each day.
After dealing with shoes and resupplies etc, myself and a new hiker friend hiked (bonus miles, thank you very much!!) up to the Stehekin Bakery for a late lunch. I love Stehekin. It's beautiful. It's the smallest thing I've ever seen but the biggest of hearts. I could see my parents living here, except they wouldn't deal with the shitty wifi!! It's just divine. I'd love a little cabin here.
The bakery is quite famous in the area and they serve wonderful food and have an abundance of choices. However, my diet is so restrictive, nothing ticks all the boxes. So, I indulged in a gluten free and sugar free treat. It was delicious but full of dairy obviously. It made my stomach feel a little queasy. Nothing extreme, but it fatigued me and I was glad I was on a zero day. Never again will I do that. I must stay within the lines of my restrictions to get through.
The feeling passed however, and suddenly I was sitting outside waiting for the 5:30pm bus back to the trail. The world started to feel dark. I started to feel emotional. I'd be lying if I said I wanted to get back out on trail. I liked it in Stehekin. I liked seeing people vacation in the town and horse ride and bike ride and kayak. I liked everything about it. My fear suddenly rushed back. The fear of the woods flooded back! Do I have to go back out there? Can't I just stay here forever? I didn't feel ready, but 50% of me needed to get back to the trail. I'm not finished yet. There's a LONG way to go yet. I needed to reset yes, but it's funny how temptations of reality can lure us back so easy. This next section is also difficult. Lots of snow passes and scary patches of bad snow pack. This next section is 173km over about 5-6 days to the Skykomish exit. I'll have to hitch into Skykomish to get my resupply. It is definitely a little hectic and nerve racking what's to come.
So here I lay. First night back out on trail. Who knows what's next in store? I miss my original trail buddies and I hope the boys are doing ok. I'm sending so many positive vibes their way and hope for a quick recovery for them. I feel a little empty without their presence every 3 hrs or so.
Here I go again. Round 2. Wish me luck!
DAY 8 - High bridge station to campsite near Cloudy Pass Junction
We all have moments
I'm going to be honest and admit that this PCT is bloody hard to walk having NO REFINED SUGAR. People down snickers for breakfast and poptarts and candy trail mix, and here I am having everything healthy - dairy free, sugar free, gluten free, vegetarian, soy free... and it's damn hard! Eating and food is not the issue - it's energy. Muscle energy to get up inclines is ridiculously lacking. I can storm down hill and walk evenly quite well, but anything that requires power from my legs and lungs is on struggle street. Plus, the medication is control all insulin levels, so I'm not gaining or crashing, just have a consistent energy that doesn't go up or down. It just plateaus. So when I need energy, I really can't get it.
In other news, surprise surprise. Today was difficult. It started out reasonably well. I saw a deer!
The terrain wasn't the greatest until I hit alpine around 3pm. I'm getting better at being ok with the loneliness in the woods. I still sing, but I'm not looking around too freaked out.
It's still strange but I'm adjusting. It was a sad day as one of my original hiking buddies has had to return to Seattle to heal. His poor ankle has shot him down and he needs a week or two to rest. I am dealing with his resupply box in Skykomish and will help out in anyway possible. My heart shattered for him and I missed him a lot today out here on trail knowing I wouldn't see him at camp. Trail family is trail family. And he is a keeper. I can't wait to see him well and back on deck in a few stops.
I lost another one of my hiker friends and I'm not sure where he is at. My friend Dave is still at camp with me and I appreciate that a lot. He's incredibly intelligent l, kind and gives great conversation when needed. He also chills out and doesn't talk when it's alone time on the trail. So, I rather enjoy having him as trail family right now.
The woods have a lot of maintenance issues in this section today. Lost trails and fallen trees.
There were kilometres of bushwacking and that wasn't pleasant. My sugar levels were dying and I had enough at one stage. I just had to stop on a rock and be still. I needed to be alone. I gathered my thoughts and tried to recoup. Then Dave started coming up the trail behind me, and that was sweet! I hadn't seen him in about 6 hours, so it was refreshing and inspiring to keep going.
Suddenly the views started to show.
Snow is still heavy in this region and I'm keeping my snow safety about me.
It was an uneventful 32km day, filled with frustration, but also so many points of happiness and solice. The PCT brings weird and wonderful things.
I also met a lady, 54 years old, name Signe (Like Sydney but with a G), has 6 kids, diagnosed with lymphoma 2 years ago, been through chemotherapy twice and is a survivor out here walking the trail to raise money and awareness for the Light The Night charity here in the USA. It was incredible to make the Australian connection with her in regards to the Rennie brothers Light The Night that I have had he pleasure of performing at. It was a special moment to hear her story and be so inspired.
See... the PCT is weird and wonderful.
DAY 9 - CLOUDY PASS JUNCTION TO DOLLY VISTA TRAIL CAMP
Welcome to your life
There's no turning back. Yep. Tears For Fears are right. As you start on a trail each day, you cannot turn back. Well, I suppose in the physical sense of the statement, yes you can turn back, at any time. But in the mental and emotional state of it, that's just ridiculous! You've just walked kilometre after kilometre. Why would you turn back? That's just torture!
There's no such thing as an easy day on the PCT. There's no such thing as a day without pain either. I don't think people realise this is not a smart stroll through the park. I cannot reiterate this enough. I think we have this pretty image in our heads of hiking up and down terrain, seeing cute animals and amazing views, snapping photos and finding camp for the night, sitting around the fire talking to others, laughing and chatting about how incredible the day was and how you cannot wait to do it all again tomorrow! BEEEEEP WRONG! None of the above is correct.
A day on the PCT looks a little like this:
5-6am wake up, it's freezing from alpine camping, you're tent has condensation, you smell but deodorant attracts bears so put those smelly clothes from yesterday on, get dressed in your tent, deflate your matress, stuff your sleeping bag in its stuff sac, fold away bag liner, roll up deflated matress, prepare feet for the day with bandaids, tape etc, get out of tent and everything in tent out, start to disassemble the tent and pack it away, it's wet, try to dry it out, give up, fold up said wet tent and try to stuff it in ruck sack. Oh, gotta pee. Find a tree... you know the rest.
6am breakfast. Find where you hide your bear canister last night, take to eating area, sit on wet ground or hard rock, get out stove and pot, oats, chia seeds, fruit, supplements, medications, boil filtered water, add oats etc. let cool. Whilst cooking, prep the days snacks and meals for 12 hours of hiking, eat breakfast, wash out pot with clean water, dry out pot, put away stove, brush teeth, filter water into clean bottle, now pack ruck sack.
6:30am leave camp and start hiking for the day. Walk, walk, walk, it's hot, put down pack and take off puffy coat, repack bag, drink, walk, walk, walk, snack, walk, walk, walk, look out for bears, need more water at stream, pack off, refill, filter, 15 mins later, pack on, walk, walk, walk, snack, walk, walk, walk, water, walk, walk, walk, swat mosquitoes, walk, walk, walk, kill flies, walk, walk, walk, cross a freezing stream shoes off, dry feet, shoes back on, walk, walk, walk, Lunch, pee break, refill water, filter water, soak feet in river, dry feet, notice a blister, attend to it, pack on, walk, walk, walk, repeat until camp around 6pm.
6:30pm find camp spot, unpack bag and set up tent, blow up matress, sleeping bag out, put all inside tent.
7pm get in tent and change sweaty clothes to night warm clothes. Attend to first aid of the day and attempt to clean oneself with no cosmetics.
7:45pm set up stove to cook dinner. Soak veggies. Boil filtered water. Soak ramen. Add veggies etc. Eat. Was out pot and put away stove. Refill water at stream. Filter water into new bottle. Brush teeth. Prep out mornings food in bear canister and go and hide the canideter in the bushes.
8:30pm BED!! Exhaustion to the max. Still covered in dirt. Smell like a bin. Nails filled with dirt. Hair matted and oily. Attempt to massage feet and do essential items, but seriously need sleep! Get ready to do it all again tomorrow.
SEE! It ain't all pretty. Amongst that is definitely some incredible views, but it literally comes down to conquering one thing at a time.
You'd think with walking, you'd have all the time in the world. But you don't! You have certain times to get to camp before bears and mountain cougars start to hunt. Everything is within limits and can be quite stressful sticking to certain ranges. I look at a map and think 'great - 5kms to go. I can do that in under an hour'. WRONG. When you are climbing 2000 ft, that's can't be done in under an hour.
Besides all this clarification, today was a lovely day. I hiked with Signe who happened to make a wrong detour and ended up walking towards me. We both panicked wondering who was wrong, but with my help, I got her back on track and we hiked together through lunch and afterwards. My uphill was a struggle at the end of the day. I'm a little worried about tomorrow but I will get in and massage these feet right now after typing.
The day started in the woods again and continued through the woods for a lengthy amount of todays hike.
I crossed an amazing stream today which was heavily flowing, but annoyingly makes a PCT hiker have to walk nearly 10kms extra to get across it.
Right after lunch, I headed back into the woods. It was actually the first time I felt like Katniss Everdeen and all Hunger Games. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking in this region. Even though I was in the woods and alone throughout this, I felt a sense of strength walking through here pretending I had the hunting skills of Katniss. It quite literally blew my mind. Every thing was so tall.
Then after the woods came a section I have listed as #RIP. I was going to camp about 5.7km back with two of the other boys, but due to my incline being a lot slower, I made the choice to climb it today. YIKES. Yes, it was hell. But slow and steady. I made it. The views definitely helped this climbed, which involved roughly 40 switch backs to get up the mountain, but it sure was a nasty climb!
Towards the top, it opened out to a field. I was almost hobbling by this stage, because I was on my last leg. I need to get to camp asap! And then I reached my final destination, as Tears For Fears started on my shuffle. Yep. Welcome to your life.
Today was hard core. Another 34kms. No day has been easy yet. I've walked 244.1km so far (194.9km + 49.2 Harts Pass extra return SOBO). I'm waiting for a less challenging day. Tomorrow is looking like snow crossings and incline. Oh joy! Life on the PCT.
DAY 10 - Dolly Vista campsite to Pumice creek campground
When the PCT tests everything about you
Today I am grateful for surviving. I am thankful to my Horus, the gods above and any universal power for watching over me. I had my first official PCT face plant. Yep. Back pack and all. Today was rough. It started out beautiful. The scenery was to die for and possibly my most favourite so far.
It was magical. The clouds were low and the air was crisp and clean. I absolutely loved hiking this terrain. After going along the beautiful alpine ridges, I started descending in to the forest. Descending is my forte. I can almost run the switch backs and everything is smooth sailing. Until this trash came along...
Yes. Switch backing down hill through bush wacking. The terrain was awful. I couldn't see where I was going, and without a machete, the hiking poles just don't create enough removal of trees and bushes in order to get a clear path of where you are going. This section literally went on for 2 hours. It was rough and soul destroying. I was rolling my ankles over rocks and unstable dirt. Next came the final couple of switch back. My left foot got caught under vines and down I went. My knee smashed to the ground and I was face down with my pack buried on top of my back. I immediately tried to get up and felt a pull in the back of my left knee. Oh shit. Panic. Have I torn a ligament? I slowly stood still for a minute and tried to rub the area gently, massaging any tension and blood flow to the area. I took and deep breath and slowly hobbled on, using my sticks as crutches. I took it incredibly easy for those last switch backs and made it to the bridge crossing. I sat. I panicked that this could be my out of the PCT. Stupid bush wacking!! It's the worst! Two hours of it and there was more to come. This time uphill. I rubbed some cream on the tendon and it seemed to feel ok.
As a person who very rarely takes painkillers when performing, or very rarely has injury, this sort of stuff throws me! I've had the nickname Low Risk by former touring physios, because I never saw them! Injuries I do not do. But here I sit in my tent, legs up elevated, cream all over my knees, ankles and feet and popping ibuprofen almost every day. The PCT hurts! As if this terrain isn't hard enough, it also throws at you about 100 of these babies everyday!
It takes some serious navigation to climb these with 12 kgs on your back!!
Compensating weight throughout the day and snow shoeing across the snow has also inflamed my left ankle! Take me back to my 6 inch stilettos!!
After the awfulness that was the bush wacking section, that led on to more incline, after hours and hours, I made it to one of the most beautiful lakes I had ever seen. I could not believe my eyes. A glacier lake!
After sun baking here, icing my feet and not wanting to move, I had to move on. Oh god. The next section! Snow, snow and more snow.
I made it through alive!! My ankle was jarring those kick steps and I think that's why it's a little screwed tonight. I'm hoping I'm ok in the morning!
The last few miles were death again. Rough bush wacking and the ankle was hurting a lot. I iced it in a stream, set up tent, cooked dinner, got in my tent and now I'm covered in cream and trying to elevate. I'm hoping for a good outcome in the morning.
Tonight's tentsite was a beauty though!
I'm done for the day. My fingers a crossed!!
DAY 11 - Pumice creek campground to Reflection Pond
Finding the joy
This post is different. I'll supply pictures throughout in regards to what I saw and crossed today, but it's a lesson. Read on if you wish.
(Yeah I crossed that!)
It can be incredibly hard as a SOBO to find the joy in the PCT so far. It is extraordinarily intense and almost a complete slap to the face that you are out here in the wilderness and on struggle street, everyday! It's brutal and to feel how wonderful that is, is a whole lot of difficult.
It comes down to what makes you happy. It's crazy to think that on Day 11 of my PCT thru hike, I came to a realisation that I like being alone out here. I never thought I would say that. I actually enjoy the world around me when I can experience it as Gretel. Not through someone else's walking pace, or someone else's time to take photos, or someone else's drink breaks. There are no rules on the PCT (aside from ones surrounding bears) that I have to follow. I've spent most of my adult life surrounded by peer pressure. It seriously never stops. I don't speak about it often, and I suppose I should in case someone out there is feeling like things are so complicated for them and they are such an outsider by not following the herd.
It started at WAAPA for me. At a younger age, I chose not to drink alcohol. I don't know what it was in me that stemmed the choice. I didn't grow up surrounded by alcohol. I wasn't from an alcoholic parental unit and I was also never not offered it. My 18th birthday, I was offered a drink and I politely declined. My parents never said 'no you can't drink' so I suppose the need to drink was never there. The same with drugs. I never had an inkling to want to do drugs. My household wasn't exposed to it, but nor was I denied it. I count that as darn good parenting on behalf of my folks. I hope they are proud of their choices in this respect. There's no rules to parenting, but I think they did an awesome thing by never saying no, so thus, it was never a rebellion.
Anyways, long story short. WAAPA. Exhibition time. When everyone 'finds their acting self'. Drugs. Alcohol. Etc. I declined a drink offer my first party on campus, and oh my lord, it was like I had killed everyone's first born child. I was questioned and probed, over and over. Why? Why? Why? I actually made up stories to deal with it, because no excuse was good enough. Maybe if I said it would damage me, people might believe me? They slowly left me alone. It was always brought up, but hey, a choice is a choice. The same thing applied with drugs. Not as bad, but definitely a talking point!
After graduating, I entered the big world. The land of music theatre. It began again. I had to explain myself over and over, every cast I joined. I succumbed to some peer pressure and had a drink. Whatever. It was no big deal. I actually didn't really like the taste of it and a Sav Blanc is damn cheap and nasty!! Haha
I very rarely drank, and I still to this day, never drink when performing. My last drink was closing night Singin in the Rain Perth. Sure, I had a couple of drinks. This time however, because of my health issues, my body had a major reaction and I completely swelled all over. That's beside the point, but interesting fact!
Anyways, here I am. A 29 year old girl, still dealing with the pressure from others, and I'm tired of it. Out here on the PCT, the peer pressure began the night before coming out on the trail.
But today, beyond that pressure came a pressure of a different kind. The pressure to keep up with others. As already mentioned, I am struggling bad with uphill. These shoes are killing me, but I also just think I am a downhill god and uphill hates me! Ha! But a lovely hiker friend wants to hike with people (and I don't mind that, but alone time is alone time and we must all respect that) and he is an incredible uphill climber. I am terribly slow and need to walk gently at the moment so as not to suffer an injury. I needed to chill out. However, this fellow hiker was insistent on walking ahead of me, then constantly waiting for me to catch up. It felt like a race. I politely said over the last 4 days that it's totally fine for him to go on ahead. But he wouldn't. I didn't need my hand held and I didn't need to be waited for. I just wanted to walk at my own pace, sing my own songs and have my own thoughts. And yet I couldn't do any of the above. The pressure was building and building, and I was tired of feeling like a burden and at someone's beck and call. I signed up solo. I don't need to hike 5 metres behind or in front of someone. So I cracked it. My first emotional PCT moment was not because of the PCT itself, but was because I needed space. Can you believe that?! Out here. In this huuuuuge land space, I needed to be alone. I was sick of the pressure. Some people don't think they are ever pressuring others, but sometimes they don't see the bigger picture and look at how it could be affecting someone else.
Anyways, long story short. I got to hike at my own pace. My own speed. My own hike. Mind you, he did wait up an hour or so ahead of me to walk together again. By that stage, I don't think he understood my headspace and I had to be blunt and say I needed to camp alone. Which was true. I needed out. I would never in my life have told someone to literally leave me alone. My joy was being sucked out of this experience.
The last 3-4 days have been difficult. I haven't enjoyed much of it all. It's been rough. Not just physically, but mentally with 'keeping up' and feeling like it's a competition to make it to town in a certain amount of time. Everyone talks about how many miles they have done. How about we talk about the incredible landscape that I will never see again and the mountains that's absolutely have a life and story of their own! I have been missing this for the last 3 days because I've been having my joy removed. It's a lesson for me in regards to people and things that surround me. Don't let others steal your joy. Don't let others make you question everything about you. That's not healthy. You are you and you alone. You're strengths are someone else's weaknesses. And for heavens sake, don't let anyone ever pressure you into doing something you do not want to do. It's your choices. People inflicting their opinions and comments on you are just a reflection of their own insecurities. Thank you PCT. I needed this.
And this afternoon as I sat reflecting my choice to ask my fellow hiker to leave me be because I just wasn't enjoying his pace, an earlier hiking friend was coming up the trail. I'd lost him 3 days ago and it was like the PCT gods sent me a light. He's a gift of a human with so much to offer. We have hiked well together since Harts Pass. We walk separate of each other most of the day, listening to music or audio books, when we catch each other we talk geography and musicals, we talk landscape and families, and at camp we cook and chat and call it a night. We aren't severely early risers, so we are happy to sleep in a little more than the 5am risers. It just works and there's a mutual respect for pace, time and location. Today I am grateful for him. He's teaching me faith, patience and resilience.
We watched this sunset. I found some joy today.
DAY 12 - Reflection Pond to Peach lake campsite
As I wait for Hope to come for me
Today was grand. What an improvement on yesterday. I walked alone for 90% of the day and I felt not a single ounce of pressure to be making miles and speeding up hills. I took so many more photos and smiled in abundance today. It was still painful and awful at times, but there was light.
After packing up camp and cooking breakfast, the leaving camp time was around 7am. Perfect! The day began with beautiful fields full of flowers and sunshine that was heavenly. There were still plenty of snow fields to cross however, but just kicking steps in them was enough to cross safely.
Still plenty of snow out here in Washington. It takes a little more concentration, so definitely kills the focus energy a bit. Speaking of energy, I am noticing I don't have enough snacks throughout the day. I will be adding more stock in Skykomish. It's annoying to have to carry more weight, but without refined sugar, my levels are dropping chronic.
Not a bad view for my mid-morning snack! The alpine walking was incredible today. You could see mountains for miles!
The terrain on today's section was changing every few kilometres. One minute it would be woods, then dirt, then rocks, then alpine, the snow, then water, then mud, then sand. It was mind blowing. You could be in 10 different states, like this snow crossing below. Humongous rocks and amazing passes, then glaciers of snow all surrounding. It was incredible.
And I'm thrilled that tomorrow night I will hopefully catch a hitch to Skykomish and I will get to shower!! That's 6 days - Pretty clean considering the amount of bush wacking I have done all week. I cannot wait to scrub down! I am usually a 3 minute shower gal at home. Being part of a big family, water would run out or the bill would be a bajillion dollars. So I don't stand around in showers often. However, on the PCT, I am going to sit in that water and soak!! And guess what... 325.4km down... only 3,974.2kms to go.
Today was the first time in 4 days that I was able to hike alone and listen to music or sing out loud. I tend to hear a lyric and run with it sometimes. It circles around my head and gets me thinking about how I relate to it. I suppose that explains my love for music, singing it and creating it.
Now, do excuse my random thoughts, but this is a PCT blog and out here, you cannot check Facebook and ponder over how dull your life is compared to others, or what person X's sandwich for lunch was like, or who's cast in the next big thing, or what opening night is occurring. Out here, it's just you and the world around you. No news. No radio. No internet (yet!). So random thoughts do pop into ones head and quite often triggered by a lyric.
Today I thought about hope. I thought about faith. I'm not the most religious person out there and I envy people who have superior faith. The PCT has got me thinking, however. I definitely believe in the universe. I believe in a higher power. But funnily enough, out here, prayer and hope come hand in hand.
Now let me make this clear, the PCT is not regarded as safe. It's risky. It's a reason why travel insurance companies won't really insure you for such activities. So, I want people to understand that this is not a light activity.
When it comes to attempting things out here, we all have limited resources. I ford across raging rivers, not because I want to, but it's my only option to keep going. I balance across broken pieces of wood/tree at high altitude with a backpack on, not because I want to, but otherwise I'm stuck! I cross vertical snow passes, definitely not because I want to, but again, I would be stuck. So every time I come across these things, I say an internal prayer of hope and guidance, look up to the skies, kiss my eye of Horus and go about my efforts. I put a lot of trust and faith in myself mostly, but in times of need, there's got to be hope.
So maybe the PCT will allow me to indulge in some faith. Maybe it will teach me guidance? Maybe it will help me understand the world around me and it's mysterious ways? Either way, I will continue to pray and hope for guidance and help out here. After all, I can't make a phone call.