The Gratitude Cafe part 2.

DAY 14 - Skykomish to tensite 308.9 km

Like a good book

Almost a Nero day... nearly a zero. Leaving town is hard. Damn hard. You wake up to a deflated ego. Your dream day yesterday is a distant memory, and that ruck sack sitting by the door needs to be repacked and thrown back on your shoulders and hips to attempt to hike another 3975km to Mexico! It's soul destroying. I take a moment to think about how I feel waking up on a double show Sunday of an 8 show week and 5 show weekend, and times that by 75 (because let's be honest,  people are dying in the world, so 100 is drastic). That's what it feels like. One does not want to actually move or attempt life. The trail is not what one would call inviting. Leaving behind the bed, the clean sheets, the flushing toilet, the shower, the bath, the sink, the roof and the chair all for the mosquitoes, biting flies, the painful uphills, the foot/knee destroying downhills, carrying 7litres of water, the dirt, the sun burn, the digging cat holes (yes, fun!), the peeing in the bush and mossies biting your butt, the carrying your home on your back, the hours spent filtering water from dirty streams, the sweat, the smell of your clothes, the packing and unpacking your house everyday... I'm not sure one would leave a perfectly good room to get back to the trail. But like a good book, one can't just put it back on the shelf. 

Saying goodbye to Skykomish was sad. These towns really pull my heart strings. I often think I'm the girl who's life is a little too big for her at times. I like the simplicity of things. In order to do what I do, I have to live in the big cities, but I sure wish I could do it all and live in a house like this in a town with 60 people. My heart would be content. Someday. Maybe, someday.

It was also hard to look at my nails and think 'goddamn! When will these be clean again!' So I relished in taking a photo.

So the knee is still a little rough. I showered AGAIN, packed up my belongings, had breakfast and checked out. Ran some last minute errands and then headed out to get a hitch back to Stevens Pass for the trail head. So strange, I had offers flying at me! That's either a good thing or a bad thing. A lovely man offered first as I walked towards the highway, so I took his offer. His daughter is out hiking the PCT, but he's actually not sure how long it will take her to get to Stevens Pass, so he has been checking each day for when she arrives. His name was Thane and he was very experienced with hiking and the wilderness. It's so strange. When would you ever get in the car with a complete stranger?! All the safety house campaignes and stranger danger I was brought up with, completely goes out the window here. It's the best and worst thing about this whole trek. All I can say is that there are some incredible humans in the world, and if the PCT doesn't restore your faith in humanity, I don't know what will.

Thane was awesome and offered great advice for my time out here. He even gave me 900lb weight bearing rope to assist in any river crossings to come! I am more than grateful for his advice and help towards my journey to come. There really are some special people in this world and the kindness and generosity that they offer has exceeded anything I have ever known. So much gratitude. Genuine. 

After arriving at Stevens Pass ski resort (which is currently summer BMX resort), I hit the trail again. Goodbye reality. Or is the PCT my reality?! Now that's something I will think more about over these coming weeks.

The incline began. I was jealous seeing all the non-operational ski lifts thinking all Oliver-style "please sir, can I have a ride?" That incline first thing up the trail is a punch in the face after a zero day!

It's actually my first trail head through a ski resort, and it was kind of strange. This ski lift, aptly named the Jupiter Express, quite literally resembles something from The Fifth Element. I was waiting for Bruce Willis or Mila Jovavic to pop out in her iconic white tape outfit. This was a strange PCT route this afternoon.

I continued to hike on and more and more did I see this on the ground and continually smile.

No. It's not bear poop, but it is horse poo!! I CANNOT wait to see my first trail horse! Many people ride their horses cross country through the PCT. I am yet to see one. It will be my lucky day when I do!

Now, there's a lot of beliefs that hell is a burning fiery pit. However, if you want to know what real hell is made of, take a look below. 

Walking over piles and piles of these rocks is HELL. Nothing is pleasant about any of that. It's not cool. It's not ok. It's rotten. The feet already started screaming again! 

I didn't hike too far in for the day. It hit around 5:45 and it was time to set up tent for the night. The knee is no where near where I would like it to be. I'm just going to have to push through. I'm in bed now and exhausted from god knows what.

Tomorrow should be about a 26 km day. Fingers crossed for a good morning knee outcome! She's back on trail.

- Gx

DAY 15 - Tensite 308.9km to Tensite 335.3km

Bouncing off clouds

Quite literally that's how my feet felt today for the first time! The insoles that Mum sent me have done something wonderful to my arches and calves! Walking the PCT is never going to be pain free, but I am eternally grateful to insoles called Green Feet for people with high arches who don't overpronate! I packed the shoes also with gel heels pads and still kept my gel heel covers on. Yep. It's a lot of gel and padding, but you make do with whatever works out here!! Big shout out, Lois. You champ of a mom!!!

So tonight is my first night camping alone. Can you believe that? With all he SOBO's out here this year, I've been very lucky to have had 14 days camping with someone. However tonight, I am alone. In the woods. 

Try and take yourself back to this feeling; as a child, when your parent or guardian tucked you into to bed at night, said goodnight and switched off that final light. Suddenly the world stopped for a while. You felt alone. In your head, you envisage every possible scenario of terrible things that could happen. The boogie man under your bed, the skeleton in your closet, the tapping against your window. Until you settled, the world was terrifying. That's a close 2nd to what this can feel like out here. Except here, everything is real. The monsters are real and I'm having to face them. The sun turns out my light, the animals make noises in the woods, strange sounds from trees around me and the wind blowing on the fly of my tent. The monsters that were once under my bed, are surrounding me. But I'm ok. That's what the most rewarding part of this is so far. I'm actually ok. We always say 'safety in numbers' but on the PCT, you can't really pick and choose. You just do what you have to do and end up where you have to end up. And hey, isn't that a lesson in itself? 

Anyways, let's start at the beginning of the day. Another of my favourite hiking days. Walking along rock cliff terrain is always fun. 

I actually listened to a podcast today that the lovely Rob Mills recommended to me. This American Life. I coincidentally clicked on the 'Camp' episode and listened to students talk about their lives in the wilderness over summer and the incredible things they participate in. Very moving when actually walking through the wilderness. How lucky American children are to be giving those opportunities to spend an entire Summer in the wilderness. What life experience! The views I was walking by truly matched the podcast!

Today's elevation was still a lot of loss and gain! Still reaching 5700ft at a few stages. There were some rough climbs, but it was definitely a day of Lakes! The weather was superb and the lakes were sparkling in all their glory. So inviting to just jump in and swim! I can't wait for the day when I truly can waste time on the trail to just sit by a lake for the day. Unfortunately, the lakes are positioned somewhat off the trail. You have to add miles to your day and generally it's more elevation considering you have to go down toward the lake and must therefore come back up! Plus, with the snow melt off and the weather change, the mosquitoes are loving the lakes so it's a true place to avoid! But you have got to agree, they look spectacular. 

Washington has not stopped delivering these incredible green fields to hike through. The most beautiful time of day to pass by these, is during the morning, as the dew on the flowers is still present and everything smells like a gorgeous Queensland fresh sunrise. A lot fresher than what I smell like!

One of my favourite parts of today was cliff walking with this incredible mountainous view. If you look close enough, there is a lake embedded in the hollow between the mountains. This is when you truly feel like you are walking on top of the world. It's something about these cliff edges that envelope your lungs. I truly understand Dixie Chick's 'Wide Open Spaces' when I walk along these edges. There has to be something incredibly strange if these sorts of views don't stop you in your tracks and you don't experience a moment. You'd be totally taking this world for granted and watching life pass you by. 

I've noticed my song writing juices starting to flow, but it's difficult without pen and paper. I'm trying to voice memo them on my phone. I haven't bee pressuring the writing on myself. I gathered the lyrics and melodys will come, the further I journey along the trail. 

After the views, it was back into the woods which is where I ended up camping for the night. 

I made sure to cook away from camp tonight considering I don't have anyone else with me. Food smells attract animals, so I stayed down near the stream and cooked my veggies and gluten free ramen. A true favourite of mine out here. I enjoy that I crave veggies at the end of the day. Something to look forward to cooking up. Some people despise trail food, however, with much preparation, I actually enjoy making it to camp, firing up the stove and cooking up my veggies. 

Yep, the nails are dirty again. On that note, I'm going to earplug up and try to sleep this lonesome night away. Hopefully, a 30km day tomorrow. Let's see how the body holds up!

- Gx

DAY 16 - Campsite 335.3km to Campsite at Waptus Lake view

Walk with your chin up & your head held high

I made it through the night alone. It was actually one of my best nights sleep. Go figure! I faced my demons and I didn't get eaten by a monster. Go Gretel! I know, I know. It all seems so petty; sleeping alone in the woods. But I dare you. Go on a solo hike. Away from highways and traffic and phone signal. Pull out your tent and have a sleep. Come back to me then. 

So a 30.4 km day. Hectic. It wasn't as easy as anticipated and some mishaps happened along the way, but everything on the PCT happens for a reason. 

As usual, the day began with a morning stroll through the woods. I love this time of day. The day to come is a distant future and allowing yourself not to think about what's coming is a real test of character. It's important not to dread. Not to dread the terrain or elevation that you are aware you have to deal with throughout the day. This time of day is almost magical because it's fresh and softly whispers to you 'everything is going to be ok.'

Exiting the morning woods saw a spectacular eastern sunrise. The sky was as clear as a Wendy Matthews song. 

Now this next creek crossing was nasty. It's A LOT nastier than it looks! Believe me. In 2 or more people groups, sure, it's a piece of cake and what some might label 'fun'! However, this took drastic solo problem solving on my behalf. Every rock was slippery, coated in moss and the water was heavily rushing down. There were no clear stepping stones and the force at which the water was flowing, was not welcoming to cross! First section, I did well! Second section needed assessment! I ended up removing my shoes because the thought of dreaded blisters from wet footwear was a devil to come. So on with the Xero river crossing sandals. I climbed higher to a smaller bearth in the fall and slowly dug my feet into the water between solid rocks and wedged my poles between rocks too. It was roughly mid-calf in depth but I made sure I was wedging my feet between solid rocks before planting my weight down and also made sure I was away from a ledge/fall. I was successful! It took time, but I did it. 

An uphill climb was immediately after that nasty water crossing. The day wasn't panning out as nice as I had hoped! Ha! Towards the top of the peak, however, it did open up to a spectacular snowy mountain view. 

Whilst sitting having lunch, I overheard a voice! It was Dutch, my hiking pal from the last section! He was roughly a day behind but was making miles with ha Section hiking friend from university! So lovely to meet his friend. They have a great history of friendship and shared numerous stories with me as we hiked onward. So funny how both these guys are big musical theatre fans! Dutch even admitted listening to show tunes during one of his hiking days last week. He's also seen our Australian Les Miserables performance (Lala!! He saw you and thought you were awesome!!) hehe It was so lovely to run into Dutch again. You worry about losing trail family out here. It's sad when you either fall ahead or behind without no real definite catch up!

The boys were deciding on taking a PCT alternate route (Goldmeyer Alternate with hot springs!) and I thought it sounded like a great idea! So my mileage for the day was being cut down because of a change of plan. So I slowed down a lot. I travelled a little further forward with the boys about 5 minutes in front of me and another fellow SOBOer said the boys were going for a swim at the lake before camp. The trail to the lake was a couple of metres ahead. Great! So I followed the trail to the lake. ROUGH TRAIL! But I made it to the bottom to this gorgeous view, but there was no direct access to the lake...

You could either turn right or left (no signage)... but which way did the boys take?! I chose right thinking it was probably a better direction considering left would be back tracking alongside the PCT. So right it was. I walked, and walked, and walked, and walked. No sign of the boys. No bags. No noise. Nothing. I kept walking. Still nothing. I looked at GPS, I was completely off trail. I was too far gone to turn around. I began to worry. Yes, a little upset. Why did I not just stick to the trail? I tried to calm myself down. I looked at my map again and noticed a trail junction up ahead that should meet up with the one that I was on. I remained calm and walked ahead. Well, moved very swiftly ahead. I was annoyed I had given myself extra mileage and elevation. I kept on walking. No signs. After about 30mins, I met with the trail head! HOORAY!! A sign! PACIFIC CREST TRAIL!! I then decided right there and then that I was sticking to the PCT. I wasn't going to do the alternate. I'll keep letting the PCT guide me. I think that was a sign for me to stay safe on the PCT. Onwards I journey. UPHILL AGAIN!

After trying to make up miles for the ones I'd lost on my little hysterical journey around the lake, I had to try and hike uphill a little faster than usual. Uphill I am getting better at, but it's still rough when you are exhausted at 6:30pm! I found my campsite for the evening. I'm thrilled the PCT put me back on track and a lesson I will take with me. I will trust my instincts. 

After setting up my tent, I sat over on a rock to cook my dinner with a view. The irony. I'm overlooking that lake that gave me hell today. Thank you for the lesson, PCT. 

- Gx

DAY 17 - Waptus Lake view campsite to campsite 400.8 km

Heading west where the sun sets

So, if you were to ring your parents or best friend and ask them to hire a 4WD, then take yourself to your lane way, lay down and get them to run over you say 4 or 5 times, then hop up and walk... That's what it feels like when you try to move and get out of your tent at 5:30am, except here on the PCT, you don't press charges and you get them to do it again, every day. 

However, what an incredible day. I walked 35.2 km and everything about the day was spectacular. So difficult, yet so rewarding. And I've officially walked 450.4 km!! 

Today was spectacular. I'm going to post photos, but a lot of story to follow, as it was a special day and to set it up, I need to go back in time. 

Breakfast at sunrise looked like this. It was refreshing and definitely a positive way to start the day.

Having the sun rise so beautifully in the east, I happened to notice my shadow for the first time. I was heading west for a bit today and it was lovely to feel like Peter Pan for a moment, finally chasing my shadow. This meant a great thing for the day; the sun was following me. Awful for those who hate the heat, but this definitely determined how long I could walk for the day. It's hard because time doesn't really play a factor out here. The sun controls your day, and I'm thrilled he followed me so much today. 

I also ponch├ęd over this tree. I turned around and laughed hysterically that I could actually do that with 13 kgs on my back!! Miss Way, I didn't hurt myself! 

Through the midday sun beaming down, it was a scorching hot incline! This waterfall was incredible to wash the shirt and walk in a crop top for the last 5 hours. It's not something I have really been comfortable doing out here, walking shirtless in a leopard print crop top, but it's the PCT. When you've walked for nearly 10 hours straight, I'm allowed to take my shirt off and wash it!! Haha

So, my story. Let's talk Shania and I.

Today was heavenly, and I know why. I had Shania Twain on repeat for the whole day. I was singing every song out loud and living the PCT via Shania today. I quite possibly smiled for 99% of the day, and that's incredible considering the difficulty in terrain. Take a look at this trashy rock trail! This went for nearly 5km and was pure cliff rock! Shout out to my ballet teacher, Narelle, for teaching me to pointe my toes (and implementing it) as it sure comes in handy when trying to quickly get across these nasty trolls.

Anyways, I must explain my love for Shania Twain. My grade 7 best friend, Raina, and I used to make up dance routines to 'Man! I Feel Like A Woman' under her house in Rockhampton. We imagined the top hats and white shirts with mini black dresses on. I was never one to declare my adoration and idolisation of Shania, because let's be honest, country music is not everyone's favourite. It actually makes me mad now how judgemental people are of it. I do have a great balance of music taste however, so it was easily hidden. I'd go downstairs to my brothers room and listen to some Garbage, Dr Dre or Eminem and that would smooth out my country choices. 

When I was 11, I used to take my now best friend, Adrianna, for private lessons. Her gorgeous mumma, Trishy, used to give me $5 for a half hour. Great pocket money! I saved up and took a trip to Sanity (the cd music store) and bought my first single. Shania Twain 'That Don't Impress Me Much' (dance remix and all). She was everything I wanted to be and more. We had only just moved into the town of Rockhampton and my family were giddy with the chance to have Austar (Foxtel). My introduction to having music 24/7! There was Channel V, Music Max, MTV and my favourite, The country music channel. THRILLED. I used to watch the top 20 count down every week, featuring Faith Hill, Dixie Chicks, Chely Wright, and of course, Shania. I studied Shania's film clips and hoped to be her one day; I still do. 

Shania is someone whom my Dad and I have a mutual love for. He always said if he didn't marry my Mum, he would've married Shania. Ha! But we've always had an appreciation for her voice. It's a voice that has influenced my vocals to this day. I adored her warmth of vocal tone and lengthy vibrato, and have always strived to have that in everything I sing. I like to hear voices that I can easily know who it is. It's also another reason why I was so thrilled to have worked with James Kempster and Stephen Amos on my album. Neither of them wanted to strip me of my sound. Not to bash musical theatre, but I hardly listen to it. I'm influenced by so many different genres. I remember getting into the studio on the first day of recording and smashing out 'Anyone Who Had A Heart'. It was completely life changing and thrilling. I had never felt that exhilerated! And when it came to playback and James suggested adding a major vocal ad lib into the guitar instrumental break, that's when I knew he was a champion and knew my voice and sound. That's my Shania moment on the album and why that track is still my favourite. I hope to work and write with James or Stephen again soon. They understand what my voice does. 

That same year when I purchased my first single, I also purchased my first official sheet music to any song I could choose. A trip to the local music store saw me select 'From This Moment On', a song I still hope to perform live one day. 

Moving to Sydney at age 15, I had 8 weeks before school started up. The Summer holidays meant playing on an out of tune guitar in our new house, writing songs and watching the music channel. Shania's new release of 'I'm gonna getcha good' had just hit the music scene and the video was everything! Here's this beautiful woman, in a vinyl leather robot type outfit, fighting transformers on an awesome motorbike! Could this woman get anymore ridiculous?! Then her single 'Up' took the charts and it represented everything from where she had come from in Timmins, Canada. I could always relate to that. Small town girl who's a little tough around the edges.

Then of course, she went quiet for a while, because he-whose-name-shall-not-be-mentioned was a douche and broke her heart. What a loss!! Who would dump Shania?!? So with that, came the autobiography, the documentary series and a Las Vegas concert. (Seriously, if she toured Australia and I was under contract, I would be getting that written in to have time off to see her live)!!! Her autobiography that I read 2 years ago, changed my life and I've never looked back. I actually read it when heading out on my first hike through New Zealand.

Anyways, I can relate to Shania a lot. My family know how much I play her music and how much she has influenced my song writing over the years. Her story is humbling and she is the definition of a person who exceeds her outer beauty. 

But today as I hiked, I was in so much joy listening and singing along, looking at the mountains and thinking of how influential one person can be on another individual. As her songs played, especially the earlier released ones, I thought about my dad a lot and the love we share for her. Dad is probably where I get my musical side from. He's got a great voice and ear for music. I've never really thought about where it comes from, but I thought about it today and over the years I've tuned more into the fact that I think that's where I get my quality from. Dad has to listen to a lot of shit music in the car when we travel with him, so I often put Shania on when it's just us two. I actually played her on the way to the airport as he dropped me off to leave for the PCT. 'Life's about to get good'. Could that be any more appropriate for me?

So, as I walked, Dad's favourite Shania song came on 'Still the one'. I looked to my left off the cliff to take in the view and the mountains had just opened up to reveal Mt Rainier!! I have been waiting the whole of Washington to see this beauty!!! And there she was! Standing so tall, above everything and anything. I then remembered Dad saying how in awe he was of seeing his FIRST snow capped mountain in New Zealand 2 years ago, and I started to cry thinking how wonderful it would be to have him here to see how incredible this really is. It's overwhelmingly huge and like nothing he would ever have seen! It was a moment and I wished so bad that he was here.

I smiled such happy tears at this. Magical. So that's Shania. My powerful force. Only a few people truly understand my love for her. To some, Oprah is God. Shania is mine. She made my day spectacular and I smashed out a huge day because of her. Her music will always move me and I cannot wait for her new album at the end of September. I will meet her one day and I will also be her one day. Ha! A girl can dream. I'm out here walking the PCT... anything is possible.

- Gx


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