The Gratitude Cafe Part 4

DAY 31 & zero day - Dirt road campsite to Cascade Locks to Portland 

Make a brand new ground

And then it rained... The definition of divine. My, oh my, how I have missed the rain. After being drenched in it 8 times a week in Singin' In The Rain, I did not realise how much it does not bother me anymore and how much I genuinely missed it. It was a blessing to be hiking in the rain today. 

It was almost as if I needed it. A cleanse. On my last day hiking in Washington! I had 20 miles to get to the border of Washington and Oregon, and it was as if the world was cleansing me of this beautiful section of the USA. 

The air was crisp and full of moisture obviously. I loved hiking in this wet so much today. Some people were dreading it as I passed them, but I was lapping it up. It was cooling. It was fresh. It was clean. Everything about the rain is a symbolic experience for me. Especially after dealing with it for so long. I could not have wanted my final day in Washington to have been any other way. 

There was an overflow of mist and cloud, and guess what? No views! But hey, I didn't care at all!! I was loving every second of this. 

It was as if I was walking through pure cloud at times. I could feel the moisture hitting my face and see the air floating past me. It was beginning to warm up in the rain gear, so I thought 'screw this! I danced in this every day!' So off came the rain gear and I just hiked in my normal everyday wear. I didn't care one iota in regards to getting wet. The uphill climb was warming my temperature up, so it was being balanced out. Of course, I towelled down and changed clothing when I arrived at the top. I even changed socks because I cannot stand walking in wet socks! So I kept warm once things cooled down.

There's only one issue when it rains on the PCT. Stepping on these guys!

These slugs are huge and I feared stepping on one might make me go for a smart slip down trail! There was one every 100 metres or so. They were all coming out to play. However, I definitely saw some slugs in rough shape, as if someone may have accidentally impaled them with their hiking pole. It's a rough way to exit the slug world...

The rain was definitely softening my mental hardships of the previous days that made me question the trail. It was as if the rain was what I had been waiting for. I was ecstatic that it made an appearance, not purely for my sake, but for the trail. The smoke and haze has been such an issue for hikers, that this seemed like a positive down pour to try and eliminate some of the fire activity around us. 

When the rain began to clear up, all of a sudden the views that were so limiting, began to display gorgeous valleys and trails decorating the mountains opposite. The thick grey clouds still lingered above, and that was still a blessing for letting the sun have a little rest for a while. 

And guess what... I MADE IT TO OREGON!! That's 500 miles/800kms of hiking. From the Canadian border through Washington, to my next state. I made it. One state down on the PCT! I am pretty proud of myself. Never in my life did I think I would be able to have done what I have done so far. The only thing now is to keep going. And onwards I go.

I was lucky enough to get a ride from Oregon to the city of Portland. I stayed a hotel and freshened up, took a definite zero day, restocked some items, cleaned myself up and headed back to Cascade Locks. But first things first, the queen of research did her internet thing and found some of the best poached eggs in Portland, accompanied by a cashew nut milk latte and a strawberry and hemp seed smoothie. Yep. I was in heaven.

For a second there, it felt like I was home in Australia, but it wasn't enough to make me homesick or want to venture off the trail. Being back in the city didn't perturb me at all. It's easy to slip back in to normal life. If anything, I walked slower. I wandered around the aisles of a supermarket for HOURS by choice. I stood in line for 20 mins to order breakfast and didn't even care. A couple in front of me had a 10 minute chat to the guy at the cash register before actually ordering their meal. It did not phase me at all. This 'stressful' life we all think we have is projected on ourselves. We create our own negative outlooks and hurried lives. 

I'm not saying, nor suggesting, you hike the PCT to slow the hell down. But I am implicating that maybe we all need to stop and actually smell the roses for a bit. The world is nowhere near as fast as we think it is going. We all project stress upon ourselves. You don't need to go and do 700 yoga or meditation classes either. That's just creating more stress, trying to fit in class times and get there! Sit outside. Make a cup of tea and sit. Don't read anything. Just sit. Stay away from your computer. Lay down on the grass. Look up to the sky. Go for a stroll. It really is the most simplistic of things that can actually allow us to recharge. 

The world is so connected. We are all connected. And sometimes is nice to disconnect. We don't have to be so fast paced and trying to keep up with each other. This is not a contest.

And if you can't do any of the suggested above, just turn ya bloody phone off!!

- Gx

DAY 32 - Portland to Cascade Locks to campsite 822.4km 

Welcome to Oregon

My afternoon was spent in Cascade Locks to do some final resupplies for the next section, but on a more serious note, try to work out what sections of the PCT in Oregon are closed off due to wild fires. They have been announced for the past week or so, but I haven't bothered looking until actually having to face them. No point in worrying over something prior to it actually affecting you, right? That's just wasted energy.

There are some plans to hitch around the closures, but I'll deal with them when the rangers kick me off the PCT! Haha

The late afternoon hiking session began with a HUMONGOUS climb out of Cascade Locks. It was a lot harder than expected, but incredible to know my body is dealing a lot better with incline compared to the last few sections. 

Oregon is gorgeous and green. Luscious in all of its woods. As similar as woods can be, the Oregon woods actually feel a lot different to Washington. They are actually a little more healthy in greenery and probably depict a more forest vibe. 

With the recent rainfall, some of the mini waterfalls were flowing in abundance and keeping the air and ground filled with much more moisture than previous sections. 

As I stepped out on to an open rock crossing, I looked to my right to see the Columbia River that signifies the border and divide between Washington and Oregon. It's the more beautiful of rivers and glistens all day long within the sunshine. 

It's hard to believe that walking through the woods at 7:30pm can look like this picture below. The suns rays were filtering through the trees in the woods as
I hiked to my planned campsite. The climb uphill was still treacherous and there was not one downhill relief section! It was purely straight UP!

As I started to slowly exit the woods up on top of the ridge, the sunset gave me one last farewell to Washington. The Columbia River was still visible and it was definitely a moment to cherish. A month on trail and I had completed Washington. What an achievement! It's 31 days later and I'm still here!

A couple of miles before camp, finally after that huge climb out of Cascade Locks, I had made it to the ridge. The view was spectacular. The sunset created a peach coloured haze and in the distance was Mt Adams. The snowy mountain I camped nearby a few nights ago!! That's overwhelming to think I have walked that far away from it! It is now a mere mountain in my past. How strange.

The PCT could quite often be compared to child birth. No where near as painful I am sure, but somewhere in the pain vacinity and the immediate 'forget about it' vacinity. You walk incredibly difficult uphills and painful steep climbs to then appear at the top of these mountains to completely forget about the excruciating pain you have just been through. Only to do it all again tomorrow. I now understand why mum had 6 kids! 

- Gx

DAY 33 - campsite 822.4km to Muddy Fork camp.

Holy Shit! A 48 km day! Oregon, you bloody beauty! So many early NOBO's (Northbounders) have walked past me only to tell me how much Oregon is worth skipping. I don't know why, because so far, she is gorgeous. 

Back in the woods with some incredibly green and luscious landscape. The trees are still so tall and never getting any smaller out here. 

Every so often, there would be an exit to a rocky ridge, which was much easier to traverse on in comparison to Washington. The track maintenance in this region is exceptional, to the point where you could almost walk 3 abreast in some sections. It's wide, flat and smooth in 90% of the sections today.

Entering on to the ridge, I always take a moment to look out to the horizon in case I miss anything. And there they were. You can see Mt Adams in the distance and ever so slightly, Mt Rainier. 

It was thrilling to see how much the colder weather and a little rain has helped clear up some of this fire haze and offer such blue skies and open horizons. 

With such a difference in terrain, today definitely felt like a walk in the park compared to previous sections. By mid morning, I'd already done nearly 7 miles in 2 hours. It was looking to be a decent mileage day.

A stop by one of the lakes, Wahtum lake, which has actually been closed off because of the nearby fires. Today's weather was extraordinary. A little chilly at times, but balanced out by the sunshine in open sections of the trail. It was an exceptional day!

As I exited onto another ridge, the views opened to my first capture of Mt Hood! Another amazing snow capped peak along the PCT. To me, this mountain is somewhat different to the rest that I have seen. She's almost a bit medieval and there's something beautiful about the symmetry of her shape. When walking past, it's a very centering object. It's more of a peak compared to the others, and the snow decorates it, rather than piles up on top. It's a beautiful structure and I passed it several times today. 

At the top of the mountain today, from afar, there was a clear view of the 3 Washington mountains. It's poignant to look back on these mountains to actually put in to perspective how far I have walked. 800+kms doesn't feel that far when you are hiking it. But this picture really sums up my distance, and that's only been since half way through Washington! It really is a way back to Canada. This makes me proud of the adventure I have achieved so far. You can see the most visible mountain is Mt Adams, the middle one is Mt Rainier and off to the side, you can see Mt St Helens.

My journey through Oregon continued to walk closer by Mt Hood. It was walking with me for majority of the day!!

Back into the woods for the final section of the evening. I've been hiking a little later at the moment, into the night, but have been hiking with Barry, so it's felt a lot safer and not so confronting. It's definitely not something I would do by myself, but if you have the extra mileage and can push on, then you may as well!

I'm astounded that this photo is roughly around 7pm at night! 

These woods followed through into another climb, significantly steep but not as intense as others. At the top of the climb stood Mt Adams with its cloud collection! 7:50pm. It was a delicious sight and one that even a photo cannot depict. I stood in wonderment at the beauty of this before entering back into the woods to hike on to camp. 

A lot of NOBO's have expressed their distaste at Oregon, but I truly don't know what they are on about. It's been the most wonderful part of the journey so far and probably one of my favourite hiking days yet! In all honesty, I've met some not-so-nice NOBO's on trail, but today delivered me some of the most content and happy individuals who have walked all the way from Mexico! That gave me hope. The downtrodden hikers worry me for what's to come, so seeing the smiling and happy hikers make their way towards Washington, has instilled hope again. At the end of the day, that's all you can have. 

Oregon - you are divine. Hike on!

- Gx

DAY 34 - Muddy fork to Timberline Lodge

And just like that, today was shit. Absolute shit. I'm not wasting a blog entry on something so worthless and pathetic. 

I slept terrible and had zilch energy for the day. That's not appropriate for what today involved. I hiked my worst mileage to date and it was just pathetic! 

So I'm just going to upload pictures and describe my hatred. 

Number 1. It was all uphill. 
Number 2. Nobody said anything about walking on sand for several miles.
Number 3. It was hot.

Number 4. I was tired.
Number 5. I was hungry.
Number 6. My bag is still so bloody heavy.
Number 7. I was dehydrated.

Number 8. SO MANY FREAKIN NORTHBOUNDERS ON THE TRAIL! Having to let 150 people pass is annoying! They very rarely let southbounders pass and we are the minority!
Number 9. All people bang on about is how wonderful the food is at these stops along the trail. Seriously, it's nothing to write home about!

Number 10. My knee is still giving me grief since that fall back in Washington.
Number 11. There was a humongous batch of trees that had literally given up on life, ON the PCT. They were stupendously ridiculous to get around and a complete time waster.
Number 12. I just wanted to sleep.

So with that, goodnight!

Oh and ps, the news of fires has gotten a little worse. Looks like the closures are still happening, so I'll have to skip some of Oregon. As much as today was a total fail, I certainly don't have a death wish by fire. 

- Gx

DAY 35 - Timberline lodge to highway 26 to Bend

We didn't start the fire

Fires, fires and more fires. Sections closed. Closures expanding. It's all so convoluted and to be completely honest, it's making it really difficult to just hike the trail. You are constantly searching for updates on cell reception and working out ways to dodge these fires without official transport. It's not like a CityRail or Metro rail repairs with bus replacements to get you from A to B. If you don't walk the trail, you can a) dodgily bushwack through crazy unknown trails, b) road walk for miles and miles on highways that have no shoulders to actually safely hike along or c) hitch a ride around. 

I took C. So, hitch it was. 

An easy 8 miles to the highway. Then, hitch time! Attempting to hitch into Bend this time. Five minutes and an incredible Danish couple picked Barry and I up in their ridiculously cool RV offering to drive us to Madras. We rode in the back of it for roughly 1.5 hours, talking and chatting away whilst seeing some of the most incredible alternating and changing landscape that the USA encapsulates so well. They were the most incredible humans. 

Providing cherries, Coke Zero, chips and an abundance of amazing conversation, they were such generous souls who were visiting America in time for the Eclipse. They were driving up the west coast of the US and travelling inland to set up camp in time for Monday morning. They dropped us off at Madras, where we began to hitch our second part of the trip into Bend.

Another 5 minutes! Boom! A couple who hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2015! What legends. They were actually off to pick up 2 other SOBO's from down further on the track who needed to get out from the fires, so it was perfect timing. The hitching gods were definitely on our side... either that, or the hot pink shirt, pink bandana, hair in a pony tail with bright blue shorts attracts some hitching attention!! Haha

We made it to Bend, where we were so kindly offered to stay at one of Barry's best mates house, Noah. A true genuine soul. He took time out of his night to drive us to dinner, allow us to resupply for this next mixed up section and even organised himself to hike some of the trail with us for this next section! He's one of the most interesting humans who really gives his genuine care and concern in all conversation. Extremely intelligent and open to all individuals he comes across. It was a pleasure to meet him and I am eternally grateful for his hospitality. Actually, his house in Bend reminded me of Central Queensland a lot. The backyard. The grass. The trees. The smell of outback. I liked it. 

Tomorrow I head back to the trail, restarting from the closure at Elk Lake. Let's hope these fires quit their behaviour, and I'll just have to hike fast! Hike on!

- Gx

DAY 36 - Bend to Elk Lake to Desane Lake

Noah so kindly drove us back to the Elk Lake trail head and we hiked back in to the PCT.

It's strange to think that I've had to miss some of the PCT miles, but fires are fires. We Aussies understand the significance of these burning monsters and to be clear here, these are not fires that the state departments are trying to extinguish. They just let them burn. They are natures Summer gift to the national parks here and there's no stopping them. Well, there is, as we do back home. But here, they let them do their thing. So, get out, skip out, and hike on! Much more hiking to do!

Oregon has delivered some exceptional lakes throughout this little section. With the sun glistening down on the afternoon surface, the water was reflecting every tree decorating the shore lines. 

I happened to have crossed about 6 lakes just walking a 12 mile distance to camp. Nothing muddy or swampy. 

I actually think my favourite parts of the PCT so far is when everything opens up to a meadow.

I don't know what it is, but there is this incredulous sensation of freedom that over takes the soul. It's the true definition of a breath of fresh air. When everything stops and it's vast. The world is vast for a moment. Not overwhelming. Just granduous. And it's thrilling. I like these sections the most. The sun is always warm on your skin. The grass is always a green base with a yellow sundried hue. There are often flowers showing face and you suddenly feel a part of the landscape. It's when you realise that you belong. Some people probably don't feel it at all, but I do. It's the wilderness. 

I set up camp alone at Desane Lake and Noah and Barry hiked on. Barry is heading back north to see the eclipse, and I'm continuing south on the PCT. Who knows if we will cross paths again. That's the PCT for you. He's been such an insanely cool guy to hike with and I've been incredibly lucky to have hiked and camped for such a long couple of sections with someone. That's a rarity out here. So it's sad to say goodbye to a fellow hiker who is a truly an awesome soul, but we all come and go, and who knows! Maybe we shall reconnect at some point. It's the PCT. Anything can happen.

On that note, I'm back to being solo. So sleep it is and let's keep hiking.

- Gx

DAY 37 - Desane Lake to Shelter Cove stealth campsite (don't really want to go to shelter cove, so stealth camped in the wilderness)

Elevate this life with me

A full solo hike today of 57.6kms! My first official 36 mile day. I set myself a silent goal at the beginning of the day to conquer that and I achieved it! I hiked for 12 hours straight with a break around 1pm at my second trail magic!

Trail magic is when incredible folk who live in the area, come to the nearest trailhead along the PCT, and give an insanely generous amount of food and drink to hikers. These people are heavenly and are doing this out of the kindness of their hearts. Today's trail magic was kindly brought to the PCT by 'Ducky's Dad'. Ducky was a PCT hiker last year and Ducky's dad decided that this year he would repay the PCT with the incredible kindness his child experienced through trail angels. He was such a kind gentleman and offered an abundance of insane produce to hikers. From buckets of Ben and Jerry's ice cream, Powerade, cans of coke, water, fresh fruit, cookies and chips! Apparently he even had waffles earlier on in the day!! Such a genuine human to have met. Of course, I indulged in the grapes, corn tortilla chips and water, and kindly declined the ice cream (as hard as that was!!) but I was still overwhelmed with the generosity I had experienced. Thank you, Ducky's Dad! Big love to you. 

Oregon is delivering lakes in an abundance. They are every 2 miles at least and most are filled with fresh water, both swimmable and drinkable!

Today's hike saw an 8 mile stretch through burnt down forest. The weather was superb, delivering sunshine but a gentle breeze keeping things cooler than the last open forest crossing. It was still dry without a water source, but I made sure I had enough to keep sipping. 

I actually find these sections quite fascinating. They entertain me just as much as the green forests. They resonate with me in the same way, but they tell a different story. In contrast and juxtaposition to the rainforests, I tend to like how the burnt down forests have a sense of openness. It's almost the same as the meadows, but with trees. Trees without leaves. 

I like how 'new' everything seems out in these patches of terrain; a sense of beginning again. A fresh start. There's also the concept of how the trees that are still standing respresent the strength out here. So much new and old. And certainly so much future ahead in this area. It would be interesting to walk this section again in 20 years to see the development and change!

Back into the rainforest, and I suddenly saw how much haze and smoke is still around from the Sisters Wilderness fires. It does dull the sunshine a certain amount, and it actually makes sunset seem to happen a little earlier than usual. The sun is starting to turn a ball of orange around 4pm which makes it noticeable how much time of hiking is left for the day. 

On my last uphill for the day, I was dreading what was to come! About 6miles uphill. Not my forte. I just thought to myself 'hurry up and get it done!' As I started to ascend, I saw something bright and yellow in the distance. I noticed it was a tshirt strapped around a tree. If some items are left around or lost, sometimes people put them around trees as a lost/found situation. However, I'm not entirely sure about this one. But as I walked closer... HA! The best!! A spongebob tshirt saying 'How may I annoy you today?' PERFECT! 

Everyone knows my adoration for spongebob and the abundance of spongebob memorabilia I have received from incredible fans over the years. This, quite literally, made me laugh out loud and I thought to myself 'how perfect!' It was just what I needed before that last ascent for the day. If it was not a 7 year old child's shirt, I would've taken it!! Haha

One last decend for the day led my towards Shelter Cove. Shelter Cove is a hiker friendly stop on that trail with paid camping, showers, laundry, grocery store etc. I started to detour towards it and didn't really need anything at Shelter Cove. I had all my necessary items. A shower would be nice, but I've become accustomed to the shade of dirt and smell of hiking. There were no campsites within distance, so I did my first stealth camp. 

I am definitely proud of my efforts today. Never did I think I was capable of walking that distance in one day! Hopefully I can walk tomorrow... ha!

- Gx

DAY 38 - Shelter Cove stealth camp to Summit lake

Total eclipse

Yep. It finally arrived. The day that the USA has been going absolutely mental over. The solar eclipse! 

Look, in all honesty, I thought it was going to be more exciting. Really. I sort of sat around for 2 hours watching a moon go in front of a sun. Remarkable, but not that exciting. Ha! I've never been a space or solar system nerd, so I suppose it really wasn't top priority on my list of things to do on the PCT. But I'm here, so I may as well enjoy it. 

My view was spectacular though. I watched on whilst sitting on a log in the water, with my X-File nerd glasses. It was a 99% eclipse from my location. Only a slither of sunlight was getting through. It was enough to make everything turn to dusk at 10am. 

Once that 2 hours dissipated, I painfully had to get on my way. It's always hard after a huge mileage day to continue on. To be completely honest, I haven't slept well ONCE on the trail. It's actually an issue! Sleeping in confined spaces is not my cup of tea, nor is sleeping without a pillow. But light weight is light weight and I'm still struggling with not being light enough! I've even researched to get a lighter backpack and tent delivered. 

Picture this: put a bar bell on your shoulders and ankle weights strapped around your ankles. Now walk the harbour bridge climb walk continuously for 12 hours, at a pace of 5.3kms an hour. GOODLUCK!! That's currently how this feels. I severely need to do something about the weight of it all.

So many NOBO's I have passed have told me how awful Oregon is. Ummm excuse me?!

Could this section get any more beautiful?! Even with the smoke tearing in from the wild fires, this scenery is stunning. It breaks my heart to think how majority of the North bounders are simply hating their Oregon experience. I suppose everything is how we see it and it can only be as beautiful as we perceive. But it does make me wonder how some people can hike so far and not appreciate the wonderment at the end of an intense uphill climb. Maybe because climbing uphill is such an effort for me, that these views are truly worth it. I would hate to see the day on my PCT adventure that something this beautiful doesn't make me stop in awe. I can only hope my inner child continues to be ecstatic at something so joyous and rewarding.

It's strange to be still trekking across snow patches, but I giggled with excitement when I saw this section. I love the snow. It's so funny to think how fearful I was of it and yet now, my heart skips a beat and I beam from ear to ear with joy! Surrender to those fears, people! There is no use living in a bubble.

I may not have done the mileage I wanted today, but with 2 hours watching the sun, time got away and by the time it came to dusk, I was facing another uphill climb with a huge water carry. Water carrying is when there isn't enough water sources between camps, which means you have to carry a significant amount if you plan to settle. So I settled before the climb. 

This, I did not regret. My view. 

Summit lake. I had a prime location, camping out on the island jutting out from the shore. This is what the PCT is about. These moments. The lake was still and sparkling. I sat on the edge of the rocks and put my legs in the water. 

My shins and calves are a little beaten up from the sticks and plants that have cut and scraped them. It was great to wash them, antiseptic them and clean them up. The dirt is definitely starting to build up. 

Nobos and trail angels that I have passed along the trail tell me I'm too clean and smiley for a thru-hiker! Ha! Something I suppose I should be proud of. 

Falling asleep with this view was everything I could wish for and more. These are the moments. Embrace them.

- Gx

DAY 38 - Summit Lake to Maidu Lake

Skies above they radiate me

Waking up to this morning sun. An orange radiant ball of fire. The lake was filled with mist and the air was crisp and clean. One of the best ways to start a morning uphill climb! 

I'm still in awe of some of Oregon's beauty. It's different to Washington, yet equally as picturesque. I think I personally like Oregon in the mornings. It's fresh and green. The air seems to be a lot lighter, however, I think the fire smoke is playing around with that a lot. It thickens up as the day goes by, to the point where it was so incredibly dry and smokey this afternoon. Water sources were lacking and I could even feel the dryness in my throat.

But the morning was delivering some incredible views and spectacular hiking. The uphill didn't even phase me! That's how nice this section was. 

Climbing up and over ridges made me a little sad not too see the entire view of the valleys and mountains. The haze is definitely covering up so much, but it made me think how positive I am staying out here. The fact that I can still see the beauty in all of this, even if it is limiting! 

After a huge midday refill of water by some incredible trail angels who have so kindly donated caches of water bottles at the trail head, it was uphill again. 

The heat was definitely setting in and I was amongst some of my favourite burn down sections. New beginnings. You can actually see the gorgeous pink flowers starting to shoot yo amongst the black tree trunks. The brand new ground, sprouting greenery in abundance. It's such a juxtaposition to everything that is going on with these wild fires in Oregon. 

I'm still confused with how so many NOBO's have said Oregon is terrible and they just want to get to Washington. These ridges are divine. To walk on and to view. 

I don't know, but it really got me thinking today. Why hike this far to be depressed? I can sit at home on my couch and be depressed and hate everything around me. I can go to many other places and despise my surroundings. No one is forcing anyone to be out here. It's purely up to you. It's all about perspective and that is a huge chunk of the PCT.

It will make you question everything in 'reality' or what we think is our reality. It will make you question what's important and what's absolutely wasting your time and energy worrying about. It will make you question your environment. The positives and the negatives of what surrounds you. It will make you question the people in your life and how they affect you. It will also make you question your past, present and future. It also has the power to make you question the way you see things. It will make you question the definition of genuine human beings and the true act of kindness. A kindness that isn't loaded with expectation of reciprocity. It will make you question not just yourself but the world around you.

Seriously. Get a life. Not in a negative way. What I mean by that is really look at yourself and throw away the stuff that isn't living. Make your lifetime a good one. There's only one! So truly, if you haven't already, get a life. Go find one. Take a break. Make plans. Or as my hiking friend, Barry, would constantly tell me when we started hiking together 'Take a load off, Gretel' (because I never sat down or stopped!). It's true. Now, after a few weeks, it's in my nature to sit down and take a load off! Ha! Thanks, Barry!

And on that note, I will camp here tonight. Life.

- Gx

DAY 38 - Maidu Lake to Grouse Hill Campsite (Crater Lake Rim Trail)

I'm not giving up no more

Today's realisation: one of the several doses of medication I am taking whilst on the trail, has a high dose of melatonin. It's a lovely hormone assistant for sleep patterns and regulating the body into knowing when it is bed time. I've been taking a high dose of melatonin at 6:30am every morning for 38 days. You know what that means? My body thinks it's time for bed around 7:30am... GREAT!! No wonder my body has been on struggle street every morning!! It's been wanting to sleep; which also explains my nightly WIDE awake every hour sleep pattern. Well, after finding a tiny bit of cell reception and talking to mum, we figured that out! Hopefully it's a game changer now that I start taking it at night. Ha!!

Oregon... you beautiful beast!! 

After talking to mum and getting out of my hardly motivated morning self, it was actually the first time I have felt self pity out here. I'm not one to complain, and I feel like all I have done is constantly request orders from my parents. They have been here every step of the way, even if they aren't physically here. They are eternally helpful and up all hours of the night ordering new gear and making sure I am doing well out here. 

I had the best words directed at me from mum today; be kind to yourself. 

Yeah. I'm not really kind to myself. I'll admit it. I don't take enough time out for me. I don't rest enough. I don't allow myself to ever think 'good job, Gretel' or 'you deserve that'. I'm impatient. I'm a person who puts a lot of other people before myself. I'm an individual who lifts others upon pedestals and never placed myself there. I'm that person who when other people are down or under the weather, I make sure that I bring their spirits up. I've never admitted this to myself until I thought about it after mum texted that through. 

Out here, I've been beating myself up if I do anything less than a 40km day. I think I'm lazy and should've pushed harder toward the next campsite. I get angry at my body if it's a little sore. I end the day unhappy with my efforts and tell myself I could've done better. Or even worse, tell myself I'll do incredibly big miles tomorrow to make up for the slackness. I think I'm invincible. It's me in real life.

'Don't be so hard on yourself.' Such famous words and so much easier said than done. Striving for perfection when there really is no specific definition of perfection. What is perfection? It's all a matter of opinion and simply in the eye of the beholder. You cannot describe perfection. There is no finish line with perfection. It creates obsession. Striving towards an unattainable goal, that has no reward. Why do I do that to myself? 

I suppose in the world of performing arts, we live in comparison. My whole career has been based on comparison. It was first dramatically shoved in my face as Olivia Newton John (Oh, you mean SANDY) in Grease, where everything I wore, danced, acted and sang like HAD to be like her, because god-forbid, someone is DIFFERENT. So, I had a bench mark. 

Then, Kathy Selden in Singing in the Rain. Again, Debbie Reynolds. I'd built a pretty solid back bone by that point to be able to proudly make her my own and actually didn't care what people genuinely thought. I prided myself in that. But I couldn't sit here and say I NEVER felt any pressure to be her or be compared to her. Everything we do is through comparison and I've noticed myself doing the same out here - because I know no different. I compare my walk to others and think about how I can improve. What is it that I am doing wrong to be struggling so much uphill? When someone says they have done huge miles for the day, I beat myself up because I didn't get to that number and I believe I should have. I don't understand why people can hike for 14 hours straight, or better still, hike into the night?! I beat myself up. 

But having those words come through from mum really resonated with me. Be kind to yourself. 

Just saying it is a constant reminder now. Everyone is different. It's ok to not be a concord on the trail. It's ok to smell the roses. It's ok to stop and enjoy the view. It's ok to sit by the lake a little longer than anticipated. It's ok to walk less than someone else. It's ok to be slower uphill than others. It's ok to be faster downhill. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and I have been a strong advocate for that my entire career. I need to apply that to outside my work environment and stop beating myself up. We are all a work in progress. Nobody's perfect.

However, this terrain was simply breath taking and after I thought heavily about that phrase of 'be kind to yourself', I turned a corner switch back and there stood the most beautiful peaks of Oregon. I smiled so joyfully and tears welled in my eyes. I knew from that point that I am where I currently belong and that throwing this journey away would be beyond stupid. It truly is the adventure of a lifetime, no matter how difficult it is at times. Find the joy.

The afternoon was filled with fallen trees and a beautiful hazy orange sunset glimmering through the branches. It was only fitting to have a slice of home with me during this sunset as Yothu Yindi's 'Djapana' played on my shuffle. The sunset dreaming. It really set the scene and made me miss my family incredibly.

I made it to the top of the Crater Lake Rim trail to begin the morning hike around the lake at 5am tomorrow to see sunrise. I did a 48km day and I pulled myself easily out of my downer morning attitude to continue hiking on my way. Thanks, mum. You're not here, but you are. If I can be half as kind, loving, caring and intelligent as you are to my future children, I will die a very happy person. You are everything. 

May you all be kind to yourselves.

And for today; well done, Gretel. You did great.

- Gx

DAY 39 - Grouse Hill campsite to Mazama Village campground (via Crater Lake rim trail)

A 4am wake was a lot easier than expected! I took my medication at night last night and slept like a baby, waking up fresh as a daisy! The idea of walking the Crater Lake rim trail early in time to watch the sunrise, was presented to me by 2 fellow SOBO hikers by the names of Mary Poppins and Tripsy! My first female SOBO hikers! There's not many of us and I crossed their path yesterday in which they kindly extended the invitation to join them. I'm all for an adventure out here, so why not!! 

The concept of 4am seemed like death, but was actually pleasant for me. So we left camp at 5am, hiking in complete early morning darkness and insanely fresh, cold air. It was divine. 

Headlamps on, we trekked uphill again, which was strange on the mental mindset, because not fully seeing where the trail was going in front of me was a sort of blessing in disguise. It didn't allow me to feel negative about uphill, as I couldn't see how long the trail was intending to be uphill! 

As the sun began to rise, we could tell that the fire smoke has absolutely taken away all of Crater Lakes views. It is a HUGE blue lake that you walk the rim of, with incredible views and outlooks. But none of that could be seen. The water wasn't even visible. However, the sunrise was a beautiful and powerful orange orb of burning rays. It was sublime just to sit on the edge of the rim and watch. 

You can see from the suns rays in these next pictures, the water in the lake is slightly glistening. The blanket of smoke is intense and of course, the valley and crater are holding every bit of it. 

On the other side of the rim, however, the land was green and luscious with pockets of snow still visible. It was definitely a chilly morning being surrounded by these mountains. 

Hiking with the girls was a strange concept. I'd only hiked with boys so far, so this was interesting to observe pace, timing and wilderness appreciation. I liked it. It's a different energy. It's lovely meeting new faces and people out on the trail. When you do long solo stretches, it can be amazing with solitude and independence. But everything is about balance out here. Just like life itself. I understand the need for solitude from a lot of hikers, but hiking solo can make days seem longer when you are already walking for 12 hours. 

We planned to only hike a few more miles to our resupply location in Mazama Village, where we camped at the campground, ate at the restaurant and did all our errands (laundry, shower etc... the important things)! When arriving in town, we were inundated with news from NOBOs of more fires straight out of Mazama, where the trail itself is actually on fire. 

So more hitching to come. Tonight we will Nero, and hit the trail again tomorrow, after some serious mapping and detouring! 

This trail is certainly one big adventure. From snow, rain, fires, new people, old people, trail families, hitch hiking, trail angels... it never ends. And I love it.

- Gx

DAY 40 & 41 - Mazama village to Snow Lake trail campsite to Fish Lake

Leaving Mazama was easy. Nero days are the way to do the trail. It's a smoother transition to get back on the PCT, and doesn't leave you feeling too rested to throw the towel in. 

However, with fires actually burning along the trail, another closure was announced and hitching is the only way around... or road walking way too many miles. 

So, us three girls got a ride with an incredible gal named Margot, who works for the National Forest Service, so was incredibly familiar with our situation on the PCT. She was that wonderful that she drove us further up the dirt roads than expected! Eternally grateful, as these roads are terrible to walk and nothing like a trail! So we had to enter from a side trail, still doing the miles with some dirt road walking, in order to skip out the burning trail section. 

Onwards we hiked. Devils peak was the first climb. With a heavy bag, water carry and a full resupply pack...

There's a love/hate relationship with resupply day. You are thrilled to have food stock again and no longer needing to ration on everyday supplies. However, you want to not touch your pack. You don't want to lift it or have ANYTHING to do with it. You absolutely want to lose it all together and possibly never see it again. You also curse it everytime you pick it up. It's a struggle. 

The uphill brought me to these spectacular views. Even with the haze and smoke from the Oregon fires, I still see it's beauty and vastness of such magnificent landscape. It still takes my breath away. Not the smoke. That's been a lot easier. I don't actually smell it too much.

There was some divine ridge walking around sunset today. Of course with ridges, that brings back the rocks. I'm a pro at the rocks now. The tip toe pointe action seems to allow me to flow over the surface pretty smoothly. 

The morning after camp, presented some more rock ridges and a little difficult terrain to warm into. This type of terrain just takes a little more concentration, and when you are still waking your bull-dozed body up, it can feel like a huge punch in the face to have to focus so hard on not snapping an ankle. 

I had read earlier on the maps that this section was a little "obstacle course" which potentially could slow your day down. See below.

Yeah. FUN. Not. Obstacle courses are great fun when you don't have your house on your back. These are the times when the injuries and generic bodily soreness can get a little worse. One wrong step can result in a crushed-looking-tortoise-shaped human on the ground. 

A 35.5km day lead me to a highway on the way to Fish Lake, where some really awesome guy let 10 hikers ride in the back of his truck for 2 miles to the camp. What a champion! I definitely was sitting on the top of a tool box going 100kms an hour! Adventure!! 

There really are the most incredible of humans in this world. Seriously, dust out the ones that you don't consider incredible and find better ones. Haha! It's blunt advice, but true. There is so much giving out here. People who do so much for absolutely NOTHING. 

Coming from an industry that receives applause at the end of each work shift, congratulations on every minute achievement and showered in both true and false support (let's face it! I'll call it out); to be out here where people just do things for others because they can, its heart warming and sincere. It creates a whole new perspective on genuine human interaction. 

This world is filled with extraordinary human beings, and I am beyond grateful to be experiencing this perspective.

Being truthfully kind and loving isn't hard. If there are insincere humans around you, remove them. And if you are finding yourself inauthentic, maybe look at what makes you that way. Insecurities? Instability? Envy? Jealousy? 

We can all do better. Try authentic. We don't want bogus Indian cuisine. That why authentic Indian cuisine is the best. 

- Gx


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