Thursday, October 11, 2018

Northern California

Mile 960.9 to Mile 1635.7

The excitement built as we approached the California border. The landscape was changing from dense coniferous forests to open grassy areas with sparse tall pines. At the actual border we dropped our packs and I piggy backed Rogue across into California joking that now he needed to carry me all the way to Mexico!

 We waited for So Good just behind us and congratulated her on her achievement. Then it was on into California! 

The scenery changed almost instantly. Now we were hiking on red dirt mountains that looked almost bare and suddenly there were little lizards everywhere. It was so beautiful! I often felt like I was hiking through the setting of an old western movie. The trail seemed to change as well. Instead of hiking in one direction for most of the day we were now snaking around each mountain and would spend hours in each area getting to see each nook and cranny of the mountains. The trees got taller and bigger and there were several different types of pine, cedar and fir that I couldn't name but loved instantly. 

It was here that a deer chose to follow me for over a mile. Cautiously at first but soon close behind me.

Sadly this is where we lost most of our trail family. Most of the hikers we had been hiking around in Washington and Oregon were racing on ahead while we seemed to be slowing down. At first it seemed appropriate to be hiking in such a desolate place alone but as the days of solitude turned into weeks I began to look for other hikers at every town stop hoping someone else was out there with us. 

The towns here seem to be very, very different. The first town was a bit of a shock in that it was a tiny, run down looking little hamlet but the people were so friendly! The restaurant owner had made an area outside for hikers on her property with a picnic table, washrooms and outlets that we could use even if her business was closed. There was a town event happening the evening we were there and we were invited by almost every local we talked to. Leaving Seiad Valley we encountered the longest road walk we have had so far in order to cross the Klamath River safely. Along that road walk we passed the thousand mile mark and then had nineteen miles of up to hike. I dreaded it but that hike up out of the valley was so enjoyable that now whenever I look at the map and see a huge up in front of me I hope that it is just like that hike up out of Seiad Valley. The next town was pretty and quaint. It was still a tiny, rural town but there was definitely more money here. The people were so friendly here! We loved Etna. Then came Mount Shasta which was huge by contrast with those first few towns. Generally bigger towns mean more amenities but less help getting to and from the trail but not here! A local picked us up and then offered his number telling us to call him if we needed anything including a ride around the first and only fire closure we experienced. 

I won't mention each town stop but as the miles added up these towns were my only opportunity to talk to other people (and we all know how much I like to talk). I was starting to feel isolated from everyone on the trail and worried that we had slowed down too much to safely hike through the High Sierras. On the other hand it felt so good to slow down and find the most epic  spot  to cowboy camp each night plus it's hard to say no to an extra town day!


By the end of Northern California the nights were starting to get colder and although most of my gear has held up well it became obvious that my sleeping bag wasn't warm enough. I added new wool layers and hoped it would be enough. Northern California surprised me with its beauty  and diversity and was a great introduction to the California. I am excited for what will come next!

Friday, September 28, 2018


This is a guest post from my hiking partner Rogue.

"And it came to pass that they entered the state of Oregon on the thirty-first of the month of July in the year of two thousand and eighteen, full of anxiety and trepidation, for it was foretold that it would be wearisome and desolate of feature."
- Gospel of Rogue 4.31

The "Bridge of the Gods" welcomed us into both Oregon and the small town of Cascade Locks with beautiful sunshine and strong winds. The bridge's grated surface also allowed for fear inducing views straight down to the river far below and at the end of it we hugged, both to celebrate our arrival in another state but also that we'd made it across the bridge safely.
Although a diner is conveniently situated right next to the bridge we naturally decided to take the long walk into town instead to get our first meal. After our famished stomachs had been pacified we decided to have a second breakfast straight away - then beer, then ice cream, lunch, dinner, second dinner, ... Oh well, I guess all in all we had eight meals while we were there. The "Thunder Island Brewery" is particularly noteworthy, as it is hiker friendly, offers good craft beers, and truly fantastic food. Alas, we couldn't stay for long, or they might've had to roll us out of town.

Instead we made our way towards Mount Hood, which we reached on August 3rd. Cold clamminess not withstanding, we enjoyed the days very much. The scenery was breathtaking and magical and the morning fog at high altitude added to the atmosphere.

On the southern flanks of Mount Hood sits Timberline Lodge. It is both a registered historic place and landmark. It was also the (outside) setting of the "heeere is Johnny" hotel in "The Shining". On top of this, it's also a welcome break to hungry hikers, due to their fabled all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. It took us three visits to the laden counters, before we waved defeat and left the cozy interior - in search for some more food to take on the trail. At the marvellously overpriced vending machines (20oz bottle of pop for $3), we ran into "The Kid", a very nice 18 year old thru-hiker who explained to us the virtues of paperless pooping in the woods and the various advantages and disadvantages of different materials one might find along the way.

Even past Mount Hood, the landscape was fabulous, and surprised us with plenty of variety and awesomeness. "Little Crater Lake" was small but very blue indead, and gave opportunity for some trail magic from some well meaning tourists, who came after us to drop some freshly plucked strawberries into our eager hands. Fresh water from a hand pump made our day complete.

Olallie Lake was a nice change from the trail routine and offered beer and snacks and an opportunity to wash some hair - that needed it, apparently. We also received some awesome trail magic in form of hot dogs, bananas, and drinks.

After a restful pit stop in Bend, we were back on trail only a scant few miles, when our weary and tired feet took us into the marvel that is the "Big Lake Youth Center". They hadn't just built a house - specifically catering to through hikers, with kitchen, coffee machine, laundry, and showers - they also fed and watered any hiker who made it there. Three meals a day, sometimes serving twenty or more hikers. We accepted this outstanding hospitality and then found a spot by the lake, where we cowboy camped for the first time on this trail and had a great night. 

The lava fields near the "Three Sisters" were the next attraction we stumbled across. A volcanic eruption over 2000 years ago had spewed forth a jumbled mess of basalt in which we found endless opportunity to take pictures and play around in, like we were kids. The slight smokiness from the distant wildfires enhanced the visuals dramatically.

After a delightful evening and exquisite sunset at Charlton Lake, we carried our tired bodies into Shelter Cove Resort, where we gorged on pizza and beer. The night was spent in the PCT area, where multiple thru-hikers mistook Trouble's hammock spot for a washroom at night. Once she actually had to shout out to prevent an embarrassment.

At the shores of Summit Lake, we ran into our old friends Pokerface, Jack the Ripper, and Full Moon and spent the evening and night with them. Copious amounts of fresh air and good humour made us decorate Pokerface's mattress with a likeness of her future husband. He looks like a dashing young chap.

On August 17 we finally reached Crater Lake. We woke up especially early for this side trail and managed to view the sunrise over the crater rim. Although the area was shrouded in thick smoke from the nearby wildfires, and we couldn't even make out the opposite side of the rim, it made for an extra special sunrise experience and transformed the crater into a magical wonderland that offered mystical view after mystical view.
The later meal at Mazama Village was rather less exciting, but it gave us opportunity to resupply in the neighbouring convenience store, to down a bucket of ice cream, and to catch up on hiker gossip with fellow ramblers who were hanging out in front of the store.

After this, Oregon said slowly goodbye to us, as we were making our way along some of the smaller resorts on the way to the border. The scenery changed from green woodlands to the more Northern Californiesque dry grasslands and different wildflowers. It was beautiful to observe the changes as were getting closer and closer to the border.

We crossed the border on August 24th. I was somewhat tired. But I wasn't worried. I had backup. Thus I made it across the border to Northern California - without any effort. Life is good.

"And they passed into the next realm, full of happiness and good memories. The portended insipidity had not come to pass and they were grateful for it."
- Gospel of Rogue 4.57

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

I have walked 500 miles...

I have walked 500 miles ......and I will walk 2150 more! That first part sounds like something to celebrate until you read the second part but I am still celebrating! I've walked through the incredibly beautiful state of Washington!  The state with the most elevation changes and the steepest sections  I've walked over snowfislds and gripped my trekking poles tightly as I've maneuvered carefully across steep, snowy slopes. I've held my breath as I've trusted narrow sections of loose rocks not to give away along miles of a catwalk trail and watched as a giant rock fell from above wiping out the trail ten feet in front of me before continuing down the mountainside.. I've hiked through snow, hail, rain and scorching sun and come out at the other side stronger, leaner and more agile than I was twenty years ago. Yes, I'm celebrating! 

Washington has absolutely blown me away with its beauty starting right from day one in the northern cascades. It was so beautiful that sometimes I would listen to the music I brought to distract me on the hard ups not because I was actually on a hard up but because I was stopping every few seconds to take another picture or cry because I couldn't believe the view or start laughing  because I couldn't believe my good fortune at being here and seeing this. I know it's hard to believe but taking in too much beauty is so overwhelming! The Goat Rock Wilderness was another gorgeous section where it was hard not to get distracted by beauty in every single direction I would look. 

And it's not just the trail that makes Washington so awesome but the people I have met here. Every little town has it's own character and the sense of community here is something that has been missing for decades where I am from. The kindness from total strangers still astounds me from the initial offer of help to pick me up at the ferry hours away and help me with my mail drops and get me to the trail to the man who just walked up to us as we were hanging out at Cascadia Inn and offered us a ride to the trail to the woman who overheard a part of a conversation and  brought Moonshine to her home to shower and do laundry and then back to the trailhead. Washington is full of people who help the minute they see a need. Thank you Washington!

And I found a hiking partner in Washington! Rogue is great fun and I am so happy to be hiking with him! He always has me laughing at something, is very considerate and apologises even more than most Canadians (I will cure him of this and by the end of the trail we will both be badass and not sorry). And besides with trailnames like Trouble and Rogue we sound like we were destined to hike together. Because I am going southbound I didn't expect to see very many hikers and certainly didn't expect to meet anyone who had a similar pace as me or hiked the same number of miles each day. I have been amazed at the number of southbound hikers this year and have actually only camped on my own on three occasions. Thanks for everything Washington you have given me so much more than I expected!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The First Two Hundred

Expectations.... They can ruin a hike when things don't quite turn out like you think. I was so excited to start this hike. And right from the start I had trail angels offering me help, how awesome is that! The day I started the trail was beautiful, more beautiful than I could have imagined. Blowing all of my expectations away. And the ups! The ups weren't that bad! Easier than I thought really! Again making my expectations seem irrelevant. Then the weather changed and I started into a snowy section. Still everything was so stunningly gorgeous that it was hard for a little bit of snow or rain or hail to change my mind. I was loving It! And the trail was easier than I had imagined. 

I made it back to Harts Pass where the ranger was keeping my food cashe safe. And then I made it to my next resupply and was so proud of myself for managing to get in and out of a town on the same day. All the while the trail was blowing my mind with how amazing it was. Sure there were snow sections but I knew that going in. Yes, it was hard but did I ever expect it would be easy?

Then the snow sections turned into miles and miles of snow in the most treacherous areas. There was a day where I had planned to get to a certain campsite but when I arrived it was covered in feet of snow and so I kept walking. The next campsite was even worse and I knew I couldn't handle a night hike on a  snowy mountain. I searched for the safest place to set up camp and woke up to rain on slushy snow making that next day even harder than the last. I got lost that day...a few times. I fell that day... a few times. I actually slid down part of a mountainside and was saved by trees. None of these things were expected. None of these things were welcome. I knew I needed to keep moving to keep warm but I also knew I needed to eat something. I sat completely soaked and dirty with my tarp wrapped around me forcing tasteless food down my throat while I tried to regroup. What did I expect? And does it matter? I am here. Right now. Dealing with these conditions. I wanted to be out here doing this so I had better think like I am doing this. I know whati need to be doing. 

Now that I have had and given myself a little pep talk it's time to keep moving. Get back on trail and get off this mountain. I need to get as low as possible, beyond the snow. Just for a night, I tell myself. The walk down is cold but the longer I walk the warmer I start to feel until I realize that I'm not cold anymore. 

At the bottom, I still have energy and it's still raining so there is no use in stopping so soon. I make promises to myself that I will stop going up and set up camp before the next snowy section. I end up walking for miles in a gorgeous forest that had giant redwoods in it. It soothes me and I find myself happy to be here again. I set up in such a good sheltered spot that several hikers walked right by not noticing I was even there. 

The next day I walk up into the miles of snow again but it is sunny. The hikers I meet today all tell me of their misadventures from yesterday. I feel better.  I was not alone yesterday. I am never really alone. We get lost again in the snow, this time together and in the sun and it is funny. We laugh at our mistakes and each pull out our phones to search for the real trail. We laugh at the problems from yesterday, each of us reliving yesterday's awful experiences yet today for some reason they seem funny. 

I don't know what this trail is going to throw at me. The expectations I have or even the problems I expect to face might never happen. I will take what I am given and try to adapt. 

So far just in this first two hundred miles the trail has surpassed all expectation of beauty and ruggedness. So far I have met more southbound hikers than I imagined and I realize that I don't have to hike alone if I don't want too. There are many out here doing the same thing and going through the same struggles. What will come next? Who knows? This time I am trying to get rid of all expectations and take what comes.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

What is too much?

In a few short weeks I will be living on a trail again and yet I am still undecided on some of my gear choices. Right now, I know I have too much in my pack. When I started hiking the Appalachian Trail I also had too much in my pack. It took months of living on the trail and realising just how little I actually needed to survive before I felt comfortable enough to ditch the extra weight. Even then the ditching process took almost the entire trail. I was still stripping away my possessions in New Hampshire.

I'd like to think that I continued that process as I returned from the trail to downsize to a bus but the truth is that I have picked up some of my old habits. As I go through my gear options I can't help but think but what if I really need this. What if this item is what I need to keep warm one night? Will that one night of warmth justify carrying this? And my miniscule repair kit, do I really need It?  It's so hard to think back to what I had left in my pack in Maine and be ok with just starting out with those items.

I have a small bag of safety items that I am pretty sure is just extra weight but I can't seem to part with. This is a different trail after all, and I don't really know what I'm going to need yet. I may be starting out with it and if I find.i don't need it I will mail it ahead. I may need it in the High Sierras.

The rest of the extra weight comes in the form of things that keep me comfortable and electronics. I know it is extra but these things enhance my hike. Knowing I have a warm albeit heavier top quilt makes me feel safer. Having a larger tarp that can be used for wind, rain and sun protection makes me.feel like i can manage in any weather condition. I'm even carrying a piece of a wash cloth this time as it does a better job than a bandana at getting rid of the crime and dirt at night. I know I don't need it but I like the feel of clean feet when I sleep..

 And the technological stuff? Prior to hiking I was never a creative person and could never keep a journal but on trail I love writing down my thoughts. Having a cell phone and a way to charge it allows me to take pictures, capture memories and write down my stories. I kind of use my phone as a multi purpose tool as I load it up with maps, altimeter, peak scanners and fun stuff like plant identifiers and star gazing apps. If I'm carrying the weight already I  might as well make use of it.

So this is why my pack is heavy. I can't part with any of it right now. I can guarantee it will get lighter as I hike down the trail but until I learn what I can part with, it's all coming!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Well that was fun.

Today brought more memories of hiking the Appalachian Trail. This time it was the time Melkie decided to chase a moose and I thought the moose had turned around and was charging right at me. And the time he decided to chase the bull. And the many deer he sent on their way long before I had the chance to take a picture. Can you tell where I'm going with this story? Take those experiences and magnify the adrenaline by at least ten!

We were walking the dogs just outside of Duncan along an abandoned rail trail. And yes we knew there were bears in the area we had seen bears and a cougar here on previous occasions and today we saw proof in the form of fresh bear scat. We had gone as far as we wanted to go for the day and had just turned to head back when I spotted something black ahead of me. It took me a minute to realize that it wasn't Cooper and it was a lot bigger than Cooper. Of course by that time Melkie was already onto him. Racing down the tracks towards the sleepy bear not listening our pleas  to come back. Within seconds the bear started to run which only made Melkie race faster. The bear headed to the woods and although I was upset, i was pretty sure my dog would come back unharmed. Until a moment later when a second even larger bear stepped out on the tracks in between us and where Melkie disappeared. Oh! Shit! We were hanging on to Cooper who was barking loudly and I thought for sure this new big bear would attack Melkie if he reappeared especially being stuck in between two dogs. Michael decided foolishly to go towards the bear which only made Cooper freak out more and within seconds he had wriggled free of his loose collar. Fortunately Michael was able grab him and about this time Melkie reappeared and somehow got by the big bear without harm. As Melkie was running back towards us the big bear decided to come our way. The bear wasn't up on its  hind legs and wasn't giving the tell tale warning sounds but was definitely giving us the message to get out of there and get out of there fast. We were careful not to run but continued to move away from the area until the bear turned around and headed back. Unfortunately we also had to turn around and go back that same way as that was the way back to the bus. This time the dogs were on leashes.

This whole chasing wild animals thing just makes me feel a little better about leaving Melkie behind and I'm adding it as one more reason not to bring him on this next advent8ure.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Back in Beautiful BC

I flew back to Ontario for three weeks to visit family and friends and congratulate my daughter on graduating as an RN. The days flew by and it feels like I was only there for a few minutes. I did manage to keep up my training miles by walking all over Ottawa and there were several days that ended up being over 34km (20 miles). The only problem is that Ottawa is flat so imagine my surprise when I got back to be out of breath on a short 15km  hike up a mountain. I'm sure I will be ready by the time.i do finally get to start the trail though. Michael has been hiking with me daily and we have hiked most of the local mountains along with a huge portion of the Trans Canada Trail (they are calling it The Great Trail now) in this area.

In the meantime, the work Michael had been promised for the season hasn't panned out and we aren't quite sure what to do. Originally when I first made plans to hike the PCT we had planned for Michael to follow along with the bus and be my support. We got sidetracked with the promise of a high paying job and quickly changed our plans. Now I'm wishing we had stuck to our original plan as there is no high paying job and we just don't have enough saved up for him to follow along and support me. I'm not panicking or anything. I know that things have a way of working themselves out but I am all of a sudden trying to come up with ways to shave the expenses on this hike. And I don't like the idea of Michael having to cross the country on his own to get back to Ontario. Funny eh! I will be out in the wilderness with bears and mountain lions yet am more concerned about Michael driving over the mountains and across the prairies on his own.

Awhile back a trail angel offered to help me get to Harts Pass. Harts Pass is the closest pass to the border (on the American side) that is accessible by road. At the time I thought Michael would be taking me with the bus  but the more we thought about it the more nervous we were about crossing the border with a bus that looks like a hippie bus. I recently sent this trail angel a message asking for some transportation advise and he meet me at the ferry at Anacortes, make the necessary stops I need to make and take me to the trail! How awesome is that! We don't have to worry about our bus being torn apart at the border. We won't have to pay the extra ferry fees for the bus both ways! And I won't have to figure out transportation or where to stop on roads that I'm not familiar with!