PCT days 31 – 34

July 28, Day 31

20 miles

📍Yakama land

I didn’t leave Trout Lake until 11am, so I got breakfast at the cafe with Carrot, then an Americano, then putzed around with resupply and internet for most of the morning. I was determined to do 20 miles today despite starting so late. My foot had been hurting so much last week that I did low mileage, and I was ready to turn it up.

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So when the shuttle (the back of a pickup truck) dropped us off at 11:30, I was off to the races almost immediately. I hiked fast and hard. I took a break at 10 miles for water and a snack. And then again at 15 miles. That’s where Carrot and Muffy left me; they didn’t want to go any further today. But I was hungry for miles and had promised Waist Deep that I’d catch up to her, so I kept going.

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I didn’t get into camp until almost 8. I was dragging so much. But Waist Deep was there! I was so relieved to have caught up with her as promised and it was so good to be hiking with her.

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Also at the camp was a National Forest Service ranger named Keegan, who I found out through the course of conversation, is half Chinook. She had mentioned primitive trails and so I asked her more about the indigenous people of the area. We talked about something called the Huckleberry Handshake, a time when indigenous people were given the right to pick huckleberries – ON THEIR OWN LAND. This concept was infuriating. She also graciously informed me that the area I was hiking in had some sizeable indigenous history, which I had wondered about due to it being named the Indian Heaven wilderness (shuddering writing that term). The indigenous in this area called it Sahalee-Tyee, which online has several loose translations. I cannot find any indigenous based translations so I will not repeat them. There was an area called Indian Race track where it seems that indigenous folks would horse race. I am grateful to Keegan for graciously sharing this information with me. I couldn’t find further information online that was indigenously sourced, so I leave you with this link about the history of the area. History of Guifford-Pinchot National Forest.

July 29, Day 32

26.6 miles

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Last night, when we were planning where to camp the next day, Waist Deep said, “we could hike 26!” I was hesitant and felt doubtful my body could do such a thing. But I got up and started hiking and felt so good. When we stopped for lunch at 10:30 already having done 11 miles, I said, “let’s go for it!” She agreed, so we excitedly forged ahead.

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We made 18 miles by 2pm. I was floored and my feet ached. There had been a climb, and the day was hot, and I needed a snack. We stopped at a forest road where there was a water cache for the long dry section we were in and I put my pack down and used it as a pillow. Delicious. I rested in the shade and ate and drank.

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It was here we met Metric Ton, a male hiker. Waist Deep had asked me earlier if she could be a good accomplice for me in any way and I told her to use her pronouns when she introduced herself. So she did, and I did, and a complicating and awkward conversation ensued with Metric Ton, a man in his mid-50s who could not stop equating sexuality with gender. I patiently explained non-binary to him. “So you’re not a lady, and you’re not a man?” he asked. I explained that I didn’t exist within a gender binary. He asked if I was then bisexual. I said yes, but that isn’t really the point and tried to explain queer and gender as separate things. He sort of got it. He at least got that I didn’t identify as female. But then he felt the need to bring up his own sex life, how he’d dated a bisexual woman assuming endless threesomes, how at his age he was getting more action because he was “healthy” (thank you, I really didn’t need to know either of those things). I pulled my energy out of the conversation and just gave short answers, and blessedly he got the message. When he left he said, “I guess I can’t say ‘goodbye ladies.’ What would I say instead?” We suggested folks, Waist Deep suggested ‘hikers’, we both suggested ‘y’all.’ So when he walked away, he said “goodbye, y’all!” So was it a productive conversation? Who can say? It was very awkward in the end for certain, but perhaps some headway was made? Who can tell.

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This was also the day that Waist Deep decided how queer hikers should flag on trail. We’d been discussing how you could tell someone is queer. In the middle of a climb she blurts out, “Bogwitch, I know how people should flag! The gaiters (gayters)! It’s both like GAYters and Gaydar!” It’s PERFECT. So I have decided to spread the gay gospel and let all you fellow queer PCT hikers know – get gayters to flag please! I’ve got pin up girls. I know someone who had scissors (Hey Vanessa. Lol). Waist Deep wants tacos. I’m believing in you all to find other ones!

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As I headed downhill to camp, I started noticing a burning sensation in my back. “Ohhhhh it’s chafe,” I knew immediately. I had said to Carrot only a few days ago, “I don’t have chafe yet!” I had known even then to add the ‘yet.’ See, out here on the PCT many of us say “it’s always something.” So I wasn’t truly surprised by the appearance of said chafe on a hot sweaty day, rubbed into place where my pack met the skin of my lower back. The way we treat that out here is wet wipes and vagisil. It would be a wet wipe and vagisil evening.

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A couple of hours later, after finding a second wind and speeding downhill, I found myself crossing the river! 26.6 miles later – practically 27 miles! I had walked a marathon! I was absolutely floored and awed by myself. And totally exhausted. I haven’t been sleeping well on trail the last couple weeks, but I knew I would knock out tonight. And I did. I set up my tent, ate my double pack of ramen, just barely able to stay awake through finishing it. Then I lay down, killed the one mosquito torturing my already tortured skin, and fell into a deep dreamless sleep.

July 30, day 33

22 miles

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My alarm went off at 5:30 after a blessedly good sleep. I’d been so exhausted after our marathon day yesterday that I’d actually knocked out pretty hard. I was ready to go when the alarm went off though. Or so I thought. Waist Deep and I dawdled and used the pit toilet at the nearby campground and emptied our trash there. We didn’t leave til about 7:30. Both of us were dreading the big climbs. We had 2 today, both at around 2,000 feet of elevation gain.

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I could not make myself wake up. My head felt so foggy. I tried caffeine, food, everything, and still before the first climb I couldn’t shake it. For the whole climb I dragged behind Waist Deep, feeling so so tired. She was wired on caffeine and a strong climber. Meanwhile my muscles seemed to be still in shock from yesterday.

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At the top of the climb somewhere I yelled at Waist Deep to stop. We ate lunch in the sun and I stuffed myself. I realize I have never had true hiker hunger until this day. I’ve been eating all day and I’m still hungry. At lunch I eat four beef sticks, about 2-4 inches of cheese, sour patch kids, crackers, and mint Oreos.

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We hike back down down down and then break again at the water for a long water carry. I KT tape my ankles again; out of exhaustion I’d rolled both of them on the last downhill, so taping it is. Waist Deep and I mentally prepare for the big uphill to camp. I’m so tired. She’s so tired. We pep talk each other, saying over and over, “last big climb of Washington!!!” Then we put on our most inspiring music and start uphill. She leads the way, going into what she calls “mountain goat mode.” I follow, letting her speed set mine. I’m listening to so much Sia and Miley Cyrus and Pink and everything that would make me feel energized enough to get up this climb. Our friend Footprint brings up in the rear. In the middle of the climb, we start singing at each other. Waist Deep has Fight Song playing, so we yell sing that song before heading up another hill. And it helps. I yell sing Fuckin’ Perfect. And we go up the hill.

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Finally, finally, we reach the top. We can see all the way back to Pahto and ahead to Wy’East (Mt. Hood). It’s incredible. I’m stunned and awed and can’t believe this state is almost over. And I’m so tired.

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We get to camp and my camping spot is flat! Bless. Me, Fluffy Bunny, and Waist Deep all sit together and have dinner and talk about music. Then I go hibernate in my tent and watch Netflix and finally pass out, thinking, “tomorrow is the last day of Washington.”

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July 31, day 34

12.9 miles

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There is an indigenous legend about the Tamanawas Bridge, the area that I crossed today. You can find that legend here. I couldn’t find any indigenous sources history on Google. If you know of some, please direct me to it! Deep honor and reverence to this space that carries this power.

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I wake up at 5, and roll over and snooze til 5:30. But still my first thought is, “Bridge of the Gods in 12.9 miles!” I am so very excited. I am so in awe. I am so grateful to have made it through an entire state. So many times I didn’t think it was possible, due to either injury or emotional stability. But here I am.

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Waist Deep and I leave camp and 6:30 and zoom down the mountain. Washington is almost over! I try to take in mostly every step. I am somewhat distracted by the availability of phone reception and finally firmly put my phone away, telling myself to catch up with people later. The hike down isn’t easy. It’s rocky and slow going, my least favorite downhill. And it’s like that til almost the last mile. Waist Deep had gotten behind and she catches up to me 3.5 miles from the bridge, and we do the last miles together. It’s hot and muggy and the trail is rough. I am struggling to stay positive but firming up my self talk. I tell myself this will make the bridge that much sweeter.

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Finally we get to the bridge and I’m overwhelmed with emotion. A whole state. 550 miles. And this is the place where Cheryl Strayed’s book ends and I feel a little shivery in a good way thinking of that. I take so many pictures with Waist Deep. I feel so much awe and gratitude. I am full up to the brim. I am utterly amazed at this journey and just trying to stay with each step, walking, and walking, and walking.


During my hike I am raising money for Indigenous Women Hike! Please donate to provide indigenous women access to travel to their own land. GoFundMe is here.

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PCT trail log, days 27 – 30

📍on Yakama land

7/24

Day 27

12.1 miles

We hitch out of Packwood this morning and up to White Pass and lazy drink coffee and use WiFi until noon, then we hike.

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I hike slower and more intentionally today. My inner foot still throbs at different moments. I continually try to correct my gait and keep my foot pointed forward instead of in. It takes a lot of my concentration. But I actually feel more present this way. It’s nice. I think about all the things that made me hike too fast before and try to forgive myself for the deep fear of loss that dogs underneath it all. Of course it does, Laurie – and we’re wired for connecting. It’s okay.

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I camp and have to force myself to eat all my dinner again. My stomach is resisting trail food with a passion but is totally fine in town. I’m hoping I’ll hack it at some point and get my stomach to take it in without feeling sick.

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I’m still worried I won’t finish the trail. My foot is still throbbing off and on. My money is so likely to run out. I’ve been spending so much. But it’s more my foot I’m worried about. I don’t know why it won’t stop hurting. I’m crossing my fingers that the gait change will help. I don’t want to get off trail. But I may have to.

7/25

Day 28

14.7 miles

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Today starts off with a long climb. My foot feels better to begin with, and I’m hopeful. I elevated it and did a lot of stretches last night, and it seems to have helped. But I’m still careful, because, long climb.

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Today is Goat Rocks, a famed day on the PCT and in Washington. We climb up to 7,000 feet, not much in Colorado but here, we’re climbing from about 3,000 feet up. The climb is gorgeous. All of it. This kind of terrain, the rocky uphill, is my favorite. Some of the climb is across small paths hugging the mountain – scary. And I love it.

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We climb and climb and climb and finally get to the Old Snowy alternate. Old Snowy is a mountain that you can summit. Me, Muffy, and Carrot break and have a snack. I’m still worrying about my foot because it’s hurting again. I roll it out with my ball and hope it gets better.

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We keep climbing and I decide to summit the mountain. In terms of my foot, I don’t think it will be too hard for it. I climb up and holy fuck. This is maybe my favorite view on the PCT so far. Shubahlup/Tahoma/Tacoma (Mt Rainier), Pahto (Mt Adams), and Louwala-Clough/Lawetlat’la (St Helens) are all in view. I feel fucking phenomenal and so proud of myself. Proud for getting this far. Stoked that I am here. It’s a glorious sunny day and I fucking did this.

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I ride this high down for a few miles. The sun is glorious. I think about the first people on this land, partially because the Yakama reservation is marked, and partially because I’m curious, angry about what my ancestors have done, feeling the depth of the land and the depth of what it might mean. I don’t know. I’m still processing it all.

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It slowly creeps up on me that there are still several miles to go before sleep, and I start to feel tired. It’s taking all my concentration to maintain my gait so my foot doesn’t hurt, and it’s a lot.

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Eventually the mental exhaustion and the pain catch up to me. I run into Carrot and she asks how I am and I tell her the truth. She and Muffy are lovely and happy to camp early for my sake. I’m so grateful and so tired. We set up camp and I hope I can figure out my foot in the morning. I’d swear that’s the only problem with any of this, because the trail and scenery are fucking gorgeous.

7/26

Day 29

24.4 miles

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I’m worried about my foot so much, but after elevating it and stretching it this morning, I just try to take it slow. The first six miles are fine, but then the mosquito horde descends. I find myself going much faster than I mean to, and the foot pain ratchets up. Finally, I think about putting my glove in my shoe under my arch and seeing if that resolves some of the pain. I sit down and dig it out of my bag and try to stick it in my shoe. I can’t get it positioned well though and it just ends up under my heel. “Oh well,” I think, and I stand up.

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In shock I realize my foot doesn’t hurt as much in this position. Hardly at all actually. What in the world?! It must be the zero drop of my shoes! I’m terribly relieved to realize this because it’s such an easy fix. Hooray! I can just go into Portland when I’m in Cascade Locks and go to REI and exchange them. Easy peasy. I’m thrilled! I was so so scared I’d have to leave trail altogether, but this can be resolved!

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I catch up to carrot for lunch and she lets me hang in her shelter since it’s already up. I’m stoked for a break from the bugs and we munch and chit chat. Muffy comes by a bit later; I had missed seeing her on the trail before, I guess. I’m not sure how, because I’d been looking for her? But somehow I didn’t see her. She’s trying for 24 miles so she keeps going.

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“Maybe I will try for 24 miles too, with how good my foot feels,” I think. I decide to check in with myself in a few miles. There’s a spring called Lava Spring because it comes right out of the lava fields from Pahto. I’m stoked about this location and decide I’ll think on more miles there.

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The day becomes very hot and then the trail dries out. This is great – I strip off my rain jacket and pants which I use to guard against the bugs. The heat is tiring. By the time I get to the spring I’m definitely ready for a break. I run into Gravity there and a person whose name I don’t know. We chit chat a bit. I soak my feet in the ice cold water and it feels glorious. Carrot shows up so I sit for a bit longer than I intended. Muffy was nowhere to be seen when I arrived so I assume she’s flying.

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I know by this point I’m gonna try for 24 miles too, and when I hear it’s a gentle uphill, I’m even more set in my decision. I start off around 5. It’s late for me to hike another 5 miles, but it also means only 15 miles to Trout Lake tomorrow! I take the gentle incline with ease. It really is a lovely climb and I’m relieved, because I’m exhausted. I can feel the exhaustion as I walk. I play my music and force my feet forward. My feet feel fine; it’s my mind and soul that are tired and want to sleep.

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Eventually I reach the campsite. Muffy is there and already tucked into her tent. I go get water and soak my feet and make a late dinner I hope I’ll finish. I’m so tired. There are also so many bugs and I’m hiding from them in my shelter.

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I’ve thought a lot all day about Pahto and the Yakama people whose land I’m on. Pahto was a sacred place for them, and I wonder if I’m picking up on that. There’s a quieter feeling here that runs deep. It’s a bit similar yet different from Tava in Colorado Springs. I feel a lot of honor and respect and an intention that my feet honor whose space I am in.

7/27

Day 30

15 miles

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Today I wake up at 5 so I can get into town early. Town town town! I’m so excited and ready to be there. I feel dumb for this, but I haven’t had internet reception most of this section, and I’m desperate for that connection. It gets a little hairy and edgy out here for me without it.

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Also, I can’t get over how it’s been 30 days already since I started this trail. It feels like a fucking year. The first two weeks were something I’ve been calling the “trauma tunnel”. It’s something that’s happened to me before, I do something new and it’s hellacious and I lose all perspective and my world becomes very small and I am one giant landmine triggered by everything. This happened the first time I got acupuncture, too. I got needle shock and had to go in the bathroom and lay on the floor while I had flashbacks. I told off the woman who ran the clinic and said she needed to be more trauma informed (I still stand behind those words). But then I went back to the same clinic (different practitioner) and I fell in love with acupuncture. I feel like the same thing happened for me with the first two weeks on the PCT, it just lasted longer. It is my least favorite thing, honestly, to be constantly trauma reactive, but I did make it through and I feel soft and brave towards myself for that.

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I hike all morning through lava chutes with rivers flowing down them. Sometimes it smells a little sulphuric and silty, as if the earth is half on fire. And I know it is, somewhere deep down. It seems like I can feel the mountain, and I wonder if I’m making that up. It’s foggy outside, and windy, and everything feels a little eerie. I fucking love it. I put on a playlist with melancholy music and I drop into all my haunting feelings for awhile and it is glorious. I’m listening to Death Cab – Transatlantacism, The Antlers – Kettering, and other appropriately haunting music.

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I hike hard to the place marked in Guthooks (the PCT app that shows us where the trail is) as having Verizon LTE, 9 miles from where I’m camped. When I get there, I’m disappointed to learn it’s “fake” LTE – the kind that allows calls but no data. “Fuck it, I’ll just hike hard to town,” I think. There is a shuttle at 11:30, and it’s 9:30 now and I’m 6.7 miles up. That is really fast for me, faster than I’ve ever done, but I’m gonna try it.

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I speed down the hills, taking care not to push myself too hard and cause pain. I pass the person who started before me at 5am. I’m gonna be so close. So so close. 15 miles in 4.5 hours? Am I actually gonna?

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The last 2 miles I’m pushing 4 mph. I know it and I watch my body wisely but push on. It’s gonna be so close, aaaah!!! The shuttle leaves at 11:30 and I’m due there just after. Finally I push out of the forest at 11:31 and DAMN IT. I have just just just missed the shuttle! I sigh. But then I grin to myself. I fucking just did that. And I can hitch into town anyway, it’s fine.

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It takes me about 20 minutes to get a hitch to town. But my first few hours in town are glorious. I eat a burger and holy SHIT a huckleberry milkshake! I haven’t had huckleberries since I was a kid and I’ve been thinking about this shake for the last week since I heard about it. I die and go to heaven I’m pretty sure. Later on a guy brings a gallon of fresh huckleberries by, and Carrot buys a gallon of ice cream and we all eat huckleberries and ice cream out of our pots. Is this the real life?!? Am I even living? I can’t believe this and I love every moment of it. And my foot isn’t even hurting.

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I love this fucking trail.


During my hike I am raising money for Indigenous Women Hike! Please donate to provide indigenous women access to travel to their own land. GoFundMe is here.

PCT trail log – days 21 – 26

📍on Yakama land

There are 2 large mountains in this area. One of them was referred to as Shubahlup by Salish speaking tribes in the area. (Native American net roots) There is other information on the Google about it being called Takohoma by other indigenous folks in the area. It is known in English as Mt. Rainier.

The other mountain is Pahto, which is a sacred space in Yakama folklore. We know of it as Mt. Adams. You can read the story of it here: Pahto

Day 21

July 18

8.8 miles

My first official Nero. Me, Muffy and Carrot hike to a lake 8ish miles outside of town. I have my trail legs and I fly, finding my rhythm. Today has been restful. I get to camp, and I’m still wired. So for fun, I decide to smoke some weed and watch my Netflix I’ve downloaded. So that’s what I do, and it kind of feels like a vacation, which is really nice.

22

July 19

20.7 miles

What a nice hiking day! It feels like a completely different trail?! It’s sunny, and cold-hot, and my feet feel good, and I’m loving Muffy and Carrot’s company, and I have a new sleeping pad, and I’m flying. What even is this?

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We left around 6:30 this morning and I flew ahead pretty quickly. I think I’ve got my hiker legs. It’s a beautiful day, sunny finally, and my morale starts to lift. The trail is soft and pine-needle-cushioned for much of it.

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I watched 2 episodes of Tales of the City last night before falling asleep because I hadn’t hiked myself tired. I thought about the episodes all day and had lots of gender related feels. Gender is so weird. I’ve really been embracing my fluidity lately.

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I got new shoes (Altra Lone Peaks) and I like them well enough. I love the zero drop concept as a somatic centric person. I also have a new sleeping pad that is out of this world comfortable. My gear is getting dialed in! And it feels awesome. Everything just feels awesome today.

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I get to camp before Carrot and Muffy and set up and hang out and wait. I lay on my sleeping pad and get so warm I don’t want to move. But then Carrott and Muffy show up and we go get water and it’s such pretty water. And then we make dinner sitting all in a circle and laugh and make fun of the mansplaining dads on trail. My stomach hurts a little from laughing so much. I eat beans and rice with dehydrated veggies I found in the hiker box, and in between I snack on my watermelon sour patch. This is a normal night’s meal but tonight it’s maybe the highlight. Today was so good it was a little quiet and I can’t help but think, “finally.”

Day 23

July 20

21.7 miles

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I’m so tired this morning. I don’t wake up until 5:30, and when I do, I turn over and sleep for another 30 minutes. Why am I so tired? I finally drag myself up and make a double packet of coffee.

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We have a climb first thing which I love. I prefer to climb in the morning. It’s about 1,800 feet of gain. I hate and despise the first couple of miles. My pack is way too heavy this section and it makes me crabby. But a couple miles in, I get a good rhythm going. And then I am stoked. I’ve got music in my earbuds and I get into my hiking rhythm and go.

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All of a sudden at the top of a ridge I look to my right. “Holy shit,” I say out loud as I see Shubahlup (Mt. Rainier) in the distance. It’s a perfectly sunny day and the view is unbelievable. I can’t stop looking at it as I go up the next ridge. I stop in a sunny meadow and have a snack looking out over the snowy crest of the old volcano. I’m endorphin drunk and so, so happy.

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I have been listening to music on trail a lot more than I thought I would. I get to a point where I’m bored and I need fun thoughts. Partially as a result of the music I play, one of the most common things I think about on trail are songs I would do drag to. I wonder, does anyone else think about queer stuff on trail as much as I do? I think about drag every day. And gender related stuff. And today I thought about how I want/want to be Crowley from Good Omens, but in a gay way.

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I go through phases with songs on trail. Today, my song phases were Angel By The Wings (Sia), Rock You Like A Hurricane (Scorpion), and Jet Black from Anderson Paak. I listened to Radio Gaga (Queen) almost daily for about 3 weeks… still listen to that one a whole lot.

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We camp for the night in a burn area. The burn starts a mile before camp and is silencing. I can feel the precipice of the division between life and death, the very edges of the hollow opening. I turn off my music and walk quietly and notice. I think of Wendell Berry’s poem about sacred and desecrated places, and of Adrienne Rich’s Diving Into the Wreck. I feel unafraid to camp here… excited, even. These are the places I love, the ones on the edge.

24

July 21

23.7 miles

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I tossed and turned all night sleeping in the burn. I hadn’t been anxious about it at all, but right before bed Carrot said, “it will be fine, there’s no wind.” Within 20 minutes the wind was rustling through the trees and it continued all night. I tossed and turned and worried about trees falling on my tent.

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This morning’s first mileage was okay. My feet were hurting, and I felt nauseous after my morning protein shake. I couldn’t shake the nausea. I tried eating more, drinking more, slowing down… nothing helped. So I hiked on through the nausea, waiting for it to decrease. Somewhere in here I thought that carrot and Muffy had gotten ahead of me, so I hiked hard to our lunch spot, only to find them not there. When I feel sick I am cranky and needy (aka Baby™️), and I was instantly frustrated no one was there. Had they hiked on without me? This thought was illogical but in my sick brain it made sense. I ran across another group of hikers and asked if they’d seen Muffy or Carrot. When they said no, I realized they were both still somehow behind me. Duh. Tired and ill, I lay down on a sunny knoll and tried to rest and snack while waiting for them.

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When they appeared, Muffy said she was having tendinitis issues and going fairly slow. She was going to try some new taping and hopefully that would work. We all snacked and ate and enjoyed the sun.

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We’d heard there was trail magic 7 miles away at chinook pass, and I was desperate for a Coke, so I hiked fast to try and get there before the trail magic disappeared. My nausea returned and my feet hurt, but I ignored this in my pursuit of desire. I tried to prepare myself for the Coke not being there. “Maybe I’ll just sit there and drink my cold brewed mint tea,” I thought to myself.

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But when I got down a couple hours later, there it was. Trail magic! I was so hungry I couldn’t accurately speak. I drank two cokes, had half a sleeve of Oreos, a turkey cheese sandwich with mustard, some peanut m&ms, and two pieces of string cheese. I sat on the ground and didn’t care that the mosquitoes were eating me alive. This was total bliss.

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When Muffy and Carrot get down, they say they are hitching to Packwood because Muffy’s tendon had gotten worse. I’m bummed to see them go. I’ve loved our camp meal times, something about our combined energy feels homey and hilarious at once. They make me laugh. But I decide to hike the next 26 miles and just meet them in White Pass.

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I hike another 5 miles that night, high off of caffeine euphoria. Near the end, the instep of my left foot starts hurting more, so I slow down. I think about how my friend Jacklyn says that my ankles are like my pressure release valves and they tell me messages, and I wonder if it’s actually just my feet in general. I can tell they’re saying “step off.” I wonder about the 23 miles I’m going to hike tomorrow, but I push that thought away.

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I get to camp and it is full of mosquitoes, but I’m prepared this time. I’ve already eaten the trail magic, so I do all my after dinner camp chores outside the tent in my rain garb. Once that’s finished, I dive in my tent and close the door. One lone mosquito makes it in with me and I promptly kill it. I try to read and write some notes, but after hiking so hard I’m so, so tired. So I just fall into a restless sleep.

25

July 22

23.7 miles

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I wake up at 5:30 after not sleeping well and roll over, snoozing a little more. I’ve been so tired this week. I finally get up and do all my inside tent chores, prepping to deal with the mosquitoes. Finally it’s done and I quickly get out, brush my teeth and drink my coffee while walking around my campsite to avoid getting bitten.

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I’m gonna hike 23.7 miles today and I feel tired already thinking of it. I just wanna make it into White Pass to Muffy and Carrot, and also challenge myself. I know I can do it, I just feel sleepy. I start slow and let my body warm up, and hike 11 miles by 11am. I break for lunch and talk with a group of NOBOs at lunch for about an hour. The mosquitoes are still thick but I’m surviving. I filter water and head off again.

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The mosquitoes become more and more unbearable. I feel like I’m locked in a torture chamber and any time I stop for any length of time, mosquitoes descend upon my flesh. I hate it so much. I attribute my hate of mosquitoes to memories of being a kid and mosquitoes singing around my ears in the middle of the night waking me up. It still sets my spine on edge. So I hike fast and I don’t stop. I’m so tired and so irritated and I want out more than anything.

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Then my foot starts to hurt. Not just the random throbbing it’s been having, but constant pain on my left instep. I try to rest but I can’t stop without getting bitten. It’s dramatic to say, but I feel so trapped. Finally the pain is so bad that I’m 4 miles out from White Pass but I’m limping at every step. I want to cry. Muffy texts me and asks if I want to hitch to Packwood and get a room, and I tell her YES please get me a room. I’ve spent so much money resting on this trip and I’m so worried I won’t be able to finish the trail, but I also just can’t even walk right now and the mosquitoes are driving me crazy.

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It takes me another hour and a half to get down the last 4 miles. I register that it’s still a decent speed for someone limping, but I feel so drained and upset. I’m angry at myself for not catching this sooner. I’m frustrated that I’m hurt. When I reach the White Pass trailhead I cry. I don’t even know why I’m crying beyond an internal exhaustion and some weird, deep sadness.

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I start limping slowly towards the Kracker Barrel store and a guy pulls over and asks if I want a ride, and oh he’s going to Packwood, do I want a ride there too? I’m so relieved and agree. I pick up my packages in White Pass and cringe: the creepy middle age hiker is there and tried to talk to me. I’m short and curt and so frustrated he still is trying so hard to talk to me. Why don’t men get the fucking hint? But then I go back out to the car and sit with my box, and I got my they/them pins in the mail and the person also sent me a quartz crystal as encouragement, which just makes me cry again.

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When I get down to Packwood, I take a long long shower and wash every crevice of my body slowly and thoroughly and I start to feel a little better. I catch up with friends and then knock out and sleep deeper than I have the past 3 days.

26

July 23

Zero day, Packwood, WA

This trip seems like it has been more about pausing and stopping than about going. I’ve rested more than I planned. It’s uncomfortable and scary because it plays on my money anxieties. Yet each time I stop I’m reminded of things I need to be reacquainted with. How deeply am I in contact with the land? What am I bearing witness to and paying attention to? Why am I here?

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When I am going, I can easily forget these questions in trying to get to the next place. I focus on miles and getting my feet to move and whether I feel good, bad, or indifferent. None of these things are bad, thru hiking requires a lot of focus on the body and surroundings. But then I lose sight of – what land am I on? Why am I here? What is this space saying to me?

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It seems like just when I get to the precipice of totally losing hold of these questions in my pursuit of the end goal, aka, the Mexican border, I am forced to stop. By my body, by the weather, etc. I’ve learned over time that rest is paramount, so when I stop, I try to treat myself well. Sleep on a real bed, eat good food. Because of this I’ve spent more than I thought I would. I am fully aware in myself that I may not be able to afford reaching the border.

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Is that the point? For me to reach the border? One part of me says YES, it’s paramount! Have to complete THE GOAL! Another part of me doesn’t care so much. A still greater part of me is asking the continual question – “why are you walking, Laurie?”

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The answer is that I don’t know. I don’t know why I chose to do the PCT. I’ve given lots of answers to that question but the real answer is, I have no idea. I could have chosen a lot of things to do after turning 30 and completing my Masters, but I chose a thru hike. Why? No idea. Sure, I love hiking, and I’ve thought about through hiking for years, but underneath it all, it’s not like it totally stole my heart.

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I don’t LOVE thru hiking. It’s not a magical blissful experience. Sometimes it’s intolerable. Sometimes it’s gorgeous. Sometimes my endorphins are high on a good climb and I’m thrilled. But at the end of the day I still don’t know why I’m out here and I’m not necessarily enamored by it.

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It’s something about walking. Something about the land. Something about witnessing myself and my ancestors and the indigenous history and the land itself. It’s something I can’t name. It’s so interesting to watch myself get lost over and over again in the drive to attain a goal.

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For what reason?

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Over and over again I’m being given the message to slow down. Not just externally but internally. This is very hard for someone who, for their whole life, has been going. My mom said that I was so determined to get somewhere that before I started crawling, I would scoot around on my back so much that I wore the hair off the back of my head.

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Why are you going, Laurie? Why are you here? What is in the land that you witness? Why are you doing this?


During my hike I am raising money for Indigenous Women Hike! Please donate to provide indigenous women access to travel to their own land. GoFundMe is here.

PCT Day 17 – 20

📍on unceded sdukʷalbixʷ land

Day 17, 7/14/2019

14.6 miles

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Trooper, Rook and I get a great hitch from Skykomish to the trail at Stevens Pass with a guy who is just getting done with a backpack. He gives us coffee and packages of shot blocks! I’m thrilled and feel like I’ve won the hitch lottery. What a great way to start a section!

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Today felt like a totally different day hiking. For the first time in a week, I felt safe on trail, held by the queer folx around me. Trooper introduced herself to someone on trail and used her pronouns and her support in that moment allowed me to state mine, too. I didn’t realize I needed that support. I didn’t realize I needed someone else to do that. I feel I now have the strength to introduce my trail name and my pronouns together and that feels fucking awesome.

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As I hiked I felt more in my body and more on the trail than I have all trail. The question still returns of, “why am I doing this and not something more restful?” I’ve had that question come up a few times. I wonder if I’ll get off trail at some point due to this question or if it’s just due to the constant physical difficulty. At the same time, I was fully on the trail today. I was so aware of my hike, so aware of my surroundings, able to drop in like I haven’t so far. I felt safe and more than that, at home for the first time on trail. Like I am in the place and with the people I specifically need to do this trail with right now. After begging the universe/divine queer all last week I feel like I was heard and given the queer support I need at this moment. The nagging straight-ness of this trail is really overwhelming.

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We camp by a lake and I camp next to Rook and Trooper and Bounce and Soups. It feels comfortable. We are companionable with one another and I show Rook and Trooper my pouch of things from my friends that’s my “cheat” weight item. The best cheat weight item(s) ever, to be honest. The pouch has gotten me thru a lot.

Day 18, 7/15

22 miles

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I enjoy the first part of the day talking with Trooper about coming out stories etc. Lots of climbing and lots of sharing. The thing that stands out most is when I share about last week and Trooper says, “That sounds like it was traumatizing, honestly.” For someone who knows trauma so well, I feel like I would have noticed this earlier. Because yes, it was traumatizing. As she says it I recognize the feeling of absolutely being trapped, no recourse, trying to survive… i feel grateful to my body and soul for what it did to help me through.

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I so appreciate Trooper for the accomplice she’s been on trail and I can feel that is why I’m scared to lose this group and to lose her company. So the second part of the day that’s been in my face. I’m afraid because I see the group dynamics. Two couples who have been together from the beginning and a couple of us queer stragglers. This makes the desire to fight to prove myself arise. I remind myself I have nothing to prove, I can just be myself and either I’ll stay with this group or I won’t. Sometimes that happens, you know? At the same time, I’m so scared and I can feel myself withdrawing out of fear. It’s a very young feeling, I recognize that quickly. And it’s so so painful. It began early and then was reconfirmed over and over through my life. Scared of others liking other people more than me, or not finding me important, or being left behind, or being left at all. This is very deep. I hate it and yet I find myself grateful for its appearance so I can start holding this sacred part of myself.

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In this fear, I quickly find myself totally awash in grief missing Rachel and feeling extremely resentful that the thing and person I cared about most was taken from me. And every time I feel a relationship threatened this is where I go. It’s excruciating especially on top of a 22 mile day. Internally I feel I can’t handle it. I can’t take it.

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There’s an older part of me that knows it’s okay, and I’ll hike what I hike and do what I can. I can’t make people like me. I can only do my best. And I’m too old to try. Maybe I won’t keep up with the queer folks. Maybe I will. It’s too early to say. I’m scared about if I can’t, but I can’t control everything. I think and decide that maybe if it’s too much I’ll get off trail and go see my dear friend Danielle.

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It feels like the more I hike, the more layers of grief are uncovered and I don’t know how to handle that. Each hard day unravels a new layer in me. Each hard day breaks my body down to its grief and it’s excruciating and hard..

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Do I even want to finish this hike? Today the answer is yes. I just hurt, and hurt, and hurt, and I’m afraid my hurt will destroy my relationships because I cling out of such extreme fear of loss.

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I wrote this in my tent exhausted after 22 miles and flying into camp on a wave of caffeine. The terrain wasn’t the hardest I’ve done, just long. And I feel that in my body, bringing all this grief to the surface.

Day 19, 7/16

20.7 miles

I’ve lost track of the date – I had to look that up!

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Today started hard again. I’m still in my feels about maybe not belonging with this group or being left behind or not mattering. Something along those lines. I could tell it was the young part of me getting all in their pain, so I just did the next thing – hike. I got up at 5, rounded up all my things, and was on trail with water filtered by 6:30. Mostly everyone passed me on the big climb, and that felt painful, a nail in my feeling coffin. I let the part of me feeling terrible grief just have at it and gasp cried up the hill. Sometimes you gasp cry up hills while through hiking. Even when the ascent is actually one of your favorite ascents yet – lovely and switchbacked and a perfectly sloped uphill. Sometimes even then you cry up the hill and acknowledge the beauty even as your throat closes around a “fist of loss” (Andrea Gibson).

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I didn’t expect thru hiking to bring up so many fucking feelings. It’s like moving your body does that or something – ha. It’s beautiful out here and I feel myself settling into the rhythm. With that rhythm though it’s like my body vomits my issues up for me to sift through. It’s beautiful and terrifying.

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After letting myself gasp cry up the hill, calm came over me. It was the rational adult sort of calm, a bit closeminded but doing what I could to keep going. Rationally, I am clear on all sorts of things about the multiple situations triggering me. I can see that perhaps in this group of people, connections are already set. That doesn’t mean anything about my worthiness – sometimes I do this with my own connections. It’s natural to enjoy some people’s company over others (I’ve gotten this more since turning 30 at the beginning of the year and tbh this understanding is so useful). It also doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt me or affect me, or that my feelings are invalid. I can see both these things and let them both be true. I can think clearly and try to act more like an adult, while still trying to acknowledge the pain. I can see multiple sides to the situation and I’m not as reactive.

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I stop for water with everyone in the fragile area. I think of the irony of the naming of this space as fragile, feeling the reflection in my body. It’s first lunch for the group. Mosquitoes have found me to be their favorite feast and they munch on my legs. I have to get up and leave; my legs are burning and burn for at least 30 minutes. Maybe I hate mosquitoes more than rain.

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Today was also gorgeous. Lots of high elevation walking and stunning views. We climbed 2 passes and both climbs felt like a breeze, rhythmic. Maybe I’m getting my hiker legs? Neither climb was easy but I felt good and in my body. The second climb, I was far ahead of everyone, lost in my feelings yet again and trying to walk them out. Anger this time, though. It gave me such strength and speed uphill and I just let it carry me. Finally I popped out of the internal firestorm. I took a break and sat down to gaze at the mountain next to where I was switchbacking up a pass. I sat there a good 5 minutes admiring this beautiful mountain. “I’m really out here,” I thought. “I’m really walking the PCT and taking in this gorgeous view.” It’s been slow to sink in with the emotional turmoil this past bit, but I’m slowly getting into trail rhythm and realizing – I’m out here and doing the thing. Damn.

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I realize I feel safe out here and with the people I’m with, unlike last week where nothing felt safe and I felt like I was in emotional hell. This week I’ve felt like I could take things in better because I’ve felt more held. Even with the fears around maybe not belonging, I feel more deeply able to be here because of these queer folx, and I’m so very deeply grateful.

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I looked at the mountain name and in English it was The Three Queens, and that felt significant somehow.

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I was in a good rhythm the rest of the climb and my feelings stopped overtaking so much. I stayed in the awe of being on trail, being here, doing this.

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When we got to camp, the mosquitoes were horrible. My morale took a dive after the earlier mosquito debacle. I tried to sit and cook dinner and wait for the others. But I had to give up. “Waist Deep, I’m just gonna go sit in my tent, I can’t do this,” I told her. I was miserable and itchy and paranoid. I took my mountain house meal, a hikerbox find, back to my tent. I systematically killed all the mosquitoes that had gotten into my tent, somewhere like 10-12 in all. After that I could finally relax and eat. Trooper came to check on me after the meal, and the check in settled something in me. “Maybe I belong. Maybe,” I thought.

Day 20, 7/17

14.6 miles

Nero in Snoqualmie

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I get up at 4:30 am and quickly pack my things to hike into Snoqualmie. My friend And is driving up from Seattle to meet me there today (squee!!!! Off trail friend meeting me on trail, I’m so excited!!!!!!) and I need to get down there early to meet them. I’ve got 14.6 miles to go into town yet. I sit and pack everything in my tent, because I’m still rattled from another hiker waking me up at 2:30am yelling at some wild animal. My tent was turned the opposite way so I couldn’t see what, but at 2:30am I was awakened by a gruff deep voice yelling “go away!” and banging on things. It scared the living shit out of me while I tried to figure out what it was. After about 20 minutes this settled down. But this morning early I’m still unsettled so I pack in my tent.

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I don’t realize that my first bit is a climb. When I find out, I curse and feel angry. It’s too early for this shit after all the climbing yesterday. Plus, it’s cold and foggy and I can’t see anything. After some time of intense frustration and crabbiness, I down a couple of bars, mix a Via into my cold water, and throw on my headphones. “Ok let’s do this!” I say to myself and put on my PCT playlist. The first song is Jump by Van Halen which always puts me in a good mood and soon I’m jamming and dancing down trail, spurred by caffeine into using my hiking poles as microphones. I pretend I’m doing drag. One day when I get off trail, y’all will see that. 😉

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The entire way into Snoqualmie is cold, foggy and rainy. I don’t have any views. But I’m happy with my music going and my caffeine. I get onto the catwalk, not able to see a thing up there, and howl into the foggy void. My ghost howl echoes back across an indeterminate distance, and I grin and howl a couple more times for good measure. I’m here the PCT, alive and well and hiking!

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I get down to the hotel where Carrot and Muffy are, finally. Soon enough And is there, and Trooper and Rook arrive too. Trooper and Rook say they’re just gonna hike through and I try to process this news. They leave pretty quickly so I sit down with Muffy and And to discuss what I should do next and I immediately start crying. The queer group is hiking on without me and I’m so scared and I need queer people so much right now and this is all so much. Muffy and And are gracious with my sudden emotions. I realize I can hike out with Muffy and Carrot tomorrow and I slowly calm down.

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After this me and And do chores. It’s so lovely to have a friend visit me on trail! So lovely to have And in particular. They are wonderful and gracious and after 3 weeks of not touching people (too long! I haven’t really touched anyone on trail even like a hug, and I feel this) I am soaking up all the hugs and affection. We go to REI and I change out my shoes in hopes that it will help my ankle and also just be a better fit. We get food and Starbucks and more food. It’s a lovely end to the day and the section and I fall asleep feeling more fulfilled and held.

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I am raising money while I hike to support Indigenous Women Hike. Please donate to help indigenous women have the means to access their own land! GoFundMe is here.

PCT trail blog – Days 11 – 16

 

On unceded Chelan, Yakama, Syilx/Okanagan, and sdukʷalbixʷ/Snoqualmie land.

The place to which I hike this week, sqʷat (or The Guardian Spirit of Snow), is an area that was long inhabited by the sdukʷalbixʷ/Snoqualmie and Tulalip tribes. The pictures I found below in this area (at sqʷat itself) describe its history, so I will let them tell their story. I am privileged to have walked on this land this week as well as the land of the Chelan, Yakama, and Syilx/Okanagan.

Day 11

18.6 miles

7/7/19

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Finally on my way. It felt like it took forever to get back to the 10 mile point I’d reached yesterday. But I reached it at approximately the same time, despite feeling like I was going much slower. I’ve adjusted my pace to fit my current hiking needs around my ankle.

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A hiker I don’t particularly enjoy caught up to me around mile 9. He asked my name (again, he doesn’t recall meeting me earlier but he did) and I was so relieved to give him my trail name instead of my real one. Which I did, tersely. He’s one of those people that can’t read a room, though, so when he caught up to me again later, he proceeded to try and talk at me. I say talk at, because it wasn’t really a conversation I wanted to have. It wasn’t horrible, I just knew this fellow by reputation and had no intention of forming a trail friendship. I continued to be short in my answers, but again, doesn’t know how to read a room. I probably would have just let our paces either separate us or keep us together, but he was going slower than I wanted despite me having let him pass. It’s like when you are driving between the Springs and Denver and that one person is sitting in the left hand lane going 70. (My Colorado Springs friends will feel this!) I wanted to speed up so I said, “hey would you mind letting me pass, actually? It seems my speed has increased.” I had no hard feelings… I’ve just learned my boundaries. Funny how that goes.

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After this I was thinking for awhile that sometimes I wonder if I’m an enneagram 2 integrating to 8 rather than a 4, just with how direct I’ve become with my boundaries! I’m proud of myself. I don’t know though, that 4 heart is strong. I like my idealism strong and my romances sweet like wine but intense like whiskey. Heady. I live for mystical moments where I become a small body on a big earth feeling the pulse of everything around me. And ta da, with that, I am definitely a 4.

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Washington finally lived up to its elevation change bragging today. The first 10 miles that I’d already done weren’t bad. From there on out though, it was an uphill slog. I’d popped in my earphones because of aforementioned dude, so I just jammed out to my tunes as I walked up the hills. I don’t always like music when I hike, I really like feeling the connection to nature that I have when I don’t play music. But today I was really feeling my music, so I let myself jam on to my hearts content. If you have suggestions for empowering dancy tunes for my playlist, send em over!

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In the process of my jam sesh, I discovered something truly magical. Dancing snack breaks!!! Seriously, stopping for a snack break and having a dance party for one is day changing. I did it twice today after seeing how effective the first one was, and I’m a convert. Dance snack breaks until the end of time!

7/8/19

Day 12

18.8 miles

Today was boring. In case you wondered, thru hiking can indeed be boring. I started out with a mountain pass that had a decently intense elevation gain, but after that it was downhill, then just rolling trail for miles. And miles. And miles. I was even bored of my MUSIC. And I don’t have enough Healing Justice podcast downloaded to re-listen to my favorite episodes. So I pushed through.

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Highlight was, ending today at a big creek. I wanted to go further, but I’m worried a LOT about how much food I have, and was really hungry. I have a massive elevation gain after this site which will definitely eat more food stores, too. I have plenty of dinner, just not enough snacks. Oops. Also, I think hiker hunger is here. It’s the famed thing when thru hiking that your hunger gets to be astronomical. I was literally hungry all day today. I mean, have you ever had a 300 calorie snack and instead of feeling full like usual just felt like a bottomless hole? Yeah.

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Anyway, I decided to stop. I stuck my feet in the glacial creek water, which felt divine. Also chatted with a bunch of fellow hikers, which was really nice. I’m finding I enjoy the company of all the women and like……. zero of the cis men. I mean honestly they’re all just basic. I wanna make a parody song or something and use that seen from The Good Place where she says “Ya basic!” Over and over. Speaking of which, have realized I really love The Good Place as a show. Anyways. That’s been my day! Now just laying creek side listening to the water about to fall asleep.

Day 13

23.7 miles

Sometimes, when you want to avoid a creepy middle age cis male, you hike your longest day ever. 23.7 miles. Over 2 passes with about 3500 ft in elevation gain from bottom to top.

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I’ve been having not good feelings about the person I mentioned a couple days ago. The guy who passed me and started going slow. We camped at the same campsite last night. I felt weird enough that I slept with my knife. I don’t like doing that. He just keeps trying to talk when I very obviously don’t want to. I am a person highly sensitive to intrusion and with an impeccable gut sense about creepy men since I was small. So I’m choosing to trust this feeling. Today, we kept passing each other on trail. He wanted me to take a pic of him, so I did. He then asked if he could take a pic of me, which I said “I’d rather not.” He then asked if he could take a picture of my back, which made me even more uncomfortable, and I said no again. It’s these types of interactions that don’t make me feel good, so I decided to outhike him. Hopefully it has worked. He’s been trying to pull 18-21 mile days, and I’m now ahead of that. I’m crossing my fingers that’s the end.

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I’m also crossing my fingers that my body can handle this. There was a lot of ankle rolling today. The KT tape held and things feel fine. I ended in the rain and my hip and left calf were clenching up. I think I’m going to do only 18 again tomorrow so that should help.

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I hiked down with Boy Lunch, a big group of mostly cis male hikers, and ended up camping with them. At this point I’m honestly grateful just to have someone else I’m at least mostly comfortable to talk to. It’s not perfect but at least it’s not creepy. Read: they’re all very basic but right now I’m scared and alone and need someone. So here we are.

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I walked the last few miles through the rain, hoping I’d wake up tomorrow to sun and dry gear. With that in mind I tried to sleep.

Day 14

7/10/19

17.7 miles

This morning I woke up to everything still wet. My skirt was still wet. My rain jacket, soaked. My tent, dripping. I haven’t slept well, because the dripping all night kept me awake. Miserable. I don’t want to move. I want to stay in this tent all day in my warm down sleeping bag where I’m mostly dry. Sure, there’s condensation, but that I can live with. The nasty sopping wet I’m about to be, not so much.

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After talking with Boy Lunch for like an hour, I finally decide I need to get going. I still don’t want to, but I wanna do 18 miles and it’s almost 9am. I still have one big pass to do.

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I’m in my feelings today somewhat. I start out tired and so frustrated with being wet. I imagine what I’d tell my friend Jacklyn if I could message her right now, the Marco Polo I’d send her about how I’m doing. I imagine saying I’m scared. This makes me realize I’m exhausted and at the end of myself, because thinking about saying “I’m scared” makes me want to cry. Suddenly I feel totally overwhelmed, lonely, and exhausted. I’m hiking without Muffy this week and no one out here really gets me. I want Jacklyn and I want my friends back home. I want reception. I want people who know my heart and speak my language. I want my queer witch babes.

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Then I realize, starkly, more than anything I want my mom… in a way that I’ll never get my mom. Because my mom isn’t capable of being the mom I need. I start thinking about this because I just read Bastard Out of Carolina and the interactions in that book really drove that home for me (among other things, such a good book, thanks Muffy!). So internally I’m having this maelstrom of emotions and externally I’m bawling for my mom and for everyone I miss and for how exhausted and sad I am, and trying to hide this from Fluffy Bunny who’s walking a few hundred feet behind me. Underneath it all I’m wiped and I feel like I’m in the twilight zone. It’s raining, I’m drenched, I have so many more miles to walk, I’m trying to stay ahead of the creepy guy, I miss my cats, I want more friends on trail, i don’t have reception… it feels like it will never end. Finally I wipe my face and the storm passes. I don’t feel much better, just calm. For now that’s how it is.

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Fluffy Bunny catches up to me, and we hike together most of the rest of the day. She tells me how she lives in a community living situation in Delft, Holland, and works as a psychiatric nurse. I think she’s interesting. It’s nice to hike with a girl that I at least enjoy being around. She’s chatty but the kind of chatty I enjoy, talking about interesting things.

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We hike the pass together, because the weather looks bad and I wait for her to go over. The morale support is immeasurable to me, especially considering i had been bawling an hour before. I appreciate her slower and more measured approach to hiking and it reminds me how I wanted to start this trip – steady mile gaining. I haven’t done it that way, but I’m starting to do better.

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Kermit, a person I just met officially this morning, makes a fire by a pond, and me and Fluffy Bunny sit. He tells some of his story after I ask an open question and I am starting to realize I’ve got to tone down my open questions! I mean, maybe. I’ve just got to make sure I don’t go further than a question. Sometimes I hate trying to make friends as a therapist – the therapist pops up and asks therapy questions when I need friend questions. He seems interesting, I don’t like the oversharing but I appreciate the depth. And I like talking to someone in their 40s after being around all these 20 year olds all day. Everyone out here thinks I’m in my 20s like them, but I feel so poignantly my 30 years of life and experience. Nice to talk to someone else with that depth and experience but who isn’t creepy. I love the 20somethings, I just miss the different shades of conversation you get with 30+ peeps. Or maybe that you just get with people who are actually tuned in to deeper stuff.

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Blandine shows up a bit later and joins the crew of me and Fluffy Bunny. It makes a good crew, and I enjoy things more. We hike together to our last camping spots. Fluffy Bunny stops before me and Blandine; she’s wiped. Honestly, so am I, but I’m hoping to get to the next spot. In the next mile, Blandine and I have a lovely conversation. I out myself to her as queer… the first stranger I’ve outed myself to on trail. She tells me her reasons for hiking the trail and her biggest lesson so far – Respect your body! It’s something I’ve been reminded of just being around her, and I tell her so. I’m grateful to know her even if it’s a passing friendship.

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We get to camp and I throw up my tent just as it’s starting to rain. I make a pot of Annie’s Mac n cheese and I gratefully eat it all. I’ve had trouble finishing my meals on trail for some reason. One night I felt sick and couldn’t finish. The next night I had to force myself to eat all my food. I’ve consistently had to force down food, because my body doesn’t think it wants it even though it does. So tonight I’m glad I finished an ENTIRE POT of Annie’s (hiker hunger has hit!) and will hopefully sleep well with a full belly.

Day 15

7/11/2019

20.7 miles

I haven’t started my day yet, but am thinking about how everyone wants to think they know about nature, but they don’t. Nature does what they want. It’s not supposed to rain this much in Washington in July, and yet it is.

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I think about this and then I end up reading a chapter on Consistent Practice in the book Zac gave me to carry, Bearing Witness. In the chapter it talks about always coming back to not knowing. I cry a little, feeling seen by this book. I am the first to leave camp, which had become Blandine and the boys of Boy Lunch, and as I walk I think about my book. I think about Bearing Witness, again. I think about being mindful as I walk instead of rushing. I think about how I am connected to what is happening around me. I feel everything. I feel the support of the trees as I pass by, and it makes me cry. They know me. They are they, too. I have a picture of Zac walking with me on trail and then suddenly realize that is the caption they wrote in the front of the book. More tears. I feel the ground under my feet. I feel the blades of grass brushing against my legs, welcoming me. I feel my aloneness and let it be. I feel everyone passing me and how they are faster and notice my reaction, my desire to keep up and fit in. I do this for a long time.

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I have a conversation today with Teen Dream. He’s 19 and hiking with Boy Lunch and he’s a Pisces, because of course he is and I attract so many Pisces and water signs to my life. He’s the first person on trail I talk to about spirituality. He’s really into it. He shares some of his life story and we talk about lots of things that other people are too afraid to admit or science away. It still doesn’t satisfy my ache for queer company, but it’s not too bad. He’s young and still learning and feels open to me.

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Today too I’m really feeling the lack of diversity out here. I haven’t seen a person who presents as a person of color since Stehekin. I think about how messed up it is that white cis men stole indigenous land and now they’ve created a huge speed and land contest of who can dominate the land the fastest. Who can walk the PCT the fastest and do the biggest miles? It’s hard for me not to get pulled into it too. I am constantly returning to a practice of bearing witness both to myself and all of life and that’s all that keeps me. It makes me feel even more passionate about the organization I’m raising money for out here (Indigenous Women Hike) and other POC-led hiker organizations I support, like Blackpackers. This environment of cis white male dominated power is so ripe to change.

Day 16

9 miles

Nero in Skykomish

I’m on my way down with Blandine today and we are talking as usual. It’s a fine conversation, but I am shaken by a deep feeling. It’s fine. But I need queer community desperately. I feel the desire I’ve been staying off all week. I feel even more how I’ve been letting everyone misgender me because I’m afraid to explain “they” and genderfluidity. I feel how fake I feel, how outside of myself, how alone. There is no one else here that I am aware of who is like me. I am suddenly deeply sad and lonely and exhausted and feel the too muchness of the week and am desperate to get into town and see Muffy and Carrot. I need queer people. I need queer love. I need to hear people call me “they.”

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So I hike my 9 miles, grab my box from Stevens Pass, and hitch a ride down to Skykomish and meet up with them. My body takes in the relief all afternoon while still having moments where tears come, over and over. Feeling how hard this week was. Feeling how I denied big pieces of myself, some of it as self preservation. Feeling safe again and it feeling overwhelming. Processing a little with people I trust.

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At this moment I don’t know how to do this trail. I know I can’t be who I was this past week, pretending I’m a cis girl. Because hearing “she” feels so dysphoric to me. Internally I’m preparing to go back on trail and state my pronouns to people I meet. It feels overwhelming but also necessary. Hiding nearly did me in. I may hike alone a lot. I may be scared of people who don’t get it. I wish I’d had more courage this week and I am reminding myself it was a deeply hard week – rainy and involved with trying to avoid someone who made me feel unsafe til the very last second of this stretch.

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I am recalling a tarot reading I got early this year from Sincerely the Tarot on Instagram, with The Hermit card, a card called Separate, and a card called Death and Rebirth. I couldn’t feel this more keenly right now. Even though I knew that whole reading was about this trail, I didn’t realize the depth of how pertinent it would be.

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I don’t feel like I can do this, and I feel so much weight and sadness right now, but I also know I really can’t live a lie. So we will see. I know too the way forward is just to keep the practice of Bearing Witness which is just so very dear to me right now, so integral to who I am as a whole.

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This section felt so difficult to me. Full of moments in which I sacrificed pieces of myself in order to try and survive a physical ordeal. But the pieces I sacrificed felt so dear. I hadn’t realized the depth of my nonbinary, genderfluid identity until I tried to pretend it didn’t exist. And then I realized it is a part of me, like sap or chlorophyll is to trees. It runs through all I do, through my very being, and to try and divorce it from myself is a violence I can’t abide.

The further keenness with which I felt the dominance of white male power, as a force that eliminates difference, was so poignant and terrible. There is such a violence in this perspective that is painful to my soul, and I can only imagine the pain it causes to others. In reading Bearing Witness, I see it so often as an inability to tolerate that which is different, an inability to rest, the drive to overcome and show power as a way to deal with the tension in that which one doesn’t understand.

The truth is, also, that I have had to reckon with this force in myself as a white person this week. I see this often in my attitude of “let’s CRUSH MILES” or “how fast did you go?” or “how little did you rest?” I find it internally manifested in pushing myself to 3 miles an hour of hiking despite my ankle rolling constantly, giving me the message that I need to be slower. Need to pay attention. Need to be aware of the ways in which I try to dominate rather than be present with. My ankles are annoying, but they are also a reminder to me of the ways in which I need to be aware of the ways in which I perpetuate white supremacy and dominant power. In that sense, I am grateful for the chance to work with this and learn a different way of being.

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I am raising money while I hike to support Indigenous Women Hike. Please donate to help indigenous women have the means to access their own land! GoFundMe is here.