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.

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