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.

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2 Replies to “PCT Day 17 – 20”

  1. I like the philosophy encapsulated in those two sentences on (I think) Day 18: “I can’t make people like me. I can only do my best.” You’re doing a great job of doing your best. That is absolutely all you owe the universe. I wish you peace and joy.

  2. “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. 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.”

    I feel this deeply. I think this feeling is probably common in PTSD/abuse survivors. You’re not alone. And I see you. ❤

    "With that rhythm though it’s like my body vomits my issues up for me to sift through. It’s beautiful and terrifying."

    This happens to me every time I do yoga, tbh.

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