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.

2 Replies to “PCT trail log – days 21 – 26”

  1. So I’m wondering, when you’re on a hike like this, what are your “after dinner camp chores” outside and what are your “indoor chores” inside the tent?

    1. Outside: brushing teeth, cleaning my pot, peeing. 🙂 inside, changing into long underwear and sleep clothes, blogging/making notes about my day, reading or watching Netflix.

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