PCT days 36-39

(Day 35 was a zero day in Portland and I didn’t blog)

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📍Chinook, Wasco, Wishram, and Molalla Land

August 2, day 36

16 miles

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I dilly dally in town, doing last minute things: eating breakfast, sending mail, buying coke to pack out with me. Finally around 10:30am, I leave. On the way up, I run into Muffy and Vanessa. It’s so fun to finally meet Vanessa! I’ve followed her on Insta for years and meeting the #softeggcontent creator in person was amazing. Also, she’s even more stunning in person, internet be warned!

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We are only hiking 16 miles today, because we are meeting up with some of Muffy’s queer fam at Wahtum Lake. But first, we have a huge climb. 4,000ft of elevation gain. I dawdle more on my way up to the climb and use my prolific LTE. Finally I put my phone into airplane mode and I climb.

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Boy do I climb. I have never climbed like this. My muscles feel so, so strong. This hill feels like nothing. WHAT. Is this what hiker legs feel like?!? Or is it just the Coke I’m steadily feeding into my system?! Either way, I don’t stop once up the entire 4,000 feet. It’s a miracle. I feel so alive and so stoked.

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Then after I get to the top, the rain starts. This kills my good mood. I pull out my rain gear and trudge through the muck. I hate it, but at least I’m used to it now. I also know it will be short lived, so I try to just put up with it. Today will probably be the only day it rains for awhile. I also think it’s hilarious. Is rain my welcome committee to each state? First day of Washington: rain. First day of Oregon? ALSO RAIN. Fitting, maybe.

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I get up to the camping area at the lake and wait for Muffy. I’m guessing her friends are up in the proper campground up the hill. I wait for about 45 minutes and just when I’m about to go find them, Muffy’s friend Alley comes down the stairs. It’s so good to meet them! She’s also someone I’ve followed on Instagram for forever and after she says she’s going to hike to meet Muffy, they ask if they can give me a hug. I’m delighted. Then I walk up into the campground to meet up with their friend Meredith.

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When I walk into the camping area, Meredith is reading a book called Inner Witch and I’m immediately stoked. My people!!!! We proceed to have amazing and pertinent conversation and I’m so glad. I can feel my on trail defensiveness begin to relax. On trail, no one (except my lovely hiking buddies!) gets my queerness. But here, everyone does. Finally.

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We have tacos for dinner and I eat three plus two s’mores. I’m so full. And so grateful to these people who insist I eat what I need. I try to help as much as possible. The generosity floors me. Everything about this floors me. “I can’t believe this,” I keep saying. I’m thrilled, and tired in a good way, and I feel so, so safe.

August 3

Zero on Trail

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I wake up luxuriously late, not getting out of bed until 8 am. I can’t believe this is happening. I feel so safe. I feel so happy. I’m with my people and everything is okay.

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I have two cups of coffee, just because I can. While everyone else goes to use reception for a bit, I watch the rest of Tales of the City (UGH turns out I hate everything about that show and it is triggering af, do not recommend). Then I listen to a bit of a Multiamory podcast. When everyone gets back, we pack up and go to the lake.

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What even is this day? I wonder this over and over again as I laze around in the sun on the lakeshore, sipping root beer and real beer and eating chips and salsa. We tie together the inner tubes and form a flotilla on the lake and stare up at Mt Hood. It’s a hot day and the lake water feels so nice and cold. We’re all silly and laughing and talking about nothing and everything. I keep wondering if it’s real and then knowing it is and feeling so deeply content and so deeply grateful for a day of true rest with people I feel at home with.

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When we go back to camp, I am very quiet. I’m not upset, I’ve just rested so much that I’ve gone internal. I feel a silence that goes down to the bottom of my soul. It’s the first time I’ve felt this level of rest in at least a month. Probably longer, because I was so busy before I came out here.

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I make burgers for everyone and we sit around the fire chatting until we can’t stay awake, and I ask everyone for some physical touch before we go to bed, so everyone hugs me and I feel even more full than before. Gratitude is seeping into my pores. I’m smiling as I fall asleep listening to everyone talk and laugh around the fire.

August 4

Day 38

24.4 miles

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Muffy and I don’t leave camp until 7. Neither of us really want to go. Even though I’ve just met these people, I so want to stay with them in this space that feels safe, with other queer witches who care about the same things I care about. It feels a little like culture shock when I get back on trail and start moving. I’m grateful for Muffy’s presence and we talk for around an hour about all sorts of things as we walk.

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The trail starts to climb, and Muffy falls behind, and I speed up and race a little. It’s fun for me to run this speed especially when the terrain flattens out, like it does at the top of the hill. And then, the dream – I have LTE! I hike and chat with my friends for like an hour. Finally I tell myself I’m not gonna get any real hiking done like this, so I put my phone on airplane mode.

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In the afternoon, the air gets hot and close. I feel lethargic, like I can barely pull myself along. My feet hurt so bad. I’m so tired of my feet hurting constantly in some way. I wonder if I’ll have to change my shoes again and I feel totally frustrated. Some of this is just hiking foot pain that happens. I’m trying to decide if some of it is more serious. I can feel the ground jarring me underfoot as I walk, and it hurts.

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I reach an area packed with day hikers. It’s Sunday and warm in the Pacific Northwest, so everyone is out. I hate it. I hate the day hikers and all their dumb comments and PCT questions, and I’m hot and tired already, so I feel irritated when I see all the people. I start going up the hill and it’s a bigger climb than I want to do. I’m so, so warm and I can’t make myself move as fast as I want. The terrain is not a big deal for me at this point, but the heat drains my body of all energy and I drag myself along. When I reach the top of the climb, I pull out my electrolytes, and as I’m pulling them out of my bag am swarmed by biting black flies. I throw all of it in my hipbelt pockets as fast as I can and just keep walking.

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It stays hot and then i start going downhill. My feet hurt even more. I cross a creek on a log and lay past the crossing for 20 minutes, resting my feet and dozing. I’m so tired. This sun zaps me. I finally get up and decide to take the Ramona Falls alternate. A NOBO told me this morning f I should check it out. It’s an easy trail, but I can barely move up it. I’m so warm. I’m so tired. When I finally get there, I’m not impressed enough to have felt like I actually wanted to see it. I snapped a picture and walked away.

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As I leave, a man stops me and asks about his friends, who I’d met coming up. He then asks, in what he seems to think is a charming way, “so where are you hiking in from?” He cocks his head just so and looks me up and down. I feel like a piece of meat. I instantly hate this interaction. “Oh I’m hiking the PCT,” I say, and turn away. “Have a good one.” Why do men think this is cute, to look someone up and down like that? I want to vomit.

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Camp is only about a mile from here, so I head that direction. Just before camp is a hairy river crossing. It’s the worst I’ve seen yet and I can’t decide where to cross. I walk up the river and try the log bridge, three times. Every time it feels too rickety to cross. Finally, I pick a spot that seems less intense and start my way across. I’m terrified. I make myself think logically and slowly. I get to the second sandbar and take a deep breath. The water is rushing, pounding down the mountain between me and the shore. I look for the best way to go, but this is really it. I have no choice but forward. I plant my poles in the rushing muddy water and wade in. The water is up to my thighs and the current pushes at me, threatening to sweep my feet from under me. I scramble up the other side and cry out in fear and relief, a sort of gasping shocked cry. I’m still shaking. I wonder if Muffy is at camp. I want her to be at camp. I want a hug after that. I am so scared and I shake my body out.

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Muffy is not at camp. I put my things down and walk back to the river, knowing this crossing will scare her too. I watch and encourage her as she crosses, breathing a sigh of relief when she gets over. She’s scared too and hated it. We both make our way to camp in relief and sit and make our food and chat. It feels grounding. I like this chit chat and being here talking with Muffy feels like home too, and that feels so good. Especially after today.

August 5, day 39

9 miles so far

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I drag myself up at just after 5am. I’m trying to get to Timberline for their breakfast buffet before it closes at 10:30am. At least, that’s what I tell myself. I can’t decide if I actually want it that much. It seems overrated. And it’s 9 miles and 3,000ft of elevation away. Aka, I have to go up a big hill.

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I start the hill around 6:15 and feel cranky. I don’t want to do this hill. I throw on my headphones and jam out to some music for awhile until my headphones die. By that time I’m in a great rhythm and crushing the hill. Cool. I guess my legs are this strong now? It’s weird. But I’m into it.

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I try to decide whether to take the Paradise Loop alternate trail and go see the views Guthook (my PCT trail app) mentions. I finally figure “what the hell” and head up the loop. It’s worth it. It winds through wildflowers under the crest of Wy’East (Mt. Hood, named Wy’East by the Multnomah tribe), and I get there just as the sun is peeking over the top. My endorphins are high so I’m in a great mood, and I decide I want to post some pics to Instagram. I know I’ll have reception, so I flip my phone off of airplane mode.

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The first thing I see is a text in WhatsApp. It’s from… BBCNews. How they found me on WhatsApp is a mystery. The person says they interviewed me a couple years ago and can I give an interview about “current events in the US” today? My entire stomach clenches and drops and I freeze in the middle of the trail. I instantly know it’s really, really bad. I haven’t seen the news because I’m hiking but my body immediately feels it and I immediately know I’ve actually been registering it for the past couple of days already. I text Jacklyn. “Can you please tell me the details, gently?” I ask. “I don’t want to look at the news.” I’m shaking. I’m standing in the middle of a gorgeous field of wildflowers and I’m shaking and then crying and my body feels everything. “It’s okay, baby,” I whisper to myself. This happens to me sometimes. I’ve learned to just let it through. It’s better that way. I let myself shake. I feel the land holding me, watching me gently, offering its beauty despite the madness I know I’m about to hear. I take this picture while I wait for her to respond.

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Jacklyn tells me there were 2 white supremacist mass shootings over the weekend and tells me where. She doesn’t tell me the casualty count. I don’t ask. I can feel that it’s high. I’m quiet, so so quiet. I feel fragile and protective.

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I think of how the small reflects the collective, over and over. Friday night, as I walked into camp towards my friends’ campsite, I walked past a group of men. They were standing in front of a huge old Chevy pickup. It looked to be an old man and his sons. The old man was holding a shotgun. In public. Without any thought. For some reason, though I don’t always react to this kind of sight (Colorado has open carry and I’m used to it), I react so strongly. I feel shaken and scared. I try to forget it and walk quickly to my friends campsite. I try not to think about them standing there while I talk with Meredith, when Muffy and Alley arrive. Until one of them mentions how weird they acted. I tell everyone how they were brandishing a shotgun. Everyone looks dismayed. I breathe a sigh of relief when the truck drives away – we all do. I think about that this morning. That reaction. I think of how the depth of my reaction was a ripple of what was happening in the collective, how my heart squeezed in total fear as an echo of the greater whole. Some of you may think this sounds crazy, but this morning as I stood under Wy’East just trying to breathe and my body shook with the news, I knew this to be true. My body knew about the news of the weekend before I did.

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I breathe and feel the earth and hike hard and get to the hotel in time for breakfast. I stress eat. It’s a rich white people hotel and the atmosphere feels jarring in juxtaposition to the awfulness of the news. I barely taste my food; it’s fine, I just don’t really care. And I can’t help but think that it’s this kind of thing that promotes white supremacy. I scroll Facebook a bit to try and find casualty information and I find out there have also been two shootings of people of color by police in Colorado Springs this weekend. And I find out that a friends husband has been killed in an accident. I get the casualty numbers of the other shootings and it confirms my earlier feelings. It’s all too much and I stop scrolling. My body is overwhelmed and I keep crying.

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I’m just sitting here now dazed. I don’t know where to go next and I’m just trying to let my body process. The grief and terror feels immense. I’ve been thinking all day about the constant erasure whiteness enacts. I see it on trail constantly. Native placenames, but we’ve erased the history behind them. The Huckleberry Handshake or the fishing rights for the Chinook, where we tell the indigenous “you can do this one thing on this land, see, we’re good to you!” when literally, it is their land and they had the right to begin with. The lack of indigenous place history I find on Google and the hours I spend trying to track it down. Even how I unconsciously erase, not realizing until I was leaving Cascade Locks that indigenous sellers were selling fruit and fish along the sidewalk and I didn’t take the time to ask them about their history or to even buy what they sold. I am ashamed of this and know it’s my own whiteness at work. I am constantly blinded by it and trying to take my blinders off. That’s a huge part of why this journey is important to me and why I try to document the indigenous history as I go. And I still fail. That is the way of it.


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 days 36-39”

  1. …I want to read that Inner Witch book too, haha.

    “I haven’t seen the news because I’m hiking but my body immediately feels it and I immediately know I’ve actually been registering it for the past couple of days already.” <—— working in a newsroom last weekend was so, so hard. I kept thinking of you, feeling glad you are away hiking and couldn't know, hoping you wouldn't find out until later. I'm so sorry you had to find out that way. I could feel it in my body, too. It makes me feel less crazy to know somebody else feels it that way.

    Sending love and good vibes. ❤

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