PCT trail blog – Days 39 – 43

📍on Molalla, Warm Springs and Wasco traditional territories, as well as Paiute relocated territory

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde (including Molalla) have a detailed history of this area on their website. The US government forced many people in this area into a “trail of tears” and made them travel 200 miles from their ancestral lands. You can read it here.

You can also read the history of the Warm Springs band (Wasco, Warm Springs, and Paiute) here. Like many tribes, they were forced off their traditional lands but were “given” the fishing rights to them.

August 5, day 39

9+2.5 miles

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I’m blogging about the rest of this Nero because it felt important. Muffy arrives at the lodge and she is going to get off trail due to an intestinal bug. I’m so sad about this and also really want her to feel better. I’m going to miss her a lot. I kind of dread hiking out without her. She invites me to come to Portland with her. I think about it a lot. It’s been such a hard day emotionally. I feel so much grief. But I also feel like I’m going to lose momentum if I stop. So I tell her I’m going to stay. When she leaves I feel bereft and sad.

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I dawdle. I don’t want to go alone. I finally drag myself to get my Resupply box around 4pm and restock my supplies. Then I get a pizza. When I hike out, it’s late and I only hike 2.5 miles. I feel sad the whole time, and lonely. I miss Muffy. And the trail is so so quiet. I pass tons of northbounders, but no one is going south. It’s just me.

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I get to my tent and I set up all my little tokens I’ve brought from friends. I decide to leave them out all night with me. The loneliness feels stark. I know that’s why I spent all day at the lodge dilly dallying.

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I pee and come back, and when I go to close my tent, a piece above the door rips. It’s not in my tent proper, but it just feels exhausting and frustrating that this has happened at all. It’s too much today. I’m going to go to sleep and decide how to deal with this in the morning.

August 6, day 40

30 miles

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I set my alarm for 5, but I don’t get out of camp until 6:30. I don’t want to do any of this. I’m sad hiking without Muffy. I miss her company. I don’t want to hike alone. But here I am, and I have to hike. That’s why I’m out here. So I leave camp and get going.

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It’s a slow day. I can’t make myself move fast. My pack is so, so, so heavy with my resupply and my heart is just as heavy. And I start my period today, so that’s happening too (I am going to talk about everything here just FYI). I walk but I feel dejected and unmotivated.

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By 9:30 I’ve done about 8 miles. It’s slow for me. I stop because someone left trail magic at a road crossing and campground area. There’s a huge jug of water, 3 mountain dews, and 3 prerolled joints. I laugh and take a picture and take one of the Mountain Dew. The joints are stuck in the Mountain Dew pull tabs, but I hate to smoke and hike, and really don’t like pot most of the time except to sleep anyway, so I leave the joint for someone else.

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The Mountain Dew is refreshing and the caffeine lifts my spirits for awhile, so I fly the next few miles. But when the caffeine jolt lifts, my heart drops again. I just can’t shake the sadness, no matter what I do.

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I get to another road crossing just after I eat lunch and there is MORE trail magic! Twice in one day. I feel grateful and recognize the universe/queer divine whatever really is trying to help me. Another group of southbounders shows up and we chat. I introduce myself by trail name and give my pronouns as usual, and one of them, Goose, says “I figured, since they were on your hat.” He smiles, a friendly smile, and I smile back. I’m shocked. He says something about his genderfluid friends and then compliments my stickers and we get into a whole long conversation about indigenous place names and Black Lives Matter and a whole bunch of things. Men always will make me skeptical, so I’m wary still, but also pleasantly surprised. It’s so nice to have this conversation when I’ve been feeling so lonely.

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I leave before them. I’m trying to get some miles in, dang it! Once again the caffeine lift takes me awhile, until the afternoon heat zaps my energy. I’m so bored and still sad and walking on boring flat ground around the huge Timothy Lake. And I’m so so warm. I pass a hiker who says he got in the lake and I decide this is what I need to do. So I take a short break, strip off my socks and shoes and skirt and shirt , and wade into the lake half naked, only in my sports bra. I’m at a campsite marked “closed” so I just hope no one comes by, and I’m feeling fun and dangerous half skinny dipping out here. My body temperature drops and I sigh with gratitude.

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I take off again and go up the next few miles. I keep stopping. My bag is so, so heavy. All the food. I hate every moment of it. At mile 25, I stop and lay on a log and look up. Towering skinny pines look back down at me and wave gently. I can feel their compassion, how they hold me, how they say “it’s okay, it’s okay.” I cry for a minute. Then I pull myself up and walk what I think will be my last mile until camp.

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Just as I’m pulling out my tent to set up, Smokes comes by from the earlier group. We start chatting, and it’s so pleasant. I feel less lonely. Goose shows up too and we all chit chat. Then Smokes offers to carry my backpack if I want to come camp with them? I’m stoked and so lonely that I say yes almost immediately.

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We take off at a blistering speed down the mountain. Smokes’ pack is way lighter than mine. I’m deeply jealous. We continue chit chatting as we go. It’s fun lighthearted conversation and I’m grateful for the company. We get to a spring that I had thought we’d camp at, but they tell me they’re going 2.4 more miles. I am tapped and when I see its uphill, I tell them I’m going to stop and camp. They high five me when they find out – I’ve made my first 30! I can’t believe it myself. I wouldn’t have done it without so many things – both trail magic that happened today, the lake, the trees, and Smokes and Goose’s company to spur me on.

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When I backtrack and go to set up camp, I see my site is underneath a huge beautiful tree and tears come to my eyes. “Yes, this is my site,” I think. And I feel so incredibly held.

August 7, Day 41

25.1 miles

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I’m currently eating beans and rice noodles by the light of the moon while I write this, and I thought you may like to know that.

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I let myself sleep in this morning. Doing 30 miles in one day seemed like it deserved no alarm. I didn’t leave camp until 8am, which felt late, but my body felt well rested. The miles inched past to begin with. I took lunch at a lovely clear cold spring. The water was delicious and it may be one of my favorite water spots so far.

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I’m on a mission to make it to Olallie Lake this afternoon, maybe 5 miles further. Olallie has a place where I can charge my phone, and running water. I have my period on trail right now, which is a pain when I’m so dirty. I use a diva cup which involves a lot of sticking fingers up into places that I could get a bacterial infection! Yay? So running water sounds amazing – I can wash my hands before all that business. I’m kind of prissy, what can I say.

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Also, my charging brick didn’t get charged enough before I left timberline, so now I’m having to be very sparing in using my phone. I’m worried about it, worried about making it to Big Lake Youth Camp without a charge. Olallie has a place where I can charge my phone up, and this is super important to me. So I race there, hoping to get there mid-afternoon.

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The day is soul crushingly hot. I pull myself up the mountain and down, up and down. A lot of up and down today. The uphills are worse in this heat. The heat zaps my energy and I can barely drag myself uphill. I am still going at a good pace, but it takes everything in me.

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By the time I get to Olallie, I drag myself into the store and have just enough cash at the cash only store for a Coke and 2 Otter pops. I sit on the porch chatting with other hikers and cooling off, letting my phone charge inside.

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I chit chat with Hummingbird the most. We talk for a long time, off and on. What we do outside of the trail. She mentions her time on trail being time she doesn’t have to take care of someone, so I ask her occupation, and she says nurse practitioner. Us folks in the caring profession. I get that whole statement a lot. We talk about our writing, she asks what books I’m reading, we talk about some queer related things, whether or not we want to have kids… it’s a nice conversation. She is an ultra marathoner and is doing a chunk of trail in 7 weeks, so I feel lucky to have met her. She’s going very fast and it may be the only day I see her.

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I hike out again around 6:30, planning to go another 5.5 miles. And I do. The evening air has cooled things down and the temperature is lovely. The mosquitoes are not so lovely. I finally put on my rain jacket. My tolerance is increasing, but I still have my limits. I finally get to my tent spot and it is lovely and FLAT and when I lay in my tent and make dinner, I find that I can see the moon and the night sky out my door. This is the first time I’ve had that on this trail, and one of the few times I’ve been awake past 9pm, and I soak in the loveliness of the quiet, moon-softened dark.

August 8, day 42

20 miles

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I wake up at 4am and have to pee. But first I lay in my tent and I just stare at the sky. The stars are out and it’s spectacular. I can’t believe I’m here. I’m totally in awe, and this moment feels so lovely.

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I plan a shorter day today. 20 miles to a spot that apparently has a killer view. It’s a day with two big climbs, so I feel like that’s a good decision. I start around 7am, not having set myself an alarm.

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A couple miles in, a man riding a horse and pulling along a pack mule goes one direction, and we both think it’s the trail and get pretty lost. I bushwhack back to the trail and guide him and his animals back up. His name is Don, his horse is Rusty and his mule is Pearl. I am annoyed by the 45 extra minutes we spent getting lost, but heartened by the presence of animals. We hopscotch with each other all day, and it’s kind of lovely.

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The climbs suck. There’s no other way to say it. Since I wasted a bunch of time getting lost, I’m slower than usual, and the first climb is hard and rocky. My feet hurt already and I’m less than 4 miles in. Plus, why bother? Why try hard? No ones gonna be waiting for me at camp tonight. It’s just me.

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I can’t get that thought out of my head all day and it’s weighing me down. It’s only a 20 mile day and it feels so hard. The second climb, I speed up for the most part. Near the top I feel myself slow. The thought loops itself around and around in my head. No one’s waiting for me at camp. I tell myself I didn’t come to hike the PCT for company anyway. I tell myself I didn’t originally plan to hike with someone, hiking with Muffy was such a stroke of luck. It wasn’t my reason. But now somehow it is my reason, and I miss Muffy almost unbearably. I drag myself uphill.

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I turn reception on, a risky venture with my low battery, and get some news from my best friend that puts me in my feels. It’s about an unresolved sticky situation from last year that involves so much for me. And there is a piece of it I need to respond to. I spend the next few miles planning my thoughtful measured response and feeling a lot of anger, sadness, betrayal. Writing this now, I wonder if I should call my therapist from town when I get there.

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There’s another jaunt uphill, then I’ll be at my campsite. I’m dreading it. I have a water carry because I’m dry camping and my bag feels awful and weighs me down. Plus, I’ve been avoiding taking care of my diva cup all day so I really need to do that. I find a place off trail and oh my god. I have never felt more disgusting in my life than crouching in the woods, being harangued by mosquitoes, and dealing with a diva cup explosion on top of shitting in a hole because I’d delayed shitting, too. It is so gross. I feel so gross. I go thru wet wipes trying to just get clean again while mosquitoes delightfully feast on my body. There’s blood everywhere. I shudder and clean up as best I can and hurry back on trail.

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Today and this stretch I have felt so godawful dirty. I haven’t showered for over a week. I wash my hands in creeks (without soap – LNT) but I can’t get them clean for more than an hour or so. Last night, the spot I pitched my tent got very damp, and it was sandy, and the sand was black and went everywhere so now my tent is covered in black mud. I feel like I look as if I’ve hiked through an apocalypse. I kinda feel like I have too. I’m dirty and lonely and I’ve hiked bigger miles in succession this week than I ever have. In any case I feel so gross that all I want is a shower and it is the singular reason I am drumming up the will to hike all 25 miles to Big Lake Youth Camp tomorrow.

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I finally get to camp and set up and get eaten alive by more mosquitoes. It’s still not as bad as Washington though. I think that I have a full charge on my battery pack, so I’m lavish with my internet use for awhile until my phone nearly dies, so I plug it in. After a bit, it stops charging, and I realize I only had a tiny charge left in my battery pack, and now I only have about 10% battery life to get me to town tomorrow. I’m terribly sad and so lonely and I hate everything and I cry when I put my phone back in airplane mode.

August 9, Day 43

22 miles

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I wake up at 10:30pm and have to pee and when I lay back down I sob and sob. I realize in that moment that I’ve done too much on miles this week and that’s part of what’s happening with me emotionally. My body feels wrecked and is dumping it into my emotions. My internal state feels so overwrought and intense that I make a conscious decision to smoke some pot to both lighten my mood and put me to sleep. To my relief, it works without putting me into paranoia, a place I can go with weed and why I normally only smoke to sleep.

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In the morning I’m in a better mood. I laugh to myself thinking about my breakfast. “Hey body, guess what I have for you for breakfast? Surprise, cream of wheat with Nutella! Your fav!”

Body: *turns up nose and is visibly repelled* “what the fuck Laurie this isn’t a surprise we literally have this every day and I’m not eating this.”

Me: “oh but you are my dear! Yum yum yum!” I laugh for awhile thinking of this internal exchange.

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I am planning on 25 miles today, and by some miracle I actually leave camp by 6:30. I prefer leaving early. I love leaving by 6. I get a lot more miles covered that way. And the same is true today. By 11am I’ve hiked 14 miles. I’m stoked! The highway intersection is only 5 more, then 5-6 to Big Lake Youth Camp.

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On the way down to the highway, I am struck with the impression that I need to go into Sisters today instead. That it makes more sense to hitch in there today than to try and get a ride there tomorrow. I go back and forth on this. I break with a couple of dudes at the parking lot by the highway intersection where I’d hitch, eating snacks and discussing this decision with them. I hike another mile, past where I should hitch, and then think, “no, I really DO need to go into Sisters today.” So I turn around and head back to the highway to get a hitch. I pass a couple I’d seen earlier in the day, GinGin and Edbear. They ask me why I’m going backward and I explain. I keep going. Right as I get to the highway, it starts to rain.

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The couple burst out of the trees moments later and Edbear says “we changed our minds too!” GinGin yells at Edbear, “come on, we need to cross now!” as I’m standing on the edge of the busy highway trying to hitch. They run across the road and head back to the parking lot and trailhead I was in before.

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I try to hitch to no avail. No one will stop for me. It’s pouring. I just know I’m supposed to go to Sisters, but why will no one stop? Then it starts hailing. I run back across the road up to the parking lot where I know there is a pit toilet. Edbear and GinGin are huddling there and invite me in. They say they have a ride to Sisters and if there is room, theyll ask if I can go, too.

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There is room, and the woman who picks us up, Shari, runs the gear shop in Sisters. When we get there, she won’t let me go to the campground as I planned and instead invites me to stay at her house with Edbear and GinGin. I’m floored and thank her over and over. I’m in heaven. She makes us a big dinner and I get to shower in a shower in a house. What even?

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For dinner I have a taco and a taco salad and two brownies with ice cream and berries. As we eat dinner and chat, I notice that GinGin is specifically using my name and not using gendered pronouns to refer to me. She’s using my name mainly, and I can tell she noticed my hat even though I forgot to tell her my pronouns. I’m so touched by how she noticed this and instantly feel more comfortable with her and Edbear.

This is magical. And on top of it all, I get to sleep in a real bed. I go to sleep around 11:30 feeling tired and so grateful.


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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