PCT trail log, days 49-52

August 15, day 49

Molalla Territory

10 miles

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I do a Nero (half day of hiking) in Shelter Cove. I wake up early and get all my chores done: laundry and a shower. I split laundry with another hiker I’ll call MFM. It seems generally pleasant. I like Shelter Cove. I love Odell Lake. It’s gorgeous.

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I decide I want to hike alone, for real. A couple of people ask for me to accompany them and I decline. I want the pleasure of my own company.

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I see someone from earlier on trail whose name I won’t mention here. I can’t decide how I feel about him. It feels both nice and weird to run into him. Something about him rubs me wrong even though he says the right things. I’m glad to get away and hike up into the hills. Which I do. I hike out 10 miles and find a spot that overlooks the valley I’ve just been in. It’s glorious.

August 16, day 50

Molalla territory

25 miles

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I am up by 6, but slow as usual to get out. I have reception and send a friend a text, and she needs some support so I sit for another hour or so with them since I luckily have some reception where I’m camped. I leave around 8:30 and start walking. I realize within about 20 minutes that since I have reception, I also need to call Six Moon Designs about my tent. I stop in the middle of the trail and do that – they are going to send me a brand new lunar solo to Fish Lake! That was easy enough. Im grateful to have that issue sorted.

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Then a voicemail comes through from a fellowship I received last year, informing me of some information they need today. I call the person there back and inform them I’ve been on trail without much reception. They are kind and understanding, but I’m also non compliant on some things. I fix what I can and finally start hiking again. This time I’m beset by shame and anxiety. I knew I had some things to do for this fellowship but I dropped the ball. I told myself that I couldn’t deal with all that out here. And here we were. I spiraled down, feeling anxious and frustrated with myself. I wanted to present for their conference next year and I hadn’t set myself up well. I consistently struggle to set myself up well professionally, to respond in time, to stay on the ball. Further and further in I went. I turned off my reception and played Elastic Heart by Sia over and over and told myself “walk, Laurie. Just walk.” I had to say this to myself several times.

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When you’re walking sometimes thoughts loop, at least mine do because I struggle with obsessive thinking, and today was not a helpful day on that front. The anxiety about the fellowship turned into anxiety about my gender, in part precipitated by misgendering myself in my own head. I am sure it doesn’t help that I’m constantly misgendered out here. But I spiral on that too. I feel like no one else has these fears. I feel like I’m doing it wrong. I feel amorphous, who am I even? This is terrifying, the most terrifying thing of all, that I can’t sense myself enough to know something solid.

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I spin and spin and spin.

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When I get reception again I get on Instagram and reach out to my close friends feed for support. I can’t do this day alone right now, my mind is too much. Friends message and their words make me cry in relief. I start to breathe easier and I can see the scenery again. I’m ridge walking, actually, and I realize it is so stunning, so absolutely gorgeous. I’m back. I’m present again. I try to stay with my friends words and with what I see around me.

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Despite my late start, I make my 25 miles by 7:45pm. Someone on trail, Old Man Rivers, gave me a fresh clove of garlic today, and I’m stoked! I cook part of it into my beans and rice, trying to save some for the whole section. It is legitimately a next level trail meal. Oh my god. I cannot eat enough.

August 17, day 51

Cow Creek Umpqua and Molalla territories

33 miles

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I don’t get out of camp until 8 despite waking up at 6. I was lazy and didn’t pull myself off my air mattress until about 6:30. And then when I was all ready I had to go collect water at a spring steeply downhill from where I slept. My Katahdin BeFree filter has slowed down to the point where it takes forever to filter water, so that whole debacle plus the climb takes me 30 minutes. I’m frustrated with this but here we are.

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I can tell my mind is still in the shattery anxiety place and that it wants to spin out again today. I hate when my mind gets obsessive like this. But I am very gentle and attempt to corral myself and redirect myself to other things. In the midst of this I realize I am probably going to pass Raine today! This lifts my spirits. And I do, I do pass her. Right as my mind is getting untenable again, she appears on trail. I’m stoked. It’s so fun to meet an Instagram friend! She’s lovely and we chat for about 20 minutes, sharing enthusiasm about each other’s experiences on trail. Finally I snap a pic and we’re both off again. It’s such a bummer when someone you’d probably hike well with is going the other direction.

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Despite my best efforts, after Raine passes my mind spins out again. I’m outside my body, it’s that kind of obsessing. I haven’t been here in a long while. Usually I can stay grounded. I think back to the last time my body was this shape, wondering if that is contributing to my mental state. I spun a lot like this back then. I wonder if my body thinks it’s in survival mode.

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I reach the high point of Oregon and Washington around noon and take a quick lunch. I text Jacklyn, and she sends me a lot of pictures of cute animals. I think about how maybe my absolutely definitely low oxytocin levels are maybe contributing to this anxiety trouble. All I want right now is to lay on a bed in a cuddle puddle of people and pets and watch chill Netflix (GBBO anyone?!) for a week. I think about all the other things I want. Someone to play with my hair. My cats. To be sandwiched between two people and held.

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After lunch after leaving my reception on for a bit, I turn it back off and hike. I attempt to really be here. I hope this will help with this anxiety thing. And it does. I still feel floaty, but I’m not mentally spinning anymore.

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I walk through some beautiful scenery next to hisc’akwaleeʔas aka Mt Thielsen (sources: here and here). Though this is in Cow Creek Umpqua and Molalla traditional lands, this is apparently a Klamath word (hisc’akwaleeʔas) which may be because it borders on Klamath land as well. I’m not even sure the “borders” are correct. Indigenous borders seem much more fluid than the ones in the dominant white narrative.

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I’m still trying to decide if I’m going to do 24 or 33 miles tonight. Part of me really wants to try for 33. I’m ready for a challenge. But that means I’ll get in kind of late.

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It’s a really dry section, so there are water caches along here. I get down to the water cache that was my 24 mile spot, and Old Man Rivers is there. He’s gonna push to my 33 mark (his 36) and so I decide to go too. He’s nice enough even though we don’t really know each other. He at least has been respecting my pronouns the past 24 hours by not really using pronouns at all. He’s probably not someone I’d usually camp with… I’m enjoying camping alone… but it’s just that there’s a section of Crater Lake that’s closed for mountain lion activity right now, and to be honest I don’t want to camp even near that alone.

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I start into the next 9 miles from the cache. I listen to an entire episode of Multiamory, the one with Lola Phoenix, and distract myself from my body pain by learning a lot from what they’re saying. I never podcast at home ever but out here it’s a great distraction, and it’s kind of fun to learn some new stuff. They talk about how jealousy is totally natural in non monogamous relationships, about how it’s used as a label too often for other emotions. They define jealousy as “wanting what someone else has.” I’m intrigued and think about how this applies to my own life.

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After the podcast I put on music. At some point I realize I’m totally dissociating. I can barely feel my body, and I’m floating. I wonder if this is why I keep getting anxiety. Hiking hard like this sometimes requires a degree of dissociation. Maybe not this much dissociation though. “Maybe not pushing SO hard to 33 miles next time,” I think at myself.

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I finally drag myself into camp. It’s not really that late, only 5 after 8. I’ve hiked about a half hour later than I did last night, and I’ve done 8 more miles. I’m proud but I’m not sure I should be. I’m not sure I want to be out of my body like that while I hike. By the time I’ve done all my chores and eaten my entire dinner (!!!!!) it’s almost 10 pm and my feet and legs are absolutely killing me. I’m wishing I elevated them, but I guess I will in the morning. I’m hoping the 2 ibuprofen I popped will help me sleep through the night.

August 18, day 52

Takelma, Cow Creek Umpqua, Molalla, and Klamath Territory

10ish miles

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I ended up popping 6 ibuprofen through the night in order to actually sleep. My feet were killing me and my body felt like it had been run over. 33 miles did a number. I hike out of camp at 8, nice and slow. I’m not going to go fast today. I’m going into Mazama, so I’m just going to take it slow.

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This desire is further confirmed when I realize it’s only 10 miles to Mazama rather than the 18 I thought. This info comes from a fellow hiker I pass just as I get up to the rim of Lao-Yaina. Crater Lake. Traditional Klamath land. The legend of the lake can be found here.

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I walk around Lao-Yaina really, really slow. Maybe the slowest I’ve hiked on the entire PCT. I dawdle. I take a million pictures. I let myself be totally entranced by the lake and Wizard Island and the entire landscape. I hike with Old Man Rivers for some of it, and some of it I hike alone. I eat snacks. I sit and take two long breaks overlooking the lake, one in the sun and one in the shade. There are tourists around but I honestly don’t care. This space feels magical and going this slow feels magical and I am very very about this day.

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When I finish my slow meander around the lake, my soul feels full. I feel better emotionally than I have in awhile. I’ve filled myself up with the landscape. I’ve let myself take it in the way I want to take it in. Instead of rushing by, I savored it. My soul loves this. I pull myself away from the lake after several longing glances and slowly head down trail to Mazama.

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I get to Mazama and the people I’ve been hiking around are there. Old Man Rivers is really the only one I wanted to see. I realize that I trust him more than most people I’ve met out here. He doesn’t say much always but he takes things in. He’s the only male I’ve met that doesn’t actively misgender me. Today when I get there, we are in conversation with an obnoxious guy, Old Man Rivers accidentally misgendered me then immediately corrected himself and went on. No apology or weirdness. In every day life I wouldn’t be so shocked by this, but honestly it just doesn’t really happen out here. So generally I tend to trust him a little bit more. I ask him later if he knows someone who is non-binary and he explains he had a coworker at a summer camp who was non-binary and explained things really well. I feel grateful for this person, whoever they were.

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I interact with talking about my gender sometimes several times a day out here. In trail towns, it’s quite a lot. On trail it’s not as much depending on who I see. Today alone I talk about it at least three times. The instance with Old Man Rivers, an interaction with MFM where I rather stridently tell him he should ask his photo subjects pronouns after I have to offer mine to him, and another in which Goose appears and we are talking to someone who misgenders me, and I correct them gently. Goose says “I was waiting for you to do it.” I am irritated and say, “you can do it, it’s a lot of emotional labor for me to explain all the time.” Honestly it all just gets so exhausting for me. Sometimes I want to like some of these people and I do initially and then they do something that really gets under my skin and reminds me how little they understand of my world. Then it’s harder and sucks more. I want to have compassion, I know it’s a relearning of social norms, but it’s hard and honestly I just want to say EDUCATE YOURSELF.

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I do some hand laundry and take a shower and eat 2 lasagnas, 2 ice cream bars, and a beer. I finally feel sort of full. So I decide to sleep. But it’s been a good day. Finally a good day that feels soul fulfilling more than most have. I’m 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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