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Part Five of the PNT: Republic to Oroville

 

Day 35

It was hard to leave the McRaes. Happy to have spent a couple days there in the company of so many wonderful hikers and hosts, but sooner or later we gotta keep marching West.

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Nick had a chat with me today about this blog.

He said “you need to be more positive, Jared. It’s all ‘I got rained on or a yellow jacket stung me’ write something positive.”

Then a yellow jacket stung him.

There were a lot of road walks but we saw a lot of animals today.

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These good boys came over to say hi.

Thanks to my partner we all got to camp pretty early. She’s helping us slack pack through this section and we’re making really good time. Spent the afternoon swimming in lake Bonepart and it was glorious.

Day 36

Climbed to the top of Mt. Bonepart and got to go up in the fire watch tower. Met a cool cat named Joel who told us about his plans to write a novel. He seemed happy for the company. I imagine his job is kinda dull at the moment. The fires in Canada are pretty bad at the moment and the views were hazy in all directions.

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No filter. The smoke just makes it look like a washed out polaroid.

Well wouldn’t you know it? I got stung by another yellow jacket. Right on the leg. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as the last few, or maybe I’m building a tolerance.

Made it to Havillah where we camped on the church lawn. It was an amazing day for a lot of reasons. In no particular order they are as follows. We met Kayce the caretaker who is also a caterer and cider maker. He was a super cool dude who fed us and plied us with libations. My old friend from the PCT showed up too. He surprised us with a spaghetti dinner. Then this lady Birdy showed up. She kept talking about “the Creator” and other such things. Then she let me know it was time to work on my feet. She snapped my tendons, popped my toes and cracked my ankles. She was convinced the Creator sent her to meet us because we needed her help. If God is real I’m convinced she hates hikers and astronauts, but I try not to talk politics or religion while I’m on the road. Especially in a church parking lot with a presbatyrian shaman.

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Nick got some healing too.

Day 37

Took a day off from hiking to spend the day with my partner. We hadn’t been alone with each other for a few weeks and it was really nice to get some quality time together before she had to head home.

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Dropped our friends off at the trail head and drove out to Old Molson. Molson was nearby and boasts a population of 35. It seems once upon a time some butthole decided he owned all the land Molson was built on. The town was shitty enough that it was easier to move everything rather than dispute this butthole in court. So the old town was left to rot on the buttholes land. That land later became Old Molson and was turned into a historical landmark. I gotta say it was a creepy cool ghost town and I had a blast exploring it with my favorite person.

Here’s another fun story I heard. There’s a modern day butthole pulling the same stunt at the Molson Cemetery. Seems it’s impossible to say just where the property line between his home and the grave yard is exactly. So he moves the fence over six feet and puts up a bunch of no tresspassing signs. There’s a whole row of corpses with a fence line running directly over their bodies. The whole thing’s tied up in court.

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The more things change the more they stay the same.

 

 

 

 

 

Part Four of the PNT: Wildfires and Yellow Jackets – Metaline Falls to Republic

Day 27

The super helpful and kind owner of the Historic Washington Hotel in Metaline Falls gave us a ride to the trail head. It was about ten million degrees out because we had to wait around all morning for the post office to open. It opens at 10:30AM. That’s super late when you wake up at 5AM every morning because some dumb ass bird is screaming outside your tent. So sitting around at the trail head waiting for the temperature to drop doesn’t sound so bad, right? Unless a bee stings you! Right on the back of the knee. Every step that afternoon was frustrating. At least the asshole who stung me is dead.

Day 28

I hit the trail because that’s what I do every day. Made it to water where I slipped in the stream and planted my tender booty on a big flat rock. Managed to lose a chunk of the water filter and smash my thumb in the process. Was this going to be another week of shit? Is that every week these days? Maybe not. I looked down at my legs to make sure they were still there and I noticed a tick crawling its way along my shaggy thigh. No doubt looking for the juiciest bit of meat to sink in. I committed that tick to the void. I’m two for two so far.

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Some private land owners decided they didn’t want hikers walking through their land. So this is the road we got to walk to Republic.
Made it to Josh and Jami’s place. They are super cool hiker helpers who have two of the best dogs I’ve met in my life and a very friendly cat who is simply “the Cat.” The dogs were quite the characters. Sweet Dee likes to play fetch but Sammie is a trouble maker who likes to run up and snatch the ball when Sweet Dee drops it. I really appreciate the level of good natured mischief Sammie brings to the equation. Josh showed me the drill and I managed with some difficulty to learn their little doggy ritual.

“Back Sammie!” You gotta say it with authority. Sammie will halt and lay there. Eyes going wild waiting for the ball to drop. Sometimes you don’t see Sammie and you think it’s safe. That’s when you’re least safe though. Sammie erupts from nowhere to get that ball if you’re not on it. But the sweet guy will drop it after he wins and then Sweet Dee brings it back to you. Hopefully this time you don’t get got by Sammie.

So maybe instead of thru hiking I should adopt dogs. They really helped distract from the fact that the trail was on fire just ahead of us. We spent a good deal of time making plans and sharing strategies for just what to do when you can’t walk through an inferno.

Day 29

Half the hikers who stayed the night before hit the road bright and early. Zeke from New Zealand managed to leave his water filter behind so I went and mailed it ahead to him in Republic. Fun fact: Zeke ate 18 corn dogs in one sitting. Very braggable. Good thing I did because this guy Rick was just giving away Cliff Bars at the post office.

Laden with Cliff Bars I made my way with Anna and Jenn to the edge of town to start hitch hiking.

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Anna and Jenn doing the lords work.
“You know what’s great about traveling with ladies?” I asked them. “You get picked up a lot quicker when hitch hiking. No one wants to pick up a smelly lone dude.” We got our first hitch from a caregiver who told us “I don’t usually pick up hitchhikers but I figured you were okay because two of you are ladies.” She dropped us at a busy intersection where we managed to catch a second ride from a very nice woman who ran a store in North Port. She dropped us off at a busy gas station at another intersection and we waited in the hot sun for our final hitch. She was eating a corn dog as she stopped in the intersection. She didn’t pull over. She just stopped and blocked traffic. I hope I’m that cool someday.
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Me with the worlds grooviest corn dog enthusiast.
Ended up camping in some burn section with a good group of hikers. Something started grunting around dusk. Was it a bear? We thought so. It sure sounded like a bear. But it wouldn’t shut up. We yelled at it but it just grunted back in defiance.

Day 30

Whatever was grunting like a bear last night was at it again around 4AM. There were maybe two this time. Or else the bear was circling our camp at supernatural speeds. Probably some sort of ghost bear that died in the fire.

The hiking was slightly better than what I’d been doing before. Lots of ups and downs. Lots of ridge walks with views of stuff. Not quite grand views but good enough as views go. The dust was just awful. I got my first blister today which only happened because so much dust ended up in my shoes that it got in between my toes and started rubbing the pinky raw. Fortunately I had an extra pair my friend Tricia sent me and they saved my poor foot.

You know what’s worse than getting stung by a stupid bee? Getting stung twice by a dumb ass yellow jacket that flew up your sleeve while you were getting water from a spring.

Day 31

I walked all day. Anna got the yellow jacket treatment today. Same deal as me. The bushwack today was pretty chill though. Very short and we didn’t get lost. Lots of up and downs. Did I mention how much this trail goes up and down? Like up a mountain for no reason and then back down. I’m sure glad I like walking so much or I’d just hate it out here. There was rain too. It’s the middle of summer and I’m getting pissed on for hours.

Day 32

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Anna, Nick, and Jenn in the wild.

A lot of road walks today. They were considered alternate routes which are common on this trail. The official route had a lot of death trap bush wacks and we all agreed we’d rather get hit by a car than fall off a cliff in some jungle bullshit.

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Nick and Anna on the “trail”
It wasn’t all road walks though. Saw a pretty solid rattlesnake just chillin’ on the path. Jenn was in front and alerted the group to its presence. We discussed going around the danger noodle, but it was difficult. Briefly considered macing it but decided I needed to save it for bears. Eventually I prodded the legless beast off the trail. It just kind of rolled lazily down the hill and then slithered off.
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Photo courtesy of Anna Rae Adventures.
Made it to Swan Lake and it was amazing. Nice water. Lots of people hanging out. Some group floated by and this dude gave me a bud light. It was the most delicious water I’ve had in my life. My partner showed up later with a cooler full of salad, real beer, and some tasty snacks. It was really nice to see her, and if I’m lucky she’s going to show up at a couple more stops between here and the coast.
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My partner Katherine about to jump into a lake.
Day 32

Made it into Republic. Staying at the McRae’s house and it’s really great. They also have a cool doggo named Stewart. It’s a good name. They hosted eight of us! It’s the most PNT hikers I’ve seen in one spot.

The hiker helpers/trail angels on this trail are absolutely amazing.

Very noteworthy: Nothing bad happened today.

Part Three of the PNT: Bonners Ferry, ID to Metaline Falls, WA.

Currently writing from Josh and Jami’s place in North Port. Pretty cool trail angels in the town of North Port. Fire’s are burning all around us and we’re going to hitch West to avoid going out in a blaze of glory. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Along the way I was rained on, walked through thunder storms, got stung by a bee, smashed my thumb, chased by swarms upon swarms of mosquitoes, and got lost more times than I can count. It was tough.

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If you’re gonna be a bear be a grizzly.

Day 20

The sheer amount of boxes I got in this town was amazing. My partner and I managed to put together a complete resupply as well as send one forward to Metaline Falls. I’m so grateful for the amazing friends and family I have. After sorting through all that we went to the library and waited for Sharlene. She’s the trail angel in Bonners Ferry and she picked us up from the library and gave us a ride back to the trail. She was kind enough to pose for a picture with us.

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From left to right: Anna, Me, Katherine, Jenn, and Sharlene the trail angel.

Ended up camping at the Parker Ridge trail head. A little ways off actually. Not a terrible campsite. We were visited by border patrol, a stray cat, and some dog that seemed friendly but smiled like Jack Nicholson’s Joker.

Day 21-22

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A short and brutal climb uphill. Taking it easy in preparation for the bushwack that’s coming. Camped at Parker Lake and Ball Lake. At about 5:30 PM we met Rick. He walked through camp and we invited him to stay but he was determined to start the bushwack. I was concerned but he’s an adult. We did end up seeing him again and that was a relief.

Day 23

And so begins a series of days marked by setbacks and adversity. A five mile slog that’s mostly bushwack with a scramble sprinkled on top. Found a tick crawling around on my leg and was glad I had my leggings on. They ended up taking a beating in the jungle of Idaho, but it’s a small price to pay in the grand scheme of things. The bushwack was slow. Averaged a half mile an hour. It’s hard to describe just how hard it was so I’ll just say it sucked, it’s the hardest hiking I’ve done in my life, and it was the easier of two options available. I would’ve taken more pictures but it was shitty and I was too tired to care about anything besides moving forward.

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Shortly before we went down the mountain and into the bush.

Day 24

Shit streak continues. My partner made the tough decision to get off trail due to some personal reasons. Will miss her but am looking forward to her continual support as I inch West through the hellscape of the PNT. As soon as she left the trail, the trail took a giant shit on us. Throngs of mosquitoes converged on our location. Unquenchable thirst buzzing endlessly around me. A legion of horrible’s. Running from swarm to swarm resulted in several missteps. Maps and GPS came out and was forced to backtrack several times to find the trail. Then came the rain and a river crossing that soaked my feet to the bone. At least I got to hike on the Idaho Centennial (the PNT runs in conjunction with the ICT as well as the PCT) for a few miles. Even if they were the cruelest miles.

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Idaho Centennial Trail marker.

Day 25

Monumental shit. More legions of blood suckers. At least they encouraged me to make good time. Rain and thunder. The thunder came atop a ridge walk and I was pretty anxious the whole time. Nearly fell off the mountain when wading through some leafy plants that had managed to blot out the trail. Thankfully the brambles were abundant and broke my fall. Ended up doing a big day mileage wise. Thanks mosquitoes. Ended up camping on the side of a forest service road because there wasn’t anywhere else to go. A nice family drove by and gave us pretzels and goldfish crackers. It was just what we needed to keep our spirits up and our bellies full of sodium.

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Camping on the side of the road.

Day 26

Hiked into an “airport today. It was a mostly pleasant hike and a welcome break from the run of bad luck that had been plaguing me.

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This is considered an airport. It’s a grassy field you can land on by a lake. It was pleasant.

 

Made it into Metaline Falls. Stayed at the Historic Washington Hotel and I would highly suggest anyone in the area (and especially hikers) check it out. We packed four into a room and Arlie the owner did our laundry. He was incredibly kind, understanding, and helpful.

Part Two of the PNT: Eureka, MT to Bonners Ferry, ID.

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**I’ve got about an hour before my ride picks us up at the library so please excuse the rush job on this post. Will attempt to edit later. Like in the fall. **

Day 12

After four days in Eureka we hit the trail with fresh feet. Eureka was great.

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Colorful locals, good food, and a helpful community center. The museum employees let me pick a bunch of exhibits despite the “NO TOUCHING” signs. That was pretty good.

The day started off nice enough on the rails to trails system. Stopped in Rexford for lunch before hitting the first of many terrible no good uphill slogs in the hot sun. Right before the ascent we stopped at Boulder Creek for water where a craggy pit claimed the life of an nalgene bottle. Severely limiting our capacity to carry water. This necessitated big mile days so we could camp near water. At the top of Mt. Webb we encountered a charming family staying in the fire look out. They gave us water and rolls. They even let us come up and check out the view.

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Day 13

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Hiked another 20 some day. To another tower. This was Mt. Henry and it was first come first server. Fortunately we encountered some trail friends and they made room for us in the lookout. The views were astonishing and the company was great. Also. It was super safe.

Day 14

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Hiked into Yaak. The town consists of three buildings and two of them are bars. Better yet there were bigfoot paintings and signs everywhere. Easily my favorite town stop so far. The people were super friendly and very welcoming.

Day 15

Four of us hiked up to NW Peak alternate to another lookout. Getting up early to avoid the heat and taking long breaks mid day is proving a succesfull strategy for dealing with teh oppressive heat. It’s also helping us conserve water. I thought it would be wetter and cooler on the PNT but it’s been hot and shitty. The locals all say this is the hottest summer they’ve experienced. They also don’t believe in global warming. Weird. I could get used to camping in these fire looks out though.

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Day 16

At about 2AM I thought the wind was gonna knock the shack (and us in it) right off the mountain. I laid there listening to the howls of the wind until about 5AM. Time to get up and crawl down a mountain. It was several downhill scrambles followed by a bushwack. The trail a figment of our collective imaginations. Existing in this space only because we agreed it was so. Slow hard miles that took the better part of the morning to put down. But at least it was fun. We crossed into Idaho today.

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Day 17

Idaho has very nicely managed trails. Although I heard the section ahead of us is the hardest on trail. The first miles in this wilderness were well maintained and well marked. Saw only the occasional blow down. Saw a large brown beast today. I thought it was maybe a bear but my friend said moose. I’m inclined to believe. Ended up hiking up to a forest service road and camping out on the side of it. The designated camp spots were marshy breeding pits for mosquitoes. Hard pass.

Day 18

Today I went fishing. I didn’t think I’d get the opportunity on trail but the opportunity

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was unavoidable. Put down 10 miles in the morning and stopped at Fiest Creek Resort for some lunch. As I was pulling my ID card, debit card, and cash out of my pack I fumbled hard and dropped up through the opening in the deck. You can’t really get down there though. The waitress brought me a ruler, a large flat metal spoon, tweezers and a roll of duct tape. She wished me luck, and with a little help from my friends I was able to fish my identity out of the cracks of the deck.

I ended up eating too much and hiking up another shitty mountain. Just straight up. Made it to a dirt road and camped on it.

Day 19

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It was mostly downhill and we walked through berry country. It was Sunday so the place was packed with locals doing some berry hunting. Trail magic can be a cold beer, hot food, or a surprise package- But sometimes it’s a puppy on the trail who wants to play with you and your friends. Spent a really long time sitting in the middle of the road with a pretty cute pooch. Highlight of the day.

Got to Brush Lake and managed to hitch a ride within three minutes. The local trail angel of Bonners Ferry just happened to be leaving the lake and there we were. I really hope our luck holds out on this trip. She dropped us off at the Cottage Inn where we camped in the back. The man at the desk was a real smarmy turd and I’d encourage any future hikers to stay at the fair grounds for free instead of giving this place your money.

Day 20

Went to the PO and got an excess of packages. Truly so lucky to have the support of so many great people in my life. Leaving shortly for the next section. Supposed to be pretty brutal, so I guess it’s all downhill after this.

Part One of the PNT: Glacier National Park to Eureka, MT.

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Day Zero

Things were off to a rocky start. Before I boarded the train a man in blue dungarees stood on the ticket counter and spoke at the crowd assembled before the boarding gate. The refinery near the tracks had caught fire and was creating a hazard. “Fire is a hazard” he told us. After a brief eternity I boarded the train and waited some more. At least the views were nice and we had Ronda to keep us company.

“Make sure you’re flushing the toilets.” Ronda would say over the PA. “A young man just alerted me they are not being flushed!” Bless you Ronda.

I slept or something like it and late the next morning morning stepped off and into Glacier National Park. Hitched a ride to a permitting station and learned it’s hard to get backcountry permits the week of the 4th of July. Spent a couple nights waiting on those, but it wasn’t too bad. Met some cool people, ate some good pizza, and explored parts of the park I wouldn’t get a chance to see on the hike.

Day One

Woke up early on the 4th of July. Got picked up by a one-thumbed Canadian fellow. I think he was drunk. It was 7AM. Got out soon after and a lovely couple offered a ride to the trail head where I straddled the border. This was finally happening.

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That swath of destruction cuts right through the continent and separates the US and Canada.

Glacier is gorgeous when you can see more than three feet in front of you. The thing is you can’t see that far for a lot of it. The brush is oppressive at times. Almost as if the forest itself is trying to suffocate the trail. They call it a forest but it feels like a jungle.

You don’t know what’s lurking in that brush and so you have to yell at the bear that’s maybe there. “Hey bear,” or “hey oh,” or “Kanye West!” They make you watch a little video before you can enter the backcountry. It says you should yell out so bears know you’re coming. If you surprise the bear you gotta sweet talk the bear and get off trail. “Hey boo boo, I’m just passing through.” Sometimes bears are dicks. When you run into a grumpy bear you gotta yell at them. “Hey jerk, get out of here” If this enrages the bear you gotta mace em. That’s usually gonna do the trick but sometimes it doesn’t and well then you gotta lay down and cover your neck. But “if the bear starts to eat you fight back” the video says.

Day Two

Stoney Indian Pass was a little taste of things to come. It was a steep climb but rewarding. The pass afforded some excellent views for the first time and I realized why people come to this park.

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It was over soon enough and the trail spilled back into the soupy green house that is the forest floor. At camp we met a stranger who offered us ape food. Like ape food they feed the chimps at the zoo. Turns out you can order it off Amazon. It tasted like a Trader Joe’s cracker.

Day Three

The pit toilets in this park are sort of like cardboard closets you poop in. But at least the corrugated wooden walls afford some privacy. On this particular morning I heard a large beast roaming by and I knew it was a grizzly. I thought “this is how I die. Mauled on a toilet.” Then someone shouted “moose!” Sweet relief. Bonus, I got to see a moose.

A short hiking day. Much needed after the pass. Stopped at Goat Haunt/Waterton Ranger Station where tourists can sail into Glacier from Canada. A very cool spot. Talked to the rangers and border patrol. Emptied my trash and ate snacks by Waterton Lake.

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That’s Canada on the other side of the lake.

The evening ended at a buggy creek where an armada of flies, mosquitos and other assorted insects had made their way into the tight spaces between the rain fly and the tent itself. A terrible chorus of buzzing and whirring. A symphony of trapped and hopeless bugs.

Day Four

Bowman lake was glorious. It’s the last backcountry spot on the PNT that’s also in Glacier so there was a large congregation of PNT hikers. Some new faces and some old. It was all fun and games until the encounter…

My guess is that he picked up my scent and had been stalking me for a while. The beast didn’t know fear, only hunger. The straps of my trekking poles did little to satisfy his demonic urges. But my undershirt was saturated in the odors and funk of four days in the backcountry. Brimming with salt. So much tasty salt. A dear ate my shirt.

Not all indignities are equal.

Day Five

The first town stop, if you can call it a town, is Polebridge, MT. Polebridge is something like an old West pit stop. There’s a mercantile, a saloon, and a hostel. The hostel and saloon don’t open until 5PM, so if you find your way into town sooner than that you can enjoy stinking up the fro

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nt patio of the Mercantile. They sell amazing pastries and other assorted sundries, but not much in the way of hiking food. Mail takes a very long time to reach Polebridge and because of this the resupply package my partner and I were expecting never made it. We had to forward to Bonners Ferry. Fortunately we met some really amazing people in Glacier and they cobbled together some food for us. The saying goes that the trail provides, but I believe it’s the people on the trail.

Day Six

The trail outside of Glacier is not a national park. It’s not even a trail sometimes. Hiking along dirt roads offers a chance to walk side by side with your adventuring buddies. The actual hiking trails were not maintained the way they were in Glacier. So there are blowdowns and other obstacles. This can make an 18 mile day feel like a 30.

Camped at Red Meadow Lake where the mosquitos were the worst yet. It’s important to take a moment to mention just how awful the mosquitos are out here. I had visions of a James Bond villain subjecting his victims to a torture chamber swarming with exactly X mosquitos. Whereby X = the exact numbers of mosquitos required to drain you to the point of heart failure.

Day Seven

It was a relatively easy 15 miles at first. With five down and several hours of daylight left I headed into a section of the forest that burned down last year. The trees were crusty burnt up husks. The ground was ash. It felt like the haunted forest right out of a Grimm’s fairy tale.

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I’m very lucky I wasn’t alone. My partner and two other bad ass women were with me. None of us could locate the trail and so we moved forward. GPS systems, paper maps, and other tracking devices made their way out. It was slow goings. Up and down the ridge line. Surging into the brush and bushwacking all the way. Exhausting, grueling work.

We found water eventually and from there were able to extrapolate our position on a map. We got up high and were able to get a signal on the GPS. Eventually we found a trail and then it was a long cruel walk to camp where I collapsed into my tent and slept like the dead.

Day 8 & 9

Hiked out and caught a ride into Eureka where I’m eating lots of food and recovering. Will be hitting the road tomorrow and heading to Yaak, MT where the road literally ends and the only internet access is via dial up modem. Will update again in Bonners Ferry.

Don’t Worry About Bears – A Story from the PCT

When I told people I was planning to hike the Pacific Crest Trail they would always bring up bears. So much in fact, that despite never having seen one in the wild, I started to worry.

“Will you bring a gun?” People asked. What a silly question.

“No,” I said, “it’s illegal.”

“What about bear mace?” They countered.

“Uh, sure, bear mace.” I lied. I started telling that fib to everyone. It was easier, and it made them worry less. It made me worry less too because people stopped asking. Don’t worry about bears. I got bit, but it wasn’t by a bear.

I was somewhere between Casa De Luna and Hiker Town when the attack happened. The assailant was silent and it was over before I knew it happened. At first, it itched more than it hurt, but that wasn’t unusual at this point. It was at first like any other red bump from any number of bug bites on various parts of my person. There were a lot of other bites too. I was sleeping under the stars every night, like some sort of desert beast. Me and a whole lot of wide open space.

A few days later I felt my energy draining, I assumed I needed to eat more. This seemed counter-intuitive as I was losing my appetite with my energy. I was drinking plenty of water despite being in the desert hills of California. I must be lacking in vitamins I thought, I would be sure to pick some up in Tehachapi.

The next day I woke up to intense throbbing pains. My entire haunch felt like it was being ripped apart by unseen forces. It was the pain that woke me, then fear. I thought a scorpion or snake had got into my sleeping bag was trying to tear its way out- right through my butt. I shimmied out of the bag with the grace of a baboon and dropped my pants. I craned my neck to see how bad the bite had become. It looked like a softball with a bright red ringed bullseye on it. I still had twelve miles to get to Tehachapi. They were the longest miles I did on the Pacific Crest Trail. Maybe ever, something sinister was taking root inside me.

Each step racked my body and taxed my will to move forward. To sit down was to invite more pain. Putting pressure on the bump felt awful, but the worst pain of all came whenever I had to get back up. It was best to stay standing. The regular aches and pains that go with a through hike pale in comparison. I considered laying down on my stomach right there in the middle of the trail, but it was more work than it was worth. I decided to make the grueling walk as quickly as possible.

I caught up to my pal Freebird at the Highway crossing. I was grateful. It was midday and the temperature was hitting triple digits. He agreed to stand in the sun and hitch a ride while I sought refuge behind the meager shade of a traffic control sign.

Once we got to town we met up with Mosey in a motel. Mosey is a nurse when she’s not hiking around, and she agreed to take a gander at my butt bite. Insisted actually.

“Something’s wrong with my ass,” I told her.

“Still?” She asked. “Show me.”

“I don’t know, it’s pretty gross.” It was embarrassing. “It’s gotta be a big pimple or something.” I had convinced myself it was the worst pimple ever.

“I’m a nurse! show me!” She was very concerned so I showed her.

   “You need to see a doctor, like right now! Like today! You could die from that!”  I thought if I could just pop this thing in the bathtub…

The next day I saw the doctor. I’m not a medical professional, so I’ll tell you what happened in my own words. The good doctor scooped a big chunk of meat right out of my butt cheek. Squeezed all the evil out, packed it full of gauze, and put me on antibiotics. This amazing woman had her husband come and pick me up after the visit. He drove me to the pharmacy to get my prescription filled. I am still blown away by their generosity. If it wasn’t for their help, my trip would’ve ended right there in that quaint little town.

I went back to the Doctor two days later and there was some localized necrosis from the bite. They hacked that away, then she squeezed more poison out.

“So you might want to switch from a bandage to a pad.” The doctor said.

“Like a feminine pad?” I asked.

“Yes…”

The second hole in my butt now had the circumference of a US nickel. I never probed the depths of it, but I’d wager it was about an inch deep. It oozed blood and other things, all day, every day. I had to rinse it out with a saline solution then change the pad in the morning and again before bed. I needed those pads, and I got them at K-Mart with the help of a traumatized young woman in a red vest.

“Excuse me, sir, do you need any help?” She had no idea how much help I needed.

“Uh, Yeah.” I stammered. “I need pads… I don’t know how you gauge them… But I need something that will soak up a lot of blood, like a whole lot. Wide ones too, the wider the better.”

“Um, you might want these.” She shifted uncomfortably and pointed to a box. “But you can return them if they’re not what the person you’re getting them for needs.”

Despite knowing better I blurted out “They’re for my butt,” and disgust washed across her face. The words kept coming, “I have a hole in it- Er, well it’s a second hole, everyone’s got the one right? Erm, one of them doesn’t really go anywhere though- It’s from a bite, I’m a PCT hiker, see, and… uh… I’m gonna go. Thank you. Bye.” I took my pads and retreated in shame.

Despite everything that happened to me, it couldn’t have happened in a better town. Tehachapi is good to hikers. The place is full of genuinely kind people you think only exist in works of fiction. Good, honest people who want to help strangers. They invited me into their lives and homes. I thought about moving there but I was itching to hit the road by the time the doctor gave me the go ahead. Dealing with an open wound in the Sierra offered its own challenges. I worried about the blood attracting bears, but I never saw one.

Postcards from the PNT.

Hello Friendos,

I’m gearing up and preparing for a 2018 attempt at the Pacific Northwest Trail. My current plan is to leave Glacier National Park, Montana in early July (weather dependent) and take a long walk to Cape Alava on the Washington coast. I really loved sharing my PCT trek with friends and family, and while reflecting on that experience I decided to take things a step further this time.

pntHere’s a fun fact I learned while researching this trail: More people have been to space than have completed the PNT. Why? For starters, the trail isn’t very old compared to other trails. It was only conceived in 1970 by Ron Strickland. It wasn’t successfully thru-hiked until 1977. It’s maybe a bit more challenging than other long distance hikes. A lot of times you find yourself going against the grain of the mountain and that can be difficult. Finally, there’s a lot of bushwacking.

If you’re wishing right now that you could be part of this journey you can. Getting and sending mail was a huge highlight for me on the PCT. It grounded me and gave me a sense of home. That’s a feeling that’s hard to capture when you’re spending days, weeks and months on the road. So what are you waiting for? Leave a comment, shoot me a message with your address, and take a walk with me.