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Cosmohiker - Pacific Crest Trail Journal - 2016

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Amy
City: Kalamazoo
State: MI
Country: United States
Begins: Apr 30, 2016
Direction: Southbound

Daily Summary
Date: Tue, Aug 23rd, 2016
Trip Distance: 162.0

Journal Stats
Entry Visits: 675
Journal Visits: 24,076
Guestbook Views: 709
Guestbook Entrys: 52

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Morning at mica lake

Stehekin

Hello everyone!
This section did not disappoint on either count, it was the hardest but the most stunning. 108 miles of grueling elevation change with not a road in sight. These 108 miles are only seen from hiking or flying, no car views. What a privilege to know glacier peak is only for us willing to put in the sweat.
The week starts off hiking with Caboose and Lewis (as in Lewis and Clark). They are a 50ish semi retired couple who started section hiking all of Oregon last year and doing Washington this year. I have run into them off and on since early Washington and enjoy their positive attitude as well as their nightly hot toddy. Yes, they carry peppermint schnapps. They liked the story of the first night we camped together exclaiming "you were the ones who left a half empty bottle in the hiker box!" And Lewis expecting me to pull it out of my bag. I hike 15's the first few days to both get my feet adjusted to my new shoes and to keep camping with them. They don't show up at Mica Lake, a stunning glacial lake with amazing views at 5,400' and I'm sad to have lost them probably for the last time since they aren't stopping at Stehekin. They have had the privilege of a personal Sherpa, as they call their sister, who comes to each stop with a giant plastic tub full of everything they need for their journey. Since Stehekin is only accessible by a ferry across the 30 mile lake or hiking to it, their sister is instead stopping at Rainy pass.
The views are amazing and I settle into Mica lake as it starts raining. It was forecasted to rain both that night and the next day. I hate rain. It is miserable to hike through as everything gets damp and stopping to rest is just as miserable. I have been incredibly lucky to only have had 7 rainy days through this whole trip. I'm crossing my fingers and toes and am lucky yet again when the next day turns out sunny and clear. The sunrise over the mountains takes my breath away. Since there is no rain, might as well do a 20 day right? That 2000' decent, 2500' climb followed by another 3000' descent can't be that tough, right? I'm exhausted and go to sleep at 7pm barely waking up at my normal 6am. 3500' climb first off the next day. My butt is going to look great. I keep my elevation charts on the opening screen on my phone. They help keep me encouraged by seeing how far I've come and hey, only 7 miles left to climb! I also count switchbacks to track progress. 36 to get to the top? Great, start counting them off.
The 6th day the fire becomes apparent, luckily on a side trail. The signs are from Aug 3rd and it's still going with smoke filling the valley. You can both smell and see the haze over everything obscuring the mountains. So far I've not heard of one on the PCT but the smoke has me nervous. They say a ranger on horse will come through if a fire does cross a trail, but it is nerve wracking to not have any cell reception (no roads means no towers) and seeing so much smoke.
There are hiker bubbles. Lots of hikers followed by days of hardly any as I enter into a sparse time at the end of the section. It's a lot more comfortable to be on my own now. Am I just used to it or know it will soon end? I'm not sure. A bright and shinny new SoBo enthusiastically asks if I've love the trip. Wow, I wrestle with that question the whole next day. Loved? No. Learned, appreciated, valued? Hell Yes.
Two podcasts I have listened to have come to mind with that question. The first is Harry Potter as a Sacred Text podcast where they talk about goals and the often complicated reasons behind them. Casper talks about how he often doesn't know the true motivation behind a goal until he is well on his way. I started this as a chance to have an adventure, to hopefully clarify some of my ideas on life and as a way to escape life. I ended up wanting to push myself to experience something outside my comfort zone and to have the awesome bragging rights to say I did something cool. Are all these reasons good reasons? Not really, but does it matter if it gets you to push yourself? Another podcast was on Ted Radio about our limited mindset of abilities. We tend to think our abilities are limited and resist challenging ourselves due to fear of failure which reminds me of Brene Brown. I have failed with so many things on this trail, but at the same time succeeded with many as well. Facing the challenge of failure and not giving up completely is something I've needed to work on and this trip has pushed me to the extreme on that aspect. 2650 miles shrank to 1100, snow was never conquered, crying to my mom from loneliness was a regular occurrence, thinking of giving up happened almost every day, and I took tons of time away from the trail. On paper those are goals that were not accomplished. I choose however to look at how I persisted in doing what I could and felt safe doing.
I will say this section was one of the hardest for the mental challenges. Thru hiking is mostly just the mental power to get up every day regardless of how you feel or what the weather presents and strapping on that pack to hike. The inevitable lack of food spurs you on to get to the next stop. This section had the trifecta of being the longest at 7 days without stopping (carrying the most food weight), the toughest, and the second to last. It is this odd push pull of I'm so ready to be done but also not wanting to go back just yet. There is a whole day spent thinking about going back to the salon, one making lists of what I want mom to bring when she picks me up, and one wondering what this trip will mean to me later. Will this trip be a defining part of my life or just another life experience that is added to the others? How will I shape this in my telling to others? How will it change or not change my outlook?
When talking to Caboose about my thoughts before this trip I mentioned how I was nervous because I'm not a physical person. She looked at my quizzically saying she hoped I realized I'm now a very physical person and I got stunned. I had still been thinking since I'm not a hard core 25+ mile a day hiker I still wasn't physical. Anyone can do 15s. But really, 1000+ miles? I don't even realize what that is. Oregon seems like a different trip all together and Campo feels like a lifetime ago. I'm such a different person than the one crying in Julie's car leaving the trail the first time. Even from the girl terrified of crossing the last 10 mile snow field. All the hard decisions, crying, laughing, joy, peacefulness, and friendships that have brought me to within 90 miles of Canada and potentially 1100 miles of walking. There are many moments where I have felt on top of the world both figuratively and physically. Pure joy and peacefulness flooding through me. My wilderness goddess encompassing every cell. Content with both myself and my place in it. Those are the glimpses into what the mind can be, just being, free to just be content.
I think that's the greatest realization thus far. My inner dialogue becomes much less critical on the trail. My mind is quieter about my normal anxieties and usually just zones out for hours at a time. Thinking back to a book about the wonders of glass the author talks about how literature changed dramatically after the advent of mirrors. The focus on self became much more apparent and I muse as to whether the lack of mirrors and regular social interactions is really why my mind is more relaxed. A lack or reflection both literally and through other people. Sure, I get anxious and worry about my environment but the inner critic of my actions is usually quiet allowing me to simply pay attention to what my body needs and HYOH (hike your own hike). I realize my profession won't allow my life to lack mirrors, but maybe there is something to our intense study of ourselves.
So with my typical anxiety as well as all the mixed emotions of this trip coming to an end I head off on the last 90 miles, 5-6 days, to meet mom and dad in Manning Park Canada.
Best wishes from a land locked town in northern Washington.

Entry 26 of 27
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Cosmohiker

Travel is a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips never really end. -Pico Lyer

 

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