Two Lakes to Sheep Lake

Two Lakes to Sheep Lake

Monday, August 18, 2014
Day 4: Two Lakes to Sheep Lake (2334.1)
Miles: 11.3
Miles to Go: 67.9

When we’re hiking, Bearclaw and I like to discuss our ideal bear sighting. We have this bucket list thing about wanting to spend a good fifteen minutes watching a wild bear doing important bear stuff out in nature.

We’ve seen a handful of bears on trails in the past, but somehow they never fall into our “ideal” sighting parameters. The thing with bears is that the excitement level rises exponentially the closer the bear is to you. Most of the bears we’ve seen have been so far away that they’re just a black fuzzy dot and watching them was about as exciting as staring at the period at the end of a sentence. On the opposite end of things are the really close encounters which are so exciting that you suddenly wish you’d packed a spare pair of shorts. The key to the perfect bear sighting in nature is being in the “Goldilocks” zone: not so far away you can’t make out the actual shape of the bear but not so close it is massaging your head with its teeth.

Up before the mosquitos, we ate breakfast, packed up and hiked back up the washed out joiner trail that connected Two Lakes to the PCT. The trail continued to climb up and over a tree-lined saddle and back into Mount Rainer National Park where it hugged the east side of a steep, huckleberry draped mountainside. In no rush, I alternated between snapping photos of a spectacular white-capped Mount Rainer glistening under a cloud-free sky and eating all the huckleberries within arm’s reach of the trail.

Popping around a slight bend, I looked ahead just long enough to see a massive black bear blocking the trail a hundred yards ahead, happily sucking the bushes ahead of us clean. I hadn’t expected to see a bear eating breakfast on the trail! Surprised and not even thinking, I involuntarily spun a 180 and ran smack into Bearclaw’s chest.

“Oh my God, there’s a huge bear on the trail.”

“Well don’t run,” Bearclaw said looking at my wide, surprised eyes and peering over my head to see if he could spot the bear himself.

I hadn’t planned on running, just walking very quickly in the opposite direction until my slow little brain had time to process what it had just seen and give the rest of me instructions to calm the *bleep* down. Turning back around, we snuck round the bend to see if the bear was still there. Not only was he still there, but at a good hundred yards away he was in the “Goldilocks” zone.

“Do you think he knows we are here?” I whispered.

“Hey bear!” Bearclaw said loudly, tapping his trekking poles together.

The bear looked over at us in a way that clearly said, “Can’t talk. Eating.”

“Yup. He knows we are here and from the looks of it, he doesn’t care.”

We finally got to knock and “ideal” bear sighting off our bucket list! It turns out, fifteen minutes is about as much bear watching as we could take before we got bored and kind of wanted to move on. The bear, however, was not done eating breakfast and no matter how much noise we made, refused to get off the trail.

We’d just resigned ourselves to the fact that we may be stuck in that exact spot for hours when a solo thru-hiker cruised up behind us.

“What’s up?” he asked.

“There is a bear on the trail.”

“What?! Cool.” He said, whipping out his camera and snapping a few photos.

“You thru-hiking? What’s your trail name?” We asked.

“Yeah. I’m Bambi.” He answered back. “How long have you guys been here?”

“Oh, a good twenty minutes.” We responded. “He’s not too into moving.”

Bambi looked at us, processing what we’d just said before saying the most thru-hiker thing ever.

“I don’t have time to stand here all morning. I need to make miles.”

I smiled inside, wondering how many times those exact words had come out of my own mouth during our thru-hike. If thru-hikers had a slogan that would totally be it!

Bounding off ahead of us, Bambi fearlessly charged down the path, waving his trekking poles and yelling at the bear. He was thru-hiker on a mission. Not even a hungry bear was going to stop him from getting to Canada.

Startled by a Bambi, the poor old bear raced off up the mountain as fast as scared little legs would carry him.

Following Bambi up the trail, we talked about all things thru-hiking. He had been hiking with his girlfriend until somewhere in Oregon when she’d had to get off the trail to return to school. Since then, he had been hiking solo. He seemed glad to have someone to talk to, even if it was only briefly as Bearclaw and I struggled to keep pace with him. At Anderson Lake, he broke off to have a mid-morning snack with another thru-hiker, and although Bearclaw and I were sad to see him go, we were happy to slow back down to a manageable speed.

Just passed Anderson Lake, we hiked back out of Mount Rainer National Park and followed the trail down into the wild flower-filled meadows that led to Dewey Lake. Only three miles from Chinook Pass, Dewey Lake was obviously a popular destination, and it wasn’t hard to see why, the cerulean blue waters tranquility lapped at grass-lined shores, shaded under a thick stand of pine trees. It was a quintessential alpine lake. And to top it all off, it was berry season.

Hurrying up the mountainside behind Dewey Lake and around the stunningly picturesque Naches Peak, we found ourselves in the parking lot at Chinook Pass, just in time for lunch.

When we’d hidden our resupply a few days earlier, there had been two cars in the damp, foggy parking lot. Now, it was like Disneyland! Hungrily, we raced up the trail, praying no one had discovered our secret cache. It was exactly as we’d left it.

We sat down alongside the trail and feasted on burritos and the two sodas I had hidden in the resupply as a surprise for Bearclaw.

Loading our full bear canisters into our packs, we made the long climb out of Chinook Pass to Sheep Lake.

Still early, we settled into another lazy afternoon of Walden and berry picking and watched the thru-hikers power up the hill next to our tent on the final leg of their long journey to Canada.

We tried to talk with them, but they didn’t have time to stand around talking to a bunch of section hikers all afternoon. They needed to make miles.

Buesch Lake to Two Lakes

Buesch Lake to Two Lakes

Sunday, August 17, 2014
Day 3: Buesch Lake to Two Lakes (2322.8)
Miles: 13.8
Miles to Go: 79.2

Oh, trail sleep! How I had missed trail sleep: no trains, no sirens, no cars, no heater kicking on, no cat purring, no streetlight shining in my window, no stresses keeping me up. Just complete exhaustion and pure, unadulterated silence. Nearly every night on the trail was the best sleep of my life. No wonder I always woke up with so much energy.

I may have had a ton of energy from the waist up but my sissy little weekend warrior legs had no intention of cooperating with the upper half of me. They were unaccustomed to twenty-five mile days now. Popping a handful of Vitamin I (Ibuprofen) with a cup of Choffee, I was secretly thankful we only had fourteen miles to go to get to Twin Lakes.

Our morning was mellow, as we passed by lake after lake, and trail junction after trail junction. The backpacking possibilities seemed endless, yet we didn’t see a single person for over five miles. At the Twin Sisters Lake trail junction, we finally stumbled across a group of three boys out for the weekend. They’d spent the night at one of the Twin Sisters in the Gifford Pinchot Nation Forest and were headed to Fryingpan Lake.

“Are you thru-hiking?” They asked.

As Bearclaw answered, I thought about Gifford Pinchot and his other namesake, Pinchot Pass in the Sierras. Dear God how’d I’d hated that pass and the never-ending climb to get over it. In fact, I do believe I’d hated it so much I’d wanted to build a time machine to go back and kick Gifford Pinchot in the crotch. At the time, I’d had no idea who Gifford Pinchot was. A Canadian born, Mexican raised, U.S. alien, my American history was admittedly sub-par.

As it turned out, we probably wouldn’t have nearly as much forest left if it weren’t for Mr. Pinchot. First Chief and Founder of the U.S. Forest Service, Gifford believed in the conservation of the nation’s forest resources through proper scientific management, planned use, and renewal. A good man, he was vehemently against clear-cutting and large-scale logging operations. Although he was a conservationist, his conservation efforts were utilitarian as he focused on the responsible harvest of the forest to ensure the future of the industry. My hero John Muir, on the other hand, believed in preservation for the sake of wilderness and scenery. I’d read that Muir and Pinchot didn’t much like each other.

It was thanks to the tireless efforts of great men like Muir, with their idealistic views of a land untouched by the hand of greed, that we had National Parks and wilderness areas today— places as untouched and pristine as they had been centuries earlier. We needed wild lands to remind us of our place on this planet, to keep us connected with it. On the other hand, we still needed to build shelters and make paper, and it was men like Gifford Pinchot that realized that these needs would likely always exists and that there would always be greedy hands eager to raze down every tree and every forest in their insatiable lust for more. It was his place to make sure that the forests would still be there for future generations to harvest. I pictured the two as an idealist and a realist, and the world needed both. Suddenly, I felt a little guilty for wanting to kick Pinchot in the crotch; not guilty enough to take back what I said, but guilty nonetheless.

A mile up the trail we crossed into the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, making our way through thick green meadows towards the Bumping River. The ford was less than knee deep, the water refreshingly cool as surged around my still sore calves.

On the far side of the river, a European thru-hiker sat in the sun, boiling water in a miniature teapot. She was friendly enough but seemed happy to sit alone in solitude, so we left her and hiked halfway up the next set of switchbacks before sitting down to our own quite lunch of Curried Couscous.

Thankfully the trail leveled out for a mile or so, giving us time to catch our breath before it began to climb again as it rounded Crag Lake high up the hillside. It took us over an hour to get to the top of the mile and a half long climb because two of my favorite things just happened to found along the trail— huckleberries and oxygen. Why is it so hard to get in shape and so easy to get out of it?

The Pacific Crest Trail flirted relentlessly with the western boundary of Mount Rainier National Park. From just past the Laughingwater trail junction to highway 410, it meandered in and out of the park like it owned the place. When we finally made it to the top of the climb, we found ourselves momentarily within the park boundaries, drinking in a spectacular view of a snowcapped Mount Rainier.

Two long miles later, we stumbled down the steep path to Two Lakes. Quickly setting up the tent, we climbed inside. It was only two o’clock.

“I wish I’d brought cards.” I lamented, watching the mosquitos stick their proboscises through the mesh of the tent in their ongoing attempt to suck me dry. Poor Bearclaw just wanted a nap. I’d been idle for ten whole minutes, and it was driving me mad. He handed me the pocket-sized version of Henry David Thoreau’s, “Walden: Or Life in the Woods,” and suggested I read it out loud.

“When I wrote the following pages,” I began, “or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the shores of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only.” Now here was a man I could relate to. Not only did he love nature and being alone in the woods, but he obviously loved commas as much as, or more, than I did. I sprinkled them liberally, like confetti, and then watched in dismay as editors removed them one by one. To me, it was like watching a baker pick sprinkles off my cupcake. I bet no one ever tried to remove Thoreau’s commas. I read on in awe, not only at the man’s accomplishments and wisdom but at the majestic length of his comma filled sentences. It was the equivalent of thru-hiking with words. And thus began my love affair with Thoreau, nearly alone, in the woods, miles from any people, in a tent we had set up ourselves, on the shores of Two Lakes, in the middle of nowhere, Washington.

Hidden Spring Jct to Buesch Lake

Hidden Spring Jct to Buesch Lake

Saturday, August 16, 2014
Day 2: Hidden Spring Trail Junction to Buesch Lake (2309.0)
Miles: 24.8
Miles to Go: 93

Dusty, Trenchstar and Bearclaw were all relieved I didn’t wake them up at the ass-crack of dawn so we could “be on the trail early.” When my eyes popped open at 5:30, I’d briefly considered deflating my air mattress as a joke, but somehow I think I’m the only one who would have considered it funny. It was almost 8 o’clock when I finally rolled over and unscrewed the valve on my NeoAir.

“Oh, there’s the alarm! She’s up!” Dusty joked from their tent.

Breakfast was a Mountain House Breakfast Skillet wrapped in tortillas with hot sauce.

“Ugh, Mountain House is so gross.” Dusty sighed. “That’s the only one worth eating.”

This didn’t bode well for us. Two-thirds of our meals were going to be Mountain House. I’d been lazy with our meal prep this trip because I’d been too busy with work to make my own. Costco had a whole box of Mountain House for fifty bucks. It was so easy. I’m only human! I caved in and bought it.

“It’s not gross!” Trenchstar assured us. “Dusty just got tired of it on the trail because we ate it at every meal for like a month. It does make your poo look like soft-serve ice cream though.” Wow! Now there was something to look forward too!

We hadn’t even been on the trail for an hour when we stopped on a saddle overlooking Shoe Lake for a snack. From high above, it looked more like a giant letter “U” than a shoe. Where the land jutted into the lake, we could see a few beautiful campsites nestled in the tall pines. We should have walked the extra couple of miles last night: it looked pretty sweet down there.

The trail past Shoe Lake was almost all downhill right into White Pass. We picked up speed crossing under the lifts of the White Pass Ski Area and didn’t stop until we popped out at the trailhead parking lot in White Pass. Next to the trail was a table full of people, sitting beside a BBQ. Trail magic!

“You guys thru-hiking? Want a hamburger?” The gentleman closest to the grill hollered over to us.

There are no words to express how badly I wanted to answer that first question with a “yes.” But I wasn’t a thru-hiker. And I really didn’t need a hamburger. I looked over at Bearclaw; it was obvious he was having the same dilemma.

“No. We’re just section hiking.” He sighed before quickly adding, “We thru-hiked last year but got shut out in Packwood by that big winter storm that hit mid-September. We’re just trying to finish up some of what we missed.”

“Oh, yeah. That was a hell of a storm. You guys want a burger?”

Bearclaw looked at Trenchstar. Trenchstar looked at Dusty. Dusty looked at me. I looked at Bearclaw. We all wanted a hamburger, but those hamburgers were meant for starving thru-hikers and hungry section hikers, who’d been hiking more than twenty-four hours. We weren’t even hungry. In fact, the only reason I wanted a burger was to feel like I was part of the club again. And that’s when I realized how much our thru-hike had really meant to me. I’d never been prouder of myself for anything, ever and I desperately wanted that feeling back.

“Nah, we haven’t even hiked twenty miles yet,” Bearclaw finally responded. “Save them for someone that really deserves them.”

I could tell it pained him to say that, as much as it pained me to hear it.

Dusty and Trenchstar needed to head back to Olympia to work in the morning, so they’d left a car at the trailhead. Before taking off, they gave us a quick ride to the gas station to pick up a few snacks and a cold bottle of Gatorade. The store was crawling with thru-hikers.

“You thru-hiking?” A spunky girl in her early twenties asked as I exited the bathroom.

Feeling a little cranky I kinda wanted to be like, “I think it’s pretty obvious from my muffin top that I’m not.” But she was just trying to be nice, so instead I responded with, “We actually hiked in 2013! How’s your hike going?”

She informed me their hike was going really well, though they were trying to slow down and stretch it out as long as possible. I warned her not to stretch it out too long because September in Washington could be a huge bitch. She nodded in agreement but admitted that none of them wanted the trail to end. They weren’t ready for it to be over.

“No one ever wants the trail to end. No one is ever ready for it to be over.”

“Are the hiker blues really as bad as people say they are?” She asked.

“You have no idea,” I answered truthfully.

“Yeah, I was afraid of that. What are you trail names by the way?” She asked.

“I’m Hummingbird, and my husband is Bearclaw.”

“I’ve seen your names in registers all the way up the trail!” She said excitedly. I don’t think she had any idea but that totally made my day.

The trail out of White Pass wound its way around the backside of Leech Lake and into the Snoqualmie National Forest. The trail was wide with little to no elevation gain, as it wandered deep into the forest past a handful shallow lakes and ponds. We had every intention of camping at Sand Lake but when we arrived neither of us felt much like stopping. We were in hiker mode.

Arriving at Buesch Lake in the early evening, we set up camp in a flat site between the trail and the lake. As our Mountain House dinner rehydrated, I looked at our map.

“We hiked almost twenty-five miles today,” I said.

“What? Are you sure?” Bearclaw looked as confused I was.

I recalculated the numbers.


“How the hell did that happen?”

“I have no idea. But I bet we sleep like the dead tonight.” I smiled.

Snowgrass to Hidden Springs Jct.

Snowgrass to Hidden Springs Jct.

Friday, August 15, 2014
Day 1: Snowgrass Trailhead to Hidden Spring Trail Junction (2284.2)
Miles: 17
Miles to Go: 117.8

“Woah… How did you escape the sixties intact?”

We were raiding the grocery store for a quick and easy breakfast we could eat on our way to the trailhead when Trenchstar caught the attention of an old hippie. Dusty, Bearclaw and I stifled a giggle as Trench tried to explain to his new friend that he had unfortunately missed the sixties by at least a decade.

The hippie didn’t believe him for one second. He went on about LSD and 60’s music as if Trenchstar had time warped out of 1968 earlier in the morning and landed right smack dab in the middle of the grocery store. Looking at Trenchstar, an amused smile on my face, I could totally see the confusion. With his chest-length, curly black hair and his thick mustache, he had the timeless look of a philosopher-poet. Slap some bell-bottoms, a paisley printed dress shirt and a tasseled leather jacket on him, add a guitar and a flower garland for good measure, and you’d have yourself a bona fide hippie. We laughed about this all the way to the trailhead.

Snowgrass Trail #96 was a lot steeper than I remembered it being, or maybe I was just super out-of-shape. Either way, I was happy for the bumper-crop of blueberries that lined the trail because it gave me an excuse to stop every hundred and fifty feet to catch my breath. I mean, pick blueberries. Yeah, that! Fistful after blue fistful, we made our way up the mountainside.

Eventually, the trail led out of the forest and into brilliant green meadows brimming with wildflowers— orange Indian paintbrushes blended flawlessly with purple alpine lupine and white yarrow. All this was punctuated by puffy, ivory colored flowers that looked like truffula trees from Dr. Suess’ The Lorax.
None of it looked familiar, and it wasn’t until we stumbled upon a familiar sign, that I realized why. The last time we’d been here the entire meadow was buried under half a foot of snow. This was the meadow that enveloped the PCT at the Snowgrass Junction!

“I’M ON THE PCT!” I yelled in an ode to the Aussie we’d met back on our first day out of Campo. And then, in true hiker fashion, we plopped down under the sign for a snack.

“You think those guys are thru-hikers?” Bearclaw asked watching two northbound hikers headed up the trail towards us.

There was no doubt about it. Their smooth, long gait and perfect foot placement reeked of a oneness with the trail that only comes from hiking long distances. Not to mention the fact that they were hauling-ass. We were only twenty miles from White Pass. Today was definitely a town day for them; pizza was calling.

Within minutes, they’d spanned the gap between the edge of the meadow and us. They didn’t speak much English, just enough to let us know that they were German thru-hikers. They were so lean and fit; they probably could have snapped the head off a grizzly bear with their thighs. I wondered with a twinge of jealousy and sadness if that was how we’d looked by the time we’d arrived in Washington.

They gratefully accepted an apple and a handful of gummy worms, which they devoured in two bites and then, in the blink of an eye, they were gone, up and over Old Snowy.

Excited to finally be home, we packed up and eagerly set off up the trail behind them. I was 97% sure Old Snowy hated me. The higher up the mountain we climbed, the worse the weather became. It wasn’t a blinding snowstorm, as it had been the previous fall, but it was nearly as cold, and by the time we reached the Junction of the Packwood Glacier pack animal trail and the Official PCT, the clouds were kissing the hard packed snow.

Last summer, after they had gotten off the trail in Independence, Trenchstar had sectioned hiked from the Bridge of the God’s on the Washington/ Oregon border to Snoqualmie. Standing at the junction marker, he warned us that the last time he’d been there he’d gone up and over on the official trail and it was scary as hell. This year there was more snow. He also knew I would absolutely hate it, since my fear of heights rivals my fear of butterflies. He thought it would be in our best interest to try the pack route over the glacier.

The glacier hung steeply on the side of Old Snowy, though it was impossible to see more than thirty feet in any direction with all the cloud and fog. I wasn’t sure what was worse: being able to see the crazy steep drop-off that undoubtedly lay to my left, or letting my imagination decided what was behind the solid grey wall of fog. Trenchstar, Dusty, and Bearclaw led the way, with Bearclaw stopping to kick bigger steps into the slick ice and snow for me as he went. Stopping behind him at one particularly treacherous spot, the clouds parted for a brief moment, and I could see all the way down to the bottom of the glacier and over the cliff below it. Oh. My. God. Even my vivid imagination hadn’t been able to conjure up something that scary. My heart stopped beating for a good thirty seconds. My head began to spin. My knees began to shake. Maybe Old Snowy didn’t hate me after all; maybe it was saving me from being scared to death.

“Ahh! Cover it back up! I don’t want to see anymore!” I closed my eyes and pleaded. Opening my eyes, the thick grey clouds had answered me, and I was back to thirty feet of visibility. Ignorance truly is bliss.

No one had really mentioned the glacier would be scary. They always skipped that and went right on to describe the Knife’s Edge, the razor-sharp ridge-walk that followed immediately after you made it over Old Snowy alive. I wasn’t sure I could handle anything scarier than the glacier. Since we’d gotten off the trail, I’d sort of continued eating a hikertrash diet. My arteries were too constricted for scarier. I would almost certainly have a heart attack. Damn it! I’d always assumed if one of my fears were going to kill me, it would be death by moths.

Going over the glacier I had all the time in the world to turn the Knife’s Edge into the most foreboding and terrifying trail in the Universe. When we finally arrived, I was pleasantly surprised. The trail itself was wide and smooth in comparison to where we had just come from, and the views were cleverly hidden behind a curtain of mist. They parted only once— to reveal a mountain goat happily devouring grass alongside a scree field.

A few miles up the trail, the clouds began to break, and by the time we reached Elk Pass, there wasn’t a cloud in sight. Behind us, Old Snowy stood tall and defiant. Ahead, Mount Rainer sparkled under a flawless blue sky. The trail hadn’t lost any of its magic.

We’d been aiming for Shoe Lake, but the hike up Snowgrass and across Old Snowy had kicked our asses. By late afternoon, we decided on taking the first campsite available. Lutz Lake was full with a camp of exhausted thru-hikers lying on the ground outside of their tents. Tieton Pass was too small. Wearily, we continued on until we found a site big enough for two tents near the junction to Hidden Spring.

“Hot sauce is good with you guys, right?” Bearclaw asked as he unscrewed the lid from a fresh bottle of Frank’s. Getting the go-ahead from Dusty and Trench, he doused the pot of Smoky Mountain Paella in a healthy amount of hot sauce. Trenchstar laughed.

“I’d almost forgotten how much hot sauce you guys dump on everything! Whenever you guys borrowed our hot sauce on the trail, you’d use like half the bottle. It was kind of a point of contention.”

“Really?!” Bearclaw asked shocked, “Why didn’t you ever say anything?”

Trenchstar shrugged. “I guess we just liked hiking with you guys more than we liked the hot sauce.”


Smokey Mountain Paella

2 ½ cups water
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 package of dried Spanish rice mix (5.6 oz.)
½ cup sundried tomatoes, diced
1 can smoked oysters, with juice (3.75 oz.)
1 foil pouch shrimp, with juice
1 foil pouch diced chicken
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. dried garlic
1 tsp. oregano

Instructions: I like to mix the diced sun-dried tomatoes, red pepper flakes, black pepper, dried garlic, and oregano together with the rice in a Ziploc bag before we head out on the trail, to help reduce weight and trail prep time.

At camp: Add rice, spices and olive oil to water and boil until rice is tender. (You can reduce cooking time by pre-soaking the rice for an hour or two.) When rice reaches desired doneness, add oysters (including juice), shrimp (including juice) and chicken. Douse in a healthy amount of a friend’s hot sauce and eat while hot.

Back In Packwood!

Back In Packwood!

There is nothing worse than sitting at a desk just watching the digital numbers in the right-hand corner of the computer screen ever so slowly creep towards quitting time. Wednesday was pure torture. In fact, I’m almost positive the earth decided to rotate a fraction slower than normal, just to make the day drag out.

We left the house thirty-five seconds after 5 p.m. and didn’t stop until nearly dark, when we found a small campsite wedged between the East Fork of the Hood River and Highway 35, deep in the shadow of Mount Hood.
I wasn’t sure I’d be able to sleep— we were finally headed home; home to the PCT.

Thursday, August 14, 2014
Day 0: Getting There
Miles: 0
Miles to Go: 134.8

As it turned out, I wasn’t able to sleep but not because I was too excited. Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, I was jolted awake by a nightmare. Two aliens with long, knobby fingers covered with a paper thin layer of skin so thin I could practically see the blood coursing through their veins, had been pulling me out of the tent. Terrified, I’d grabbed both sides of the open door, trying desperately not to let them drag me into the cold, night. We were so close to being back on the trail, and I had no intention of letting anything stop us from getting there, least of all an alien abduction.

Eyes wide open and in full on panic mode, I took stock of my situation and was relieved to discover that I was still in my sleeping bag and not dangling out the tent door. It had seemed so real— the tent, the surroundings, everything had been exactly the same in my dream as it was in reality. The only thing missing when I looked around was the aliens. This suited me just fine. Had I opened my eyes and the aliens still been there I probably would’ve wet myself.

Speaking of wetting myself, I desperately needed to pee, but there was no way I was getting out of the tent and waltzing into an alien-infested forest to do so. Instead, I lie awake until dawn, thinking about how badly my bladder ached and wondering whether or not I remembered how to be a hiker. Could we hike fifteen mile days without dying? What if I forgot how to use our alcohol-fuel stove? Had I packed enough food and fuel? Or worse, what if it wasn’t the same? What if I’d spent all winter romanticizing the trail, turning it into something more than it was, only to set myself up for a week of complete disappointment? What if the trail life I dreamed of no longer existed? What if the magic was permanently gone? These thoughts scared me more than aliens ever could.

Back on the road, we ate a quick breakfast and made our way across the Columbia. Washington’s grey sky hungrily gobbled up the few patches of blue we’d seen from Oregon. I angrily shook my fist and silently threatened the moisture-laden wall of grey hanging overhead, “Don’t even think about raining on my parade.” One day, I will be the crazy old lady that yells at clouds and has full on conversations with trees.

“Are you ready to go?” My mom had asked me a few weeks earlier as I excitedly babbled on about getting back on the trail. “Where are you resupplying?”

“Honestly, I hadn’t really thought about it. It’s only a hundred and thirty-five miles.” I’d answered. I wasn’t trying to be cocky; the PCT had totally ruined my sense of distance. Before the trail, if someone had told me they were hiking a hundred miles, I’d have been like, “Holy shit! Are you daft?” Now, it was only a hundred miles. Two months after we’d gotten off of the trail in Packwood, I’d walked twelve miles round trip to the post office just to pick up the keys for our box. The postmaster thought I was insane. It hadn’t even crossed my mind I should drive.

“So, what? You’re going to carry nine days of food with you? I thought six was about the max you could squeeze into your food bags.” She questioned.

“Huh, I hadn’t really thought about that…”

She made a valid point. Thru-hiking, we would have done this stretch in five days. We would have had a four-day resupply in White’s Pass, where we would have made jokes about how awesome it was to have such a light resupply. Now, however, we weren’t in thru-hiker shape. Knowing this, we’d scheduled nearly nine full days to hike this hundred and thirty-four mile stretch of trail. This presented a bit of a challenge because there really wasn’t anywhere to mail a resupply.

The solution I’d worked out was for us to hide a resupply for ourselves at the rest stop near Chinook Pass on Highway 410. It was only a third of the way into our hike, but that was the best I could do.

We reached Chinook Pass early in the afternoon and waited for the few cars that were stopped near the restrooms to leave before we meandered nonchalantly up the foggy trail carrying two bear canisters crammed full of six days’ worth of food and fuel. Finding a downed log fifty feet up a nearby embankment, we wedged the canisters underneath and camouflaged them with bark and twigs.

“What if they aren’t here when we come back?” I worried, watching Bearclaw build a small rock cairn on the side of the trail so we would know where to turn.

“Well, that would suck.” He responded.

The whole detour to resupply ourselves took a lot longer than we’d thought it would and by the time we arrived at Dusty and Trenchstar’s place in Olympia, it was early evening. Tossing a few odds and ends in their packs the four of us were out the door and speeding towards Packwood.

We had planned to hike the five miles up the Snowgrass trail and spend the night at the PCT Junction where we’d made the fateful call to abandon ship during the storm but by the time we arrived in town it was nearly dark, and a light drizzle had begun to fall. Besides being a few degrees warmer, Packwood was pretty much exactly as we’d left it. Only this time, we weren’t racing winter to the border. There was no rigid schedule. No deadline.

With no need to hike off into the dreary darkness, we secured the last room at a hiker-friendly inn.
“I remember you.” The owner smiled. “You were with the guy from South Africa. What was his name?”


“That’s right.” She smiled. “Bearcat.”

Flinging open the door of our tiny room, the four of us looked at each other.

“Who gets the bed?”

“We got the bed last time,” Bearclaw responded without skipping a beat. “It’s yours.”

It was hard to believe it had been over a year since we’d shared a room with Dusty and Trenchstar, it felt like yesterday.

Blowing up my air mattress I made a nest in closet, my feet jutting out under the bed. Bearclaw crammed himself into the narrow space between the bed and the wall. Dusty and Trenchstar huddled up on the bed, trying to figure out how to get comfortable without one of them falling off. I smiled. It was just like old times. As I closed my eyes, it really felt as if no time had passed, like we’d never left the trail. Maybe the snowstorm had all just been a bad dream…

And, if we hadn’t all smelled so Downey fresh and clean, I probably could have believed it.