athletic hippies

Came across this article about jobless thru-hikers in the Wall Street Journal of all places. But, of course, they say “through-hikers” not “thru-hikers.”

My fave quote:

“Turns out those people tend to be athletic hippies, just looking to have fun forever.”

How right you are, Mr. De Sena!

We did it!

yipee

Day 161 & 162 Our last few days were rainy and blah. In a way it was good because it made us glad we were finishing. Plus we were lucky enough to have the rain stop just before we reached Monument 78 on the US-Canadian border on September 5th. As we approached the boarder all I could think of was that we still had another miserable 8 miles to do to make it back to civilization! But we ended up having a great time at the finish. Two Brits who hiked the AT last year and were hoping to hike the PCT in ’10 were there and as soon as we rounded the bend, snap, flash – we had a little paparazzi capturing our final steps of a journey that had taken us over 2,650 miles. It was so surreal that it was over.

How can we summarize the 5 months we’d been on the PCT?

It was one of the most

marvellous, miserable,

exhilarating, exhausting,

beautiful, boring,

difficult, delightful,

stressful, serene,

challenging, cheery,

bi-polar adventures of our lives.

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… And we’re thinking of hiking the Continental Divide Trail in 2010!

Coundown to Canada

team

Day 159 & 160 After loading up our bellies & packs with more bakery deliciousness, we headed off – Double Barrel & Frank the Tank, DnA (that’s us), and Wyatt. Reddy hadn’t gotten his passport in the mail so he’d stayed on in Stehekin. So sad! We chatted it up on the trail and the miles flew by… we always say that when it comes to friendships, 1 day on the trail is equivalent to 1 month off the trail. At break I ate my brownie from the bakery and it was simply gorgeous. I spent another hour licking every molecule off the wax paper bag it came in after I finished eating it.

We had a great evening chatting and telling jokes with DB & FtT and Wyatt (Solid Uncle Chester 5 dolla holla). Since it was a clear night we almost camped out under the stars but in the end we decided to set up our tent… And it’s a good thing we did because it POURED it down that evening! Unfortunately camp spots had been limited and we’d camped in a depression… in the morning we kept hoping the rain would clear, but in the meantime our tent was filling with water from below! At last, by around 9am we got on the road – it was still raining and almost all our gear was soaked. UGG! Thankfully it began to clear a bit at Rainy Pass and we managed to dry out our stuff. There we were sad to say goodbye to Frank & Double Barrel, who were headed into the Olympics before flying back to Rhode Island. They wanted to save the border crossing for when they would be finishing the whole PCT. A New England roadtrip reunion is in order!

rainbow

Silver Fox, Joker & Heather caught us up & we hiked a bit with them (but they are FAST!) The weather soon became miserable and frigid again, though we did see a spectacular rainbow.

Frog it

September 1st Day 158 – We arrived at the High Bridge Ranger Station and waited by the frothy aquamarine Stehekin river dotted with miniature frogs for the bus that would take us to into town. The night before we’d met up with Double Barrel & Frank the Tank again and before noon Silver Fox & Joker, thru-hikers we’d met briefly in Ashland, arrived. Heather, a Triple Crowner  who met Joker through the PCT community in Bellingham, Washington, had also joined them at Steven’s Pass. En route to Stehekin we stopped at a marvellous bakery where we consumed bountiful baked goodies. Ahh! We’d fantasized about this moment for weeks!

f0501651Stehekin is a remote village on the edge of Lake Chelan accessible only by foot, boat or plane.  We dealt with some blah blah logistics and then proceeded to lounge about on the grass with the others. I was hoping to go for a swim but it became cloudy and eventually even began to rain. Thankfully there was a little shelter complete with picnic tables & fireplace right beside the lake. Here we were joined by even more hikers and enjoyed a lovely evening of merriment.

One of the biggest things I’ll miss about the trail is the great variety of fun people and the instant community that develops amongst thru-hikers.  Where else can you meet a wealthy businessman, country farmer, Marine,  tech whiz, academic, personal trainer and biologist all in the same place?  However, at least for the PCT front runers, there’ve been very few women. So it was fantastic to FINALLY have my first chance to hike with another women (even if she’s called Frank 😉 )

* A Triple Crowner is someone who has hiked all 3 of the National Scenic Trails in the US: the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail

Glacier Peak

Day 155 – 157 Back to the trail! Rafiki left us since he needed to do big miles to make it to his job on time. But the good news is Wyatt, Dan’s friend from Georgetown Outdoor Ed who lives near Wenatchee, was joining us. We hiked through the Glacier Peak Wilderness as Wyatt caught us up on news from the outside world and his travels around Southern Africa. A 45 mile stretch of the PCT was closed ever since a huge storm in 2003 caused many trees to blow down, wiped out numerous bridges and even washed away parts of the trail. However we talked to many SoBos (southbounders) who said the trail was manageable so we decided to skip the detour.

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river crossingMost of the trail was in fairly good condition and they’d even put in some new bridges, but we did have about 100 blow downs to cross and some scary log/boulder crossings of gushing glacial rivers.  Poor Wyatt was forced to jump right into to hiking about 25 miles a day in tough terrain but he handled it well.

And the gorgeous sites, especially Glacier Peak, made the difficult trail conditions and crazy ups and downs completely worth it. Plus the good weather was holding up – quite rare in Washington!

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The Dinsmores

Jerry & Dan

Jerry & Dan

Day 153 – August 26 we arrived at Steven’s Pass where we hitched into Skykomish and met the lovely Dinsmores – the lone Trail Angels of Washington. We met Jerry Dinsomore at the Post Office and rode with them to shower & do laundry at their riverside home. Unfortunately, though, the Skykomish river is changing course so they have to move. But the good news is they’re building a whole Hiker Hostel down the road in Baring. Jerry has a round figure and a cigar permanently afixed to his mouth (except, of course, when we took his photo). He definitely fits the bill of the logging trucker he once was.  Angela Dinsmore is charming woman who insisted on hugging me even though I was filthy.  I even got to wear her grandmother’s fantastic purple dress.

At the Dinsmores we met some other hikers: Batman, who had a nasty infected spider bite, and Double Barrel & Frank the Tank (a girl), a couple from Rhode Island. DB & Frank had skipped up to Washington from NoCal and were a lot of fun so we were sad to hear they were getting back on the trail the day we arrived. Burning Daylight also arrived and told us Jean Micheal, the Frenchmen we’d hiked with in the Sierras, was getting off trail. We were surprised to hear it but apparently his knee had been bothering him and I think he just wasn’t enjoying himself. Crazy, though, to quit only 200 miles from Canada! We also met Big Foot, an older section hiker and saw Foxtrot again. We took a zero on Day 154 and enjoyed chilaxin’ and watching videos in the garage/hostel. But goodness was it HOT!

water & fire

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Day 151 – 153 Our greedy eyes devoured the scenery from our ridge-topped trail as we traveled through the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. And our stomachs devoured food we yogi-ed from city slicking backpackers. The term YOGI comes from the picnic basket-stealing Yogi bear and refers to whenever thru-hikers obtain free food, supplies, etc from others they meet along the trail. Yogi-ed food is the YUMMIEST because a) you didn’t have to carry it  b) it’s usually extra so you don’t have to ration it and c) it adds variety to what can become a tedious diet of dried everything d) it’s free!

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There was a little fire we had to go around but it wasn’t bad at all, just a few miles on another trail.  Afterwords we faced a hot ascent though a burnt area ablaze with the pink blossoms of fireweed. It was like experiencing some strange “circle of life” to be seeing dead trees ravaged by a previous fire, a fire currently smoldering and then the new growth of a flower that thrives in ashy soil all at once.

We also had a cool experience of seeing 2 young bucks together – and then again as we went up a switchback. Hiking with Rafiki was great because as a Wildlife Technician he knew so many interesting tidbits about the flora, fauna and animals we encountered along the trail. It was like having a guided tour through a living museum.  And then there was Reddy who’d explain complex computer capacities and play games on his cell phone at breaks. Get Reddy & Rafiki together and they bickered more than an old married couple… they even argued about things they both agreed on (but it a totally playful manner).  Good times.

sunny snoquolomie

Drying out our gear

Drying out our gear

Day 150  8/23/09 – We arrived at Snoquolomie Pass where we met up with other thru-hikers Burning Daylight, Jean Micheal, Slim, Berkley Bill & met Foxtrot for the first time. Foxtrot is insane. He’s been hiking practically full time since he graduated from high school over a decade ago. He works as a commercial fisherman in Alaska for 3 months max a year, then hikes the rest of the year. He’s done lots of hiking in remote areas of Alaska where he hires airplane pilots to drop his food. He’s seen around 50 grizzlies and even been charged by a few. The craziest thing is he’s a very soft spoken, unassuming guy – you’d never guess he’s so hard core.

Even though it hadn’t rained our gear was dripping wet from condensation,  so we dried it out in the parking lot and enjoyed munching on snacks from a bountiful hiker box.

Then DnA (that’s us) and Reddy & Rafiki headed back to the trail where we were inundated with day hikers.  After an informal suvey we determined that 97% of the day hikers were from Seattle and that out of that 97% another 85% worked for either Microsoft, Boeing or Starbucks.

Even though I don’t enjoy a crowded trail I could see why it was such a popular area. Just a hop, skip and a jump away from Seattle the Alpine Lakes Wilderness is magnificent!  Plus the crowds thinned out as we headed farther from civilization… and we enjoyed a cold but scenic camp between Gravel & Ridge lakes.

Ranier

IMGP4066Day 147 – 149 I had low expectations for the section from White Pass to Snoquolomie since it was notorious for clearcuts but most of the logged areas we passed had been re-planted so they didn’t seem so disruptive. Plus we had fantastic view of vanilla ice cream Mt Ranier floating in marshmallow clouds. Too bad we couldn’t eat ‘er, but we COULD eat round ripe huckleberries galore that were everywhere! I also got some super-painful blisters on my feet (why now? I hadn’t changed socks or shoes?) but Rafiki taught me how to pop them & let them drain by threading them with dental floss. So with flossed feet were happy again in no time.