Cooling Off

Start: Ollalie Lake (2253)
Camp: Rock Pile Lake (2202)

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Cold came last night. It’s still clear, dry, just much cooler. Thankful, for my 15° sleeping bag, last night, others wearing jackets, something I’m too light to carry.
Early start, beautiful, ready to make miles with Eminem, climbing toward Jefferson. It takes a couple miles for the chill to dissipate.

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Mt. Jefferson and a fire detour sign

Today is the most beautiful day of my trip. I have seen it in the colors of the trees and the rocks, and in the way the forest grows. I hear it in the music I listen to and I feel it in the immense presence of the people I meet.
Here, swimming in Sheep Lake at the base of Mt Jefferson is the most  beautiful moment. So beautiful, in fact, that I forget to take a picture.
I’m not sure what I’m eating, but it’s delicious. Some kind of tortellini with white sauce and maybe dried ham? To which I added a cheese stick and a package of tuna in oil.
The burned and dry areas today were astoundingly beautiful.
Big day. Sleeping out in the open even though I know I’ll wake up with condensation all over my bag, which wouldn’t happen if I camped under trees. But I want a view of the sunrise. It’s nearly 10:00 p.m. when I finally stop, hiking with moon twilight, but today’s big push has culled a day from the three it should have taken me to complete this segment. I’ll be at Big Lake for dinner tomorrow, get my phone charged, and head out a whole day early.

My First Road Walk

Start: Timothy Lake
Camp: Ollalie Lake
There is a 24 mile detour today because of the Warm Springs Fire. A huge thank you to Ollalie Lake Resort for caching water along this detour for us.
My alarm went off at 5:00. Rap music. I added granola to some strange mixture of dehydrated milk, grains and chia seeds that I’d begun soaking the night before. I think it was supposed to be like a milk shake. sugary, slimy crunchy. I made a detour into the campground to find a trash can. 2 lbs of food off my back. I had planned to hit FS 42 from here, the prescribed detour for the fire closure, and just get the 24 mile road walk out of the way, if I had not talked to Bambi yesterday afternoon. Talking to people helps me a lot of the time, but it also gets me side tracked. Bambi had told me that Sadie had breached the closure boundary and hiked the closed trail segment. I had to see what Sadie saw when she reached the boundary. I crosse topped off my water and left the road easterly. Was there even ribbon across the trail? I made a 3 mile triangle just to check. If no one was talking the time to come out and close the trail, then no one would be nearby to patrol the closure either, I reasoned. If this was the case, if nothing denoted a closed area, I would act like if never seen the annotated map in my right hipbelt pocket wherein another a northbound hiker had labeled the three water caches that were temporarily in place to breakup what would otherwise be what we call “a 24 mile carry.”
There was pink ribbon and red plastic signs. I pulled at my pack straps as I slowly twirled, looking for my courage. “Trouble” was the word that I found in its place. That segment crosses at least four roads and has only two water sources. On top of that I’m loaded down with four days of food, even after the days worth I had dumped. I wasn’t sneaking around anybody unless they were oblivious.

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A worthwhile detour: blackberries on FS 42, thimble berries on 4220.

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Super important note for users of Guthook's app: many of the roads shown on the cached map have been closed and rehabilitated, i.e. covered in lumpy grass, so they are not easily passable. The Warm Springs detour IS NOT the road shown on the cached map, it is further west age outside of the cached area

Berry Pickin’

Start: Eagle Creek (2141)
Camp: Paradise Park (2114)

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Preparing my over-strained arch for the notorious climb up the Indian Creek Trail

I skipped breakfast and just snacked on Oregon Grape berries I’d noticed last night. At Indian Spring I made breakfast and filled up my new Evernew bladder for the dry stretch ahead.

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Finally climbed out of the Eagle Creek drainage and got a look back at the Columbia Gorge

It’s somewhat alarming how loud high tension power lines can be up close, especially the old rusty ones. Around lunch I came in contouring just feet away from three hefty cables suspended high above the ground on overbuilt antique trusses. The bases were made from actual I-beams. My elevated position on the hill above the pass where they crossed the ridge left me descending just a few feet from crackling and popping cables.

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Berry Pickin': I found a variety of wild berries along the trail, including Salmon berries (orange,) huckleberries and wild blueberries.

When I found water I laid out my tarp in the trail and kicked off my shoes while I made lunch. This location was key and I had been scouting for it for some time. It was relatively flat and it didn’t have mosquitoes. Like yesterday I had begun soaking done quinoa in the morning, and now I added it to boiling water. I overcooked it to see if my system might be able to process it more thoroughly that way, then I reserved half for dinner and added a Rice Side and more water. I brought it back to a boil, shut it off, and turned back to my Frito’s.
I felt my elbow bump it, and I heard the slow, sludgey spill of thin Parmesan noodles and quinoa sliding into the grass. I didn’t rush to salvage my lunch. I didn’t even turn around right away. “Not with burning myself over,” I thought. I finished yesterday’s journal entry before eating the few bites of flavorless food that remained at the bottom of the pot. The seasoning never makes it all the way to the bottom when you fill the pot that full. Half a mile up the trail I came upon ‘Trail Magic’, i.e. food left by a ‘Trail Angel’, which in this case consisted of donuts and cold soda let by Luna and Werewolf. Together with Sup Dog they were 2013 NOBO’s.
I checked out Ramona Falls and took a dip while it was still hot enough, and when I looked back the way I’d come I saw the sun glowing orange. I descended through smokey campsites, frowning as I bolted for the Sandy River. If you know me you know smoke and fire (and evidently stoves too) are not my thing. I met Daniel along the way and he warned me about the ford. His bloody shins would make a lot more sense in a few minutes. They were gashed and still bright red, particularly the left one.
I followed the trail right to the Rivers’ edge. Cairns marked either side of a wide and potentially shallow spot that might make a decent place to ford. At once I realized that this was where Daniel had gotten pushed and then knocked down and dragged over the sharp volcanic rock. “It’s a lot more powerful than it looks,” he warned me. Right, I could see it now. The Sandy is a muddy torrent that flows steeply down from Mt. Hood over basalt boulders through a canyon cut into light tan volcanic tuff. The trail drops down into the canyon, crosses the river, and climbs back out the other side.
I learned how sharp basalt is from Toni when I was 16. We were playing on a glob of it just offshore from one of Hawaii’s more famous beaches, Kaihena, on the northern side of the eastern tip of Hawaii’s Big Island. This is the straight between the Big Island and Maui, a channel of swift moving open ocean fraught with rip currents and great whites. I once saw a man die here and in the time it took for the helicopter to come out from Hilo he had been carried several miles down the coast.
Along with my other sister, Toni was trying to perform a dangerous stunt that requires dexterity, unshakable confidence, and an uncommon ability to read the ocean. It was only the last one that Toni lacked.
From atop the blob I watched Toni commit to a wave. Try to imagine for a moment body surfing. You watch the wave coming toward you, you watch it start to well up, you start to paddle, it begins to curl and if you’ve gotten yourself up to sufficient speed you stiffen your body and you begin to slide down the front of it, skimming across the water like a human surfboard. The stunt in question requires this much. But now imagine you’re here not just to ride the wave, but to ride it up onto a giant, jagged, sharp-as-glass blob of rock. This literally death-defying trick is something we’ve watched the true locals do every Sunday since we got here a free months before. I didn’t reach down to grab Toni when her wave didn’t carry her high enough. She just splatted against the shear front face of the rock, and for a moment she stuck there. She was clinging. And as she slid, the giant open vesicles in the now hardened lava sliced into her highpoints, the rails she slid upon: her hipbones, her knees, her elbows. Mom was high but she was still pissed.
I walked down the floodplain a bit, then turned and headed up to my crossing. I crossed without incident on two thin trees wedged just above the water line. I was able to keep my feet dry. Times like this one are part of the way I stay safe and make my hike less work: by talking to other hikers, and visualizing the things they are telling me. I knew this crossing was upstream when I headed down the floodplain because a northbound hiker had told me about it a couple hours before. I just needed to understand the crossing’s context to trust that it was the best place for me to cross.
A gorgeous gray and pink sunset shown down the canyon but everything went dark when I hiked back into the trees. I climbed for an hour in the dark on a trail good enough to allow it, then camped on an exposed ridge. I hiked 27 miles and 15 hours and I am still 7.0 undulating miles from Timberline Lodge and an all you can eat breakfast that ends eleven hours from right now, at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow.

Harmony

Start: Eagle Creek CG
Camp: Eagle Creek
Existing in perfect harmony with the universe or being blissfully unaware that you’re not can feel about the same, but it’s easy to tell the difference if you take the time to stop and think about it. I didn’t feel like stopping, so today the universe sent me on a little detour to put me back in sync.
I camped at the mouth of Eagle Creek in the ruckus Eagle Creek Campground. The caretaker, Polly, saw me sitting at a table writing and invited me to stay for free. She even offered me shower in the super secret hidden shower that’s sandwiched in between the men’s and women’s restrooms in the utility closet, which I accepted just so that I could experience of sliding into my freshly fluffed sleeping bag without sticking to the thin nylon interior. It was heavenly and I dosed off without finishing my blog entry about the two days I’d just spent in Portland.
In the morning I realized that if I wrote postcard instead of blogging I could probably leave the 8 oz in postcards that I was carrying with Polly instead of carrying them another 48 miles to Timberline Lodge, or further if I didn’t happen upon a nice place to write. Here I had a table in the shade, and there didn’t seem to be any flies or mosquitoes. That, I can tell you, is a rare combination.
Polly obligingly took the postcards off my hands, but now, two days later, I still haven’t gotten back to Portland. I’m thoughtful and neat with my postcards, and there were five of them, so I didn’t get started up the Eagle Creek trail until late morning. In fact, I sat at the trailhead taking advantage of my last bar of cell service by ordering from Amazon while day hikers chattily strode past. When I finally headed up the trail I was reminded how slow day hikers are as I passed everyone I had seen, even though they’re had a headstart equivalent to the time it took me to order trekking poles, a #10 can of freeze dried beef, a backup Sawyer Mini and a 2.0l Evernew bag, and 3.5 lbs of Nido. All the essentials, though it took me nearly 600 miles without them to learn that.
We all convened at Punchbowl Falls. What a spectacular canyon. Naturally, I wished I had 200′ of rope and a wetsuit to do the canyon properly as a canyoneer: from top to bottom in the watercourse. I flipped off the lower falls and swam into the punchbowl to see the upper, but I passed on an invitation to experience the waterslide that dumps you off the 30′ upper falls. I didn’t want to get my feet wet. I also didn’t want to fill my uber-sensitive sinuses with the unequivocally dirty water; Eagle Creek sees a lot of day abs overnight use, and there are no restrooms, not even a pit toilet. I also passed on rope-swinging off the cliff or jumping the tallest 50′ jump there, telling myself I’d come back expressly to shoot cliff jumping video. Besides, I had miles to hike yet today.
The universe didn’t expect that. By all accounts I should have stayed – I had a gorgeous and excessively hot day at one of the best cliff jumping spots I’ve seen and I even had a couple of locals my age to show me the proper way to break the cliff jumping ordinance. There were even a couple of cute girls lolling about. I began the 13 mile climb up the canyon in the heat of the day.
Tunnel Falls is spectacular, I’ve never seen anything like it.
The scenery was spectacular and the frequent exposure (to falling off a cliff) kept my adrenaline pumping. I made excellent time as I jaunted up the canyon, passing campsites and side trails along the way. Around 5:00 p.m. I finally came upon Chris and his nephew Adam who had stopped to make dinner. “Hi!” I said with an over friendly smile. I continued before they could respond: “Do you know where we are?” Chris had the map in his lap.
“Yes, we’re right here.” Chris is from Hood River, a gentle older fellow with the similitude of a through hiker, though I would learn that his gear was all borrowed and he was only out for three days.
“Is the PCT on there?” With his map upside down for me and three feet away I couldn’t recognize the section of the PCT that the green line on his map represented.
“Well yea, but it’s back the way you came.” I sighed in resignation. Chris looked up at me, matter of factly through his thin wire spectacles.
“How far?”
He answered, but I didn’t listen. I had spun around and was already busy venting my frustration with expletives, because I hadn’t passed a junction in over two hours.
“Son of a b*tch!” I said loudly with emphasis on the final word.
“Do you have a map?” Chris ignored my childishness and continued.
“No.” Which was a silly answer because of course I had a map, I was familiar from looking at it that morning and it was four inches from my right hand, folded into ninths in my right hipbelt pocket like it always was. What I meant is I didn’t feel like getting it out.
“Well yea.”
“It doesn’t show this trail very well.” We were on the Eagle-Tanner Trail that loops around and eventually goes back down to the Columbia gorge. “Is there any water here?”
I sat down and started making lunch while I tried to figure what had compelled me to hike so far on a trail that I knew was going the wrong direction. I brought a pot of water to a boil and added the red quinoa that I had started soaking that morning and had been carefully transporting in two ziplock bags. I was much more interested in the ‘new’ food I was snacking on, Frito’s, while I resisted opening the Milano’s.
Chris and Adam were using a JetBoil for the first time.
“Once the quinoa is cooked,” I explained to Chris, “I add another cup of water, return it to a boil, then add the Knorr Side for flavoring, and turn it off. It’s ready in about 10 minutes.” I added one of my lesser favorites, Mexican Rice, abhorring the overfull feeling I knew was coming. I had made twice as much food as I could eat, and four times what I wanted after snacking. Why did I pack so much food? I had even returned a box of crackers.
I had set out from Portland in new shoes, with ear buds and a memory card from Fred Meyer loaded with music I’d downloaded while I lounged on my friends’ couch in Portland. I had yummy new food. I had eaten ice cream three days in a row and slept as late as I wanted to for two of them. I was rested and feeling strong. To top it all off I was only going 48 miles before my next resupply, so I was traveling much lighter than my muscles were used to. And I had been cliff jumping! I was excited and I was practically skipping up the trail, although my pack wasn’t quite light enough for that, yet… That’s why I had ignored the feeling of being in the wrong place.
“Shit!” I yelled. Boiling water was draining through the airy white mesh on top of my shoe and burning the tops of my toes.
I had been struggling with getting the pot cozy back on with my tinfoil windscreen safely tucked beneath it when I toppled the whole pot and stove into the brush. Filled to the brim, it landed with a dull thud and I swooped beneath it and righted it, flinging its bubbling contents onto my arms and feet. I looked down at my white shoes.
Just like the marshmallow burn, it had taken me a second to realize what was happening. I flung my right shoe off but the damage was done. I had searing blisters across the tops of three toes.
I scooped what I could back into my pot and repacked. Chris said an apologetic goodbye and that they’d see me up ahead. They’d been repacking since I got there; they wouldn’t be able to catch up to me.
I ate as I retraced the boring switchbacks I’d just climbed. Along the way I found a small ziplock with four silicone ear bud sleeves and a memory card containing all of my trips pictures. Now I knew how patently oblivious I really was to what was happening around me. I felt like such an idiot. I wished I could have spent the time and energy of getting lost cliff jumping instead. I found the right trail, climbed a couple of miles, rinsed away the quinoa and frustrations in a cool stream, but not the burns, and laid out beneath the tall pines. The irony was that had I direct the day cliff jumping off have ended up camping in this same spot. I feel like life is like that – like there are multiple paths you can take but there are certain stops like this campsite that are, perhaps, predestined, and, no matter how severely you depart from your nature, you will airways be back on your path after one of these stops. I stretched and feel asleep, frustrated that I’d missed out and accepting that it didn’t make any difference.

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Moving Slow and Reflecting

Start: Panther Creek (2190)
Camp: Three Corners Rock
Today the trail began to cross open meadows of familiar grasses. I would wind along gentle sandy tread through forests wrought with green moss. Occasionally a frog would jump and stir the wet bushes but they move so fast that I haven’t really seen one. In here a smell wafts through the air that I can only liken to visiting my grandma in Raleigh. From the forests I cross into open fields that smell and look like the dry plains back home and a word fills my mind and rises to my lips: Colorado. My lips mime the thought that follows, “Colorado, I miss it very much,” and the quiet response in my head is, “You’ll have to deal with it.”
I sit down in the trail. I feel like I’ve hit on something I need to work through. I begin to write and at once I look to my side at a shriveled yellow stalk with a dry brown nub on top. It is one of the millions that were just grass moments before, but it is not grass. “Aren’t these daisies?” I ask in a voice quiet enough to fit here among the vibrating chirp of cricket legs and buzzing flies. These are daisies, just like the ones my mother grew in our garden year after year. Once they had finished blooming and were dry, like these are, I would help my mother collect the seeds to plant next year. We’d roll the dry flower centers in between our fingers or against the palms of our hands and the black slivers would fall out. We’d collect them in a coffee can and pick out any of the crumbly gray debris that came from the dead flowers.
The rest of the field, what’s not the desiccated remains of a million daisies, is wheat. Just pain old wheat. The knee-high tan grass that leaves a million burrs in your socks when you’d hike through it in the summers back home. The other stuff, it’s short and has sparse fuzzy leaves, I don’t know what that is, but we have that back home too. Or had. Most of the places where I used to go to get burrs in my socks have been covered up by, quite literally, shopping malls and tract homes. The home I miss is long bygone, separated from me by a span measured not in mere footsteps or miles, or even whole states, but in time. Years, and perhaps decades. It is a place that I see as real as it were in front of me though it is no longer. Now,  it is real for me alone. That place is quiet, and utterly peaceful. Even here there is, perhaps, a bit too much bustle and activity, what with flies, the occasional plane and a creek gurgling in the distance.
Yesterday I was hopeful that my Achilles tendons were just a little cramped, but I knew as soon as I stood up this morning that they were at least a little bit injured. They were stiff, sore and swollen. I’d have no choice but to listen to them and let them guide my hike now. They popped when I stretched them. I walked along eating wild Saskatoon and Oregon Grape berries hoping the antioxidants (that I hoped they contained) would heal me.
I hike on, slowly, mindful of my injuries and in no hurry, and soon I meet Michelle. She tells me she has just graduated physical therapy school, so I ask her about my aching Achilles. I sit down in the trail and nuzzle Jesse, her anthropomorphic golden retriever, while she explains a few things. The gist: I’m probably not in any immediate danger; your tendons kind of resize themselves to the length they need to be; I have strained tendons from switching from a boot with a raised heel to a zero-drop running shoe, which of course has required my tendon to lengthen; your tendons are made out of many parallel fibers that can become bent, causing them to stick to the sheath inside of which the tendon ordinarily moves freely; and, most importantly, lightly rubbing the tendon perpendicular to its length can help to free the stuck fibers so that they may realign themselves. I thanked her and said goodbye and began to descend, stopping often to rub my tendons. At the bottom I crossed a bridge that wreaked strongly of creosote like a railroad bridge. I slipped off my pack abs for the first time I dove into the brimming pool, clothes and all.
A bag of beef jerky with a bite out of every piece. A handful of quinoa. Some kind of rice concoction that’s been soaking a day too long. I giant bag of steel cut oats with nothing to sweeten it. This is what I have left to eat, and that makes me happy. It’s just enough, just the bare essentials. I’ve carried nothing through the section that I didn’t need.
Today has a theme song. It’s a song I haven’t heard in a few years but it goes, “I can feel it, I can almost see it… Out theeeere!” It’s perfect for today. I can feel the end of Washington. I can almost see Cascade Locks. I think it might be Out There by Solarstone and Justine Suza.
Through the North Cascades my eyes were glued to my feet. If bypassed the Katwalk to do Goldmeyer hot springs. As I passed by Ranier my view was shrouded in fog, and again when I crossed the knife edge and Goat Rocks. And the few sunsets I’d seen had been watched through the stunting mesh of my head net while i sweat away in my rain suit. So it seems just that my last night in Washington is my most spectacular one.
I was nervous as I proceeded into the day’s second dry stretch. It’s a simple enough pattern: pick up water in the valleys at the stream and river crossings, climb up over a hot and dry peak, then descend into the next valley for more water. But would my tendons cramp again like they had yesterday, leaving me high and dry so to speak? To save strain on them I was traveling as light as possible: I had dumped any food I knew I would not eat, walked into a campground and dumped all my trash, and was only carrying water when I absolutely had too. So as I climbed into the ten mile dry stretch I was hoping there’d be water at a little spring off the trail near the top. The walk would be worth saving the strain on my tendons.
Three Corner Spring didn’t look anything like the picture. The trough was crushed and rusty, incapable of holding water any longer. The pipe with its four adapter fittings on the end sat dryly, propped gloomily against the rusty slag. I took out my bottle anyway. Everyone I’d passed had confirmed that it would be a long, dry ten miles, so I’d there was any water at all in that pipe I intended to take it with me.
I lifted the pipe of the heap and slowly lowered it to my bottles mouth. Nothing came at first, so I lowered it further until a wild splash came. Quickly, desperately I tried to sequester the flow. I raised the pipe and it stopped. It took me a minute to learn to adjust for the lag but I filled both my bottles, the flow feeling dangerously low near the end. But I was home free. I continued up the trail to see if I might camp at whatever Three Corner Rock was. I had no idea what I was in for. It said good view of some valley…
That was an  understatement. A severe one.

Hiking in Reverse

Start: Blue Lake (2214)
Camp: Panther Creek (2190)
The mosquitoes were horrible last night. I woke up wanting to throw things. That buzzing! Why must they congregate at my ears? Every time I’d move enough to open up a seem – at my wrist where the jacket covered my glove, or at the waist where it was tucked into my pants – every time a gap would open up anywhere, mosquitoes would just settle in and suck away, leaving me welted and thoroughly annoyed.
I started packing at first light and, without water to prepare food, was on the trail fifteen minutes later. No one seems to be astir yet. It was 6:00 a.m.
I started my day by falling in the water at Blue Lake, distracted by mosquitoes as I log hopped to get water, of course. But things got better from there.
A redeeming view of Mt. St. Helens.
I descended gingerly. This is awesome! How come I haven’t started this early every day?
Then I met Mover. He was having a great morning. Four times on the PCT, says he knows enough people now that, “It’s like a f*ckin’ party. Every three days you’re at a trail angel’s house and everyone’s got money, you’re drinking beer. In California I mean. That’s where I’m from. It’s a good time. You’ve got a lot of cool people coming up.” He’s headed to hike the Arizona trail once he finishes next month.  He told me the shower code, 1963, for cascade locks, and where Shrek’s house is, the orange one passed the grocery store, but you can camp for free by the train tracks. I’m thinking of going in to Portland anyway, to get the world’s best ice cream.
I stopped for lunch at my last water source for 13 miles. I drank without filtering for the first time. Yesterday, Carlos told me he hadn’t filtered anything except the questionable desert sources. I drank a couple of liters, filled everything I had, and began the climb up while I forced down 1200 calories of rice, lentils and quinoa. It was way too much food and I felt sluggish and sick.
My right Achilles began to burn, almost unbearably. Yesterday it was my left. I sat in the trail and massaged my sore feet. At the time it didn’t occur to me that the searing pain was not coming from the place I was massaging. I alternated, one hand on each simultaneously, two hands on the left, two hands on the right. I took four ibuprofen but that just barely took the edge off. I breathed hard and puffed out my cheeks as I hiked, to distract myself, and soon I couldn’t tell if I was out of breath from the climb or just from my huffing. I sat in the trail and mixed up electrolytes hoping it was just a cramp. I started to wonder if it’s what I ate. Or was it my shoes? “Are they too minimal?” I asked myself. Maybe I’m just carrying too much weight. But today I have less than ever. I’m four days ahead of schedule. Everyday at lunch for three days I’ve dumped out another day of food. The northbounders I’ve seen have all been traveling very very light – lighter than me – and I know I need to make up time to make it to the Sierras before the snow.
I stop, I sit, I massage, I hike. I repeat this over and over again. The ‘stops’ get longer and the ‘hikes’ get shorter. I knew when I started this morning with no shirt that I should enjoy the little bit of nighttime cool that remained. Now, still shirtless, I poured in sweat. I didn’t need my sleeping bag last night, it was so warm. I want to replace it with a 30° down quilt, but that will only do me through northern Cali I figure, then I’ll need my full bag again, so it’s probably not worth it.
I climbed another rise and gave up. “This is the part where I sleep,” I said, despite being seven miles from water. The huge meal and the constant pain had exhausted me. I laid out my tarp and slept in the shade of a tall pine. Dirt Stew and Dormouse passed by headed south in my slumber and had the rest of the day’s northbounders calling me ‘Beach Bum’.
The pain was no better when I got back on the trail 90 minutes later. My face contorted and I moaned in agony as I slowly stepped down the trail, each step a tortuous chore. I was out of water and I thought I might not even get to the next water tonight. Then I knew I would not make it. As if to underscore my suffering I found a dry water cache that a trail angel had left. Just two dozen empty plastic water bottles now.
I tried two sappy sticks as trekking poles to soften the pressure on my feet. No help. Every mossy knoll looked like an amazing campsite. My steps slowed to a waddle and pain shot up my legs as I descended. I was so frustrated. Here I was on the smoothest trail yet and I couldn’t even take advantage of it.
I stopped and turned uphill to take a break. Then I remembered hearing somebody talking about there friend that had gotten very good at hiking the trail backwards. Everyone says I’m hiking backwards because I’m hiking from north to south, and it’s been so tough that at this point I am liable to say they’re right, but I don’t think that’s what this person meant. I looked over my shoulder and took a step backwards down the trail with my right foot. I shuffled my left to catch up. Then I took another step. It looked silly, and it felt ridiculous, but I had to admit I was moving faster this way. I kept going. I got better and soon I could take full size steps. Every time I’d try to turn forwards the searing pain in my Achilles tendons came back and I turned right back around and kept walking. The uphills hurt either way but luckily it was almost all down. Once in a while I’d take a frightening misstep off the lower edge of the trail. I was descending from 4,000′ to meet Panther Creek at 900′ on a steep mountain hillside For a little bit I turned around and pushed on forward at normal speed. The pain was too much. I went to that warm glowy place where you think you might pass out. I turned back around and I stayed that way down all the switchbacks to the bottom. At Panther Creek I sat down right in the creek. I bathed, I drank and I iced my feet. Not only was I sweaty but I smelled terribly unhealthy, a stark contrast to the healthful odor I’d had just the day before. I quickly made camp, barely able to stand. I’d been hiking for fifteen hours, and I’d hiked backwards for the last four hours.

Thoughts as I Hike Today

Start: FS Road 23 (2238)
Camp: Blue Lake (2214)
I took ibuprofen for the first time today. I new I wouldn’t keep going after lunch without it.
I woke an hour later than usual. I knew I would because I’d camped in a shady place and had lots of carbs before bed.
I covered eleven miles before lunch.
I lost a pair of socks for the first time, I left them behind when I broke camp.
My left Achilles is sore again.

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A stark view of Ranier's south side.

I met tons of northbounders: the producer of the Time Square New Years Eve ball drop, Charlie; a hostel owner, Carlos, from Bishop; and Mammoth, who walked all the way from New York to San Diego before starting his northbound PCT hike. Quiet guy, and perfect genetics for an ultra distance through hiker: tall, lanky and just burly enough to carry a fully loaded pack a long way. Blonde hair, tan skin. He’s not writing a book or anything, he’s just trying to figure out why he’s doing it.
I found a perfect view of the sunset behind Mt. St. Helens so I camped right there in the trail. It’s too narrow to set up my tent so I’m wearing my rain gear, a neck gator, my ball cap, nitrile gloves and my mosquito head net. There’s hundreds swarming me, but I’m immune. Hahaha.
I don’t have any water so I’ll be thirsty, especially since I’m pigging out on Gardetto’s rye chips and beef jerky, but there’s some a couple miles away and I won’t have to pee this way :)
I’ve flown across this section, Section H. I have 60 miles left and plenty of food. Too much food. Everyday around lunch I reevaluate and either give some away or dump it out.
I lay here eating from my big bag of beef jerky and watching the sunset through the trees and finishing Brave New World in paperback, and I feel very lucky.

Buddha

Start: Potato Hill (2262)
Camp: Forest Service Road 23 (2238)
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I heard Stew and Dormouse go by around seven while I was writing. Early morning tends to be my most productive time. I ate candy and protein bars for breakfast since I didn’t have any water, and I packed everything without drying off any of the condensation. Drawing on my friends’ gung-ho attitude, I broke my 12 hour rule and hiked 2.5 miles to my next water source. I laid everything out to dry, then ate a second breakfast of cold oatmeal.
The ice cold water of Lava Spring emerges directly from a miles-long jumble of crumbly lava that one could easily mistake for a moraine. It felt amazing on my battered feet.
I discovered a casualty of yesterday’s marathon: the skin near my fourth toe on my right foot has split open, revealing a dark red fleshy layer inside. It’s not somewhere I can tape, so I just cleaned it and put on clean socks. Then I made a third breakfast for the road, finally hot this time, and tried to get moving. My feet were very sore.
I climbed steadily until I was on the flanks of Mt. Adams, but it was not difficult and the snow never lasted more than a few hundred feet. The Cascades here are gentler, distinctly different from the North Cascades. There’s no clear dividing line that I know of and I didn’t notice the difference until today, but looking back I can see that the mountains have been getting gentler since Stevens Pass.
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It’s amazing to look up at the contorted layers of the glacier on Mt. Adams and know that I have crossed something like that.
I began to pass northbounders like crazy and I could see on their faces that most were moving fast and eating well. That means the terrain to come is easy and I will make good time too. That means I am still carrying more food than I need.
Around 11:00 a.m. I met Zuzu and Ralph. They were very friendly. Zuzu asked me my trail name. I replied simply, “I don’t have one, but I’m only 400 miles in.”
She looked at me for a bit and I was unsure what the pause was about. I just smiled. I wanted to take my pack off.
“I’m going to call you Buddha,” she finally said. “It’s kind of a loaded name but you look like a ‘Buddha’ to me.”
“Loaded like there’s a lot of connotations that go with the name Buddha,” I clarified.
“Right. Like the name Jesus. You can take it if you want. Try it and see what people think,” she explained.
“So I just tell people my name is Buddha and see if I like the way it feels.”
“Yes, see how people respond to it.” She explained that you can try on names to see if they fit.
So I started to introduce myself as  Buddha, with the qualification that I’d just been named today. “I like it,” was the most common response. I suppose, with my hair up in its standard bun, I do look like a Buddha. So perhaps I will continue to hike as Buddha now. We’ll see.
My left knee began to ache in a new way in my morning miles. Per Cool Ranch’s advice, when he told me about how he went to the doctor, the doctor told him he was hurt and needed to rest but he could still hike (it just wouldn’t heal,) I hiked on.
I covered 13 miles before lunch, then stopped in a mosquito free field of lava. The rain and fog during the last two days really penetrated into every seem, so I pulled everything out for a second drying on the rocks under the hottest sun of the day. As soon as it was all out and I was comfortable, mosquitoes started to come out of the woodwork. A swarm of hundreds followed me deftly as I repacked.
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I finished the climb onto the side of Mt Adams and began a meandering descent through a beautiful burn area where endless purple flowers filled the spaces between hulking black stalks. I made a note to come back.
By mile 24, as I descended into where I thought I might camp, I looked down and realized I was hobbling. Breaking the 12 hour rule had cost me. I’d hiked twelve hours at a scant two miles per hour.
I made a protein shake with four spoonfuls of protein and two hot chocolate packets, heated so it’s nice and steamy just like hot chocolate. It is the best protein protein shake ever.
Setting up camp was easy because the ground was flat, but somehow the mosquitoes here, being rather ravenous, are finding a way into my tent. I think it needs a floor and a zipper instead of Velcro. And maybe a PU coated roof instead of silicone coated which mists in heavy rain, leaving you, the occupant, only halfway dry.
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