Oct 082014


Having an innocent cockiness about how you are in life opens up many doors to new experiences. It also gets you into some predicaments. Mostly, it’s something I value about myself, that I identify a desire to do something, and just go ahead and do it, trusting I’ll adapt to it along the way. Last week, I cursed that quality. I was not fit enough to hike a 104 mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail through the Northern Cascades in Washington. Sure, I’ve walked many miles of difficult terrain in my life, 2600 in a row once, which in retrospect should’ve made me know better. You don’t develop sinewy bands of Herculean strength just once and then rely on them for all of eternity, you have to maintain them, or they go flaccid and fail you. It sucks that that’s true, but identifying that it’s “not fair” doesn’t make it any less true.


I’ve had a difficult, challenging summer, so much that it pulled me out of my routine of fitness maintenance, actually any and all “maintenances” I usually cradle myself with. In short, I sat on my ass, and dwelled on “stuff” for injurious amounts of time. A walk in the woods was psychologically necessary, and I just happened to have a spectacular section of un-walked PCT, some free time,  and a week of good weather staring right at me. Why wouldn’t I? Oh, well I’ve been sitting on my ass for a couple of months, that’s why wouldn’t I, and this un-walked section just happens to boast being one of the most strenuously difficult of all of the PCT sections with no options for bail-out. I would have to walk out on my own volition, or “fly” out much to the consternation of search and rescue crews. I’d take my trekking poles. That was a good solution, as if I could just “pin” them onto my legs should they fail me.


Immediately, the magic that gets set in motion when you’re about to do something that you are clearly meant to do was activated. The logistics of it all, how I’d get there, where I’d stay, how I’d get back to my car, all worked themselves out in a matter of about ten minutes. That “magic” was largely Kevin Weiderstrom, the same “magic” that kept me from going insane in Skykomish last year while I was waiting out the big storm and potentially facing my mission of completing the trail being smothered by snow, the same Kevin Weidersdtrom that dried a miniature train seat off for me and let me ride around on it in pouring rain in the middle of town to distract myself from that fact. He’s clearly on my side. Thank you, Kevin.


I’m not sure why I hold so fast onto the idea that I’m going to figure out my entire life and solve all of my problems while I’m out in the wilderness. It never happens. I never even think about it. If I try, it usually goes like this: narcissistic pondering, narcissistic pondering, narcissistic pondering, and BAMMMM!! Something extraordinary enters my line of sight, obliterating every other abstract thought. I set off from Steven’s Pass narcissistically pondering, made it an entire 6 miles without falling off the tread doing so, when BAMMM, Lake Valhalla slipped into a little mountain canyon and spewed its wonderfulness all over my very important thoughts. Oh right, I’m out here for that. I wouldn’t even try it again for the next six days. And yet, I can’t help but notice that my life just kind of mysteriously did become all figured out and my problems solved. The emptiness and joy just took care of all kinds of inner housekeeping while I focused on the beauty and how I could make my trekking poles do most of the walking for my now dysfunctional legs. Those miles hurt.


I’d like to go on about how truly spectacular it was, but I’m not going to. However,  I am going to go on about how the “magic” continued, even without Kevin Weiderstrom joining me. I was barely able to accept that I was walking the same planet I’d just been delivered from. The first factor was of course the spectacular and unique beauty. But the second factor was my vulnerable and highly sensitive perceptions and mind, a by-product of having been in “crisis consciousness” for the weeks preceding (yes, grief rips you open, my friends). I had auditory hallucinations the entire time, music, people laughing, the “hum” of the earth, deep voices talking. And dreams. I would wake up completely raked by whatever emotions had been roused in my sleep by the kind of dreams that pull your entire being into them. And coincidences. I ran into people I know. In the wilderness. In Washington. Some not even thru-hiking, but just happened to be there. I’m a social gal, but still the odds of me finding familiars in the Glacier Peak Wilderness has got to be pretty slim. And I met gorgeous others, people I actually like. By the time I got onto the ferry in Stehekin to return to civilization, I had many warm and fuzzy people I didn’t want to leave waving to me as I sailed off into the sea of Lake Chelan. I almost felt like I just thru-hiked again.


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  5 Responses to “The Pacific Crest Trail – The Secret Finish”

  1. The first few days on the John Muir Trail were like that for me. “Sure, why not climb Half Dome on the first day? Then do another 4,000 feet of elevation to make it to Tuolumne Meadows. Why not? Then another few thousand feet over Donahue pass and … just for kicks why not bust out another 25 miles to make it into Red’s Meadow on day 4?” Somehow none of this ever seemed like a bad idea. Probably just high on hiking. 🙂

    Oh, and don’t worry about figuring out your life while you’re on-trail. If you’re on trail, you have your life “figured out” enough already.

  2. I second iPod!

  3. You can figure out your entire life and solve your problems whilst hiking, you’re just doing something wrong. If mountain views are getting in the way of your life mapping then eithe rignore them or hike with your eyes closed.
    Fitness maintenance, yup, guilty of ignoring that one too.
    I have mixed feelings from my venturing through the Cascades. It was bloody cold and there was snow everywhere so my life planning was actually pretty busy. My head was face down watching my step and hiding from blizzards so I missed lots of views. From what I do remember though, it was awesome.
    Glad you managed to get out.
    ~ Fozzie x

  4. Love your introspection and your sharing of it. Thanks!

  5. Was it section K of the PCT in Washington you were speaking of? I will be hiking that this August and although I’ve hiked a great deal in my home of Northern Idaho this is my first adventure on the PCT, next year I plan to attempt two sections then the following year I plan on attempting a thru hike. I’m only 22 years old currently and am seeking ANY knowledge from people with PCT experience, most currently specific to section K in Washington. My email is ChristopherSimpkins1282@yahoo.com

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