PCTing, working, running

My view as I write. Trucks…

I thought it would be a good time to start another update on Adam’s PCT hike and what’s up on my end – because I had kind of a hard day yesterday. And because I’m sitting at a Safeway Distribution Center, waiting to get unloaded, and from past experience, I think that I’m going to be here a while. So I also have time.

After Adam’s crazy long day and on-trail zero in the rain, he got up the next day aged 40 instead of 39. It was his birthday. His 40th birthday! He had, I think, about 10 miles to go and he’d be in the town of Idyllwild. He was taking a PCT alternate to avoid a recent burn area, and the trail dropped him right in town. I think his original plan was to just get about halfway there and camp, then get into town the next day. But then he just hiked the whole way and got there that day! It hasn’t taken him long to fit right into the thru-hiker mold. Food and town and beds and showers and flush toilets and running water? They call at you hard when you’re on the trail, and when you’re *that* close to all those wonderful luxuries, you just hoof it. I’d say he’s gettin’ good at this hiking thing!

He did have to hike through some cold drizzly crud! Check out that snot!

Anyway, he made a pit stop at a campground along his route to town that morning, and sent me a text all excited because it had flush toilets! I responded what a nice birthday present for him! Flushies!

Break time at a campground en route to Idyllwild.

Once in town he got a room for two nights, with the plan to take a full zero and rest – and celebrate his birthday, because why wouldn’t he? It sounds like he ate food, found a good coffee shop (that also had heavy cream!), an outdoor store, got a room at a hotel that did his laundry for him (!!), and discovered since it was a weekend, there was live music around town. He landed himself at a place he thought had live music… His FB post said this:

“Oh snap! They’ve got a Jukebox here! Also, that live music I mentioned? I just found out it’s going to be provided by ME… Karaoke here at 8.”

Um, could his birthday turn out any more perfect? Karaoke is only like one of his favorite things ever! He even posted a few videos of his songs. Here’s one:

Before he left town, he stopped at the outdoor store and picked up a pair of Kahtoola microspikes for his shoes – in case Fuller Ridge was icy. Probably a pretty good idea. Especially after that podcast story I heard. Remember from my last blog entry? That girl? Who took a wrong step and slid down the mountainside, only to stop herself on a tree? I’m all in favor of those microspikes! They’ll also come in handy in the Sierra since it’s all full of snow now, too.

Some of his town booty.

Oh, and that reminds me… So Adam commented after my last blog post, “I love how you thought I didn’t know how bad you were freaking out. It was like when you have a good cribbage hand.” Yeah, it’s true. I get the biggest, stupidest smile on my face when I’ve got a good “barn-burner” of a cribbage hand. I can’t turn that off. And besides, after almost 17 years of marriage, I suppose he knows me pretty well. I really did think I was hiding it pretty well, though! I tried. I never have been a good actor.

On my end, after getting home after dropping Adam off in California, I had a weekend at home. I was crazy busy with getting some things caught up that we fell behind on in our hurry to get him ready to go last-minute. For example? Two hours of washing dishes. Ugh. I also checked off about 10 big things on a to-do list, including finalizing our tax return, going over our budget and bills and going for a 10-mile run! Among others! Hopefully my other weekends won’t feel so busy. This is taking some getting used to!

Me at the start of my 10-miler. Running is going to keep me sane. I think.

Then I went back out on the road with a load going to Colorado. Everything was going okay. Well, besides picking up my already loaded trailer with a low tire and a disconnected ABS light (thanks, previous driver, whoever you are! Grrrr!). I plugged the ABS light back in, and of course it was lit, so I had to make a stop at a shop to have them look at it. They cleaned out the connections and sent me on my way. Then it came back on and I stopped at another shop where they hooked it up, said something about a poorly spliced wire. He messed with it a little and sent me on my way. The light was out… For a little while, then it came back on again. I give up. The low tire? That turned out to be an easy one. I hooked up my fancy airline tire filler thing. It’s a hose that you hook to the airline of your tractor and you can use it to fill a tire. It was missing a valve stem cover, too, so I filled the tire, put on a new valve stem cover, and it’s held air ever since. Rough start, kind of a rough trip, and then I got to Denver and sat.

Hanging out way too long in my truck…

That brings me to yesterday. I had some extra time on this trip (which was good since I had to stop twice for the ABS light!), and my plan was to get a parking spot about 5 miles from my delivery at a Denver truck stop. No problem except that these truck stops are nearly always full. I planned to arrive in the morning, giving me the best shot at a spot. I arrived around 11am and the first truck stop was full, so I went to one on the other side of the highway and found a reserve spot for $14. I took it and shut down for the rest of the day – my delivery wasn’t until 7am the next morning.

I planned to take care of a few work chores, trip plan, do a quick workout, and then I was free to lay around and watch some Netflix. I thought it would be perfect. I did all those things and even took a nap, but I got a little stir crazy. I should have gotten out of the truck. All my fantasies of having time to lay around in my truck and just chill were not all they were cracked up to be. I need stay busier than that. I watched a show that had a girl that went to an underground wrestling match with a guy-friend and had a great time and it reminded me of when Adam got me to go to a WWE show with him and it was super-fun (they had giant beers, which helped), and it all just made me miss him.

Then he called and was heading out into the perfect, amazing wilderness in good spirits and I was just sitting in my stale truck being super sad, trying to hide it, but knowing this time that I was totally failing at it. It was hard. But after talking to him for a while, thankfully I cheered up a little bit. He has been so happy lately, and I can’t help but to eventually soak that up and be happy with him.

So I realized, that not only because I’m an active person, but also because Adam is so far away, I cannot just sit around for very long or I will go crazy. I start to miss him really bad, I start to think about how badly I’d love to be out there with him, or trade places with him, or just be anywhere else than where I am at that moment, really. You know, feeling sorry for myself in Sulk-ville.

But then, I eventually realize how amazing this all is, I refocus and keep moving forward, excited about what will happen next. Where will he be? Where will I be? Who knows! It’s a pretty exciting life right now!

Oh! An Aloha side story, before I forget! Aloha got “Aloha’d!” He got what he referred to as his “first unsolicited trail magic!” He was walking out of town on a curvy, paved road with lots of traffic and not a great shoulder when a lady pulled over and offered to give him a ride to where his route turns into a less-busy dirt jeep road. So he took the ride! Then she offered to take his trash, give him water… But he just came from town so he was all set. He could tell she just wanted to do something nice for him, and as she grabbed her pack of American Spirits, she asked him if he smoked. He told her he didn’t, but then she got this excited look on her face and asked, “weed?” Adam explained that he’s never smoked it before but wasn’t opposed to the idea. So she handed him a small bag of weed! Funniest thing ever! He’s in a state where it’s legal, so why not, right!? Haha! I don’t know if or when he’ll try it, but if he does, and doesn’t mind, I’ll let you all know how it goes! Weed! For his first trail magic! What a lucky guy, hey!? Too funny!

Just heading out… Must. Devour. Giant. Burrito. First.

On another not-as-exciting note in the story of my life, I got through a whole, successful week of 50k trail race training. My race is in mid-July, so I came up with a loose, flexible training plan. I’m actually on week 3, but the first two weeks were totally shot because that was when I was bringing Adam out to California, and I opted to trade in my training time for extra cuddles, cribbage and quality time with him (worth it!). Anyway, once I dropped him off, I jumped in on week 3 and finished it feeling pretty strong. I ran four times, my long run being a 10-miler, and all of them in my Bedrock sandals (which I’m hoping I can be ready to run the race in). So far, so good. I want to write more about that, too, so hopefully it’s not too dreadfully boring!

Cold, wet, socks and Bedrock sandals. Because that’s how I roll.

Right now, I imagine Adam is still sleeping snugly in his sleeping bag after a spooky night of twig-snapping and bear-sized squirrels stalking his little tent. He saw a coyote or something (hopefully not a kitty) right before going to bed, so he was a bit spooked. And me? Still sitting in the same dock, waiting for these lumpers (that’s what the guys unloading me are called. I have no idea why) finish taking all 40,000+ pounds of cheese out of my trailer.

Then? Onward.

Tonight I love feeling caught up on sleep. Been a while.

A taste of Adam’s amazing writing talent (this was a post he shared on FB):

[Narrated by David Attenborough]

The North American Leaning Hikertrash Tree. For those lucky enough to find its fruit, the nourishment provided can propel a backpacker to the next town or road crossing. Often when the fruit is visible, not far off are the trashpods, which birth backpackers in the morning, and the newborns pluck the fruit from the tree, carrying what they cannot eat in the versatile pouch along their spine.

Night hiking views!

The lobby of his hotel in Idyllwild. Cozy!

Foot pic! Not looking too bad so far!

I love this photo so much. I mean, I’m already attracted to him… Then he goes all thru-hiker on me! 😍

Town fooooood!

A pretty photo of the scenery coming down from Spitler Peak, I believe. Looks like rain!

Scary aftermath from a tick bite. (Which is already going away and he’s already thoroughly consulted with his sister who is a nurse, so try not to worry! He should be just fine.)

Another great Aloha selfie. 😊

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The good-bye part

Gonna miss those cuddles!

Adam chose to start his PCT hike on March 21, mostly due to lack of permits available since we made the decision he should hike so late in the game. To get to where he needed to start, I put in a request at work to take a load to California, but hadn’t heard a peep, so we planned on me taking him to a train station in Madison instead. Then, on a Tuesday, work let me know they had a California run they needed covered. But we’d have to leave that Thursday. Like, in a day and a half. Game on!

With the taking the train plan, Adam had at least an extra week at home, had some loose ends to tie up spread out over that week, as well as a couple of training hikes he planned to get in. Then boom! Had to do it all in a day! We rallied – stayed up kind of, well, really late Wednesday night, but pulled everything together. I even got the most important thing done – I made Adam a butter cake for his birthday (early since it’s March 23rd and he’ll be on trail by then). It might have been 1:00 in the morning, but I did it! And it was pretty darn good, too! We were at the truck Thursday morning ready to roll.

Butter cake!

Close up of its yumminess.

The drive out was okay. It was nice to spend time together, listening to podcasts, talking about the trail, and Adam even read my PCT blog from 2013 aloud, and it was fun to relive a lot of that year. I took a few days off after I delivered my trailer of cheese Monday morning, and we got to really get some quality time together. We played lots of cribbage, drank coffee, ate lots of fun food, watched movies in the truck, got a hotel room for one night and had some beers and watched bad movies, and even took a 5-mile walk. It was nice.

We also drank margaritas!

Then I got my backhaul. Produce. Some of our most stressful times trucking was when we got produce backhauls. So it was a bit triggering for Adam and he had kind of a tough time watching me deal with some of the crap one has to deal with when picking up produce. Started with getting my appointment times and realizing it was nearly impossible to make it on time. I left as soon as I could and drove as fast as I could get away with in California (the speed limit is 55 for trucks), and was 20 minutes late, after pulling into the wrong place because my address was wrong. The right place was across the street, but it still made me later than I already was. I was told I had to reschedule my appointment because I was late. I called the broker, and he was able to get an appointment for an hour later, which by then was the current time, and they told me they’d call me when the load was ready… So it wasn’t ready at my original appointment time anyway. After a few hours I finally head to my second and final pick. I got a door right away, backed in and sat there for 5 hours. For six palettes. Six! Ugh… I was close to being out of hours when they finally finished with me, so we spent the night in the shipper’s parking lot. So I spent most of my day waiting around in dock doors without the option of going anywhere, and maybe made twenty bucks. It can be frustrating. Adam knows this all too well, and I could tell it was making him anxious. He needed to get out of that truck and on to the trail!

Finally the next morning I was able to scale, and was surprised I was legal with how much product they put on my trailer. Thank God. Off we went. One thing that worked in our favor was that the Sierra was getting a massive snow storm. I mean, literally 60″ of snow. That’s 5 feet!

No joke! Those Sierra storms! In March!

So driving I-80 over Donner Pass wasn’t going to be a very safe or wise option, so I veered south toward I-15, which would take me north toward Salt Lake City instead. On the way I was able to stop in Bakersfield, California – where Adam and I planned to part ways. It was the furthest south I could get him. And a bonus – I was able to pull right into the motel parking lot where he was going to stay because they had truck parking! We ate at the diner that shared the lot, got a coffee, got Adam and his few possessions settled in his room, and after kisses and hugs, I drove away.

A couple super-short videos of Adam getting a move-on.

It didn’t seem like I was going to cry – probably because I was so excited for him. But then as soon as I pulled onto the highway my nose got all tingly and my vision suddenly blurred through thick tears. Dammit. I was gonna miss him. So much.

About 10 miles down the road he called me. He left his trekking poles in the truck! I was able to loop around and go back – which was so worth it for one more hug. Every thru hiker leaves their poles behind somewhere at some point – he just got it out of the way right away!

And off we went our separate ways.

And, just to prolong our goodbye a little more? Lunch in Bakersfield.

I had a hard time sleeping on my trip back, and I felt totally scatterbrained. I had so much to do at home – I needed to get my goals and responsibilities into some sort of schedule and make some to-do lists or something. I just need to keep busy, which it doesn’t seem like will be a problem. By the time I got home I felt thoroughly exhausted. It was weird parking my truck and having the car there waiting for me – usually Adam would pick me up. I did all my grocery shopping right away, alone, got a coffee, alone, drove around, alone, got our mail from the PO box, alone… You get the idea. It’s all stuff we’d normally do together. So weird. But kinda fun. If I didn’t think about it too hard, anyway.

Then I got to our apartment and pretty much instantly went nuts getting all kinds of things done. Dishes, clean toilet, get Adam’s resupply together, laundry… Are you asleep yet!? I know, it’s the boring side of things… but I think it’s going to get more interesting. Maybe…

Now I’m sitting here writing all this after a super full day of errands – and I got my first long run in for my 50k training. It was 10 miles, went well, but I think I’m going to be pretty sore.

Training for a 50k! Gotta stay busy and focused!

So, next blog will hopefully be up very soon – I’m going to compile some highlights from the first week. Adam was able to get pretty good cell phone reception, so he called me at least once each day (so far), and a few great text messages and photos. And… something that totally surprised me – I got super nervous. I’ll have to tell you all about it. But for now, I must sleep, because I really need it before I hit the road again.

Tonight I love snot rockets. Here’s a little demonstration video:

We ate a ginourmous piece of carrot cake at a casino on our way out.

We actually drank margaritas twice. These were much better than the other ones.

After our 5-mile walk some serious thunderhead-looking clouds we’re building. Pretty!

Dear Aloha,

Dear Adam (or more appropriately in this case, Aloha),

You’re about to embark on a pretty crazy journey along the Pacific Crest Trail. I’m excited for you, and thought I’d do my best to help you along with a few bits of advice, most of which you have probably already heard, but… maybe not. So here goes:

  • Don’t go barefoot in the desert. There are pickers everywhere.
  • Don’t eat the pink snow. Or the yellow snow for that matter.
  • On a cold rainy day in Washington a hot meal will go a long way.
  • Every once in a while focus on each of your five senses with intensity.
  • Camel up at the water sources in the desert.
  • Swim when you can.
  • Call your wife regularly because she’s going to miss you.
  • Mix a cold coffee before a big climb for a boost.
  • Take lots of pictures of your friends.
  • Eat fresh green things when you’re in town.
  • Air out your feet at least once a day.
  • Be sure to catch some sunrises and sunsets.
  • Don’t pass up an opportunity to laugh. Or to cry.
  • Blister pain always hurts when you first start walking for the day or after a break – the pain will subside after you get a little ways down the trail.
  • If you hear loud noises outside your tent at night there’s a 98% chance it’s just a deer licking up your pee.
  • Never quit on a bad day. Or the next day. Or the next one.
  • Always carry safety pins so you can pin stuff off your backpack to dry.
  • If you were a girl I’d tell you to bring a pee rag but you’re a guy so you’re lucky.
  • Pay attention to the water report and plan accordingly.
  • Listen to your gut. It’s almost always right.
  • Err on the side of safety but if you’re unsure err on the side of whatever will keep your butt alive.
  • Wear sunscreen.
  • Dig a good cat hole and be sure to pack out your used toilet paper. It’s really not that gross once you get used to it.
  • Take risks but be smart about it.
  • A warm Coke really does taste good on the trail. It’s worth carrying out once in awhile.
  • If you’re going to clean your socks in a stream be sure to do it downstream from where people filter their water.
  • Be miserable, be happy, be sad, feel pain, feel joy, be mad, be numb, laugh – just enjoy the whole gamut of feelings because it means you’re human. And it means you’re alive.

And the final piece of advice – the most important one – look over that list I gave you one more time… And forget about it. That doesn’t mean to *not* do those things – it just means this: start with a blank page and start your own list. This is YOUR hike. All yours. It’s your journey, and you are going to have all of your very own, unique experiences. Make your own decisions and do the things you want to do. Be whatever “you” you want to be and make it all yours.

But really, maybe *do* call the wife once in a while. :)

I wish you all the luck in the universe, I wish you fair weather, plentiful flowing springs, and all the experiences you can handle. I hope you overflow.

I love you.

Love,
Robin (Toots)

P.S. A quote you shared with me… And a good one:

“One step, one punch, one round at a time. You got this.” -Rocky

Tonight I love the anticipation and excitement that comes along with brand new adventures. What a feeling!

The Wonderland Trail. Some final thoughts. 

Now that the Wonderland Trail is behind me, and I’ve recorded my daily notes in blog-form here, I thought I’d share a few things that didn’t make it into the entries. It might get a little long, but I’ll talk about gear, food, highs and lows. And shoes. For just a little bit, though. Promise.

Blogging

First of all, the way I managed the blog for this trip was to first take notes each day on a tiny Moleskine notebook with a super-fine Sharpie marker. This notebook might be the smallest one you can buy. It’s 4″ x 2-1/2″, but it’s nice for backpacking because it’s so small. It easily fit into one of my backpack’s hipbelt pockets or my skirt pocket where I was able to access it without much effort. I oftentimes stopped on the trail, pulled it out, jotted a note down and kept walking. Once the trip was over and I no longer had to conserve battery power on my phone, I turned my notes into blog form while it was still fresh in my mind, typed out on that tiny phone keyboard (yup, every word) – and that’s how you see it in my posted entries. I save those as drafts until I have a strong internet connection, because adding the photos takes some effort on WordPress, and a strong internet connection seems to make it a whole lot easier. As for photos, picking the ones I want to show is the toughest, because I have LOTS. I place my chosen photos in a separate folder on my phone, then add them in through the app, and then publish it. I don’t hardly ever have access to a laptop or desktop computer anymore, so I always just hope everything turns out okay in that format. I try to review it on my phone, but that’s the best I can do. And I’m sure I still miss things.

My tiny little Moleskine journal.

Gear

I don’t want to get into every single piece of gear I brought along, because honestly, I know I could go on about gear forever. I don’t even think I’m that much of a gear junkie! I just don’t know how to keep it short! Anyway, before I left I weighed my backpack and it came out to 25 pounds – that included 40 oz. of water and 3-1/2 days’ worth of food (I learned later that I could’ve cut down my food by almost half). I was pretty happy with that weight. Below I’ll make a quick list of what I had along, and then I’ll pull out just a few things that I want to expand on. Footwear was the biggest one!!

A quick rundown of what I brought along:
Backpack – Gossamer Gear Gorilla
Sleeping Bag – Adam’s 20-degree quilt
Tent – MSR Hubba
Sleeping Pad – Thermarest Neoair
Pillow – SeaToSummit Aeros LW inflatable pillow
Stove – Jetboil & small fuel canister
Other “kitchen” items – Ziploc 2-cup container with screw-top, Long titanium spoon, two 4-oz. Nalgene bottles (for olive oil and MCT oil), one 2-oz. Nalgene bottle (for balsamic vinegar)
Clothing (worn) – Long sleeve hiking shirt from Duluth Trading Company, Purple Rain skirt, cheap Target sport bra
Extra clothing – short spandex shorts, extra sport bra, 2 pairs Injinji socks, Brooks running hat, Patagonia Nanopuff jacket
For sleeping/extra warmth if needed – Smartwool beanie, silkweight gloves, Buff, Patagonia lightweight leggings and long-sleeve top, knee-high Injinji socks
Footwear – Bedrock sandals, Topo Terraventure trail shoes (worn with Dirty Girl Gaiters and Injinji socks)
Other stuff -Black Diamond Spot headlamp, tiny 1″ swiss army knife, toiletries, first aid, toilet kit (trowel, tp and sanitizer), Aquamira water treatment, paracord bear rope, lightweight chrome hiking umbrella, Black Diamond trekking poles, two 20-oz Vitamin Water bottles, Trails Illustrated waterproof map, bandana,  super-cheap but totally fun heart-shaped sunglasses, headnet, DEET, sunscreen
Raingear – Arc’teryx rain jacket, ULA rain kilt, REI pack cover
Camera – My phone (Samsung Galaxy S6) with Otterbox water resistant cover

Typical gear “splosion” at camp.

Gear thoughts! I really love all my gear… but I’ll just pull out a few things that stand out for me. First of all, if I had known the weather was going to be insanely hot and dry and amazing, I wouldn’t have had to bring my tent rain fly, rain jacket, rain kilt, or pack cover – but of course, I will always carry these things, because obviously I can’t tell the future, and I always find it to be better safe than sorry when it comes to rain stuff! But I never once used any of these things – I never even put the Otterbox cover on my phone! It all stayed packed in the bottom of my pack all nine days. My warm sleeping stuff was also overkill. Never used the gloves or Buff and I could’ve used my hiking socks instead of the extra sleeping pair. I also barely used my Jetboil (I’ll talk more about that in the food bit).

Clothing – I really liked my clothing setup. First of all, the Purple Rain Skirt is THE BOMB. I love this thing so much! 

It’s a great length (meaning not too short and doesn’t have one of those annoying liners underneath so you can choose if you want to wear underwear or not), and it’s got a nice big pocket on each side that I don’t even notice when I have my heavy phone in one and my notebook and pen in the other. Also, apologies for the TMI, but as a girl, it’s totally freeing to hike commando and so much easier to pee discreetly this way. And my new, latest awesome thing I taught myself during a training hike for the Wonderland Trail is that I can pee standing up if I need to. It really comes in handy on a busy trail (which the WT can be in some places). My shirt was a last-minute purchase at Duluth Trading Company because I loved the color so much. I know, vain, but it was great! It was super moisture-wicking and quick-drying, the sleeves rolled up really easy and weren’t too tight around my arms, and it was really easy to button them one-handed. And it was the best thing I could’ve had when I was up high and hiking through hot, sun-exposed areas. Besides a cheapo sport bra from Target, that’s pretty much all I wear. I love the simplicity of it.

Sleeping bag – this was the first time I used a quilt, and I loved it. I sleep with a 1/4-length inflatable sleeping pad, and then I put my backpack under my knees and feet (keeps them off the ground and my feet elevated, which is a nice bonus). I decided to try Adam’s quilt because it’s quite a bit lighter and packs down smaller than my mummy bag. I stayed plenty warm, and actually kind of liked the way I could wrap it around me in different ways – and I could kind of grab onto the edges and almost cuddle with it (I’m such a pillow/blanket/Adam cuddler when I sleep!). I might be a convert!

Umbrella! One of my newest pieces of gear that I really wasn’t too sure about. I didn’t really get too much of a chance to train with it, and when I tried to rig a DIY hands-free setup, it just didn’t work. But on day 2 of my hike, I was getting so hot, and heading into exposed snowfields. On one of my breaks I messed around with it a little bit and got it to hold pretty still – the trick was to put the handle under my sternum strap – then there’s two shock cords with cord locks that I could tighten – one up by my shoulder, and the other down by the handle. It was so slick and seriously saved me a few times on this trip when it got really, really hot.  I still got a little too much sun on day 2, so I can’t imagine what I would’ve felt like if I didn’t have it! I love this thing! I also figured if it rained, I could use it then… but it never did rain.

SHOES! Oh my gosh! So, if you read my past blog about looking for the perfect pair of shoes after my trusty Altras changed their style and became too narrow for me, you know that I went through hell and back to find something that I liked. I settled on the Topo Terraventure. It’s a great shoe, lightweight, very comfy, pretty wide in the toebox, and only a 3mm drop (I prefer zero, though). Then later I picked up a pair of Bedrock Cairn sandals – mostly for a summer casual shoe that I can wear on a short hike if I wanted. Well, I wore them on an 11-mile training hike with plans to switch out to my Topos a little ways in, but I never took them off. I had a little foot fatigue on that first hike at about mile 8, and started feeling a little hotspot on my heels shortly after that. The most surprising thing was that the toe thong didn’t bother me at all! I barely felt it. I wore them for a few more miles after that on a couple of training hikes, and packed them for the Wonderland Trail with the thought that they would be mostly used for camp shoes, and maybe I’d wear them for a few miles of hiking. Well… I wore them for almost the entire trail – all except for maybe 7 miles. They didn’t perform well in the snowfields – I was sliding all over the place, so on day 2 when I got up high into the long stretches of snow, I wore my Topos. But know what? They’re sandals. So I don’t think less of them for not getting me through those long stretches of snow. But I did NOT want to take them off! Letting my toes out to splay and breathe how they naturally wanted to felt amazing. 

I was so happy about hiking in my Bedrocks that I had to take a lot of photos, I guess!

They are very much zero drop – the soles are very thin, but very tough (Vibram soles), and I love feeling the ground’s surface under me as I walk. Small streams (or big ones, for that matter) were easy – just walk right through. In fact, it was nice to just stand in the streams once in a while to cool off or wash off a little bit. For some reason, the day before I finished, I got a couple of sore spots, but I theorize that I had them too loose for a couple of long descents, so they were putting extra pressure on certain points of my feet. I’m not sure. Also, I learned that hiking for a long time in sandals dries your feet out pretty quick, so I ended up with a small heel crack that was pretty painful. Next time I’ll apply some Aquafor overnight or something. Oh, and the bottoms of my feet were permanently dirty afterwards, but that was kind of a badge of honor. It just took a pumice stone and some time to clean them up.

So that’s all I’ll go into about gear for now. As I mentioned, I really like all my gear, but if I went into all of it… just imagine!

Weather

I already mentioned in my gear section that I could’ve left all my rain gear home. And I didn’t use the rainfly for my tent even one time. It was great. I expected to have some foul weather on this trip. It is Washington, after all! I’ve heard stories of it snowing in July on this trail… so I wanted to be prepared for anything. And I was. But as it turns out, all my rain gear ended up being extra weight packed way down in the bottom of my backpack and never taken out. I’m not complaining, that’s for sure! I love the sunshine and I love summer hot weather, and I got tons of both. In fact, while I was out there, there were heat warnings in cities outside of the park, and even a rumor that traveled along the trail that it was going to reach 100 degrees in the park! I kind of wouldn’t be too surprised. It did get insanely hot for a couple of days. (Thank you, umbrella!) The last few days of the hike started to get hazy from nearby wildfires in British Columbia, so my views got a little compromised from that, but I was very thankful for the crisp, clear views I got for the first part of my trip, and the unique beauty that the smoke brought with it for the last part – spectacular sunsets and a really soft, pastel touch to all the color in the landscape. It wasn’t bad enough to affect my breathing, so I was able to enjoy it for what it was.

Food

This is another topic I could talk about way too much, so I’m going to try not to get into too much detail. You’ve probably read already that I was in a state of ketosis before starting this hike, meaning I eat a low-carb, moderate-protein, high-fat diet. My body has been trained to use ketones and fat for energy instead of sugar (carbs). It’s super-efficient and long-lasting – great for endurance sports – like hiking! In the past, when I hiked on a normal “hiker’s diet” of oatmeal, noodley dinners, Snickers, jelly beans, energy bars, cookies, sugary drink mixes, tortillas, etc, I would have to eat often as my body burned off the sugar quickly (like it’s supposed to do) then asked for more as soon as it was gone. With ketosis, your body uses ketones made by the liver and the ample supply of body fat that most of us already have, so it’s a steady, slow burn, and hunger is lessened, even when doing something active like running or hiking. But beware, cutting carbs on a hike would be a bad idea if you haven’t trained your body to be a fat-burner yet. There is definitely a transition period, and that wouldn’t be fun to do on something like a long hike when you don’t have access to food options in case you were to bonk. But I definitely encourage you to look into it and give keto a shot!

Food “splosion.”

Anyway, some of the things I ate on the hike, with a few shout-outs to some products that I’m in love with:
-Raw, unsalted nuts (brazil, macadamia, cashew, pistachio) – this was one of my favorites. Ate them every day.
-Grass-fed beef sticks
-Cheese (individually wrapped – so easy) Fontina, mozzarella, and pepperjack

Epic bites – they have a few different flavors. The bites are my favorite. And it’s an awesome company!

Phat Fudge – check it out! This stuff is awesome. It even has caffeine in it, so it gave me a little extra boost when I had one (I am a decaf drinker, normally)

FBomb nut butters – check this out, too! This ended up being one of my favorite things. There are three flavors of nut butters, they are made with totally clean ingredients, and no added sugars or flavors, so as low in carbs as a nut butter can get (nuts do have some carbs in them). They also sell packets of oil, which I might use in the future.

-MCT oil and chia seeds mixed in water – I made this up every morning and sipped away at it all day long. MCT oil is the same super-good-for-you-fat you find in coconut oil, but it doesn’t harden and has barely any taste so works great for mixing in cold drinks (also works great in hot drinks, actually).

MCT oil and Chia seeds. Looks nasty, but I don’t care. It’s powerful.

-Artisana brand nut butters – I brought a few of these to supplement my FBombs. The FBombs have a plain macadamia nut butter (which is to die for), but Artisana has an almond, cashew and pecan butter that are very clean with no added ingredients. It just provided more variety.
-Pork Cracklins and Pork rinds – I had one bag for each leg of the trip. I used to carry potato chips on every backpacking trip, crush them up and eat them with a spoon. I’d also add them to a lot of my meals. The pork rinds ended up being the perfect replacement for the crushed potato chips. In fact, I liked them better.
-Baker’s chocolate – since going keto, things that used to be appalling to my taste buds because they were bitter or not sweet enough are now tasty to me – this is the best example. I used to spit baker’s chocolate out – now I love it. I would add a little nut butter to it and some crushed pork rind – YUM!

-My favorite “meal” – Avocado (I packed six total on the trip, two for each leg), tuna, olive oil (I use Villa Cappelli because I know it’s a good-quality oil and not cut with other oils – it’s a big thing, Google it if you get into food geekery), balsamic vinegar, pink Himalayan sea salt, and everything bagel seasoning (white and black sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried garlic and onion)

Pink Himalayan sea salt – I considered this one of my luxury items because I brought a small grinder of the stuff in rock form. This was important to my keto diet, because when in ketosis, your insulin levels ride pretty low, and insulin is a storage hormone. It stores fat, but also elecrolytes, so if it’s on the low side, you have to supplement with extra electrolytes, and the Himalayan sea salt is great for that because it’s not stripped of all the natural nutrients that normal table salts are – and I don’t do the sports drink mixes any more because of all the added sugar and nasty artificial colors and crappy ingredients. I would even sometimes just grind some into my hand and lick it (although I really don’t enjoy doing that – but I can tell it helps with my energy, so it’s worth the few seconds of displeasure). I do love it on my food, though.
-Decaf coffee (and a few Starbucks VIA packets) – I enjoyed a hot decaf coffee one morning, and a couple of evenings with my chocolate. I used a Starbucks VIA twice in cold water to give me a little boost midday – and it was a tasty addition to whatever lunch I was eating.

Natural Choice pre-cooked bacon – DUDE. Must-have. I would hike, feeling frickin’ amazing, for a few hours in the morning before eating (totally a bonus from keto), and when I finally stopped, I would happily devour a package of pre-cooked bacon and love every bite of it. It’s the stuff you get in the grocery store that doesn’t need refrigeration until it’s opened. Perfect for the backcountry!

 – Powdered bone broth – I wanted to take the benefits of bone broth with me on the hike, but the liquid form would’ve just been too heavy. So I found a powdered version on Amazon that wasn’t too bad as far as additives. It was actually super-filling, and I only ended up having two or three times, just because I wasn’t hungry enough for it. I would add dried garlic, onion, salt, pepper, and dehydrated red and green bell pepper to it. It’s good by itself, too, but the extra seasonings made it feel like I was eating a soup. I could easily have gone without this and the decaf coffee in hot form — and I would’ve been totally food-cold and wouldn’t have had to even bring my Jetboil and fuel, saving myself a pound or two. Next time!

Lastly, a few of my favorite things from the trip, my lowest point, and what will be different next time!

My favorites from the trip? All of it, duh! If I had to pick a few things, the first one that really stands out is the wildflowers. 

More. 

They were seriously insane out there. I felt like I was walking through a rainbow, and I’m not even kidding you – it smelled like cotton candy in some places! Another favorite would be the views of Mt. Rainier every day, from a different angle each time. That’s a gimme. 

My grid app only let me use 15 photos. Good thing I had a limit.

Another? The glaciers. Carbon Glacier was my favorite, as I got to see it in action when some rocks came loose and went tumbling down along an ice wall that was melting in the summer’s sun – and the sound that came with it was just incredible. It’s a tough one to describe. But it was super-cool. The swims! I swam three times and could’ve swam a bunch more. I love swimming in those clear, crisp mountain lakes, especially after a long day of hiking and sweating! Another one was the solo aspect of it, being on my own schedule, and just being able to go and stop as I pleased. And lastly, the way it can be so hard (the first two days were intense with big miles), or pretty chill (I had a couple of low-mileage days that were pretty easy walking). The climbs are usually long uphills or long downhills, and that challenge was fun.

A few downsides? Well, not really a downside, but I did post-hole up in the snow on day 2 and ended up scraping my shin and knee pretty good. I hiked the rest of the day with a dried blood trail down both shins (I’m sure it looked totally badass, though!). It didn’t really hurt, as it happened really fast, so it wasn’t a big deal. I felt kind of proud. Like it was a souvenir for my hard hike that day. So, yeah. I guess not much of a downside. I loved hiking in the snowfields, but there are certainly some precautions you need to take to be safe.

One definite downside was the black flies on day 8. They just got to me. The bugs, overall, really weren’t nearly as bad as I thought they were going to be, considering the time I was going to be out there. I never even used my headnet! Well, if I had some sort of netted contraption for my ankles, though, I would’ve used it on day 8. I also found out later that my super-short fuse was also linked to a certain hormonal cycle that I deal with every month, and this one unexpectedly shortened on me by 6 days, so I was thrown off-guard. But a few bazillion flowers, sweat, caffeine and trail love helped me through it.

Last – the biggest downside? That it had to end. Awww…. So cheesy, I know. But it’s true. I did not want to stop hiking. It doesn’t matter if my hike is 2 days or 165 days. They’re never long enough.

For anyone that wants to go on a solo backpacking trip, but has been a little nervous about taking the plunge and doing it?
Do it here.
And don’t be at all afraid. There’s quite a few people on the trails, but not so many that you’re running into someone every few minutes. Camping at night is a piece of cake. There’s bear poles or boxes at every camp, so it’s super-easy to manage food safety out there, and the way the camps are set up, you’ll have neighboring campers that are at least a shout away if something were to go wrong. But I doubt animals would even be a bother. The few bears I saw were super nonthreatening. I mean, you don’t want to entice them or rub yourself in coconut oil (which I almost did before going to bed one night to help with dry skin, but quickly rethought the plan – saved it for morning), but it’s not really something to worry about if you take even the simplest of backcountry bear precautions.

So ohmygosh, I think I’m finally done blabbing! There is still probably so much more I could add, but I’ll just wrap it up here. The last thing I want to say, is this:

Mom and Dad – next time I hike this trail, you are both going with me, and I will not take “no” for an answer. I thought of you both every single day out there. The flowers, the waterfalls, the wildlife, the scenery – I know you would’ve loved it. So I’m dragging you along next time! (They won’t argue, my friends. Trust me.)


Tonight I love those of you that stuck it out and read this whole thing. You are my hard-core readers and followers! Thank you! I wish I could give you some sort of prize. You’ve got my love, that’s for sure. :)

Love my Gossamer Gear Gorilla

The Wonderland Trail. Day 9.

Sunday, August 6, 2017 

“I WANNA YO-YO!”
(Yo-yoing in thru-hiking terms means you get to the end of a long trail, then turn around and hike back to where you started. Imagine thru-hiking the 2,660 miles of the PCT from Mexico to Canada, then turning around and hiking back to Mexico. Cool, right!? It’s been done. No kidding! 

Let’s go back to the start… And do it again. Pretty please!? (Photo is from Day 3)

I was so sad it was my last day on the trail. We only had three miles to go to exit at Longmire where I’d be reunited with our PJ2 Subaru and civilization. 

The hike out was mostly downhill, and I got to experience the Kautz Creek River crossing that Adam got do once already on his way out to meet me. It was pretty swift – enough to warrant unbuckling my pack straps for the crossing. We both made it across on a few skinny, bouncy logs that a kind hiker before us laid down as a makeshift, temporary bridge. Adam said someone added a couple more since yesterday. Thanks, other hikers! 

Adam crossing Kautz Creek on some pretty flimsy little logs. He did just fine.

We hiked down, down and down some more, then I started to hear vehicle traffic, then we crossed a road, and then we popped out of the woods into the Longmire parking lot. I head right to our car where Adam took a photo of me just like he did at the beginning. It was amazing how relaxed I looked compared to when I started. The wilderness does great things for me. 

A side-by-side of me at the start and finish. I really love this photo comparison. It actually makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside with happiness to see how chill I look after the hike. It was so amazing.

And so I ended with no post-hike cravings because I eat damn keto (which I love anyway), but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because the restaurant at Longmire was frickin’ CLOSED when I got there (at 10:45am) because apparently they shut down between meal hours. I was going to go in and just get a celebratory burger or something for tradition’s sake, but that was a no-go. 

Oh, well. I decided I’d just hit up the bathroom for its flushy toilets and running water. I’d wash up a little bit and change so we could hit the road and find a good coffee somewhere. (I guess I was sort of craving a good cappuccino. So, there’s that!) 

I grabbed a tote bag with a change of clothes, a bandana to wash up with, and my tooth brush. I approached the one public bathroom to see a line. *sigh* Can’t I just please go back into the woods!? 

I waited in that line for about eight other ladies to cycle through, but once I got inside I was shouldered-bumped by another lady who apparently thought her hand-washing needs were way more important that mine or anyone else’s. Then after I finally got to the sink to wet my bandana I got repeatedly skipped for a stall. I wanted to punch someone! I said out loud out of frustration, “Oh, forget it!” and walked back outside in a huff and back to the car – dirt-covered and still having to pee. Civilization is really hard. 

Adam got out of the bathroom (big surprise, no line. I should’ve just use the men’s) and we walked over to the restaurant to see how much longer it would be until they opened, and it was another hour – but they had their own bathroom! So I took the big stall and was able to wash up and change in peace. Thank goodness. Then we left. I needed to get the hell out of there. I was over-peopled – way too much exposure at once first thing out of the mountains. 

We drove on, stopping at the first Starbucks we came across so I could get my cappuccino. We drank our coffees out of ceramic mugs in the store, played a couple games of cribbage and then drove on. We got as far as Yakima, WA, and stopped at the Oxford Inn for the night. We had a first floor patio so I was able to drape my tent outside to air it out, and that was nice. 

Starbucks and cribbage.

And then I took the world’s longest Epsom-salt bath. I was filthy – I hadn’t showered/bathed (other than a few mountain lakes, streams and wet-ones) for what I think is a new record for me – 10 days! I love it! It took some serious scrubbing, too. My feet were the toughest. I hiked almost the entire Wonderland Trail in my Bedrock sandals, and it showed – in a pretty awesomely hardcore-dirty kind of way. I had dirt permanently tattooed into every crease on the bottoms of my feet, and I gave a new pumice stone a pretty good workout! (I’ll probably talk a little more about backpacking in my sandals in another blog entry where I’ll go over some of my specific food and gear choices for this trip.) 

It probably took 30 minutes of pumice scrubbing to get that one foot as clean as it is in the photo.

After scrubbing a few layers of skin off and dousing myself in lotion, Adam and I head out to a local, popular burger joint called Miner’s. It was amazing! For not having any specific cravings, this place couldn’t have been more perfect. I got a double cheeseburger in a lettuce wrap (that was as big as my head – literally), I ate some of Adam’s fries and got a fresh strawberry malt afterwards. It was fun, and so dang delicious. I didn’t feel too awesome afterwards – I ate a little too much and it was pretty much the most sugar I’d eaten in four months – but it was oh, so worth it! 

Fun neon sign at Miner’s in Yakima, WA

Yup. As big as my head! And so good!

Then back at the hotel it was late and we pretty much passed right out. We had a lot more fun vacation to do yet! Next up was Glacier National Park for some camping, driving and sight-seeing, trails, and on a weird whim I wanted to try stand-up paddling on Lake McDonald. I did zero research for this – I just assumed it existed. And I hoped it did! But first? A good night’s sleep. In a cushy bed with crisp, cool, clean sheets. 

Aaah. The simple things. 

Tonight I love pumice stones. 

This was actually my first off-trail meal – summer sausage and cheese – with a cold, lime-flavored La Croix seltzer water. It was perfect. Because I could eat it in the car as we drove away from all the people. 

Adam’s compass fell apart, but I said, “good.” I don’t like these compasses – can you see why? There’s two Norths on it. It’s so dumb!

Still stopping for the little things – even with only 3 miles left.

A great morning view looking up Kautz Creek.

LOVE.

Also LOVE.

And… One last on-trail view of my latest favorite beauty. I love you, Mt. Rainier. I’ll see you again. That’s a promise.

The Wonderland Trail. Day 8.

Saturday, August 5, 2017 

Chewed-up feet, a case of the grumpies, mean flies and so much beauty that I didn’t even care. Well, eventually. 

Yeah, it’s seriously like this every day on the Wonderland Trail.

I woke up a little tired-feeling at 5:25am and was packed up and hiking out of camp by 6:10am – before any of my neighbor campers at Klapatche were even awake. Okay by me! I love these quiet mornings on the trail all by myself! It’s really become my favorite part of each day on this trip! 

I hiked up toward St. Andrew Lake where I swam yesterday and stopped there to rearrange my pack, as it acquired a really aggravating squeak that I assumed was because of how I packed it. The rearranging helped, but the squeak didn’t totally go away. It didn’t take long for me to shut it out, though. There’s this scenery thing that was happening around me that is a really great distraction from these sorts of things. 

Firesmoke haze really adds a unique beauty to everything.

I then started downhill and cruised along pretty good, but then I got a little grumpy. The only thing I could figure was that it was my last full day on the trail, and I think I was deeply saddened that it had to end. I wasn’t really sure, though. I kept getting distracted by my surroundings, then a fly would bite me and I’d cuss at it and feel so frustrated for a minute. Then I’d hike on, look around, and do it all over again. It was extra hazy from smoke in the air that morning, and then I slipped on a mossy rock while getting water in a small stream and muddied my foot and one of my legs. It just felt like I was having an “off” day. (Edit: I later realized that this moody day fit right into my monthly schedule – sorta – it wasn’t on my radar because it came a week early. But at least it makes sense now!) 

Then I started to climb and I felt better. Strangely. I felt so good. Like I had my hiker legs and could go forever. And then the forest opened up to another glacial view as I ascended toward what was called emerald ridge. The name itself sounded pretty, so I thought I’d wait until I got up there to eat my bacon and snacks – with the marmots, I hoped. I was getting cheery again! 

Emerald ridge was really nice. It was kind of a knife’s-edge hike for a little while along a ridgeline that dropped down pretty steeply on both sides of the trail (hence the name “emerald ridge!”) and the colors surrounding the view of the Tahoma glaciers was really colorful – lots of grays, reds and browns from the rock and green from the trees and blue of the sky – and the haze was giving it all a sort of peaceful pastel glow. It was so pretty. 

Emerald Ridge.

At the top, I found a great rock that I could lean up against for my break, and ate my first food of the day – at 9:30am! I wanted to hike this trail in ketosis, and it’s been a crazy-weird experience – not feeling the need to eat for the first few hours of hiking, and get this – I’ve really had no off-trail cravings. I mean I guess I thought a little about crunchy lettuce and a cold drink a couple of times, but maybe that was more because of thirst? I dunno. I even tried to think about pizza. Nah… Burger? Nah… Beer? Nah… An apple? Nah… I mean, come on! I’m backpacking! I’ve gotta really want something! I was starting to feel envious of that young guy I met that couldn’t wait to get his bonzai burger from Red Robin. I later met another guy that said he was going to eat fries until he puked. So I felt sad that I wasn’t craving anything… I guess. But I sure was still enjoying my trail food – especially the mixed raw nuts, coconut butter, and cheese! So, I can’t really complain. That’s pretty yummy stuff! 

On my break some mosquitoes decided to join me. I slathered on some deet, leaned back and watched as the buggers buzzed around my face, hovered by my ears and landed on the rim of my hat, but the deet kept them from wanting to land on my skin. Perfect. I ate in peace. Well, besides the annoying buzzing. And a couple of marmots did run across the meadow as I munched on some bacon! But they were just as shy as all the others I’ve seen this far, and I wasn’t quick enough to grab a good photo. Too bad, because they’re so dang cute – especially when they run!  

Western pasqueflower, or… more like Truffula trees from The Lorax.

The day was turning out to be a yo-yo kind of day. Up to St. Andrews Lake, then down to the South Puyallup River, then up to Emerald Ridge, and now back down towards Tahoma Creek. That hike downhill, at first got me excited because I started to see a bunch of salmon berries and a few huckleberries. I started to pick some, collecting them in a baggie, with the thought that I’d give them to Adam that night if he shows up at my campsite. But the black flies took over and killed my mood. I was able to gather a few handfuls, but then gave up (these flies do NOT care about deet! They bite right through the stuff!). They weren’t horribly swarmy or anything, but just annoying enough to make me want to keep moving to they to get away. I was making good time because of them, though! I eventually got so frustrated (because of my grumpy state, I think) that I practically ran up the next hill! 

I know! Another picture of berries in a bag! But look at those suckers! Huge!

When I arrived at Tahoma Creek I was surprised with another suspension bridge! I totally forgot in my early reading and research of the trail that there were two suspension bridges! I took my time crossing it, enjoying the slow bouncing feeling as I stepped my way across, really appreciating the engineering of the thing, and especially appreciating that I again didn’t have to rely crossing such an angry river without a bridge! I stopped for a quick break once I got across and ate some more food. I was feeling a little more hungry than previous days. Maybe a craving would hit soon! 

Tahoma Creek suspension bridge!

Another view – with Tahoma Creek winding down the valley.

I started to feel tired when I came across a huge, smooth rock that was just soaking in sunshine with a great view of a valley below. I decided on a whim to drop my pack and try for a short nap. I was making really good time. Might as well! Well… About five minutes into my attempt at a nap and I was sitting up and cursing at the flies that were biting at my ankles. I got up in a huff, threw on my pack and angrily, practically ran up another hill I was climbing. 

Wanna know how to tell when the flies are really getting to you? When you’re trying to take a drink of water and one flies into your mouth, and you quickly take swig, swallow and say out loud, “There! I hope you struggle all the way down and survive until you hit my stomach acid, you asshole!” It made me laugh a little at the thought. Okay, maybe I was losing it. I decided I was done letting the little bastards try to ruin the last half of my last full day in one of the greatest places I’d ever hiked before. 

“Go ahead, flies, bite away. I don’t even care any more.” All I had to do was say it and I began to tolerate them much better. My climb was bringing me up towards Indian Henry’s old hunting grounds, and I was starting to see wildflowers and meadows with pretty little trickling streams. There’s no way the flies were going to ruin this for me! So I turned it into a mental game. And won. 

See? How can a few stupid flies ruin my day when I’m surrounded by this! Bite away, little jerks!

It’s crazy to think that this pretty little stream made a delicious cold coffee.

It also helped that I stopped to treat some water, then make up a cold, caffienated coffee. That put a bounce in my step, and before I knew it I was playfully stepping up the trail, happy as can be. I remembered I still love hiking! Flies and all. I even took a side trail (which ended up being about a 2-mile round trip) to Mirror Lakes. Because why not? It was a worthwhile excursion, too. The flowers got insane, completely exploding over rolling meadow hills, and then I got a great view of Mt. Rainier reflecting in a small lake surrounded by it all. Mirror lakes – appropriately named! 

A half-sunken bridge on the trail to Mirror Lakes. It was a little more rugged, as it’s unmaintained, but I really enjoyed that aspect of it.

Mirror Lake and a hazy Mt. Rainier reflection.

After I got back onto the Wonderland Trail, I soon found myself approaching the historic (but still used) Indian Henry patrol cabin. Seriously? This place. If I could just live anywhere… It might be in that very cabin. I can’t even… Here. Here’s a photo or two below. Am I right? I took a few minutes there, mostly to pretend it was my front yard, then continued on down the trail. I didn’t want to leave that place! 

Indian Henry’s hunting grounds – everything about this little place seemed like perfection.

I could live here so easy. There’s even a little lake in back!

I stopped at the Devil’s Dream camp area to make use of the pit toilet there. I felt satisfied that I’d used the very last of my toilet paper, knowing I’d probably be just fine making it out tomorrow without any. It’s strangely satisfying when these things turn out to be perfectly portioned. It means you didn’t carry extra – even if it weighs as little as some TP – it’s a good feeling. Also, stopping at Devil’s Dream reminded me of how glad I was that the ranger booked Pyramid Creek for my last night’s camp instead of here. The bugs were a little crazy. I didn’t stick around. 

Just a couple of miles later and I was approaching camp. Would Adam be there? Did he make it across Kautz Creek okay? As I walked in, it looked like someone had already taken site #1, but I didn’t see our Hubba Hubba set up, so I proceeded towards site #2. A quick glance back at site #1, though, and hey! I recognized that head through the trees! 

“Adam!?” 

He stood up, said hello, and I joined him in our site. He said he got across the river okay. There was someone else there to help him find the good spot to cross at, and over an old part of the bridge that had washed out and a few skinny, bouncy logs, he made it with no problem. Whew! I was so nervous for him, but of course he did just fine. I was so happy to see him! He hiked three miles, a lot uphill, and across an angry glacial river to spend the night with me in the woods! He’s the best. 

Yaaaay! It’s Adam!

We set up camp, hung our smellies and walked back where I’d come from about a half mile to where I crossed a nice, clear stream. We gathered some water to drink, I waded in to pick a few plump salmon berries (that water was bitter-stinging cold!), and then I rinsed the day’s dirt off of my feet and legs. 

I don’t know if it’s because of how far I hiked (I think with my side trip it was around 14 miles), how fast I hiked (I blame the flies), the terrain, the heat, the fact that I didn’t wash my feet throughout the day, or just that my feet had had enough for a while, but they got a little tore up. They were great yesterday… But just after today, for some reason, I had a couple of raw rub spots that I actually had to stop for a few hours earlier to cover up – one with a blister pad (I only had one in my first aid kit) and the other with some duct tape. My poor feet were looking rough. Guess it was time to give them a little break. “Just a few more miles,” I told them. “Just a few more miles.” 

Youch! Hang in there, tootsies! I love you!

Back at camp Adam and I took our food back down off of the bear pole, scarfed down some trail food, brushed our teeth, rehung our smellies and crashed. Another great night with no rain fly. And three or so miles back to civilization in the morning. 

Yay? 

*sigh* 

zzzzzzzz 

Tonight I love trail coffee.

I put these suckers through so much and they just keep on going. I love my tough feet!

Flowers. Trail. Trees.

Another colorful glacier view, including a small melt-off pond, from Emerald Ridge.

Tree skeletons and flowers.

Trail friend. Cutie!

High alpine foliage is so cool. And vibrant!

Seriously, flowers! These have really been a highlight of this trip for sure!

The incredible colors of this glacial landscape! Crazy-pretty!

No more words…

The Wonderland Trail. Day 7.

Friday, August 3, 2017 

Skinnydipping in a mountain lake and one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen.  

Dusk view across Aurora Lake at the Klapatche Park camp.

I woke up in my pretty little ridge-side camp at Golden Lakes about 5:45am. I had kind of a short day ahead of me, but I’ve been enjoying hiking in the early, cool, quiet mornings, so even though I could’ve slept in a few hours, I naturally got up. Mornings are so much easier for me when I’m backpacking. Probably because I’m where I belong. Wish I could just do this forever! 

I took lots of photos so I might just randomly pop them in throughout today’s blog entry. This one was the first I took.

Anyway, I got all packed up, and my skin was so dry after my swim yesterday, that out of desperation I cracked open one of my single-use packets of coconut oil (that I brought to eat) and warmed it my hands and applied it like a lotion. I got the idea last night, but figured it would be a bad idea to rub smelly coconut oil all over myself right before wrapping myself up in my sleeping bag for the night. I mean, I’m already a bear burrito! I didn’t need to add a condiment – that’s just asking for trouble! It felt pretty awesome to moisturize, though! An hour after waking, at 6:45am, I was hiking out of camp. 

I hiked through an old burn, and it was incredibly beautiful. And so quiet.

My first five miles were pretty much downhill. That’s how this trail has been, quite consistently. Half of the day is either consistently climbing up or descending, and the other half is the opposite. I knew I only had about 8 miles to hike, but after my five downhill miles I had about three that went up pretty steeply – about 2,000 feet – to my camp at Klapatche Park. 

More of my descent.

The downhill felt really good. I was fasted, and it’s been so crazy how amazing I’ve been feeling in the mornings before eating, so it’s been nice to just go with however I’m feeling. I flew down those five miles in just a couple of hours, and was happy to stop for a nice long break at the North Puyallup River – and eat a package of bacon! I had the pre-cooked bacon that doesn’t need refrigeration until after it’s opened, and it’s one of the most amazing things ever! 

Baaaaaacon!

My views on my descent to the river were a little hazy (still from the firesmoke up north), so Mt. Rainier was a little difficult to see, but I hiked through an old burn for a portion of the morning, and it was just gorgeous. I had to stop a few times, stare and just smile. 

More from that burn area. Morning light is the best! Well, almost…

Crossing the North Puyallup River was very cool. This is another glacial river, so the bridge over it was strongly-built and high up over a strong waterfall cascading down into a deep, dangerous-looking swirling pool of water. I was very happy for that bridge! This is not a river you’d want to try crossing on wimpy logs or a rock-hop! I spent a good hour or more there, taking in the power of the river and enjoying the sounds and cool mist coming off of the edge of the falls. And then it was time to climb. 

The beautiful scene at the North Puyallup River crossing. 

The waterfall at the N. Puyallup River crossing. Don’t fall here!

I took the climb nice and slow, just taking in the surroundings. Because I could. As it was, I was going to arrive at camp ridiculously early. Then I started to spot some pops of color in the green brush along the edge of the trail. Salmon berries! I stopped and dug out a snack-size ziplock baggie and picked until the bag was full. Score! Dessert for later… And some snacking for now! And one of the best on-trail time-wasters! 

I spy with my little eye… Something delicious!

Even with my berry-picking, I still arrived to my camp at noon. At first I was bummed because, even though I got there so insanely early, a couple had JUST beat me there and grabbed the best site out of the four that were available – it has a nice view of Mt. Rainier. But I picked a spot that I think I ended up liking a little better in the end, anyway. It was a little more private and I got a peak of the sun going down behind the trees later in the evening. And besides, the view that you’d get from the “best” site? You get the same view along a nice big sitting log along the “lake,” which was really just a still pond full of wriggling pollywogs… A still pond that reflected Mt. Rainier on its surface in a pretty spectacular fashion. This really was a great place to be for the night. 

Another, perfect, simple little camp at Klapatche Park.

Yeah. The view from the Klapatche Park camp was pretty great with Mt. Rainier reflecting in the glassy Aurora Lake. But just wait… It gets SO much better. If you can believe that!

But I had hours to spare, so what to do? Easy. Talking with some folks a few days ago that were heading the opposite direction as me, and had already been past this section of trail, they told me, “The hike from camp uphill to St. Andrew lake is worth it for a swim.” Well, duh – swim!? Yes, please! 

Wouldn’t ya know it? I found more wildflowers!

I hung any smelly things on the bear pole, packed a few snacks, my jetboil, an instant coffee, and change of clothes and started the beautiful little hike uphill through wildflowers to St. Andrew lake. It was almost a mile, but when the lake came into view I instantly knew it was worth it. My trail friends were right! It was a crystal-clear, fairly shallow lake, surrounded by mountains. 

Beautiful St. Andrew Lake.

I made my way around to the opposite side from where the trail went through, found where a stream feeds the lake and got some water first thing (better than the still lake water for drinking) and then found a perfect little spot to hang out along the lake’s edge. It was nice and sunny and I had my own little tiny sandy beach-like spot. 

My own personal tiny beach, on my own personal mountain lake, with a tiny Christmas tree drying my wet clothes, hanging like decorations.

First things first. Goals. I looked across the lake at the trail, saw no one, shrugged, stripped down naked as the day I was born and dove in. Glorious. There is no freer feeling than that of sun-warmed high mountain lake water against all inches of your bare, sweaty, dirt-covered, sun-kissed, tired hiker skin. I got back out, put on my hiker swimsuit (sweaty sport bra and short spandex undies), and jumped back in for a more extended swim. I stayed in for a quite a while just floating and paddling around until I was ready to get out and dry off. Then I made a hot coffee and sipped it while watching the sudden slough of trail runners that started coming through across the small lake on the Wonderland Trail. Well, by “slough” I mean maybe 5 or 6 within an hour or two – but all while I was clothed, so I guess I timed it right! 

Post-swim coffee and sunshine. I think I’m in heaven.

Another sped-up video – this one is of my swim at St. Andrew Lake (don’t worry, I’m clothed in this one! Haha!) 

I left the lake around 3:30pm after all my clothes were dry and hiked back downhill to camp. I took about a 30-minute nap and head down the the big log with the great view of the mountain and had some dinner. I made my avocado special and had some bakers chocolate and my wild-picked salmon berries for dessert. 

Berries for dessert – again!

My neighbors from site #1 came down and we chatted for a bit. Turns out a bear walked right past camp shortly after we arrived! Good thing I hung up all my food for my little lake trip! They also warned me of another river crossing that has a bridge out that I’d be crossing on my last day – Kautz Creek – another one of them crazy, silty, fast glacial rivers. I felt okay about it, but then I remembered Adam was planning on hiking the three miles into my last night’s camp to meet up with me! He was going to have to cross it – and probably wouldn’t be going over first thing in the morning when it’s nice and low. I felt nervous for him. I hoped there would be some other people around when he got there. Not much I could do at this point! I just decided if he wasn’t at camp when I got there, I’d set up and walk down to the river in case he was there, stuck and needing some help. 

After dinner I brushed my teeth, put on my warmer sleeping clothes – mostly to ward off a few pesky black flies – hung my smellies and wandered around the pollywog pond enjoying the flowers, butterflies, frogs, pine trees, and the mountain. 

My favorite. ❤️

Then the sun began to lower behind camp. I knew the sunset was going to be pretty red from all the firesmoke in the air, and I hoped it would reflect off of the snowy Mt. Rainier. It did. It slowly turned a spectacular pink color, and I took a bunch of photos trying to capture that color, but I’ll have to keep that one for the memory bank, because photos just weren’t cutting it. They turned out pretty, but only about 50% as pretty as the real deal – if you can believe it! 

I can’t believe I hiked out here, and sat there in the dirt, leaning up against a log and watched the firey sunset reflect onto Mt. Rainier. Sometimes the best parts of life are free, and leave you feeling more wealthy than the largest amount of money – there’s really no comparison. Life. These are the moments that remind me that it’s oh, so grand.

After the pink went away and the mountain dulled into shadows I walked back up to my tent and crashed for the night. 

What another incredible day on the Wonderland Trail. One more night left… I’m sad that it’s already almost over, but jeez. If that’s all I’ve got to complain about, then it’s been a good trip! 


Tonight I love mountain water. Drinking it and swimming in it.

The Wonderland Trail isn’t all up high with constant views and meadows chock full of wildflowers, although that was a huge part of it – but there are also sections that traverse through deep, lush forest. Which is also amazing!

Two rivers collide.

Aurora Lake at Klapatche camp was full of cute, fat little polywogs.

I “washed” my skirt in the lake, but before I did I was sure to snap a photo of my sweaty salt lines. I’m always so proud of them. :)

Day 7 and I still don’t have this mountain selfie thing figured out! Haha!

Crisp moon at bedtime.

I enjoy taking breaks near water like this. There is so much energy coming out of that raging river and waterfall – I hope to absorb some of it to help me up the next climb.

Just one more from early sunset. Every few seconds the colors deepened as the sun set behind me. And because of wildfire haze hanging heavy in the sky, it turned a deep, beautiful red – the way it slowly laid its color on the mountain was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I will never forget this sunset.