Swimming in the rain

I decided if I made it 30 miles yesterday that I’d allow myself a wee sleep in today. I didn’t set an alarm and after waking up every two hours from the cold throughout the night I finally checked my watch at 7:30am and decided I would have to brave the cold wet world outside at some point!

It was incredibly hard to put on wet shoes, rain pants and my rain jacket over my sleeping clothes. I squealed and cursed many times until finally I just jumped out of my tent, rolled up the wet filthy mess into a ball, shoved it into my sponge pack and started to walk. The trail that greeted me was basically a wet swampy mess. At first I tried avoiding the puddles, then realised it wasn’t worth the risk of twisting my ankle and walked straight through the middle instead.

I had two 1000 foot climbs before hitting Hwy 2 at Steven’s Pass. I cursed up the first one as my legs literally felt like lead, and because it was so steep I almost fell backwards a couple of times lacking any sort of momentum to push myself forward. At one point I reached a huge tree trunk blocking the trail. The trail around it went straight down and up, so I decided to mount the tree instead, using my hiking poles to peel myself off and over the other side. If I had a third arm I wish I could have filmed it!

At the top of the second 1000 foot climb I stopped to check if I had phone signal. I wasn’t sure where the person I was so excited to see (no prizes for guessing who) would be, and I was hoping to send him a message to say I was only about 3 miles from the highway. I guess my SPOT message from last night had already alerted him to my proximity.

I was on cloud nine the entire way down to the trail head where Wolfman was waiting for us in his truck. I was hyperactive the entire way to Skykomish but finally crashed after having breakfast and half a dozen cups of coffee. Wolfman offered to take us to REI tomorrow to get new gear for the remaining 200 miles and we quickly popped over to the PO to pick up my resupply. Thanks Steph and Janer for the Canadian chocolates! I’m now even more hungry to see the border in the next 10 days or so.

It’s a dream come true to complete this journey with the man I met on Day 6 down at Scissors Crossing in Southern California. We have shared such an epic adventure, both together and apart on the trail, that it felt somewhat hollow finishing the final leg alone. UB has invested so much in this trail, financially and emotionally like every other thru hiker, it killed me to think he wouldn’t experience the same feelings of pride and jubilation I felt when I realised just how far I’d come on this trail. I hope in these last 200 miles UB will realise that all his efforts were not in vain, that his journey has been as long in time and miles as any other thru hiker, and that this chapter of our journey will finally be complete when we both set eyes on the Northern Terminus together.

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Why so wet Washington?

Today was a tough day. I started early as per usual and was on the trail by 6:45am. I grabbed some water from the Waptus River before heading up the first of three big climbs for the day. I climbed a total of 8453 feet and descended 6815 feet over 30.2 miles; which may explain the exhausted state I’m currently in.

I was extremely tired for at least the first two hours today; to the point I was almost walking with my eyes half shut. I didn’t make coffee this morning which probably contributed to my lethargic state, but I think yesterday tired me out so much it lingered into the start of today.

Music helped boost morale and got me up the first big climb. The day varied between drizzling and pouring rain, with the morning a little more forgiving than the afternoon. I had decided to break when the sun came out so I could dry my tent, but because the sun never appeared I barely stopped at all during the day except to get water and stretch. There were also a few river crossings which slowed me down, especially one which was listed as ‘potentially hazardous’ in Halfmile’s notes.

Rafiki and Hercules caught up to me after the river crossing as I took at least 15 minutes to assess and the cross on the slippery logs successfully. It seemed once across the rain simply got heavier and heavier. Because I was too cold to stop, I didn’t have a proper lunch break leaving me hungry, tired and cold, my most lethal combination. At one point as I trudged through the muddy trail river with freezing cold hands from my soaking gloves, I got really worried about hypothermia and being so wet. It played on my mind until I finally almost lost it. (I think the rain blocked the mic at the end of the video so it’s a little muffled. Hopefully my phone will dry out alright!)

I ended up having a quick 10 minute break to get my Fritos and cookies out of my bag. This became my lunch on the run, and I almost did have to run to warm up after almost freezing once I’d stopped. On the way down the second climb I bumped into Night Crawler, her dad and Belgium Red who I hadn’t met before. I must have been close to hypothermic as I asked Belgium Red if she was from South Africa. She gave me a puzzled look and told me she was from Belgium! Dah Muk Muk. There is a South African girl just ahead of me who I haven’t met yet either, so I jumped to conclusions immediately without even thinking!

It was 7.5 miles from where I was at to Mig Lake, where I am now. It was already 4:45pm and we had one more steep pass to climb in between. I decided I would need to hike super fast with no breaks to reach camp before dark, which is basically what I did. I have no idea where my magical energy came from but I flew up the pass. Coming down the other side proved more difficult because of all the water and mud on the trail. For about an hour I expected Mig Lake to be right about the corner at the rate I was hiking; but the trail went on forever until it did get dark and I found myself walking through the middle of giant puddles as I didn’t want to stop and get my headlamp out.

Everything was soaking wet when I finally reached camp. I managed to get myself dry and warm in my sleeping bag but tomorrow is going to be horrific putting freezing cold wet clothes on. I may just hike in my long johns to Highway 2. Thank goodness I’m heading into town, I can’t imagine another trail day without sunshine to dry things out!

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The horse poop face plant

Today was a very long 28 miles. I was awake throughout the night with back pain and the sound of aircrafts flying over. It rained on and off during the night and in the morning it was still pitter pattering on my tent.

I had Mountain House oatmeal for breakfast that I took from the hiker box and felt like I needed to vomit for the first full hour. I’m so tired of feeling nauseous on trail, I honestly can’t figure it out. I really don’t enjoy eating on trail, even my favourite foods like cookies don’t go down well out here anymore. I think my body is telling me it’s had enough. I left camp in a bit of a rush in the rain and only had 1/2 a litre of water for the next 10 miles. Oops! I got worried when the trail climbed and I started feeling ill. I felt like crying actually but managed to hold it together and started feeling better once the trail went down again.

After about 7 miles I bumped into Rafiki who I haven’t seen since Yosemite. She’s had some serious real world issues to deal with in the last few weeks and I was impressed she was still on trail. We had a good catch up as we headed to the Delate Creek waterfall. The sun finally peeped through the clouds so we dried our tents on the bridge and had a morning snack. Rafiki has lived in Alaska since 2008 and knows the dangers of hypothermia extremely well. I started getting nervous listening to her talk about the cold, but I honestly have about 3 times as many clothes as her. She laughed at how ridiculous my pack looks with a large majority of gear hanging on the outside. I think it’s becoming more crazy with wet clothes, broken hiking poles and items like gloves stuffed into my Frocs as additional pockets.

Just after we crossed Lemah Creek my foot got stuck under a hidden root on the trail and I face planted onto a very muddy section of the trail. I was pinned under my huge pack and was giggling so hard Rafiki had to hold onto my pack so I could even sit up. I soon discovered I’d also fallen in horse poop which was smeared all over my right leg… Jolly good!

The climb up the mountain was never ending but we chatted the whole way up which sped things along. After a quick snack we headed across the ridge and down the other side. I couldn’t believe when I checked my watch it was already 6:30pm. I had a pretty bad headache and was feeling tired after 12 hours on trail. We still had another 2.5 miles to Waptus River and arrived just as it got dark at 7:30pm. It started spitting with rain but it may have actually passed for now. Fingers crossed we get some more sun like this afternoon tomorrow! Goodnight from mile 2438.

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Half way through WA

My introduction to this next section of Washington was magnificent. The views were stunning, the climb was long but gradual, and I felt content being solo again after having a few great trail days with Bad Seed. I did feel a bit of anxiety as I left town like I usually do, but I finally figured out this is probably due to the massive caffeine overload I put my body through with at least 7 cups of coffee swimming in my system.

I bumped into a few day hikers and runners on their way down the mountain as I climbed up. The first said “it’s a perfect day to take your hamster for a walk”, referring to little Muk hanging on my pack. I corrected him and told him Muk Muk is in fact a marmot. The second guy I passed was a man named Tim who was at the Aardvark (a food caravan we ate at last night at the Chevron). He had offered us a beer and chatted to Bad Seed and I while we had dinner. The third was another man jogging down the mountain. I smiled and said hi and he stopped, turned around and said in surprise “you look like you’re enjoying yourself”. I had to laugh because I was enjoying the climb up once my anxieties settled and my heart stopped racing from the caffeine.

It was 7.7 miles to Ridge Lake and the trail at the top of the climb was glorious. I arrived at the lake just after 7pm and was glad it wasn’t any later as darkness was already rolling in alongside some heavy looking clouds. I wasn’t content with the first campsite I found, so I dropped my pack and darted around trying to find something a little more sheltered and without a giant swarm of what looked like mosquitos in the sky above. I ended up settling on the first spot I had found and luckily couldn’t see the swarm once it got dark. As I was eating dinner I was musing at how relaxed I am about my tent not closing until I saw a mouse climbing on my backpack just outside. I kind of squealed, more to scare it away than anything. I’ve now tried to tape my screen door closed unsuccessfully and have all my food inside my backpack. I also threw a piece of cookie far away outside my tent as a decoy, so hopefully the critters will leave me alone this evening.

There is currently a sprinkling of rain on my tent but the wind has actually died down a lot. I’m feeling really good now with a full tummy cosy in my sleeping bag but felt a little sick when I arrived at camp. I guess I was probably hungry as I didn’t eat between brunch and dinner. At first I thought I was light headed because of the altitude, but I think maybe I just let my hunger creep up on me, especially after climbing for 3 hours without snacking.

I’m going to try and do 28 miles tomorrow to Waptus River. I guess the terrain will be steeper but I’m determined to give it my all and see how far I can push (with enough time to take in the views if the weather permits!)

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In and out of Snoqualmie Pass

Was hoping to write a quick update but time has run away from me once again and I must now hit the trail at 3:30pm on Friday 20 September! My current Mile Piggy Bank total stands at 76.7 miles so my only big rush at the moment is the pending rain… Eeeek! See you on trail! 🙂

(Why do I always scratch my head when I talk to the camera? I swear I don’t have fleas!)

Slowly drying out

It’s about 4am and my back is so sore I can no longer sleep. I’m having to wipe condensation off my phone every 10 seconds as I type this underneath my sleeping bag to keep warm.

Yesterday Bad Seed and I left camp just before 7am. It was so wet and extremely hard to put on cold damp clothes when it was still freezing cold and dark outside. Once we got moving on trail we started to warm up a little, and had agreed we would go 12 miles until we reached the Urich Camp shelter where we could hopefully dry out our gear.

The wood fire in the shelter still had some hot coals so Bad Seed attempted to restart the fire. It just didn’t seem to go, and it was so dark in the shelter with the door closed we needed headlamps to see anything. I was starving and decided to make egg burritos, but I added way too much water and ended up having a soupy egg mix on tortillas which honestly made me feel extremely sick for at least a couple of hours afterwards. I’ve been feeling pretty sick after lunch everyday and often don’t feel like eating, but I have an appetite in town and just think I’m so tired of trail food!

We were aiming for Tacoma Pass which was 30 miles from where we camped. My body has started aching in many new placed and my feet just have a constant soreness to them. I know I’m pushing my body through Washington, but it’s starting to get so cold that I’m actually a little scared about the rest of the state as we get higher into the Northern Cascades. I really don’t know how I’m going to deal with snow.

I got a tiny bit of signal yesterday and received a message from Wendy who had just made it to Manning Park. I have a slight complex that I should really be there too, as many hikers I run into these days always seem to say, ‘oh I thought you’d be finished’. I’m happy not to be finished except for the pending freezing temperatures. Bad Seed is worried too, and we spent a lot of time chatting about our gear and whether or not it’ll get us through the colder temperatures.

It’s been great having company on trail the last couple of days. 30 miles is doable but also just so much walking that it’s nice to have someone to laugh and whine with along the way, especially when the climbs get steep!

At the end of the day we needed to get water from a spring 500 feet off trail. It was already dark so we took our headlamps and bottles and set off leaving our packs behind. The trail disappeared so we had to bushwhack down to the sound of running water. On the way back we got disorientated and neither of us had our phones to show us where the trail was. We ended up backtracking to the spring and then tried again, but it was so dark and the trees were so thick it was impossible to see where we’d come from. Bad Seed started freaking out, but I figured we’d get there eventually, and to out fortune we managed to locate our packs again after our headlamps reflected on Bad Seed’s hiking pole strap. Phew!

When we got to the pass to camp we discovered an entire water cache. I had to laugh at the effort we’d just gone through to get water which had taken at least 30 minutes at the end of a very long day. We were in surprisingly good spirits even though we had to set up wet tents again. The sun did come out today but we spent so much time at the shelter trying to dry our gear in vain that we had to keep hiking afterwards if we wanted to make it the full distance.

We made dinner and went to bed around 10pm. Bad Seed saw a mouse and because both of our tent zippers have broken we made sure no food was left in our tent so we wouldn’t have any furry scurrying friends join us in the night. I slept in two layers and was still a little cold which definitely makes me nervous for the weather coming up. There are only 29 miles to Snoqualmie Pass so I’m going to do a full reassessment of my gear and make sure I have everything I need for the final 250 odd miles!

Rain over Mt Rainier

Yesterday I could only muster up 10 miles out of White Pass. I hiked until just after 6pm to Snow Lake so I could get an early night and a longer sleep than the previous night.

Today was the coldest and wettest day I’ve had on trail in 5 months. If Mt Rainier had have been 5 feet in front of me I still wouldn’t have seen it. I basically walked in misty cloud all day long. It rained most of the night so my tent was soaked when I rolled it up at 6:30am this morning. My shoes and clothes were still wet and the trail was a slushy mud pool which I slipped over all morning.

Last night the zip on my tent broke so it no longer closes and today my hiking pole snapped in half. I think after 5 months everything starts to fall apart, sadly it’s happening a little too soon for me. I can see how dangerous the weather can be, especially because of the steepness and rockiness of the trail. The up hills made me hot and sweaty in my rain jacket, then I froze as I slipped on the downhills. Not much fun.

The good thing about the rain was I had no desire to stop walking, although my poor shoulder which has been in a knot for a couple of weeks now was giving me grief! The pain is becoming unbearable and it makes these steep climbs much harder to bare.

I knew the only shelter from the rain would be at Chinook Pass, 18 miles from where I camped. I passed Leaky and Moonshine this morning who were also freezing cold on trail, and heard from a couple of south bounding section hikers that Bad Seed wasn’t too far ahead of me. It was Brooke’s birthday today (Happy Birthday Brooke!) so she wasn’t able to meet me at the pass, but luckily there were four drop toilets in the parking area, so I took over one for lunch and made myself at home out of the rain (I found out later Bad Seed had done the exact same thing, in the same cubical!).

The rain had stopped when I returned to the trail, but the wind had picked up and it was bone chilling. It was so hard to find the right balance of layers to not sweat through on the way up, but to stay warm as the trail went down. It was a roller coaster after lunch so I decided to stay on the colder side and save my layers and warmth for when I stopped to camp.

I eventually caught up with Bad Seed who hadn’t started hiking until after 10am because she was so toasty warm in her tent this morning. She was planning to go 3 more miles after we reached the camp I decided to stop at, but it was already getting dark and starting to rain again so we both stopped and joined Leaky, Moonshine and Bird Dog at the campsite. Miraculously Leaky found new hiking poles today and was able to give me his old one, amazing! Two odd hiking poles is better than one!

I’m praying for some sun tomorrow to dry everything out. If it’s rainy again I may have to stop at a shelter in 12 miles and try and dry my tent and sleeping bag, otherwise I will definitely freeze tomorrow night!

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