Real winter hits

27 September 2013:

This morning we woke to real winter conditions with snow covering our campsite and tents. I was excited to be in the middle of such a white wonderland, but had no idea how difficult it would be packing up camp, filling water bottles and doing the usual tasks with freezing cold hands.

Once we hit the trail the snow continued to fall and my poor cold legs felt like lead. It took so much effort to walk I started getting worried about how I was going to climb all the passes we had ahead of us in these freezing cold conditions.

In the middle of the day we saw Filthy and Junko heading southbound down the trail. I thought maybe they had decided to flip flop Washington but they had decided they didn’t have the right gear for these conditions and were calling an end to their hike (unless an Indian sunmer was likely to roll in). It was so sad to see them heading south with their trail dreams coming to an end. It wasn’t long until we passed two more thru hikers, White Lightning and his friend who were the ones without rain jackets, tents and cold weather equipment. It was actually a relief to see them safe and heading out of the crazy conditions we were experiencing.

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We decided to set up camp early while we were still at low elevation in the hope to build a fire and dry out some of our gear. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough dry kindling or wood to get a fire going, so we bunkered down with a plan to get up early and make a dash over Fire Creek Pass and Mica Lake tomorrow.

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The start of the snow

Get ready for a look back at the trail that was, starting here…

26 September 2013:

It’s only 8:15pm and already UB and I are snuggled in our sleeping bags after setting up camp as the first snowflakes I’ve witnessed on trail appeared. The snow was a novelty for about 30 seconds, then I realised just how cold it actually was and how wet it was going to be setting up our tents. My tent has become the gear and wet clothing storage shelter and UB’s the sleeping and cooking shelter. We’ve tried to set them up as close as possible in the hope to create some kind of two bedroom apartment, but mine unfortunately has a rather large log underneath it on the left hand side and the gap between the two doors is too large to avoid the rain in between.

Yesterday we hit the trail at Steven’s Pass around 2pm after Tim, the man who was going to drive us to the trail head, realised he had a flat tyre and UB needed to step in and change it for him. Terry Dinsmore (a local trail angel), was also around at the time and suggested we all jump in the back of his truck instead incase the spare tyre on Tim’s car wouldn’t make it up to the pass.

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The trail was flat to begin with but in true Washington style it soon began to climb. We ended up making it 12 miles to a small campsite just shy of Grizzly Peak. The weather was perfect during the day and it only rained a little overnight, so we were able to hit the trail just after 6:30am this morning with dry gear except for a few rain drops on the tents.

The trail was very muddy in parts and I slipped over early on, needing UB to help me back to a standing position. Later in the afternoon UB had some close calls slipping and sliding through numerous muddy sections, but he managed to stay on his feet. I have to say it’s the most dangerous part of the trail for ankle twists and bad falls.

We stopped around 11am for an early lunch while the sun peeked its head out slightly from behind the clouds. It was the first day I’ve cooked a warm lunch since the Sierras, and it was nice to be able to actually enjoy a proper sit down while the weather was still good.

The trail climbed again straight after lunch and UB felt a little nauseous after eating. I wondered if it was the same issue I was having over the last couple of weeks, which has seemed to die down a little for me since the last section. We passed the 2500 mile mark today which was an exciting landmark, but not as big a deal as the 2000 mile marker. Probably because now the end is in sight and the countdown has been on since the start of Washington. The biggest surprise today was seeing so many huckleberry bushes next to the trail. I had just been saying to UB that it was sad all the berries had gone, then suddenly I was surrounded by bushes on either side of the trail.

About 20 miles into today, dark clouds started rolling in. We saw three beautiful rainbows within about 5 minutes of each other, but then the heavens opened and it rained and hailed on us until we reached camp at Reflection Pond and it started snowing. I really hope we get some sun tomorrow as all of our gear and some of our clothing is soaking wet. The trail also heads up into higher altitudes, so it’s going to be cold the next few days if things don’t have the chance to dry out!

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Oh Canada!

I’m lying in a warm bed in Vancouver listening to the howling wind outside, thinking ‘thank goodness I’m no longer out there!’

It took me 5 months and 22 days to walk 2663 miles from Mexico to Canada. I still have so much to update and post… but for now I just wanted to share my arrival at the monument with you. It was heartbreaking, overwhelming and joyous all at once; bringing many emotions from the last few days to the forefront.

I have many snippets of my final day to share with you tomorrow when the dust has settled a little. All I can say is thank you to the many people who played a major role in getting me over the finish line. I’ve never experienced generosity and kindness like I did throughout my PCT journey. THANK YOU!

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Safely in Stehekin

Firstly, I just skimmed through some of the comments that have been coming through the last couple of days regarding my and UB’s whereabouts on trail. Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers; they may well have delivered us to Stehekin safely today.

There is obviously a lot to update you on, but for now I just wanted to let you all know that we made it here safely today on the 3pm bus from the ranger station at High Bridge.

The last 12 hours have been an ordeal to say the least. We woke this morning at 4:30am, packed up our wet sleeping bags, clothes and tents, and knew we were at the point of no return. We had to make it 22.5 miles to High Bridge over a 6000 foot pass. It had poured with rain all night so we knew what that meant 1000 feet above where we slept at Miner’s Creek… SNOW, and lots of it.

Many hikers had already turned back during this section, and we knew once we passed Fire Creek Pass we had no choice but to continue forward. The last few days proved what an incredible team UB and I are. We planned strategically to spread out our days to sleep low, conserve our food and dry clothes, and to get close enough last night to make one final push out of there. Yesterday we had to wear sopping wet clothes for 14 miles at low elevation to ensure we could survive one more night and the final climb over 6000 feet.

We don’t know of anyone who has made it through behind us and we’re very worried for a brother and sister hiking pair who passed us but are currently unaccounted for. I’m still shaking as I sit here writing this, knowing just how bitterly cold it was out there in the mountains when all our clothes were wet. I think I was close to hypothermic two days ago; today I was worried about UB when his hands were so cold I had to feed him lunch during one of our three 5 minute breaks for the entire day. We made it to High Bridge on a packet of jelly beans, a protein bar, snickers bar, cliff bar and one peanut butter and jelly tortilla.

There is one computer in Stehekin and no wifi so I will fill in the blanks of the last section in due course. For now I simply wanted to let you know we’re safe and well. We will spend tonight and tomorrow regrouping mentally and physically, assess the weather and our gear, and make an educated decision regarding the final section of the hike. Some hikers are pushing on, many are calling it quits. UB and I will make our decision based on the weather forecast, our gear and our skill level. I’m beginning to realise just how close we balanced on the fine line between life and death during this last section; and I don’t want to put UB and I at risk to cross the finish line.

Tomorrow we will know more. Keep an eye on SPOT on my ‘Where am I’ page, as I’m not sure I’ll have a chance to use this computer again while I’m here.

Thanks again for your thoughts and prayers… let’s hope for some clear days ahead.

Muk

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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