Wednesday, October 3, 2012


    And just as easy as that, we entered Canada at 2:30 PM. Exactly 100 days after we had begun this hike in Kennedy Meadows, some 1800 miles ago. Words can not describe the feelings I have, so I won't even try. My one wish is that at least one person who read this journal will be inspired to follow their dreams, and enjoy the feelings that I am able to feel after completing a journey. It feels great to say, I can.
    I could not ask for a better partner for this trip. It took a lot of patience on her part, and mine as well. Hiking as a team is hard, hiking as a relationship is even harder. We shared the same tent almost every night for the last 3 months, and hiked together most days as well. It is not easy spending 24 hours a day with anyone. But we did it! I feel so lucky to have found someone who I love and whom I can share these amazing adventures with. I could not ask for more in a girlfriend, hiking partner, and friend. Thank you Lauren/Grolar Bear =).
   By tomorrow night we will be back in Montana, over 600 miles away. Feelings of achievement, happiness, sadness, and a little drunk. Time to sleep.


    We are camped only 20 miles south of the Canadian border. We plan to hike 30 miles tomorrow, which includes the 10 miles to the Manning Park Lodge. It is difficult to describe how it feels to end a thru-hike.
    I think it can best be described as a high school relationship. "We need some time apart". "Its not a breakup, its a break". At first, it feels really good, the feelings of freedom. But then, time makes one really miss the things that were good. So quickly the hardships and struggles are forgotten. So quickly you want nothing more than to have things the way they were before. But then it gets easier. The more time apart, the easier it gets. The pictures are still on the computer, but they are only looked at occasionally. Though parts of me want it to be over for now, the rest wants to keep going.
    Every single day I still think about how the trails I've hiked have helped shape my life and who I am today. The easiest way that I have found to cope is to have more goals. Right now, finishing school will be a large goal of mine. Maybe the Idaho Centennial Trail and Colorado Trail next year. Its hard to say, but this summer has once again renewed my faith in humanity.
   Last night on a long trail this year. Only a couple hundred miles short of a triple crown. Glad I had the time to do this, I am extremely lucky.


  I slept so well last night. The creek was roaring all night and made for excellent white noise. We woke around 6 and were hiking by 7. It was still very smokey out.
   We hiked separately to Rainy Pass. I enjoyed people watching at the trail head. It was a very busy place. The parking lot was full of folks headed out for day hikes or overnights. I talked to a bunch of them. I even talked with Day Break, a 2011 thru-hiker who gave me a beer. Very nice.
   We left the pass around noon and immediately ran into  a cooler with more beer in it from another 2011 hiker. Thank you class of 2011! I packed out a beer. The climb to Cutthroat Pass was easy, lots of switchbacks. Wish it wasn't smokey, but glad it was not raining.
    We are camped at a place called "Horse Heaven". It is a nice campsite along a creek. We hiked about 24 miles today. Only 53 to go! We are thinking that we will hike 23 tomorrow and 30 our last day. I have mixed feelings. Wish it was not so hard to end a trip.


    I woke up at 5 AM starving. I had luckily bought a bunch of stuff from the bakery yesterday. So I ate the rest of my cinnamon roll in bed. I think I will get very fat, very quickly if I keep these eating habits up when I get home in a week. But that's still a week from now.
   I woke Lauren up at 7, and we went to breakfast. This ranch is all inclusive, which is all amazing. So we ate a lot. I had a bowl of cereal, a bowl of yogurt with blackberries, an omelet, 3 banana muffins, and two heaping plates of potatoes, sausage, bacon, and fruit. This was the best breakfast of the trail.
   The food coma set in shortly after, and I laid around the ranch the rest of the morning. It felt good to have nothing to do except relax. There is only one public phone in all of Stehekin, and it was about 10 miles away. We also had no television, radio, or any other obnoxious noise makers. We were forced to relax in one of the most beautiful places on earth that I would recommend as a vacation spot for anyone needing some serious R&R.
   We took the 11:45 bus back to the trail. It was hard to leave that luxurious place, but it felt good to be moving again, this time with Soren, Justin, and Lauren.
   We took a very leisurely 11 mile hike to a campsite along a creek. Its really starting to sink in that this journey is going to end very soon. In just 79 miles, 3 more nights, we will end an 1900 mile journey. I will be just 200 or so miles from finishing a "triple crown". But that is beside the point. This Summer I have learned a lot about myself. Also a lot about Lauren. Its been one of the best summers of my life, and I would not trade it for anything. "The road goes on forever and the party never ends."
   Had a lot of fun with our friends Soren and Justin today. Glad we finally met up with them.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


We got up very early and after a record speed packup, we were on our way. 12 miles sounds like a lot of miles before 12:15 PM. But we were up for the challenge. The bakery in Stehekin was calling our names. It is legendary on this trail for having some of the best baked goods on the whole trail.
   We ran into our friend, Paws, who we hiked with in California, over a month ago. He is heading southbound through Washington right now. Very good to see him.
  But we were on our pilgrimage to the bakery. We said our goodbyes and were on our way. We made it to the bus stop before 11 AM. The bus took us down to the bakery where we went a little crazy with food. Then it stopped at a produce stand, where we bought peaches and goat yogurt. After that, the bus took us to Stehekin Landing. We had 40 minutes before a bus going back up to the ranch took off. We decided to divide and conquer. I would go to the post office and get our packages while Lauren called her mom. It was frantic but we did it with maybe 2 minutes to spare. Lauren's friends Soren and Justin were there and had gotten us a permit for North Cascades National Park.
    They were also staying at the ranch and joined us for dinner. This ranch is amazing. I am so glad we decided to stay here tonight. Amazing dinner and should be more amazing food tomorrow. Played Apples to Apples until the late hour of 9. Time for sleep.


  The campsite was my favorite so far last night. The sunrise was incredible. We left by 7, again hiking separately. It was a perfect morning. It was nice and cool out.
   I got to the turn off for the "old PCT" around 9. There was a sign at the junction and someone had written in pencil "no log xing". It was enough to keep us from taking the shortcut that would have either saved us 5 miles or cost us 4 miles. A flood in 2003 washed out the bridge over the Suittale River. Hikers still went through this area, even though it was closed from 2003-2011. They had been using a  log that had fallen across the river A new bridge was finally completed in September 2011, but to get to the bridge, one must hike 5 more miles than the old route. So as unexcited as we were, we decided to walk the new route. It actually was very pleasant though, newly redone trail. It also goes through some of the largest trees I have seen on this trail.
    After climbing over 3000 feet to Suittale Pass, the trees opened up again and we were once again in sweet above treeline country. We made it down to Hemlock Camp and have a great campsite. We are only 12 miles out of Stehekin and hope to make the 12:15 bus into town tomorrow. We hiked 27 miles today! Wahoo.


  We liked the arrangement of hiking separately in the morning yesterday so much that we did it again today. It was a great morning too. So beautiful out and the hike was spectacular. It involved a lot of uphill, about 4000 just in the first half of the day. Glacier Peak has been the centerpiece of our hike lately and as we got around to the north side mountain today it showed its amazing glaciers.
     I waited for Lauren at Mica Lake. It was beautiful there. The lake was still covered in ice and snow. I rinsed off in the lake and the water was some of the coldest I have felt in a long time!
   Lauren showed up and we began the long descent down to Milk Creek. This is the first year since 2003 that the PCT has been open in this section. A storm in 2003 washed out bridges, chunks of trail, and took down a large amount of trees. I am so glad the trail has been reopened and fixed up so nicely. The trail down to Milk Creek was in great shape, except for the last quarter mile which was very overgrown. We got down to where the old bridge crossed the river and I thought it would be fun to take the old PCT. It would save a mile and be an adventure. It was fine for me, but Lauren was not as excited. The scramble down to the river was tough on her knees. I made a bridge out of rocks and a large log and she was able to cross with dry feet.
    After that we had another 2200 foot climb. It was full of switchbacks and took a long time. Both of us were exhausted and out of water when we reached the top.  Decided  to camp just another mile down the trail. We have an amazing campsite. 360 degree views of mountains around us. Have I mentioned lately that the weather is great!
   We have another big day ahead of us tomorrow. Need to get to Stehekin soon, I am almost out of toilet paper...


 Today was much better. We decided on a meeting point ten miles up the trail and hiked seperately to that point. I needed the alone time and so did Lauren. I am an introvert, so alone time really recharges me and makes me feel good.
   The trail was AMAZING today. We walked right on a treeless ridge for most of the day. This trail is going out with a kick too. We had close to 6000 feet of elevation gain today. Tomorrow looks like over 7000! For the first time in months, my calves are sore after a 25 mile day.
    It feels good to still be out here, life is so very simple. Not excited for the life that awaits me in Helena. Tonight I will enjoy sleeping next to a raging glacier fed creek, right next to the girl I love.


  Compromise. I think its how we have hiked this far together. Its not easy hiking together, living, and being together 24 hours a day for 100 days. Even when we hike big parts of the day alone, we still cook dinner, camp, and wake up together every morning.
    I love hiking with Lauren, but our hiking styles are very different. Mine is in fact very different from most. When I hike by myself, I hike all day. I start very early and hike very late. I see a mountain in front of me, I climb it. I see a creek or river, and I hike right through it. I take few breaks but when I break I eat a lot and then hike on. It is sick the way I push myself. Not sure what drives me to do this, but its what I do.
   I suppose not hiking my way has its benefits. The biggest being I have had no injuries this summer (knock on wood). I only suffered 2 little blisters around Mt Hood that went away after a few days. I have also had more time in camp and am one of the few hikers who never loses weight onn a 2000 mile hike!
   Today we stopped at 430. 18 miles. Not bad, just thought we should do more. The weather is good, we feel good, and a good campsite was only 4 miles away. Compromise, its the only way this will work...


     The slope we slept on was less than stellar, but I still slept great. We hiked separately on the seven mile hike to Steven's Pass. I felt great on the hike and made great time.
   I passed several very friendly day hikers going the other way. They all talked to me about the hike and one even gave me a package of M&Ms. I found a cooler of trail magic at the pass too.
   We hitched with Whodeeknee and Party Tent into the Dinsmore's. They are trail angels that offer a place to stay, rest, and shower. Andrea Dinsmore even washes everyone's clothes. The general store across the street has amazing food. The owner, Steve offered the hikers here a $12 pork chop dinner. So we enjoyed it. I was a little worried I would not get full, but he gave us unlimited corn on the cob, green beans, and mashed potatoes, along with 2 large pork chops. It was amazing!
    One of the best parts of the day was running into our old friend, Gut Feeling. She is super fun and very friendly. Lots of other hikers here, lots of good company. We will take an early ride back tomorrow!


   The night was great, we both slept very well and woke up feeling refreshed. We started hiking later, but both of us felt good. Lauren's knees still are bothering her, but she still made good time.
   This wilderness area is sweet. Just all around beautiful. Lakes, huge cliffs, and water cascading down them. It is undoubtedly some of the prettiest stuff we have seen so far. I am very excited for more to come.
   We are in a huge bubble of hikers right now. We met many today who we had not met before. The Tourist hiked the Hayduke Trail in 2008. We talked about the trail at a creek for awhile.
    The trail today was full of ups and downs. We had three climbs close to 1000 feet each. It felt good to get the calves going again.
  We started talking about home a lot lately. I am honestly tired right now. Just need some serious rest. I am also excited to work on school work again. But I am not looking forward to finding a job, finding a place to live, and trying to figure out what to do with my life. It is exciting and scary at the same time.


  Goldmyer hot springs were amazing. We soaked in the pools last night and it was by far, the coolest hot springs I had ever been in. The springs flowed out of a cave and there was a 20' long pool inside of  the cave. It was really pretty and hard to leave. They even had a changing room nearby. We need one of these springs at the end of everyday.
   I slept amazingly after the soak, and woke up late feeling refreshed. Lauren went in for another soak this morning while I made some tent stakes out of sticks. I must have left our stakes somewhere, possibly Rob and Maggie's house. It felt good to make stakes though, simple, but I cut them to size and put notches in them.
  We started hiking about 9 AM. I was anxious to hike fast, its been so long since we really did a big day. But Lauren's knees were slowing her down to about two miles an hour. I ended up hiking ahead a-ways. I really enjoyed the straight-forward climb of the trail up to Dutch Miller Gap. Not much for switchbacks, and good and steep.
   The smoke is terrible here. It burns the lungs a bit and really dims the views around here. Its still  beautiful, but its harder to see the texture of the huge mountains that surround us. I guess 65 fires were started by that storm on Saturday, no telling where the smoke is from. But so far, no closures on the PCT.
    We walked together the last 8 miles of our day. Found a great campsite with a view of the valley below us. Made 21 miles today.
   I think I am about ready to be done hiking this Summer.


  It rained all night Sunday night. We woke up Monday with a  soaked tent, but good spirits. We were only 12 miles from Snoqualamie Pass where Lauren's cousin was going to pick us up.
   I hiked fast and made it to the pass by 11 am. Ate a ton of food and Lauren made it shortly and we ate more. The Ardvark restaurant treated us really well. Dan makes amazing food and has good prices!
   Rob picked us up around 4 and drove us into Wenatchee. Maggie and Rob spoiled us. Beer, good food, a warm bed. Life was good!
   On Tuesday they let us borrow their brand new Subaru which we drove all over town taking care of errands. It was so nice to not have to walk around town. It was also great to get to know more of Lauren's family and I felt like I was treated like family.
   Today, we rode with Maggie back to the pass and are back on the trail. We are headed to Goldmyer Hot Springs, a short 11 mile day. But the trail is brutal. Lots of overgrown trail, blow downs, rock slides, and bad tread. Guess this is what we get for getting off the PCT.
   Amazing weather today. The forecast called for 10 more days of this stuff. Good to be outside.


  The thunder and lightning came around 11 pm. It started out as a dry storm, but around midnight we had some intense rain and hail falling. The thunder smashed up above us and the lightning did the same. The storm seemed to sit right on top of us and the noise alone kept me awake from 11-2.
    Non-the-less, we were up by 630 and hiking in off and on drizzle. What a change from yesterday. Also, this was the first rainy day we have had on the trail.
     I had planned on hiking ahead of Lauren today, on to where the PCTA crew was working. This all changed when I got to Tacoma Pass! A sign indicated trail magic just ahead. I got there to find "Not Phil's dad". He had a great set up with two large canopy tents and chairs with loads of food under it for hikers. He made us hot chocolate and chilly dogs. Perfect second breakfast! I also ate an orange, a peach, and hiked out with a large muffin!
   We left feeling full and happy! We then hiked on. It was actually beautiful walking in the drizzle and clouds. In the 50s, it was perfect for hiking.
     I could not resist picking huckleberries after Tacoma Pass, and I picked half a quart in no time. I ran into the trail crew around 11 am. TC showed me how he makes perfect trail. The trail his crew was brushing and retreading was amazingly smooth and clear. Thanks PCTA! He told us where their camp was and where to find the fuel canisters he got for us. We parted after chatting awhile, and got to the camp quickly. There we found the cooks who immediately offered to cook us lunch! Grilled cheese, soup, cheesecake, and Gatorade were all given to us. What a great lunch on a cold rainy day! We eventually left the vortex and kept hiking. Thanks for everything TC and PCTA.
   Onward. We were given word that there was yet more trail magic at Stampede Pass, 6 miles away. We leisurely walked talking about the food we had been given today, and how lucky we are!
   At Stampede Pass we found the Stumbling Norwegian giving even more trail magic. He made us a hamburger, hot dogs, gave me a beer and homemade Kahlua, and brownies, and cookies, and poptarts. So amazingly kind.
   We had three legit, amazing, tasty, gifts of trail magic all in 12 miles. We are so lucky and could not ask for a better day to be spoiled, our first rainy day!
   We walked a few more miles and found a good campsite. There are a lot of elk around here bugling! It is very majestic. We hiked over 21 miles today and enjoyed three hot meals and three hour long breaks. What a great day.


  Today was good. First time in over a week that we hiked more than 20 miles. We both felt pretty good all day. Lauren's knee was feeling better and we were able to do around 2.5 miles all day.
   We ran into a few hikers we had met over a week ago. Always good to see familiar faces!
   We had an amazing view of the mountains around us 360 degree views. A storm appeared to be raging on Mt. Rainier. Now the storm may be headed our way as we sit in our tent near Tacoma Pass.
   We are only 9 trail miles from where my friend TC is doing trail work. I hope we can catch him tomorrow to at least say hi!
   Lauren's cousin and his family are planning to meet us on Monday at Snoqualimie Pass. Lauren has made arrangements to get a doctors appointment on Tuesday. So we are going to take a night off in Winachee and see if we can get advice for her knees.


   On Wednesday we continued hiking northward. We had big dreams of big miles. But after just 6-7 miles, Lauren's knees were swelled up and really bothering her. She stopped and wrapped them, but the pain was still too much. I helped lighten her load, but we were still traveling less than two miles per hour over easy terrain. We decided we should take a day off and we hitched into Packwood again, just 28 miles and a day after we left the first time. Very frustrating for both of us.
   We took a day off in Packwood and I really enjoyed the town. We stayed at the quaint Hotel Packwood which was within walking distance to the rest of the town. I was able to spend some quality time applying for jobs and lounging. We met some great people in town and I even had the owner of the sporting goods store buy me a beer at the bar!
   Today we hitched back to Chinook Pass. It wasn't an easy hitch either, took three seperate rides, but we made it back around one pm today. Lauren's knees are  feeling a bit better, still not 100%. I took a bunch of her weight again today and that seemed to help. We are so close to the finish. I have mixed feelings about finishing! I am excited to start a new chapter of life, not excited to finish this one. We have a few backup plans if her knees can't make it right now, but that is worst case. We hiked 13 miles this afternoon and she felt pretty good. Tomorrow we will hike over 20 and that will be the real test.
   The hiking here is just amazing. We are walking right on the crest with views of mountains and more mountains on both sides. No real signs of development. We are however camped right under a flight path to Seattle/Tacoma international airport, seems the flights are coming through non-stop. Kind of fun to watch though. I like to think about everyone on those planes and how they all have stories and all have a reason to go to Seattle this evening.


  We got up very early on Monday, hiking by 630. The sunrise on the climb up to the knifes edge was spectacular. We could see Adams, St. Helens, and Rainier. The moon was still up and it was chilly on the climb up, but amazing. We passed tents left and right on the climb up to the ridge, lots of weekend warriors out and about. At the ridge top I waited for Lauren and watched people working their way up to the ridge. I could see the trail for miles and enjoyed watching the groups approach the ridge.
    The walk on the knifes edge was like no other hike I had ever been on. Not for someone with vertigo, cliffs thousands of feet down on both sides.
   The rest of the hike to town was easy and mellow. Lauren was feeling better and we moved pretty good all the way to Whites Pass. At the pass I started to call hotels in Packwood, see if anything was available. Right when I was about to give up, because everything was full, Steve and Steady showed up. We met them months ago near Belden and had seen them a few times since. Steve is a serious trail angel, and his wife Steady is a triple crowner hiking large sections of the trail this year. Both are amazing people.
   They said the hotel they are staying at had rooms available and though it was out of town, they could drive us around. It worked out great and Steve even treated us to dinner at an amazing pizza place!
   Today we enjoyed Packwood some more. Very nice library, great outdoor shop, and all around friendly town. I didn't want to leave. It is probably my favorite town on this trail so far. We convinced each other that we should leave though, as it was a beautiful day and we might as well be hiking.
    We got a ride out of town in less than ten minutes. A tractor trailer pulled over to our surprise, and delight. A native Washington man hauling doubles full of gliserine across the state. Super nice guy and my first ever hitch from a tractor trailer. He said he was tired and happy to have some people to talk to.
    We got back on the trail at about 3 pm, and enjoyed the pretty flat walking. Ten miles is about what we did, and we both feel great. I packed out leftover pizza and beer for dinner, it was great.
   I am excited to be back out here. My friend TC is doing trail maintenance south of Snoqualimie Pass and we hope to catch him in a couple days.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


   We both slept well all night and were up early after over nine hours of sleep. The huckleberries I picked yesterday went really well with granola this morning. We were on the trail by eight, and although Lauren was still sick, she felt better.
    The day got better and better the further North we went. Goat Rocks Wilderness is amazing. Reminds me of the Sierras and Beartooths. Out of nowhere, we began seeing the Labor Day hikers. Hundreds of them around here. All very friendly. One of them said the forecast is great for the next nine days. I am super excited for that.
   We camped very early, around 430, after about 19 miles. We are unsure where the next campsite is, and Lauren needs more rest. Plus, this site has amazing views and near a waterfall. I got my water out of a waterfall to drink. Who can say they did that today.
  We are planning to get up very early so we can enjoy the sunrise while hiking on the knifes edge. I am stoked, but unsure that Lauren understands how cold it may be at six in the morning up here!


   Another hard day. Lauren was feeling exhausted all day. This head cold has really gotten her down. We started late today, around 830. Our latest on trail start yet. By noon we only had eight miles in. Very discouraging for both of us. It was such a pretty day too, I wish we were both feeling good.
   This trail has been really tough for Lauren, it seems like there is just one problem after the next. I really hope she can kick this cold soon and feel good.
   The terrain was very easy today, mostly gradual downhill. But we had to rest often. Stopped early with 18 miles in. I was honestly frusterated, really wanted to hike a little later. But I also know this is really hard for her, and wish I could help more. While Lauren napped in camp, I picked huckleberries. It really calmed me down and helped relax me. I picked nearly a quart in just over an hour.
   I have honestly come to my senses and havee learned that I need to get my heart rate pumping for a good amount of time every single day, or I am anxious and irretible. Lauren noticed this when we first started dating. She tells me to go for a bike ride when I am in a bad mood. Its crazy though, even on the trail its still true. I did not work hard today. After picking huckleberries I ran fast for 20 minutes. Not very long, but it sure felt good.
   I made a twinkie hucckleberry mix and heated it in my pot, it was so good. I keep feeding Lauren tea, hoping that helps. My good friend Danielle sent me tons of teas, so we are enjoying that!
   I really hope we are both feeling good tomorrow. Goat Rocks wilderness is supposed to rock.


   Lauren woke up with a cold this morning. Some coughing and a sore throat. Not sure where she got it, but hoping its not a rough one. The miles went by so slowly as she was really dragging. We had each other convinced that going into Trout Lake for a night off was a good idea. I called every hotel in town when I got a signal. No rooms anywhere. I became content with the idea of camping early though, and taking the day slowly. So thats what we did.
    We hiked apart for a bunch of the day. When I got to road 23, I found amazing trail magic. A family whose daughters are hiking the trail, brought tons of goodies. There was cookies, sodas, beer, veggies, fruit, and chips. I felt completely spoiled. Before the family left, they gave me a bunch of stuff to give to Lauren, who had not shown up yet. She was very excited to get the fresh veggies and fruit.
   Despite feeling sick, she wanted to power on. So we climbed 2800 feet out of the valley to the base of Mt. Adams. This place is really sweet, I am loving it here. This is another volcanic mountain that sticks up out of nowhere. We found a sweet campsite with an amazing view of the mountain. It is going to be a chilly night. The wind is howling through here like a freight train.
   22 miles today. Lauren is amazing hiking that far with a cold. Not many people even exercize with a cold, let alone climb mountains.
  My parents sent me a great care package to Cascade Locks. Tons of cookies and snacks. My favorite part was a 30 day supply of quotes. They are all inspiring. My mother put a lot of time into this, and I feel very lucky to have such loving and supporting parents.
   Lauren's (and my) friend Andrea also sent lots of goodies which caught up to us at Cascade Locks. The beer was amazing, and Lauren even let me have a peice of chocolate! Thank you!
  If anyone else would like to send something, we would love it! Cookies, gummy worms, trail mix, or anything else edible would be appreciated. My favorite thing is personal notes and good sunday comics. Our last stop on the trail is Stehekin, Washington. If you would like to send something, please send it via the US postal service by September 8th, to Andrew Rivers or Lauren Balcken, C/O General Delivery, Stehekin, WA 98852. Write on the package, please hold for PCT hikers, ETA 9/17/12. Again, nothing is expected, but everything, including guest book entries on here, are appreciated!


  The morning was cool. The sky was completely blue, amazing weather. It made me eager to hike. When we were telling our friends Obie and Val about this crazy hike, they thought we were a tad crazy for putting ourselves in the Cascades in September. The weather can change with the snap of your fingers, and we will likely get snow at some point. So every day we have blue skies and good weather, I will be feeling a bit eager to pump out some miles.
   We did just that today. 26 miles before 630 pm. The terrain was pretty, but nothing spectacular, a lot of little lakes and a ton of people. That was just a little reminder that we are approaching Memorial Day weekend. The woods may get a little crazy over the next few days.
    I took several amazing breaks in the sun today. It felt so good. Funny how much you appreciate the sun once its started to get colder out.
   We are camped at Surprise Lakes. Our surprise was the number of folks picking huckleberries around here. Tons of them. With buckets to throw their berries into. They say its a low crop year, but I have found hundreds of them without trying today. I wonder how many it takes to fill a five gallon bucket though...


   Sure the packs were heavy after four days without them. But my feet feel 100 times better than they did a week ago. It also felt good to be fattened up again after being spoiled with great food from Lauren's parents. We left them this morning after a large breakfast which was followed by cookies and non-powdered milk.
     With 5 days of food on my back though, it was slow moving this morning. We managed to hike over 25 miles today though. It did feel good to hike over some large hills today. I think that the heavy weighted packs may bother Lauren more than myself. She seems to hurt a bit more than I do with the weight, which is okay, we still made good miles and had fun today.
   It is strange to see clouds in the sky. Today we hardly saw the sun at all. I think this is just how Washington may be! It is also super green here. So much new sruff to look at. We are camped with a guy who picked some Lobster Mushrooms today. Super tasty. They charge $40 a pound for them at Whole Foods, and they grow right along this trail. May have to find some in the future.
       I have been thinking about life after trail lately. Not looking forward to it. We will likely be done in three weeks. Then I have to find a job, a place to live, and start school once again. Though I am happy to contribute to society, I am not ready to be done hiking right now. Can I do both?


    Today we finally left town. We took the easy route out of town and had Lauren's parents slack-pack us up the trail 20 miles. It made the climb out of Cascade Locks much more enjoyable.
   We made excellent time and finished our 20 mile hike in about 6 hours. It felt really good to be hiking again today. Lauren's parents spoiled us again at the road junction. We are camped with them and they made us a great dinner for us and gave us a couple beers. Lauren helped me get rid of a couple pounds of food weight. Some stuff I had carried for over 300 miles. Smooshed/balled up Sunbelt NutraGrain bars. I can't eat them, but am often to stubborn to throw away food. But my parents sent me some amazing homemade cookies to Cascade Locks. I would rather carry good tasting snacks than something that I would never eat.
   Tomorrow we will walk with fully loaded packs. North towards Canada. Less than 500 miles to go. Very exciting.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


   I always get worked up when I plan big days. I think I can do it, but not completely sure. My feet were sore, but I was not willing to give up my chance to try to break 40 miles for my first time. So I woke up at 430 AM and started walking by 5. It was really hard to get outside of the tent because it was so cold! But I also felt great. I slept great the night before and was ready to walk northwardly.
   It was good to be out in the cold for the first time, before the sun was even up. Hiking by headlamp can be a little bit confusing though. The trail was very confusing too. It did not match up with my map. For over an hour, I thought I was walking the wrong direction. There was no PCT markers and the trail I was on, was definitely not shown as the PCT on the map. But I didn't see the PCT turn off anywhere, so I continued onward.
   Eventually the sun came up and announced that it was going to be a beautiful day. A PCT junction also showed up, and I was making great miles. I danced along down the trail, enjoying the freedom to go at my own pace. I made great time all day.
    I had made 24 miles before noon. The Eagle Creek Trail was amazing. I could not ask for a better way to spend a 40 mile day. Wildflowers, views of Mt. Adams, Rainier, and others. Then the Eagle Creek Trail with water feature after water feature. The trail actually goes right under a waterfall. I even went for a swim in one of the hundreds of amazing swimming holes. I had 2 personal waterfalls to myself.
   I made it to the trailhead at about 4 PM. I texted Lauren's parents when I had a signal. Didn't expect them to be in the area until tomorrow. But they were in Hood River, about 20 miles away! I walked the last 2 miles into town to confirm my 41 mile day and met her parents at the Pacific Crest Brew Pub! After a couple of beers and a couple of dinners I am exhausted. Though I honestly think I could walk more if I needed/wanted to. 50 miles will happen someday, but not today. Not tomorrow or any other time soon either! Great day! We are camped at the KOA and the train is about 100 feet from where we are sleeping. ! Could be an interesting night, but I am very thankful to have Lauren's parents here supporting us and treating us for a couple days.


     Today was amazing. We walked alone all day, which meant we went at our own paces and had completely different experiences.
   Mt Hood came into full view today as we walked close to it. It was beautiful. Wildflowers blooming everywhere, glaciers high on the mountain, and even skiers and snowboarders enjoying the year round skiing offered at  Timberline. I was motivated all day by the all you can eat buffet at Timberline Lodge. I arrived at Timberline at noon and went right for the buffet. It was everything I could hope for, plus some. I ate my fill of steak, beef brisket, ham, watermelon, danishes, cookies, salads, and soup. Lauren joined me, after looking around for me outside for awhile. We both agreed that it was some of the best food on the trail so far. I could barely walk when we left after spending two full hours there.
    I was really hoping to get a room at Timberline. It seems like a really cool place. But it was completely full by the time we got there. Another hiker, Memphis, showed us a secret shower in the sauna room. It made our day, and we got clean!
   We decided to hike out separately. Lauren had her tent sent to Timberline so we could hike solo for a couple days. I left the lodge at 330 and walked another 10 miles. Did 25 miles today with a three hour lunch break. Not too shabby. My goal is to hike another 37 tomorrow into Cascade Locks, hopefully by 6 or 7 pm.
    It is painful being away from Lauren. We have been nearly glued together the last 2 months. But this will be good for us.


    Coldest night so far on the trail. It was cold enough to put frost on most of the plants that surrounded our tent. Its getting harder to wake up early and even harder to get out of the tent in the morning.
  The trail was easy walking all day. I have my first annoying blister of the trail right now. Popped it three times today. Its in between my big toe and pointer toe. I call it my 6th toe. Its not huge, but so annoying. Funny, after 1300 miles of this trail this year, and this is when the blisters come.
   Though I did not have much trouble hiking 27 miles today, it may be extremely difficult for me to hike my planned 50 mile day on Friday. I will still probably try. And with any luck, my foot will be healed tomorrow. We are only hiking 14 tomorrow to Timberline Lodge. Maybe a little beyond, but not much.
   Walking around Timothy Lake was a highlight for me today. It has crystal blue water. Many people were out enjoying the lake and its shores. I could smell Tide laundry detergent on a few people. Really reminded me how dirty I must be.
   We saw only two other hikers all day. Both were older women. I think this fire really spread out an already very spread out group of hikers. We often wonder about all the hikers we have met along the way. Where are they? We will hopefully see some of them in Cascade Locks as we will take off 3 days or more. I am looking forward to it.
    It is now 8:15 pm. I am exhausted.


   Today was full of challenges. It really reminded me of the Continental Divide Trail. We found out in Bend that a fire had closed 7 miles of trail in Jefferson Park. A detour was created which would add 19 miles and get a hiker 7 miles further down the trail using a couple roads and a series of trails. This sounded fine to us, and we carried extra food out of Bend.
   We both slept pretty well last night though it rained off and on after midnight. Walked to the trail that would take us to our first road. It was beautiful. Not much smoke in the sky either.
    The Brietenbush Trail was pretty, but not as easy to hike as the PCT. Lots of loose rocks and brush overgrown. At the road we found a sign showing us that the fire closure area had grown. The reroute would now add an additional 22 miles and involve walking 12+ miles of pavement on a mountain road. There was another alternate listed by a fellow with the name White Jeep. His route would add more roadwalking but get hikers further down the trail, making it more attractive to us. Three other hikers arrived, all with their own stubborn ideas. One planned to take the original reroute and poach the closed roads and trails. Another planned to walk the reroute as it would keep his continuous footpath going. The last was undecided when we left.
   We walked the 6 miles to paved road, then began hitching. I have walked enough road to know I don't like walking paved roads. This worked well and we had a ride in no time. Ended up getting all the way to where the pavement ended by a nice lady and her dog. Thanks Karen! With a bushwhack and a little more road walking we were on the trail by 5, 17 miles past where we got off the trail.
    Feels good to be back on. Kinda a stressful day, and I am exhausted.


   I slept so well last night. It was so quiet and was the good night's sleep we both needed. I was refreshed and for the first time in weeks, we were hiking before seven this morning.
   The trail was beautiful today. It followed a ridge that took us to the edge of Mt Jefferson. Along the way we passed lakes, glacial streams, and flowers of many varieties.
   It seemed so quiet today. I hiked by myself in the afternoon and did not see a single person. It almost feels eerie. Maybe it feels that way because of the thousands of people we passed in Bend. Or maybe people are spread out few and far between on this trail right now. We saw only one other thru-hiker today. Even the birds seem quiet.
   I also noticed a storm front moving in today. It is going to rain tomorrow and perhaps be a few degrees cooler.
   We made 26 miles today and are set up well for three more 25 mile days into Timberline Lodge.
  We saw the largest toad ever today! Also saw a few birds of prey.


  As usual, I did not get a chance to journal on town days. We got into Bend on Friday the 17th. Walked 21 miles before 3 pm. Once again, the 3 Sisters Wilderness area amazed me. So beautiful with large mountains everywhere, and wonderful wildflowers.
   We got a ride into Sisters from the trailhead in no time from two trail angels, Pochahantas and Legasoreus. Then we got a ride all the way to Bend from another nice lady coming home from a business trip. She drove us right to a store, right across from Tree's home.
  We spent two nights there. It was so good to see Tree and d=rt. We also got to meet Sage, Tree's awesome dog. She has trained him to do tons of tricks. Sage can give hugs on command, can say "I Love You", and can even get a beer can out of the fridge. If thats not enough, he can also recycle the can once it is empty. Tree and d=rt are headed to the Tahoe Rim Trail next weekend. So good to see them both. Also enjoyed a brew festival and a lot of festival food. Thank you Tree for your hospitality!
   This morning Tree drove us back to the trail. We were hiking just after 9 am. I was really dragging all day. I dont sleep well in towns, and our sleep schedules are always thrown off. I also felt a bit down today. Not sure why. Maybe my body feels the seasons changing. We dragged ourselves through the day.
   At Santium pass we found trail magic. A cooler from CatDog with pepsi and beer. A nice touch. Then across the highway we found beer in a bag from Scarecrow. At the trailhead we found Garylecth and the tall Scarecrow with another cooler of beer and snacks. It was a real mood improver and good to see those guys! Before that we were  considering hitching to town for another night off. Innstead we hiked another 4 miles and ended with over 21 miles under our belts. Not bad. We will do better tomorrow. Its dark now and not even 9 pm. Summer is coming to an end.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


   We slept for nearly another 10 hours last night. When we awoke, we felt energized and Lauren even felt hungry! Both very good signs. I woke and instantly had to poop, not a good sign. But we were both willing to try to hike. At this point we decided we either had to hike onward down the trail towards Etna, or turn around and hike back to the interstate. Though neither one of us was feeling 100%, neither of us wanted to give up either.
   We hiked onward, northward, towards Canada. But after a mile, it no longer felt good. We both felt weak and a bit sick as well. We talked about our options... We could try to make it to Etna, some 85 miles away. That could take us awhile though, and if we do need a doctor, we were not even sure that Etna had one. But turning around is not an easy task, not for 2 stubborn Northbound PCT hikers. We eventually decided it was the best thing to do though.
   So we hiked back to the interstate, 13 miles south of where we were 2 days ago. It was hard to do, but I felt exhausted and had a loss of appetite. We got a ride to Dunsmuir in no time, Gail a really friendly woman gave us a ride.
   In Dunsmuir we looked at our options at the library. We came to the conclusion that we should take a bus to Yreka, about 40 miles north of where we were. From there, we would take another night off, and on Friday take a bus to Siead Valley where we would meet the trail again. This would jump us up the trail 150 miles. Certainly not an ideal thing to do, but with our finish date of September, 25th, we don't have much choice. Being sick on trail is hard. It can take a week or 2 to feel strong enough to do big miles again.
   So we took the bus to Yreka. Very strange being in a non-trail town. We have backpacks, no one else around does. No hikers in site. We got a cheap hotel room and went and watched the new batman for $5 each. Still feel very glad to have a toilet and unlimited toilet paper...


      It was so quiet last night. Completely peaceful and relaxing. This made for excellent sleeping conditions! The plan today was to hike our first 30+ mile day. So we woke up early and were on the trail just after 630. It feels so good to be on the trail that early. Birds are chipper and the air is still nice and cool.
   The day seemed to fly by though and around noon, it was just plain hot! It was a rather uneventful day really. Just walked a bunch. The first part of the day was characterized by lakes in the Mink Lakes Basin.  It was pretty, but too many mosquitoes. We hiked the last 8 miles by ourselves, always good to have alone time. This evening we began seeing the three large volcanic mountains known as the three sisters. They are so beautiful. Lupine is growing everywhere here right now, and the smell of them is intoxicating.
   My feet honestly hurt after 31 miles today. But we have also hiked 140 in the last 5 days, so it may not be the 30 mile days' fault. We finished hiking around 630. With 2 hours of breaks, it took us under 10 hours to go 31 miles. Not shabby at all!
     Next Friday, I am going to attempt to hike a 50 mile day. It will likely take me 16-20 hours, but I really want to try. Me and Lauren will hike solo for that period, good for us to have a night apart for once. Looking forward to a day off in Bend. We have so much we want to do though.


   Today marks two months since we started this trip in June. Its also the day where people say the season begins to change. It seems so quiet in the woods right now. It kind of feels like the calm before the storm, is Fall going to hit the Pacific Northwest and Pacific Crest Trail soon? Are the critters all hunkering down waiting for that first snow to fall. Its hard to imagine while its eighty degrees and sunny on this beautiful summer day. But we all know its coming. The weather will change soon and bring cold days and even colder nights, along with some wet stuff.
   We hiked hard for parts of the day, but also had some great relaxation times. We spent over an hour at Charleston Lake where we swam and chatted with new friend Moss. It was a beautiful lake and for the first time ever, I was swimming before Lauren.
   We are now in the Sisters Wilderness area. It is beautiful! Hundreds of lakes in this big bowl. We are camped at Brahama Lake. It is also beautiful. Made 28 miles somehow, even with the long break.
   I watched a tiny ant carrying a feather today. It was amusing and amazing at the same time. Is his queen a fan of fancy feathered hair pieces or was he just very confused. Nature never seizes to amaze or surprise me.
   We are now just 51 miles from Bend. We found out that d=rt were waiting awhile for us back where they left the note. They had tried to wait for us and asked other hikers if they had seen us. It made us feel better that they had tried very hard to find us before giving up!


   The mosquitoes struck back this morning with a vengeance. It seems that hundreds were waiting for us to get up and out of our tent. I didn't deal with them for long, reached for the deet in no time. Snausage was out of camp early and we left shortly after. Its honestly hard to enjoy camp with hundreds of mosquitoes buzzing around your face.
   Made great time to Windego Pass, where I met Just Bill. Hotshot showed up as well. We then had to decide weather to take the Crescent Lake alternate or not. Snausage did a really good job convincing us to take the alternate, promising less mosquitoes, easier trail, more water, and 7 less miles. We were sold. Today I Really enjoyed hiking with Snausage, Just Bill, and of course Groaler Bear.
   The alternate was alright. Flat for the most part, very easy miles. But the dust was horrendous. These trails are used by horses a bunch, I think they tear up the trail pretty good. But we had plenty of water and very few mosquitoes.
   I was exhausted all day today. I woke up last night needing to pee, eat, and drink water. Of course I waited for over an hour before doing any of that, so lost a lot of sleep.
    These days seem to fly by. I often get completely lost in thought while hiking by myself. I no longer think about the motion of walking, it mostly just happens. The miles fly by and I feel great.
   We made it to a campground around 7 pm. I think we hiked nearly 29 miles today. This campground along Trapper Creek has huckleberries everywhere. Groaler Bear, Snausage, and myself are paying $15 for this campsite. I would have hesitated but I was exhausted and tthe huckleberries are amazing. This is the most I have ever seen, and I will certainly eat my $5 worth of berries tomorrow morning.
    We have 77 miles to Bend. Plan to get there on Friday. If we do make it, we will have hiked over 325 miles in just 12 days. That will be a new record for me, and is amazing for Lauren too. Time for some much needed rest.


       The day was great. We hiked 25 miles and Lauren said it was the first time she felt good doing that many miles. She flew today too. I honestly had trouble keeping up with her.
   We hiked the first 8 miles by ourselves. It felt good to hike at my own pace and in such an amazing place. Tielson Creek was beautiful. Crystal clear freezing cold runoff coming right off of Mt. Tielson. Its amazing how a little thing like good tasting water can really make a hikers day great.
   The day seemed to fly by. We spent a lot of time dreaming of the food, beer, and company we will have in Bend in a few days. Then, around 3 pm we found a note on the trail, it read... 8/13  12:45 PM, Shaggy and Groaler Bear- sorry you missed the bbq, we will see you in Bend in a few days... Tree, d=rt, and Sage. We missed them by 2 hours! Our minds raced as we tried to figure out when the bbq was, where it was, and how far we were from a road. We were also, of course, sad to miss Tree and d=rt. Would have loved to play with Tree's dog Sage too. We were both frustrated and excited to see them soon.
    Now its 9 pm, time to sleep. I am really enjoying our new friends company, Snausage and Hot Shot. Glad we have gotten to know them and hope we will see them more in the future.


       Crater Lake was actually probably one of my favorite National Parks yet. I suppose I was not expecting much, a big over-hyped lake. But I found much more. We walked along the rim for 7 miles. It was very peaceful and relaxing. Also the tourist watching was endless.
   We spent the morning leisurely, ate a big breakfast at the gift shop. Started hiking at 9. Got to Rim Village at 11. Left at one in the afternoon. 6 days of food and 7 liters of water. We are in a large, 26 mile waterless stretch. Luckily a young lady named Hot Shot had a friend who is bringing us water.
   We are at highway 138 with Hot Shot and Snausage. Good times. I love this trail.


  The terrain today proved to be easy and we had over 23 miles in by 4 pm. We were motivated to get to the park and eat at the all you can eat pizza buffet. We walked with several other hikers today. In Mazama Village there are at least 13 hikers. Kind of a party on the PCT.
   We ate, we drank, we resupplied our 6-7 days of food. Tomorrow we will hike on to Bend. I am exhausted!


   Today was a lot of fun. It always goes well with a good night sleep. Last night I slept so well. We were close to a highway, but very close to aa raging creek. The white noise  produced was perfect for sleeping.
   We saw Creeper and Carpenter today, along with Hotshot and Snausage. It was great meeting some new people along the journey today.
   The terrain was extremely mellow. It felt like a walk in the park. Very pretty though. Refreshing to be in a wilderness area again. Yesterday we crossed about 30 roads, some dirt, some paved. Today we crossed zero. Its very refreshing to find places without roads, cars, people, shopping malls.
     We really enjoyed seeing Devil's mountain today, and walking the ridge around it. It was so beautiful as the sun was setting. We found snow on the north side of the ridge which was an excellent combination for our beers we carried for so very long. It was like another birthday celebration for Lauren. We ended up hiking 26 miles today, not bad.
   We have 21 miles to Crater Lake tomorrow. I am very excited to see another park I have never seen before. Should be fun.


    I don't think sleeping under the stars is for us. We tried again last night, but between the mosquitoes and ants, we did not sleep much. I was exhausted when it was time to get up, Lauren said the same.
   The miles went by slowly and fast at the same time. We hiked over 27 miles somehow. Only saw 5 other hikers today.
   My back was killing me at the end of the day, but Lauren gave me a back rub, how lucky am I?
   I have carried 4 beers that I bought for Lauren's birthday, over 120 miles now. We have been taking medicine for the stomach bug though, and can't drink alcohol until the pills are gone. Tomorrow we will celebrate with a beer at the end of the day. We are both excited to see Crater Lake.
   Wow, I am completely exhausted.


    It was a chilly morning and we both woke up feeling pretty refreshed. For some reason I did feel like the day dragged on. The scenery was okay, but not like what we have seen recently. We are getting into a bit more of a green tunnel. Its still super beautiful, but perhaps a different beauty than what is found on other parts of this trail.
   We did not see any other thru-hikers today. Did meet a few folks out for the day, and a few on a week long hike. It is so weird to get in and out of bubbles of people on this trail. Also strange to think about all the hikers behind us. Are they still hiking? Its hard to know.
   We managed to hike 24 miles today. Not terrible considering we still are not feeling completely 100% yet. We will get back into it though. I am exhausted tonight for some reason. Time to get some rest.


   Today was pretty good. I felt really strong again. Lauren was feeling strong too. We made it all the way to Callahan's Lodge, some 16 miles by 2 pm. All our packages that we sent ourselves arrived. Lauren got new shoes, socks, and gaiters. I got chlorine tablets and a kilt to hike in. Never thought I would own a kilt. But it is extremely comfortable. Allows air to circulate, and should last much longer than the running shorts I seem to destroy every 500-800 miles.
   We enjoyed a good meal at Callahan's lodge too. Its really a great place to refuel, right beside the trail. I think a person could really hike this trail without ever getting more than a couple miles off the trail to resupply. That would save a lot of time and money. Time seems to be the most important of all though.
   I hiked with a man named Gourmet today for a few miles. We talked about how coming to the end of the trail has different meanings for different people. For some, its exciting to finish the trail. They have families, loved ones, apartments, and jobs to go back to. For others, they want to drag this experience out. They don't have much to go back to, or perhaps nowhere to call home. I peersonally am  in the middle. I am excited to start a new chapter of my life. Not looking forward to finding a job, getting into a grind of life. I am excited to start something new, once again.


    Today was much better than yesterday. Maybe it was the first solid stool I had in a week, maybe it was entering Oregon, maybe it was the trail magic at the border, or maybe all the delicious spring water today. Whatever it was, today was great.
   We woke to a beautiful sunrise, both felt well rested. We had gone to sleep at 8 pm last night, so we had gotten another good nights' sleep. The trail seemed to know what we needed today, easy miles. Somehow we cranked out 26 of them today. Both of us felt great too.
   The California/Oregon border was a bit unexciting for us. Neither of us had actually walked from Mexico this year, and we were both mostly excited to leave our sickness behind and start a new chapter of this journey. We spent about 3 minutes at the border and then marched on.
   Half a mile further we saw a sign that read "welcome to Oregon Trail Magic". Then we heard  people cheering. It was Balls and his two daughters, Sunshine, and Butterfly. They gave us soda,  hot dogs, twizzlers, and good company. Balls and daughter Sunshine hiked the PCT last year, AT this year, and plan to do the CDT next year. This would make Sunshine the youngest to hike the triple crown, at just 13 years old. Chili and Pepper were hiking near us all day too. Chili is just 13 years old, and has hiked the AT last year and working on the PCT this year. The father-son duo will also attempt the CDT next year. Exciting and amazing to see kids so young out here.
     I ate 4 hot dogs, drank a soda, ate some chips, and that's when I knew my stomach was getting back together. Lauren's stomach is still on its way back together, but we as a whole are feeling stronger everyday. Good day.


   Today was tough. I am so sick of being sick and tired. Today really felt like work. We worked hard too. I honestly did not have much fun today. I was exhausted and it was hot. I dont feel like writing anymore. Its storming right now. Only pumped out 18 miles today, and it was hard. Sleep


We took a long day off yesterday in the town of Yreka. Lauren visited the urgent care clinic and was reminded not to drink water without treating it. They also prescribed her a double dose of Flagyl, one for her, one for me. It worked out well.
   We also watched so many hours of Olympics and other television. We moved from the Econolodge to the Holiday Inn Express. Our stomachs seemed to improve throughout the day, and by dinner time we ate pizza. Not sure it was the best choice.
   This morning we did more lounging. Finally left by 11 am. I was worried that a hitch out of a non trail town would be tough. We received a ride in ten minutes. Two older gentlemen. We soon found out that our driver was the mayor of Yreka, a new first for me. They took us up ten miles where we needed to turn on to another highway. It was super hot there. We luckily got a ride in ten minutes from a girl who lives in Happy Camp, and she would travel through Saied Valley on the way home.
   She gave us a ride back to the trail, it was very nice.
   Being back at the trail feels weird. We are with a group of folks we have not met before and ones that got far ahead of us. We  are 160 miles north of where we were before we got sick. But its also a week later... We will most likely hike on tonight. Feels good, also weird to be here.


  Last night was rough. It was just one problem after another. Both of us went to sleep with stomach aches. Then the mosquitoes would not let up. They buzzed around our heads just enough to keep us awake. Around midnight I set up the tent. The area for the tent was really too small for our large tent, and we both ended up sleeping on rocky uneven surfaces. Then there were ants, millions, on everything. So as we are throwing our stuff in the tent, we are shaking off ants. They were on everything. Luckily we did hang our food in a tree to keep the rodents out.
    This morning we both felt terrible. We had stomach pains and felt really tired. I felt so bad, its Lauren's birthday and we both feel like vomiting. Our dreams of hiking 30 miles today were shattered as we were both exhausted.
   We decided to hike to the next water source and call it a day. A whooping 3 mile day. We camped in a saddle and slept most of the day. Though its no fun being sick, we did enjoy resting here. We are both in high spirits, played a few games this afternoon.
   We are feeling a bit better this evening, hoping to get back in the groove tomorrow. We also talked about hiking back to town tomorrow and getting a bus up to Etna after a couple days rest. Not ideal, but we may need more rest.


   We got into Mt. Shasta early on the 29th. It was easy walking and we had 20 miles done by 1 pm. Got a ride into Shasta quickly too. The day was pretty busy though. We had not been to an outfitter in weeks, since Tahoe really. We also needed some R&R. Ate dinner at Billy Goat's Tavern and enjoyed some of the best food on the trail yet. Watched some olympics too. It was a good day.
    Yesterday we had so much to do. We made resupply boxes for Callahan's Lodge and Timberline Lodge. Not really sure why it took all day. Maybe it was the all you can eat pizza buffet, or the walking all over town. We didnt return to the hotel until after 3 pm. Then ziplocs and noodles were flying all over the tiny hotel room. We finally went to dinner at 730, after packing and labeling 5 boxes, Lauren sewed my shorts, I installed her new pole tips and soaked her feet. Sushi for her town birthday. None for me, another burger instead. Then more Olympic watching in the hotel room. Shasta was a great place for a zero. Very much a hippie town with a very laid back feeling to it.
    Today we took it kinda slow getting out of town. The vortex of town made it hard to leave. Though I love hiking to death, the good life sometimes does appeal to me. Its such an easy life, waking up in a bed, eating 3 large meals (or more), and the beer and television, its good stuff. But the goodness of town does wear off eventually. Luckily we have not been in town enough on this hike to wear off its charm. On the Hayduke Trail this April, me and d=rt were forced off the trail for 3 nights due to a snoe storm in Bryce. The tiny town of Tropic, Utah wore off its charm pretty quick.
    We finally were on the trail by 1 pm. It felt pretty good to be hiking again. Tomorrow is Lauren's birthday. I have a few small surprises for her, nothing big! We are camped in a sweet spot. Amazing sunset. Should be a great sunrise too. We plan to start early and hike a 30 mile day for her 30th!

Monday, July 30, 2012


  The mosquitos were active last night. We had planned on sleeping out, cowboy style. All went well for about an hour. Then I could not take the mosquitos any longer. As soon as I was about to fall asleep, the sound of a mosquito buzzing towards me filled my ear. Finally I could not take anymore and I set up the tent.
   Fell asleep quickly, but another hour later, I woke to a bloody nose. I think that all the dust lately really messed my sinuses up. It stopped bleeding quickly though, and back to sleep I went.
  6 am and we were awake. Not by my choice. Lauren wanted to get a big mileage day in. I could have slept much longer myself.
   On we went though. Guess we were both exhausted. Never made great time today. Lauren was stung by a yellow jacket. I had the bear rope rock hit my lip/shoulder/chin. Ow. We are both tired. Havent had a zero mile day since Bridgeport, some 525 miles ago. Looking forward to a day off in the town of Mt. Shasta. Sleep now...


    Before we started this hike, a lot of folks reminded us of the dangers of embarking on an expedition like this. I have heard it before every long hike. They say to take bear spray, ask if I am worried about bears, snakes, giardia, lymes disease, West Nile, dehydration, sun burn, cliffs, rocks, and rabid animals. I have learned to listen to the concerns, but also let them know that I can handle things okay. My rule is to simply not get myself into a situation I can't get out of.
    A little known fact about hiking is that it is much more likely that a person will get injured while in a car on the way to the trailhead. Not much out here can compare to the dangers of moving at 75 miles per an hour in a large chunk of metal, surrounded by other vehicles doing the same. Nope, 2.5 miles per hour is pretty safe, biggest risk is probably a stress fracture. Like the one I received on the Appalachian Trail in 2004. The doctor said I had walked too much. Painfuul, but after two weeks and the help of family driving me to Maine, I was back on the trail.
    But honestly, I think I should worry more about my family and friends in the other world. They have to drive everyday! They have stresses that I know little about, mortgages, car loans, and work! My biggest stress is staying healthy and eating enough to do that.
  We did have an encounter with a rattlesnake today, first one on the trail. Lauren walked right past it, jumped just as she saw him, 4" from her right leg. I watched as his head followed her leg. This was  not an agressive snake, he quickly retreated to the nearby shrubs. It was exciting and scary at the same time. Had she kicked the snake or hit him with her pole, it may have snapped at her. Glad we made it through!
    We had  a great day though. A little cooler than yesteerday, and the views of Mt Shasta have been spectacular. Though this section is a bit monotonous, it has proven to be better than people had warned us about. I think the worse sections of the PCT may still be better than the best of the AT. Life is good, and we feel alive!
    Lauren even gave me a foot rub tonight, as my  new shoes are so uncomfortable. Very sweet, how am I so lucky?


   Trail angel Steve reminded us yesterday that us hikers complain a lot! He of course was joking, but its also very true. Anything we get a chance to complain about, we do. Mosquitos, blisters, back aches, heavy packs, chaffing, worn out shoes, just to name a few.
    Somedays we have to remind ourselves that we made the choice to be out here. Today I had some of those moments. I sent new  shoes to  Drakesbad a few days ago, and carried them 60 miles to Burney where I trashed the old pair. The old pair had seen about 450 miles, really good for a pair of runners on trail. But this new pair feels very uncomfortable. Have my feet really grown more? I hope not, size 16 is hard enough to find. This new pair is so uncomfortable that after 10 miles of hiking today, I called Zappos and ordered a new pair, sent to the next town. Really hoping my feet arent swelling up...
   Because I was walking funny with the new shoes I was also gifted by the chaffe fairy. All the areas I should not mention here were pretty badly chaffed by the end of today. This causes me to walk even funnier.
   I think the chaffing caused my back to hurt. Hunched over, walking like a duck! Wow my life is hard. I would still rather be out here on a hike than be a lot of places. Despite the chaffage, sore back, and achy feet.
   We left Burney pretty late after breakfast with Steady and trail angel Steve. They then gave us a ride back to the trail. The trail was easy walking and we have hiked over 22 miles after 11 AM.
   I am exhausted. Time to rest.


   Today we have just 2 months left to finish this hike. We are about 1200 miles from the end. So just an average of 20+ miles a day will get us to Canada by September 25th. Sounds like a lot, but totally doable.
    We only did 12 miles today though. We took a ride into Burney with trail angel Steve and his wife Steady.
   We have been spoiled by Steve, he has met us at a lot of road crossings with cold sodas and snacks. Today he took us to a really tasty all you can eat pizza place.
    Lauren had a great idea of grilling out this evening, so she bought brawts, and a lot of other goodies. We had a great time talking with Steve, Steady, and Skeeter. Back to the trail tomorrow!


   Then we ate the drakesbad breakfast. It was incredible. Cereal, oatmeal, toast, quiech, crossaints, tea, coffee. When we had eaten everything on the table, the waitress asked if we were still hungry. We all glanced at each other and quickly replied, "not yet". We were then given eggs and potatos and pinto beans. All of this for $5. I love Drakesbad.
   When we had finished eating, Lauren and I went for one last hot springs swim. I wanted to pay our tab, but the entire staff at the ranch was in a meeting. The owner of Drakesbad came down to the pool and asked if I was Andrew. I had not paid my tab yet and she was a bit concerned. I quickly paid it and let her know that I would never run off without paying a tab, and hoped no other hikers would either. I feel kind of bad that they would assume I was not going  to pay, not a good feeling to be wrongly acused. I hope that no hikers would skip out on any tab, particularly a $10 amazing dinner at Drakesbad!
   We were finally on the trail by 11 AM. Hard to leave the vortex of Drakesbad. We made great time all day long. It was flat. Flatest stretch of trail I have seen yet.
   We dodged a thunderstorm somehow. It dumped a ton of hail a couple miles up from where we waited under a tree.
   We leap-frogged with Easy Miles, Steady, Paws, and Hamburger all day.
   20 miles today. We are camped just a few miles from Old Station. Plan to get there early and stay until the evening when we will take off and begin a 29 mile waterless stretch. I look forward to it =).


    Amazing day. Seriously. Food just did not stop coming. Around noon and the North Fork of the Feather River, we found a cooler with goodies left by Ninja's mom. She then showed up with even more food. String cheese, soda, sandwhiches, and beer. Hard to leave that spot.
   Then we marched on to Drakesbad. We had heard stories of Drakesbad Guest Ranch giving hikers huge amounts of food for very little money. We had no idea what to expect. Upon arrival we were given loaner clothes to wear while they washed our clothes. Then they showed us where the shower was. After lounging for another 2 hours in the hammocks and chairs, we were given dinner. It was family style. So for me, Lauren, Paws, Hamburger, Easy Miles, and Skeeter, we gorged. A plate full of rice, a plate full of veggies, a plate full of tender juicy slabs of pork, a plate full of potatos, and a plate of eggplannt parmesian. When I say a plate full, I mean a heaping mound on a large plate. Also 2 loaves of fresh bread. This was also followed by cheesecake. All of this for just $10 a peerson. I love this place.
    We took a swim in the hot springs pool and are camped half a mile from the ranch. This will provide easy access to the all you can eat breakfast buffett in the morning.
  We hiked 22 miles today and I would hike 22 miles everyday if it involved a hiker dinner at Drakesbad Ranch with great company. Amazing. Its after 10 pm though now, time for sleep.


   Our first sizeable waterless stretch was today. Only 13 miles, but our longest yet on this trip. For me its no big deal, in fact its kind of fun to see how far I can carry water for. On the Hayduke Trail, d=rt and I went 20 miles regularly without water. Longest stretch for me has been around 40 miles.
     Lauren is adapting to the dryness too. She was nervous about having to conserve water when we started this hike. We make a point to talk about where the next water is, and estimate how long it will take to get there. We are making it work.
    We have a much larger waterless stretch coming up. 33 miles along the Hat Creek Rim. When I was first made aware of this long stretch, I was in Sierra City. I overheard someone talking about a water cache that helps make the section shorter. I couldnt help myself from telling them my concerns with water caches. If people depend on these  caches, eventually someone will get there and find no water. This happened to a friend of mine on the PCT in 2006. It is also littering, leaving jugs of water on the trail in the middle of nowhere, not cool. I could rant more, but why? My point is that Lauren and I will carry 33 miles of  water and will love the fact that we are self reliant enough to get through without support.
    We did get some support today that I would never turn down. The support came in the form of pizza, soda, gatorade, pringles, candy, and water at a trailhead. A thru-hikers husband named Steve was performing trail magic. He gave us all kinds of goodies. The food just kept coming. Super nice guy. This is much different than a water cache though. We were not expecting Steve to treat us, and though we could have survived without the goodies, it was much appreciated!
    The miles seemed to fly by today and we did over 27 miles total. It felt good too. Though our feet are tired, it was one of the best 25 mile days yet.
   We leap frogged with Itchy, Double Sprainbow, Hamburger, and Easy Miles all day. Starting to feel as if we have a group we belong with. One thing I will never get over is how many different types of people there are out here, and how we mostly all get along. Tonight we are camped with a 59 year old lawyer from Portland and a 60-something year old man from Germany. Both of them are people I would likely never talk to in my other life. But out here we are sharing a common goal, and go through the same struggles and joys everyday. Thru-hiking is truly magical!


    "Wander a whole summer if you can. If you are business-tangled and so burdened by duty that only weeks can be got out of the heavy laden year, give a month at least. The time will not be taken from the sum of life. Instead it will be indefinitely lengthen it and make you truly immortal."  -- John Muir

    This quote makes me feel really good about hiking for several months. No, I am not missing 7 months of work. I am truly doing something that may not only live longer, but have something to remember doing... Oh that summer of 2012!
   I often think about this trail we are walking, and why we are walking it. Its hard to say why folks hike the trail. For the glory? But really what glory is it? Walking long distances is not for everyone by any means, but the glory after finishing aa long trip wears off fast. Then you are stuck with your own feelings of the trip. The memories of the sunrises, sunsets, pain, the feelings of success and failure, sometimes at the same time. Whatever it is, I do love it.
    We enjoyed a leisurely morning of milkshakes and breakfast at the Caribou Cafe. Then on to the trail thanks to Brendaa Braaten. Extremely nice of them to host us and drive us around town.
     When we finally started hiking it was around noon. Hot hot hot down at 2000 feet. We had a long way to go up too. 5000 feet up. It was a long, sometimes steep climb. We made it up and over and camped early. Crazy to think 15 miles and 5000 feet up after noon is an easy day. I must have left my toiletries at the Braatens. Guess me and Lauren will share a toothbrush for a couple days... not sure if its love or just plain gross.


   For thefirst time in over a month, me and Lauren are apart. Of course we take care of our bodily functions and what not alone. We sometimes hike for a ways alone  too. But today we decided to go 7 miles by ourselves. There was a huge downhill, 4300 feet of loss in 7 miles. Right now Lauren's shin splints are really bothering her, causing her to stop often while hiking downhill. I have knee pain when I slow too much. So for 3 hours we hiked alone today. It felt good to hike my own pace but missed Lauren, strangely.
   I went down to the Belden Town Resort while waiting for Lauren. What a strange place it was. I quickly bought some beer, doritos, and walked back to where the trail came towards town.
   I waited for Lauren and drank a couple beers. Felt good to be in the shade and relax with a beer. She showed up and I surprised her with beer and doritos. Good stuff for both of us!
    The Brattens of Belden are letting us camp at their hiker friendly house. Young Geezer, Easy Miles,Double Sprainbow, Itchy, Carpenter, Creeper, Hamburger, and Skeeter are here with us. Very relaxing atmosphere. Easy Miles helped Lauren tape her shin. Hopefully it will help her keep truckin. It was very nice of him.
     The poison oak mentioned in our guides was not present on the decent into Belden. Instead we were greeted by blackberries at the bottom! Spotted a weasel on the decent as well. It rained this morning. Just as Lauren told Easy Miles that its not going to rain for a long, long time. The journal goes a long way back here. Spotted all my good friends from 2006, miss you all!
    Time for rest.


    Today was rather eventful, more so than usual. For me, the day started at 3 AM. I was honestly paranoid about the food not being hung in a tree. I heard some branches snap and thought to myself that its probably a bear, or a deer, or at least a racoon. Whatever it was, I am sure it wanted to kill us in our sleep. So I shined my my light around. Finally spotted a set of eyes, glaring into my light. It was the eyes of death I thought. Then it darted off, crashing branches, it sounded large. Lauren finally woke up, asked what I was doing. I always try to play it cool when something is wrong, so I told her I was just waiting to see the sunrise... with my headlamp on... at 3 AM. She simply told me to go back to sleep. Which I eventually did. Maybe our snoring would keep the beast back.
   Around seven, we awoke. I looked all over for bear tracks... only found some deer tracks. They say that sasquatch covers his tracks, maybe thats what it was. He likes these Northwest areas right?
    We started hiking late, but we hiked fast. A sweet swimming hole on the Wild and Scenic Feather River awaited us. We got there at 11, and stayed until 1230. The water was great. Easy Miles, an lawyer from Portland joined us. It felt so good to swim in the cool water.
   We then began a climb out of the river valley, 3300 feet up. We noticed a helicopter flying around us. I thought, maybe someone is getting rescued. Or theres a fire nearby. The helicopter made several runs past us, soon we noticed the bucket it was towing underneath, definately a fire nearby. We eventually rounded a corner and noticed a red gu on everything. Guess the helicopter is dropping more than water. Rounded another corner to find heavy smoke, and 15 firefighters. I was worried we would have to turn around. But they said hike on through. The fire was tiny, probably less than an acre. Well under control too. They said it was probably a hiker who started the fire though, as a campsite was nearby. Its such a dry year, I hope folks are being careful.
   The rest  of the day was rather uneventful. We hiked 25 miles and until 830 again. Lauren's shin is hurting again, hoping it feels better tomorrow! Now I need sleep.


     The wind roared all night and this morning it evven looked like aa storm might be in the makings. Poofy clouds were forming and blowing in from the West.
    We talked a lot today about Canada. I told Lauren that it is important to me to try and make it. She wants to make it, but wants to have a good time while making it. Its such a hard compromise for both of us. I know I can hike 20 a day and still have a lot of fun, but 20 takes us a bit longer and is a bit harder than going solo. I wouldnt trade my hiking partner for anything, just hard to both agree on how we will hike. We are going to try to make it, 20 a day average. It wont be  easy. The hardest thing is thhat if we want a day off, we need to do four 25+ mile days. Whatever will be, will be. I get burned out thinking about miles, but if we want to make it, we have to think about it and act on it.
   We took a lot of breaks today, and still made 26 miles. Camped at 9, after missing a good campsite. The views today were good, but the forests were amazing. Spotted a black bear today, looked like a yearling. Makes me miss working at the Wildlife center in Helena. Bears have so much personality, each one different from the next. As ironic as it is, we are not hanging our food tonight either. There simply is no trees with branches in this dark old growth forest. Just as I had ridiculed other hikers a day before for leaving food out at night. Now its dark and in this quiet night we are hearing branches snap....


    The town stay in Sierra City was amazing. It was so great to meet so many friendly people in such a great setting. This morning it was hard for us to get going. I was all ready, but Lauren was enjoying socializing and taking her time leaving. I was feeling nearly sick to my stomach after all the food I ate this morning and last night.  Or maybe it was just town. At 6 AM a work crew began re-paving the highway in front of the store. The noise from them woke me up.
      After a trip to the post office, we hit the trail. Bill from the Red Moose gave us directions for hiking out of town. He drew us a map that involved many un marked old mining roads. The attraction is that it would take us right out of town, and past an old mine we could possibly check out. It would also cut off a few miles. I am in no way a purest, anytime I can take a sweet detour, I will.
   The route had us climbing up steep jeep roads, it was beautiful though. I was a bit nervous that we were off track a couple times, but Bill's map did not lie!  It was right on, and after 6 miles we were on the PCT.
   The rest of the trail today was super smooth. We walked about 20 miles total, and are both feeling pretty strong. The walking was easy and though the views were less spectacular than in other places, it was very peaceful. There is something about walking in a forested area. I wouldnt normally notice it,  but we have been out of the woods on high ridges for so long. The woods are confining and comfortable at the same time. They can make me feel costrophobic yet completely free at the same time. The moss on the trees here makes the trees feel full with life, a glimpse of what Washington holds for us perhaps?
    It is so windy right now, and chilly... A cold July night in Northern California. Crazy. Time for rest.


    We were camped just a mile or so before Sierra City. It felt great to be so close, we started a little later and got into town quickly. Lauren is always ready before me on a day she knows sshes getting a shower.
    We were greeted at the Red Moose Cafe in Sierra City by many wonderful hikers and the owners Bill and Margaret. They were so hospitable. The breakfast seemed to be never ending, pancakes kept coming.
    Margaret then showed us the showers, laundry, and yard to camp in. They offer this all free to hikers, amazingly nice.
   We camped in the yard, about 200 vertical feet up from a beautiful stream. We enjoyed a shower, but also spent quality time in the swimming hole today. I may be the cleanest I have been on this hike yet.
    Lunch consisted of The Gut Buster, 1 pound of burger from the general store and a large ice cream. We received 4 packages today, one from the family, one from the Balckens, and our 2 resupply boxes. Thanks family for the goodies.
  Dinner was endless ribs. The Red Moose rocks. Best meal on the trail yet. I am excited for breakfast, and also excited to return to the trail tomorrow!