Pie Town to Grants, New Mexico

5/5-8: 58 miles

A bunch of us left Toaster house in the morning, freeing up bunk space for the incoming wave. Hikers are on the trail in record numbers.

We gathered after 16 miles at the TLC Ranch where the family set up a shady area with chairs and coolers full of water. They wanted us to stay for dinner and have us camp but it was only 3:30 so we moved on.

We spent the day on gravel roads for 22.1 miles to a wonderful solar mill with clear, tasty water and many campsites protected by trees and flat once I kicked the desiccated cow pies out of the way. Lovely night camped with OT, Jacobi, Sugar Mama, No No, Gray, Tinman, and late arrivals Top O and 13.

After the first night there are optional alternates. Gray, TM and I decided to stay on the highway which is really hard on the feet and legs. There was a trail you could take up onto the cliffs for about 4 miles but as it got later and our feet hurt worse, we just continued on the highway to stealth camp at the Arch. We pitched tents after 22.2 miles then hauled our stoves and food bags to the picnic tables to cook dinner. Kidnapper’s family of 6, plus happy dog Muir, came scrambling down the cliffs from the trail we didn’t take. They were stoked about its beauty and stopped to cook dinner with us, then continued down the paved highway to a water source and hopefully a spot to camp.

Gray wants to get to Grants in time to clean up and be ready to greet the local VFW who are lined up to greet and support the Warrior Expedition hikers as they make it to towns. So he’s going to take the highway another 20-ish miles in the morning and get in a night before me and Tinman.

Day 3 Tinman and I took the Bonita-Zuni route for a few miles through lava on the ancient route between Pueblos. It connects to gravel road and a back way into Grants which does not involve walking blacktop. I’ve done the route before and prefer it to the highway the Ravens and I walked in 2017.

He hated the lava but loved the deserted gravel road through beautiful country and another perfect windmill water source for clear, cold water. In fact he told me his entire journal entry for the day, after injuring his toe and foot on the lava, was “f*ing rocks!” I moved slower through those 6 miles and didn’t fall, whew.

We camped off the bigger gravel road in a lovely canyon within earshot but not eyesight of the semi-busy road for a 22.5 mile day.

The next day was all downhill and Tinman wanted to get to the post office for Saturday hours that closed at noon which we made easily. Hikers are clustered at the numerous motels near Walmart, Walgreens and Denny’s by the freeway. I ate dinner with OT and Jacobi who got in a day earlier and so will leave the next day while I zero and decide what to do. Probably the last time I see them so we exchanged hugs and contact info.

May 9, Mother’s Day while I’m taking a zero. I don’t really care about these invented holidays. I bought resupply and then wandered back through the deserted and decrepit Route 66 through Grants just to keep in motion.

What am I going to do? I knew I’d have to get back home after a month, that’s fine. But it’s easier to leave from here, Grants, take a bus straight to Albuquerque where I have a flight booked. On the other hand, I can hike on to Cuba, another amazing 100+ mile stretch. I’d already texted a trail supporter there a week ago and he said he’d find someone to give me a ride (for Uber prices) but the time frame feels too tight for me.

I looked up the bus schedule and flight changes. I can spend a few days in Seattle with my daughter Sarah and her Sam! The bus leaves tomorrow at 6 am, ugh, and if it doesn’t run, I could hike to Cuba instead. The indecision is agonizing, so I told Tinman I’d probably decide at 5 am. Meanwhile….

Hikers gathered at Motel 6. Injured Lady Bug is here in Grants for a week to let her foot recover. She, Tinman and I went and got take out from Denny’s and went back to Motel 6. Warrior Expedition members (Earl) Gray (Goose) and Blues Brothers are rooming together, now joined by Jabberwocky, who I met night one in the Bootheel! We chatted away, I know some of their stories—the PTSD, nightmares (“I’m pointing the gun but it won’t fire.”), insomnia, survivor’s guilt. As they turned to go back to their rooms, they looked at me and Lady Bug and said, “Happy Mother’s Day, if you’re moms!”and opened their arms for big hugs. They hugged me tight, thinking about their moms, I could have cried. What if these men, in their 30’s and 40’s were my sons? I’d be proud, heartbroken, worried. Being a mom is the hardest job ever and I know that I’m a mom by proxy for some hikers on trail, but this? Heal well, all my sons. I send you onto the trail, fare well. Farewell.

You can’t Hallmark this shit. I’m so sad to leave this trail and these people. But there’s another trail soon in June. And another after that. And another.

https://warriorexpeditions.org/expeditions/warrior-hike/

Doc Campbell’s to Pie Town

4/27-5/3 127.2 miles total

Like this those miles: 16.2, 21.2, 21.3, 18.3, 20.2, 16.2, 14 because:

After an uncomfortable, hot night in the motel, we hit the road at 7. Those guys did the Gila Cliff Dwellings, which I’ve seen and loved. I told them to take the beautiful Little Bear Canyon route after leaving the Cliff Dwellings. I hiked alone all day, through the Gila. I love this place, this trail. I saw 11 hikers going south, short haulers and Strange Bird who was hiking out on a broken foot. I told him Tinman was behind but could help confirm the injury. Later I heard from another hiker that I had helped Strange Bird by listening and affirming. He told me a lot about himself—high functioning, 54, high pain threshold, other personal details—and I’m glad I made him feel like he was making the right decision by patiently (45 minutes standing in the trail) listening. I love that the trail makes me be a better person.

Anyway, I stopped at 3:30 to wait for TM and Gray and we all gathered to camp with Top O, OT, Jacobi, Fried Green Tomatoes (whose gaiters I found and returned at Doc’s!). Today I saw 11 hikers SOBO, 1 backtracking, 6 ducks, 4 deer, 1 snake.

Top O (background) and OT

Day 2 the crew climbed out of the Gila and camped in the campground at Snow Lake. It rained off and on all day. I weirded out over a comment I took to mean I was too slow. No worries really as I tag teamed with OT and Jacobi. Top O is now hiking with them, I should switch too, these guys are more my speed. (Now as I write at the end of the day I’m cold in my tent in the rain.)

Tinman, Gray and I stopped at noon to eat and dry out tents and bags. Nope (Deaf Hiker Go Away) stopped too. Trying to be proactive I wrote a note asking what pronouns to use. See photo of Nope’s hiking outfit. The reply was, “ I don’t care about that shit.” No help. Guess we’ll all describe Nope as we see fit. “He pees standing up,” “They are Trans,” “She’s transitioning.” I tried to be respectful.

Day 3 Cold AF last night. I hiked out cold with a headwind, uphill, by the f*ing solar pond to the f*ing plain in the headwind. Why am I doing this again? Too windy to keep earbuds in and listen to Foo Fighters and The Killers to keep me on tempo. I yelled obscenities at the wind. Yeah, that worked. I made the miles. Finally dropped into the trees on the far side at 11:15 am? Trail magic, what! Guru with soda, an orange and a protein bar, totally unexpected, and here, after a hateful morning, thank you so much!

I fell behind again in the headwind for hours and got water from a tank surrounded by calves, no cows. I did not freak them out.

Tinman has a new blister, Gray has tendinitis in his ankle so we camped a bit early. Will it slow them down tomorrow? I doubt it.

Day 4 Dirt road to Dutchman’s Spring then back on the official red line, tons of climbing. Water sources and carries tend to be a major factor in how we plan our days. At that junction, TM was ahead but Gray and I got cell signal and, along with 4 or 5 others, bogged down for quite awhile. After hiking out, I finally caught up to both at 12:30, they had waited but put their packs on as soon as they saw me and bolted after telling me what mile they’d camp. Yeah, not going that far with all this climbing, plus why? The miles would be easier to accumulate on the flats tomorrow. I said I’d Satellite text where I camped. I was happy to hike at my own pace. In fact I stuck a fist in the sky when they were gone and shouted, “Liberation!” I’ll see them in a few days, maybe. Maybe not. Camped with Top O, OT, Jacobi, and Lady Bug from Quebec in a pine needled haven.

Day 5 Not a bad day, some climbing. Camped near a water cache with a bunch at a campground. Trail Angel Cheshire Cat and dog Stella Blue was there. He’s been angelling since the boot heel—fresh fruit every couple of days for us! And I get to throw a stick for Stella. Plus, he fist bumped the dudes, but I got a hug. Oh, hiking in the time of Covid. Nobody has got it, we wear masks in town but not on trail. Most have said they’re vaxed. It’s just not even a topic of conversation among hikers.

Day 6 Felt great today. Powered up the 4 to Mangas Lookout, first one out of camp I think. At 11 trail angel John Boy screeched to a halt on the dirt road and gave me Dr Pepper and a cherry pie. Not crowded at Davila Ranch, a little oasis with a washing machine, shower, toilet and food. Many hikers walked in then out to Pie Town. Spent some time with the family of 6 I’d met near Eureka on the PNT last year. Kidnapper (the dad, what a perfect trail name!), Wildflower, Amazon , HoneyBadger and 2 more. Kids are 18, 16, 14 and turning 12. I ate eggs and potatoes they’d made and had leftover, then cooked Ramen with 3 more eggs for myself. I camped as did a bunch more.

Day 7 Into Pie Town and Toaster House, windy walking, 11 miles by 10 am. 14 by 11:30. The place is packed! There’s 8 of us sharing beds and space upstairs, so good to be indoors! Ran to the only restaurant still in business in Pie Town, there used to be 3. Gathered with more dirty hikers as they trickled in—good fun, good food!

Road to Pie Town
Tex, Jacobi, Sugar Mama in Toaster House at Pie Town
What’s going on here? Military doctoring some women hikers’ foot injuries. Uh huh.
Toaster House kitchen, hiker boxes stacked up and Little Brown
Feral kittens under the house, later 3 were rescued by a hiker couple who got off the trail to bring them home. They’d found a newborn on the walk in and were bottle feeding it around the clock already! 4 kittens saved!
Hikertrash at Toaster House—all these hikers are in my bubble, I know them!

Silver City to Doc Campbell’s

4/24-27 45.1 miles

Warrior Expedition and friends in Silver City

Headed out the Walnut Creek Rd to the Gila Alt after saying goodbye to Michele and Payton. It was a long day for few miles but I really enjoy hiking with Tinman and Gray. Funny though to watch Tinman (Chief in the Navy and Fire Chief) with his protective instincts over the both of us, a woman with 12,000+ trail miles and a 29-year-old combat vet with the PCT under his belt.

At water, we found OT ill. His hiking partner Jacobi got Tinman to check him out—they’ll overnight there, lots of 4-wheeler traffic in case it’s something serious—right now it’s nausea and weakness, hope he’s OK.

Weird encounter with with a (my perception) Trans woman in a skirt and a patch on her pack “Deaf Hiker, Go Away.” She was going the wrong way to the water and asked me where it was. I pointed and she then pointed at her patch.

We got water and hiked into beautiful rock formations which made Tinman and Gray happy too!

Day 2 we didn’t make it as far as I’ve camped the last 2 times, passing my former campsite 1 1/2 hours into the morning. Still a good day dropping into the river with Top O too who joined us at last nights campsite along with Little Brown. Season Pass from Florida joined us tonight as well. So different from the solo experience the times I’ve been here before.

And the next day, 3, a short beautiful walk to Doc Campbell’s where I’d reserved an apartment, as I’ve done in the past. I was happy to share with a couple of hikers. So many others camped behind Doc’s, love the company, such a different experience this time around.

Lordsburg to Silver City, New Mexico

Gray Goose and Tin Man

4/20-22/21 45.4 miles

Turned out to be a surprisingly short section, one less night than when I’ve hiked it before because there is a four mile trail closure for a prescribed burn. There were two suggested alternates on Guthook, one of which required a 35 mile water carry if the not-to-be-counted- on water caches weren’t adequate. Since there are so many more hikers than anticipated (I surmise), I was worried about water caches being depleted. But Tin Man roomed with Radar at the Econolodge in Lordsburg and Radar gave him a better plan. Tin Man passed the word on to other hikers: stay on the CDT to Burro Mountain Homestead RV Park (a mile off trail but known to be hiker friendly offering free water, showers and camping) where the Ravens and I stayed in 2017. Then hike 7 miles to Highway 90 for 11 more to Silver City.

I’d been telling hikers in the first stretch that half a day out of Lordsburg, we’d finally get into trees. And so it was.

After getting to Lordsburg the day before at noon after walking 15 miles, I showered, laundered, ate a burger, drank a couple of beers, and got ready to hike out after a prepackaged Covid breakfast at the Comfort Inn. Love that place! They held a resupply bag for me while I hiked from the border and had a room ready when I asked at noon after walking into town. Right on. Rode the elevator up with a couple of youngish unmasked (against hotel requirements) guys from El Paso. I hesitated when I saw them as they held the door for me. Then said, “The hell with it, I’m vaxed,” One laughed and said, “So are we!” All of us joyful. I asked where they were working, they asked where I was from. The usual reaction that Puff Puff imitates so well, “ Alaska?!”

It was a good day out of Lordsburg into the trees. Tons of hikers: Tex and No Keys, OT (Old Timer, a Viet Nam vet and straight up believer in the Lord) and Jacobi, Cake and So Good, Bedbug, IBTAT (I think, guy with a camera I’ve been leapfrogging with—amazing photos and I’m now following him on Instagram), Gray Goose and my now buddy and fellow OG Tin Man. As I remembered from the two times I’ve done it before, it’s basically all uphill for 16-17 miles.

Dead cow
Resting in the shade
Cow pie cairn

We all gathered like Water Buffalo at the first and only water source, the Engineer’s Windmill, getting water out of the cow trough and sitting in the shade, the first big shade since the beginning of the CDT. As we sat, a cow and calf began lapping up water. As I walked on, I saw a herd of cows and calves near the trough. The next day I heard that hikers just a couple of hours behind us found the trough empty, the pump broken and no water at all in the tall water tank. Some hikers posted comments on the Guthook App. The CDTC follows and uses the comments for their water report so I’m hopeful they were able to contact the rancher so he could get water to the herd. Poor mamas, poor babies.

At about 5:30, Gray Goose, Tin Man and I pitched our tents in a shaded, wind protected, sandy bottomed little campsite.

The next day I caught up to them at a trail angel set up after 11 miles or so, around noon. Solo cooked hot dogs, had fresh fruit and cold sodas. She was camped in her van and was so happy to help us all out. Outstanding day brightener! I knew there was going to be quite some climbing and elevation gain up to Burro Mountain and it was getting hot.

Since the last time I was here, a new section of trail has been built, something the Guthook guide has not incorporated into the map, but it was well built and well blazed and eventually hooked into the trail I knew. At the top I found OT, Jacobi and Tin Man! I followed them downhill on slippery, sandy and gravelly trail, taking my time so I didn’t go ass over teakettle as is my wont. At the junction off trail to Burro Mountain Homestead RV Park, they waited so I wouldn’t miss the turn off. Of course I wouldn’t, and was probably kind of overly sensitive about that. I thanked them and on the way down felt I should explain or apologize, something. Why can’t I just assume men would do the same for another guy hiker, that it has nothing to do with me being a long lived female?

Burro Peak view

Anyhow, on the deck was a wonderful pile of hiker trash. I’m so happy to be out here! Tex, No Keys, Cave Man. Gray Goose greeted me, Tin Man, OT and Jacobi. Already pitched behind the bathhouse was Beth and John. It was quiet before dark, even though No No and another hiker came in just before. Free showers, close camping, deer browsing amongst our tents. A beautiful restful night.

Day 3 we trickled up and out on dirt roads towards the highway. At the junction we started the trudge on paved highway. About 4 miles before town, most of us stopped at a burrito place. I had a bacon, egg and red sauce burrito—absolutely divine. We had to stand in the drive thru lane behind cars, then eat in the dirt and shade of a tree across the lane.

There are so many hikers that when I called the Triple Crown Hostel, they were full. I had a reservation for the next night, but was getting to town a day early because of the fire closure and reroute. No problem, my favorite cheap motel, Copper Manor, had room. But I’ve been traipsing along with Warriors and a former Warrior and current adhoc Warrior supporter. They’re staying at an in town RV park with a few cabins or trailers for rent. So I’m sharing a trailer with another hiker for a zero and got to eat dinner with vet and Warrior Expedition on the ground coordinator Michele and her totally delightful daughter Payton. Oh also some guys, Gray Goose, Caveman, Tin Man.

Getting ready to hike Hwy 90

It’s been a unique experience, not just on the trail, but in life, to spend quality time with vets. I love our discussions about military history. I listen in to their detailed and technical discussions about guns and other weaponry. I am taken by their honesty, why they joined, what they have done after getting out.

Where else but at a brewery?
Silver City Visitor Center

CDT Crazy Cook Monument to Lordsburg, New Mexico

4/15-19/21 84 miles (4 nights)

The road to the CDT monument at the border is much improved from 2017 when I rode out with the Ravens. Dion (Buddy Backpacker’s dad) of Crazy Cook Shuttles picked up me and 2 other hikers at 6 am. I think I was hiking by 9 am, planning to camp at Water Cache #1, like we did last time, after about 14 miles.

One of my goals in hiking this hellish stretch again was to learn from my mistakes. Day 1, I made three mistakes, but one I fixed, and another was kind of fortuitous. The first mistake was leaving my sandwich in the motel refer. The second was forgetting to test my Guthook map app. Duh. Couldn’t find my little GOS arrow on the map. Asked another hiker, problem solved. The third was when I set up camp and realized I’d packed the wrong sleeping pad, a Big Agnes that is divinely comfortable but heavy and bulky. But I hydrated like crazy all day and felt fine. Way different than 2017.

Super windy camping at Water Cache #1, with a bunch of people including a group from Warrior Expeditions, combat vets. Way more hikers this year but still fewer than the 50 that start the PCT each day.

From Water Cache #1, I took the gravel road rather than climbing back up to the “red route” in Guthook that goes post to post. It was simple, tedious, but reasonably quick walking. I felt better today—exhausted from carrying 5L of water from MP 25.2 to a beautiful, sandy dry campsite.

Day 3 I felt even better, walked a ways with retirees Beth and John that I met the first day. They’ve biked the trail and Baja and other cool places, this is their first long distance hike though. It’s especially nice to have another woman in my general age range out here, women are definitely in the minority in the wave of hikers I find myself in. It’s easier walking today, but that means monotonous. So people at water sources are a big excitement: Kyle, Tinman, Grey Goose, Jazz Hands and trail angel Cheshire Cat and his dog Stella Blue (I got a banana!). After yesterday’s water haul to camp, I decided to call it a day at a water source after 18.5 miles, another short day of walking just 7 am to 4 pm. It’s more or less dark at 8:30 pm.

The last night I camped with 15 miles left to Lordsburg as planned. What I didn’t anticipate was how quickly those miles went when you’re not suffering from heat exhaustion and have another hiker to chat with! Made it to my hotel by noon and got early check in, sweet!

The whole stretch has been so much cooler than last time, breezy and just lower temperatures. I’ve used my sun reflecting umbrella for shade several times but not constantly. So glad I made this section in good shape! I won’t need to zero, I’ll just get my burger and beer and head out in the morning.

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2021 really?

CDT 2021 what?

Wow, what? So I was planning the Arizona Trail (AZT) starting mid March, 800 miles or 2 months but then the wonderful USASA Series Directors in Mt Hood, Ali and Leslee, decided to host a Regional championship for Alaska, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Washington in early April, so after going to that, I’ve got a month to hike till I have to be back in AK. Watching my Facebook feeds, I jumped on a shuttle reservation to the CDT start at the border of Mexico and New Mexico April 15. It’s a few hours on bumpy dirt roads from Lordsburg. Not only am I pandemic crazy, I’m masochistic. I’ve done the CDT from the border. The first 85 miles to Lordsburg sucks! No shade, reliant on water caches, I got heat exhaustion but didn’t realize it. But, maybe I can learn from my mistakes and do it better. And, maybe getting on the trail for a month will help heal me. I’m vaxed, but traumatized as we all are from the pandemic isolation and paranoia and anxiety. Combined with being ancient, I hyperventilate over every weird new physical, emotional, or psychic symptom. Is it aging or illness or anxiety?

Team Big AK at Mt Hood (I’m in there)

4/14/21

The USASA Pacific Northwest Regional Championship was a blast!

Flew back to Alaska to change out my snowboard gear for my hiking stuff, then flew to El Paso for a night. Uber to the Greyhound, 3 hour bus ride to Lordsburg, NM, and I have a bumpy shuttle plus water cache lined up for tomorrow. Last time I did this, the Ravens and I were together and met the other 5 hikers who started that day in including Dassie (read her book!), Burning Calves, and Johnny who became German Mormon up the trail. I hope to meet and hike with more great characters this year. Yeah I solo happily but I actually really love company on the trail. For it to work, we have to compromise and adapt to other people’s hiking style, a satisfying challenge. Hiking friendships and partnerships that form on the trail are fascinating too. Me and Puff Puff, Trooper and German Mormon, Nuthatch and Party Saver, AJ and Dassie (buy her book!), and many others.

PNT to Oroville

Cumulative Miles Hiked: 482

8/5 Skipped a ton of road walking out of Oroville. Dan drove me to 6200’ so it’s a bit of a shock to the system, from blazing hot to pleasantly cool, from low to high(er), from bugless to voracious and noisy mosquitoes and flies. Lots of short haul backpackers out here, nice to see them.

8/6 I woke to a soaking wet tent, a lot of condensation since I camped next to a creek. It’s cool up here but the trail is beautifully designed and maintained. I made it to the historic Tungsten Mine and cabins for lunch, then it started to rain. And rained. For 3 hours over spectacular Cathedral Pass where the wind hit me and my hands got too cold for photos. Guess I’ll have to go back! I hiked down a bit lower before the ranger station and camped, crawled into my bag to warm up as the rain died and the wind didn’t. The rain cut the dust, the Pasayten is beautiful and Cathedral Pass reminded me of a kinder, shorter Pinchot Pass but with uniquely gorgeous rock formations.

Not as rusty as my old mine saw

8/7 I wore all my layers until 11 am. There were some beautiful views but the trail is not what it was. Burn area forever. Oh well. Dead trees, down trees, fried soil turned to ashy sand, no visible path in places. I got some water then found a flat stand of green trees off the trail for a peaceful night. Didn’t get as far as I wanted, so it goes.

8/8 I was in a cloud till 10, so there was no view from Bunker Hill. The blowdown burn area went on forever. In the heat and view less burn area coming down from Bunker Hill, I counted over 150 blowdowns an hour, all day long. Practice clambering over, under and around them makes perfect.

Finally I turned up from the old Pasayten Airfield into a lush living forest. Instant happiness even though I hiked another 7.8 miles just to find a tent site, a sweet little spot out of the blowdowns right next to the trail but with no dead trees threatening to fall on me. And with an annoying babbling stream talking at me all night. Took nearly 12 hours but I made my required average miles, 18, so as not to run out of food over the next couple of days.

See the sign for the trail junction?
Mellow stuff

8/9 Blowdown Showdown! I’ve invented a hiker contest.

All due credit for the name goes to Jason Borgstede, pro snowboarder and business owner (Blue&Gold Boardshop in Anchorage, Alaska—go there for all gear needed to slide sideways, summer or winter) who holds the Throwdown Showdown event for boarders every winter at Alyeska Ski Resort in Girdwood, Alaska.

Full disclosure: I declare myself the winner of my age group. Here’s how I did it. Basically it’s a freestyle event—you get points for getting through massive sections of blowdowns using a variety of skills, tricks and techniques. As this event grows and develops you may get bonus points for naming maneuvers. Getting through faster than another hiker gets bonus points, which may be offset though by excessive blood loss.

Try these for starters: Step over the little logs regular, then goofy. Limbo under larger logs. Belly slide under, then slide on your back face up. Creep on all fours, crawl on your knees. Lever your way over like mounting a horse, both feet off the ground. Now get on the horse from the wrong side. For those big piled up log jams, pressure your feet like a climber as you attempt to scale and see over 14’ of tangled branches, pine needles and busted up trees. With hands and without hands. What else can you come up with? No holds barred! Uh, literally.

More blowdowns, hours of them, and 3 big switchback climbs. After 3 days of nearly nonstop blowdowns, I reached the PCT! Tread, real tread, level tread, well designed tread, I nearly kissed that tread. I love the PCT. You really appreciate good trail when you’ve been dealing with not good trail for so long. Like I learned to appreciate a decent dirt road walk on the CDT. And carrying water weight in the desert.

Now that I was on the PCT, I met tons of people, a couple that said they’d started at the southern border in March. I didn’t ask about the Sierra because it sure seemed like enough time had passed for a NOBO thru hike! From Sweden, they said they flew from Europe 2 days before the travel ban. Cool!

I kept going, ecstatic to be back in the North Cascades, such views! I dry camped alone, despite the dozens of hikers I’d seen, at the junction of the PNT and PCT, completing the 14 miles the trails share.

8/10 Last day for the PNT this year and it was all PCT. 14 miles to Hart’s Pass where we’d started the PCT SOBO a few years ago, walking from Hart’s to the Canadian Border 30 miles away, and then turned around and headed back south for good.

Today in the 6 1/2 hours I was on the trail, I counted 39 humans coming towards me (including 1 baby which in some cultures is considered not quite human until age 5 or 6), 9 dogs, and 4 humans going my way, only 1 of which passed me.

PCT, I love you!

And then, back in the van for a few days, visiting Dave and Teresa in Chewelah and meeting Natasha at Hidden Mother Brewery in Spokane. And on a plane 8/14, me to the Sierra, Dan back home to Alaska.

Republic x 3 to Oroville

Cumulative miles hiked: 381.8

Took a zero in Omak. On the way there we passed the sage fire near Tonasket, driving by as a plane dropped retardant, helicopters were sling loading water buckets and multiple fire departments had their trucks and fire fighters mobilized.. Because of Covid, Dan’s birthday dinner was a takeout tuna salad sandwich from Subway. The next day we visited Rockwall Winery, a lovely building amongst fruit trees.

7/30 We drove back through Republic to where trail started uphill from a little campground on Hwy 21. Talked with a guy who had been car camping there for a week and headed up the trail. After a couple miles it joined a gravel road for the rest of the day. I picked up 3 liters of water and carried them until I found a campsite past a junction above the road. A few cars passed by, invisible.

7/31 Fun morning, easy walking on the road, 12 miles in 4 hours! I saw One Gallon’s footprints ahead in the dust. About an hour into the morning, I took a water break in the shade and saw Gasket behind me. We walked and talked the rest of the way to Highway 20 where Dan soon arrived in the van. One of the things I love about hiking is getting to know people I’d never get to talk with in real life, about real stuff, deeply revealing. Gasket is awesome. We all donned our masks for the drive to breakfast at the Knotty Pine in Republic. Then we gave Gasket and One Gallon a ride back to the trail angel Artie’s where everybody has been staying, off and on, since there are 3 different road crossings, all leading to Republic. Goose and Cruise were there, Goose is recovering from a nasty rash and GI trouble, but he’s looking much recovered!

Dan took me back to trail after our breakfast break in Republic. The rest are staying another night in Republic. The hike out was uphill on trail, hot of course, but not a road walk. I managed another 5 miles for a 17 mile day. No place to camp but I managed another creative pitch with a view to the west and settled in.

8/1 So there were numerous comments about the creepiness of the private property signs where the trail joined some roads. Skulls on fences, the typical signs telling me trespassers would be shot twice, junk yards of rotting cars, etc. I heard a dog barking way in the distance but the only one I saw was a bird dog taking herself for a walk. She glanced at me and continued down to her house. No dogs at the numerous private properties tells me nobody is home. I wouldn’t live out here without a dog early warning system in place, just saying. The property owners can’t shoot trespassers if they’re not here to shoot them.

It was hot today as I hiked from trail to gravel to paved to gravel. I pretty much hated this trail today. Stupid route, at one spot, the “primary” turned off perfectly good gravel to an abandoned (remember that means blowdown covered formerly-known- as road) so I looked at a map and kept going a few hundred yards to a dirt road, cleared, shorter, no traffic, that joined back up with the main road. Good choice!

I walked into the Bonaparte Lake campground to where the van was! It didn’t cool off till 8:45 and I still had to eat freeze dried dinner but the company was good. Really nice spot Dan got away from the crowds. And I like this place, kids laughing as they swim and paddle around, largish people walking along the campground road getting their exercise, just a good vibe.

8/2 I walked through the campground to the trailhead. It was good trail to the Bonaparte Lookout alternate. I’ve been excited to see this place. The historic lookout was built in 1914, and the new lookout is staffed, one of the very few still in operation. It was a lot of uphill (duh, lookouts have to be on top of something) but I made it by 12:30. I spent quite a bit of time talking with lookout Jim Watkins, really enjoyable and interesting.

Finally I went back down the trail and eventually joined a nice soft road with Nordic ski trail signs. I had enough water and debated with myself for hours about whether to camp early up in the forest or to continue to Havillah and camp on the church grounds with access to water and a bathroom, I’d get there around dinner time. I’m the only hiker in the area so it’d just be me there. Lookout Jim assured me that Covid wouldn’t stop the church people from being trail angels.

The soft road turned to gravel and cow-calf country. I’m not camping with cows if I can help it, people on foot freak them out, plus—cow pies. And now there are barbed wire fences and cars so no camping. I got to the junction for Havillah, and a sign saying the church (a beautiful white steepled structure a quarter mile ahead) was “Closed to PNT hikers due to Covid concerns.” It was 5:30 and I am now between barbed wire protecting the creek to my left and private property on my right. I freaked out a bit but kept going, knowing it was another 6 miles of gravel road to public land. It was hot, I was tired and hungry and the prosperous looking mini ranches and pastures pissed me off. I face up belly scooted under the fence and got camping water from the creek below and continued another hour, grumbling. And then a dip in the road, mashed down fence to my left and Ponderosa pine and sage brush, not pasture. Whatever a private wildlife refuge is, there couldn’t be anything menacing left in it with a mashed down fence. I camped out of sight of the road in the heavenly smelling sage. So much for Jim reassuring me the church would not close to hikers. Oops, maybe the trail angels in Republic knew, my bad.

8/3 The 19 miles to US 97 outside Oroville took me till 2pm, not a bad day! Gravel to dirt road to trail, almost all downhill although the heat was intense. And there was Dan looking up the trail for me! Dinner at the Oroville Brewery was outstanding—the best coleslaw I’ve ever had. Clyde at the Camaray Motel was very welcoming and gave us the hiker rate and free laundry.

8/4 Zero! Visited Esther’s local winery and the lake park, drove up the “trail” in 100 degree heat, saw One Gallon using the WiFi in front of the library, and got to pet the town cat, who was walking down the sidewalk behind a random couple while proudly carrying a dead mouse. Take out pizza for dinner.

PNT to US 395 to Republic

Cumulative miles hiked: 312.9

7/22 l got dropped off on the edge of the pavement from Metaline Falls at 9 am after a breakfast cooked by Dave. I hiked way farther than I’d intended but it was good dirt road to good trail. There were campsites galore at the top of the climb but it was 3:30 in the afternoon. The PNT digest or guide book claimed there were flat sites in a saddle a few miles down the other side. As happens all too often, that was bad information. The saddle was completely covered in fallen or felled trees, I’d have had to do a major log removal operation to create a patch to sit in. So I kept going to the next listed spot, a primitive USFS campground at the bottom of the trail and junction with the next “forest road.” Camped at 7:30 in an eerily deserted campground. I don’t know why it weirds me out to be in an empty campground with road access and no people.

7/23 I walked 4 quick forest road miles to pavement. Road miles are quick and that helps. It’s interesting walking through ranch country with cows and horses behind barbed wire fences, and there were few cars. After awhile though slapping your feet flat down over and over hurts. I got a new blister on the end of a toe and my left shin started to ache. But an old red dump truck came up behind me, stopped and the driver leaned out with a bottle of water for me. Kindness! I grinned and accepted although I didn’t need it. As the miles went on, I turned onto the highway paralleling the Columbia River and it got hotter and hotter, with the uphill side all Private Property and the downhill side bordered by train tracks and the river. Where would I be able to camp? I satellite messaged Dan my dilemma and he found me a perfect little cabin in Northport for the night, so my attitude improved. I knew I had a bed and shower at the end of a hot, painful 22 mile day.

Is there anybody else besides me who can manage to fall on flat blacktop? Admiring the Columbia River, I failed to notice a little rockfall on the road and tripped on a loose rock, went down and got a bloody knee. I spent my entire girlhood with scabby knees and frequently with scabby elbows too. So scars on scars on scars. Fortunately, there were no cars at the time to freak out at the sight or hear the single word obscenity I yelled. A few minutes later, mini poodle Paisley came running and barking down her driveway to put her little paws on my leg and get a pat. Her mom followed and offered me water from her tap. She said they hadn’t seen any hikers this year and were pretty excited when I said there were at least a dozen maybe half a day behind me.

The walk wasn’t horrible until the last 6 miles of pavement into Northport. Hot, so hot, no shade, uphill. And then, my little cottage appeared as I got to town. I called the owner, got the key code, went inside, showered, rinsed my disgusting clothes, cooked my instant dinner and didn’t emerge till the next morning. So happy!

7/24 Road walk again, at least it wasn’t paved and there were pleasant clouds in the morning. My feet and legs hurt again by 3pm from the pounding, oh well—I much prefer dirt to pavement and I made 23 miles by dinner time. I camped in a weird place down a blocked and abandoned road, out of sight of the road and the occasional dirt biker buzzing on it. And cows today! I love cows, the baffled stares they give me, the calves freaking out and trotting.

7/25 Dan got me near the 395 after about 4 miles and took me for the night to Dave’s in Chewelah. His awesome grandson Tanner was there and I really enjoyed talking with him over dinner outside at the golf club. He’s 12, loved the time he got to go snowboarding last winter and really wants to learn to skateboard. It’s a high probability that he won’t get in-person school this fall, which really bums him out, but when he started talking about learning to skate, he lit up!

7/26 Back to the trail the next morning, or as the photos show, “non trail.” After a bunch of miles up dirt roads on the west side of 395, the route goes on an abandoned, obliterated road, politely described on the maps as not maintained. These 2 miles are my (so far) fourth place nominee for worst PNT blowdown section. After a brief stretch of double track, I walked on my second place nominee (first place for all time will be the blowdown east of Eureka, MT). It transitioned to double track for a bit, crossed Boulder Creek Road, and became the well trod Kettle Crest Trail. All day I was in burn area, as far as the eye can see behind and ahead. I camped by a fire ring in dead trees, hopefully nothing falls on me, but what else can I do? Hot as hell today too.

7/27 I took a picture of last nights camp and then came across a lovely alternative bed, if only I’d known.

I walked through the burn until noon when I got into living trees. And then the bear yodel.

“One Gallon, what are you doing behind me?”

“Zero’d in Metaline Falls and zero’d in Northpoint too!”

Then Gasket, Goose and Cruise caught up. We chatted by a fenced spring piped to a cattle tank. Nice to have hikers to talk to again! The Kettle Crest Trail was good and clear the rest of the day. Hot!

7/28 Happy Birthday, GranDan!

Dan met One Gallon and me at Sherman Pass and took us to Republic and breakfast at the Knotty Pine. I’ll take a zero, skip the section between Hwy 20 and Hwy 21, then get back on.

PNT to Metaline Falls

Miles hiked as of 7/20: 209

7/16

6 1/2 brutal uphill hours on trail but since I got a ride from Dan I skipped 9.2 miles of road walking. I could get used to this personal driver thing. There was a spring about 5 miles up so I got enough water to camp and pitched my tent at the third campsite mentioned in Guthooks. About 10 pm, voices and headlamps. Gasket and Backtrack showed up, awesome to have company! They got up at 5:30, so me too.

7/17

The Selkirk Mountains are beautiful, granite and alpine, just a few snow patches left on the ridge and fantastic cirque views, oh the rock!

So this “trail” has a bunch of bushwhack sections. The 2 options coming up midday said I should start first thing in the morning since it could take a lot of time. I looked at the maps and saw I could hike to a road at Pyramid Lake, get picked up, drive a few hours, skip the bushwhack and rejoin on a road. So Dan drove me about 72 miles to Priest Lakes to avoid a 5 mile bushwhack, brilliant! I camped next to the van.

7/18

And slept fine despite the car stopping by to warn us about a huge cinnamon black bear nearby, never saw her. The tread was actual trail today along the Priest Lakes, then into huge, ancient cedars, 2000 years old the guide says. Then gravel roads for a few miles up of course to a brushy trail. No huckleberries so no bear. That turned into more awesome cedar, shaded and cooler with soft tread. I kind of had to jury rig a tent site but it seems fine. I had a really good day and no bushwhack.

7/19

Campsite was fine. After walking an hour or two I heard One Gallon’s bear yodel, “Go away bear!” He caught up and we walked and talked the rest of the day—which really helped because it was a brutal day. I took one bad fall in endless blowdown, raising a lovely hematoma on my shin with blood running into my sock. You’re working so hard and your heart is pumping so it takes awhile for even minor cuts to clot. I got low on water because there wasn’t any where the map predicted and it was another hot day. But we made it to cleared trail and camped by Noisy Creek at last after 12 hours.

7/20

One Gallon was up early and out but I left at 6:45 on perfect trail (mountain bike tracks) to the Sullivan Lake campground trail to gravel road. Sometime after hitting the gravel I took a shade break and heard the bear yodel. One Gallon had stopped to swim in the lake. We walked and talked for a few miles down the road until the 3 Sterley boys rolled up in Dave’s pickup and whisked me off to the Metaline Falls grocery store while One Gallon turned down a ride of course. Then off we went to a campground by Boundary Dam about 10 miles beyond. Since the hotel in Metaline Falls was full I took a shower in Dave’s trailer—perfect! Doug, Dan and Dave are here camping and fishing from kayaks, it’s a beautiful place.

One Gallon