AT Mt Greylock, MA to Killington, VT

6/13-6/21 113.7 miles

Took a side trail to see this chimney and hearth in the middle of the trail surrounded by overgrowth

A couple days into this stretch, I kind of wandered off trail—no ubiquitous white blazes to be seen showing me the AT—following footprints in the mud. I looked at my maps and sure enough this abandoned forest road connected to others and reconnected back to the trail in about the same mileage. So I didn’t sweat it. The roads were massively potholed, filled with water, mud, 4WD and ATV gouges and decorated with fenders and other car parts. Actually, it was a rather fun adventure. I saw nobody else, even when I went by a couple of cabins. After awhile I got back to the official AT and made it to the shelter camp for the night. I knew a couple hikers were shuttling into and back from a brewery but I was never going to make the pickup time so I hung out at the shelter. All kinds of hikers rolled in and Crossword brought me a beer and Bug Net brought Sofia a beer. Score!

Once there was a town, long, long ago
Moose in Vermont!

A few days later, Paul Kelly, another USASA colleague picked me up and hosted me at his house a mile from the AT. His family has been in the Manchester Center, Vermont for a long time and he knows everybody. I got a tour and learned some history. Walking through endless trees and stone wall remnants, I had no inkling that Vermont was clear cut and the stone walls were sheep fences. And there’s marble mining, every single headstone at Arlington National Cemetery is from a still operating marble quarry near here, Danby Quarry, currently excavated 3 miles into a mountain. I met wife, Lisa, 2 (of 3) kids—Katie and Connor, and Baxter the silly, sweet doodle dog who licked the salt off me before settling in for a cuddle. Paul and I talked about our snowboarding world, catching up a bit since USASA Nationals in April at Copper Mountain. Colorado.

Trail Angel Paul Kelly, USASA Southern Vermont Series Director

Walking up Bromley wasn’t horrible when he dropped me off at the trailhead st 6:30 am, except for the cold, relentless wind that nearly froze me to death. For the second time only, I set up my sleeping bag inside a regular, 3-sided shelter. I needed to get warm and avoid soaking my tent with the all night rain event.

I think because I’d used up so much energy being cold the day before, I had my first truly crabby day afterwords. I barely remember what I saw. It was still windy but not quite as cold. I’ll say it again—I hate wind! But Crossword had walked from a road crossing to a deli and brought me back a turkey dinner sandwich, chips and Vitaminwater. That made the last 1.6 miles to the shelter/campsite not too bad.

And then the last day of this stretch was, of course, perfect! A lot of up to a lot of down. There’s a new piece of AT supposedly, but the old AT is just fine, there was some kind of property lease issue, not the trail itself, that caused the reroute. So I took the old route right down to the Inn at Long Trail at Route 4, which also incorporates McGrath’s Irish Pub, which has some historic snowboards. Sounds like a zero to me, with more rain in the forecast for today.

55 gallon drum, feels like home
Flip Flopping hiker trash Slingshot, Skywalker, All Good, Catwater, Crossword, Glider at McGrath’s Irish Pub near Killington, VT

This almost instant blog post is thanks to a text I got from my hiking pal Papa Raven. “The last blog you posted ended 16 days ago, so I’m not sure where you are.” My bad. Here ya go, Ravens! Thanks to the spreadsheet from your 2019 thru hike (and Triple Crown finish for Mama, Papa, Bling and Whisper) notes and conversation about the AT, it’s not that bad.

AT Great Barrington, MA to Mt Greylock, MA

6/5-12 68.8 miles

Sometimes zero days are just boring, probably when you don’t need them but have to wait for your box with replacement shoes. I walked around town, went to an outdoor store that sold fashion wear and lucked out getting a pair of lightweight plastic Birkenstock Arizonas for camp shoes. Deluxe. Walked the other way and got groceries. Walked back downtown for dinner.

I got my box when the post office opened Monday, went back to the motel, packed up and got a ride by Joe so was hiking by 10:30. I pitched my tent at the furthest spot from the Tom Leonard shelter with a beautiful view. Unfortunately a loud NOBO hiker “Tramily” of 9 trickled in, the Peacocks they call themselves. I only met 3 who were nice but man they sat up late yell talking at each other like they had to be heard over music and noise at a bar.

Just for the quiet I stealth camped (a no-no) after seeing a turkey and a porcupine. No cell service and my camp site was quiet in a gentle rain. Ahh.

Crossword turned up after being off trail and behind for a few weeks. Because it was going to rain again, all night, we stayed at the Berkshire Lake Lodge motel and got pizza delivered. While hanging around outside watching my tent dry on the picnic table, I met a hiker whose blog I followed in 2014 in anticipation of doing the PCT the next year. SloBro!! One of the other bloggers I followed that year, I met on the PNT—Not A Chance. So cool these encounters.

I lucked into a family reunion of sorts. Crossword’s 2 sisters, Patty and Jean, are spending a few nights with him. I got transported up to Greylock Lodge, along with Slingshot who is a bit further along the trail. We had a wonderful dinner and I managed to get a room in this beautiful historic building.

The next day I walked the wrong way, south, to cover the miles I’d missed. USASA friend Noah Cermak picked me up from Dalton, MA and I got to spend 2 nights with his family—Lindsay, Ella (7), Otis (3), and cuddly dog Tucker. It made me so happy to spend time with his family and get treated like royalty.

Then back to the trail at the top of Mt. Greylock and good weather.

First porcupine I’ve ever seen on a trail, ever. Adorable little guy!
Noah knows his beer
Trail Angels Ella, Otis, Tucker the dog, Catwater, Lindsay and Noah

AT Fort Montgomery to Great Barrington

5/26-6/4 101.5 miles

Think I’ll try a new format for these updates. I actually keep a paper journal, Moleskine notebook, a habit dating back forever in my travels. I have a stack of them in a box somewhere, with all kinds of perplexing problems and dilemmas, observations, diatribes, and unscientific, unscrupulous and unspoken observations about characters I’ve met. Stuff written for myself and not for publication.

Anyway, I write at the end of every day in the notebook, then decide later what to put out here. I know other hikers who draft their blogs directly on their phones, then upload an uncensored account of their hike. So readers get a nitty gritty account of what this life is really like. I’ve read lots of those and appreciate the information and details but the repetitiveness, while an authentic account of what hiking is like, tends to bore the snot out of me.

So a couple of highlights I omitted from my last update. The first night out of DWG, I asked if Slingshot and Crossword, 2 calm and friendly OGs, minded if I camped next to them. Nobody ever says no, but I usually ask anyway. Of course they said sure, then I joined them as we cooked our dinners and chatted about the usual hiker topics—weather, the last food opportunity on trail, the next food opportunity up trail, mileage plan for the next day. Anubis came by, hesitated and decided to hike on. We all smiled and chatted but nobody invited him to stay.

The next day we 3 stopped at Mountain House tavern, mid day, for food and a beverage, just off trail at Culver’s Gap. Fun! Later I saw deer, a turkey and a dead coyote(?). We all camped at a shelter. Other hikers were there and more came in, all normal.

Anubis turned up later. He’d got a meal and beer out of some hikers new to me by claiming it was his birthday. Hmm. I’m sick of this guy’s lies. (I announced the next day my new trail name for him, Birthday Boy.) I kind of went off on him about some ignorant crap he was talking about a bear situation. The next morning, a hiker friend mentioned within Anubis’s hearing that he planned on going to a hostel in about 12 miles. When Anubis said that sounded like a good idea, my friend changed his mind. Later he canceled his reservation and mentioned to the hostel owner that Anubis made other hikers uncomfortable. She in turn contacted the pastor nearby who also hosted hikers at his church. When Anubis turned up, we heard through the hiker grapevine that this amazing man, the pastor, convinced Anubis to go home to Georgia. I haven’t seen or heard about him since. Good job!

5/26 I got an Uber back to trail, hiked out and stealth camped totally alone for the first time on the AT. Of course, Fort Montgomery being next to West Point, I listened to practice gunfire in the distance till just before 5pm.

Stealth camp with stonewall
Woke up to this staring at my tent

5/27 Made it to RBH shelter, supposed to rain like crazy. I pitched my tent while all 6 bunks and all the floor space filled up with hikers including Slingshot, Butt Shot, Dash, Wayne, Halfmile and Keystone. I felt low energy all day. Kinda rainy but not cold, just humid and energy draining.

5/28 I slept great in my Nemo as the rain pounded down all night and hiked with good energy. Camping is restricted to official places so I’m at a shelter again with plans to get into Pawling tomorrow to dry out and resupply. It’s supposed to be sunny. Slingshot has other plans but I’ll probably catch up day after tomorrow.

5/29 Easy day, beautiful, lots of day trippers enjoying a walk on a boardwalk through a beautiful marsh. I couldn’t check in to my room till 3 pm after walking the 2.5 off trail to Pawling, so I dumped my pack on the porch and got fish and chips at a local bar. It’s Memorial Day weekend so businesses are mostly closed. I checked in, hauled my stuff to the laundromat, and hung all my wet gear—sleeping bag, tent, rain gear, in the room to dry.

5/30 Got an Uber back to trail. It was hot and humid but good trail and I felt great. Slingshot and I are the only ones at an official campsite with a bear box. And I passed from NY to Connecticut!

5/31 The AT is so different than the PCT and CDT. There are so many towns with real beds and food! I told Slingshot my plan to get a room at the Hitching Post motel in Cornwall Bridge, with a pickup included and he decided to do the same. It was a hard day for few miles. I climbed Caleb Peak for a lovely territorial view and a steep rockfall/stream bed butt scooting down to a flat, easy walk along a river. Then we spent a frustrating hour waiting for the motel to come get us, they had never picked up from our spot where the trail crossed a paved road? But I eventually got to wash off 2 days of heat rash and Gypsy moth yellow goo. I walked to the beer store (a free beer for a hiker!) and Sam Waterston just happened in to buy beer. He was a totally normal nice guy, no celebrity edge at all. After he left, the beer store guy told me dozens of celebrities had second homes nearby, just a couple hours from NYC.

6/1 A slow day again, lots of ups. I found a shelter with a couple other hikers as a thunderstorm broke and pelted rain for awhile. When it let up, a couple of us hiked another 3.5 easy miles to a designated campsite with a bear box. Slingshot was already camped there, yay! Rained gently most of the night. I looked ahead and saw some, to me, horrendous climbs before my next goal and resupply box (new shoes!) at Great Barrington. Think it will take 1 more night than I planned on.

First bear butt on the AT

6/2 I called Vanessa in Salisbury who rents bunks and has dogs! and a cat! She had room so I did a short 12 mile day plus the mile into town. What a great person she is, enjoyed our conversation and interaction! I got an early dinner at nearby Neo (Mahi Mahi!) then drank a little white wine with Vanessa and hikers new to me—Boogie On, All Good, Pop Tart. Great dogs and a sweet kitty, Squeaky who purred up a storm for my head scritches. It’s supposed to rain through 9 am.

Pile of rocks with a view

6/3 The morning was not raining but I didn’t know what to do. Talking my uncertainty out loud, Vanessa said she could slackpack me up the trail a bit and I could stay another night. Done! Boogie On was thinking about doing the same but decided to hike out. On my hike back in to Salisbury I saw her and she was doing good. It was still raining caterpillars all day although there was no other rain. New hikers at Vanessa’s!

Dead thing

6/4 I made it to Great Barrington Saturday afternoon. I misread the post office hours and Ubered in to get my box Saturday afternoon before 4:30 only to discover they closed at 12:30. Bummer, I’ll have to zero in a comfy motel with restaurants nearby, till Monday.

AT Palmerton to Delaware Water Gap, PA (DWG)

5/13 13ish miles

Blue Mountain Dome House

So there was going to be a long water haul because mining in the next stretch poisoned the ground water and from what I read it could be more extensive than officially acknowledged. The rocks and uphill are slowing me down. Pozzi and Palladin planned on making it to the next shelter. I saw a place closer in that had tap water, and camping on the property or in the garage. New experience opportunity!

After a longish day, I got to the trailhead, texted, and John the hostel owner got me in minutes. He whisked me to his place, picked up a hiker new to me, Big Zoo, and dropped us at a delightful local pub for a burger and free Yuengling Lager. A guy played acoustic guitar and since he heard I was from Alaska, played a song that mentioned Inuit. John picked us up again and I pitched my tent on his garage floor and arranged all my stuff as usual around me. I slept great between creeping up the stairs to use the house bathroom. He does talk a lot but is so kind.

5/14 12.9 miles

Big Zoo and I got dropped off back at the trailhead a little later than we wanted but oh well. It wasn’t a bad day. Crossed some highways. Saw Eco Warrior again. His friend picked him up after 8 miles, due to the imminent, predicted storm. I debated with myself about getting an Uber to a motel, but kept going. Big Zoo and I picked up water and pitched our tents just as it started to rain, about 5 pm, for hours. We were kind of exultant that we managed to avoid walking in it.

5/15 10.3 miles

Big Zoo calling ahead for a room at the Clarion

Big Zoo and I hiked into town and ran into hikers of course on the way to the hotel. The weird guy from before, whose name I edited out of the original post, trail name Anubis, was walking up the street with Ness. There is no way he hiked past me out of Palmerton, especially since he was the last one at the hostel and claimed to have an appointment with the VA later that day. He is “yellow blazing,” getting rides on roads (get it? Roads have yellow stripes) which is fine but lying about it irks me. It was nice I wasn’t solo this time but he did try the mom thing, saying it was his birthday and l should buy him beer later. Big Zoo said 3 of us already planned dinner together, so no.

I met Sprouts, we 3 did eat together. They’d hiked together quite a bit before foot infection made him stay in town to heal. Not many women on trail, so it’s really great to meet another. She’s from AZ, retired ER PA, and is super likeable. She’s nursing foot sores so is doing less miles than I want to do however. So I have to enjoy her while we’re in this town right now.

5/16 zero

Sprouts and Big Zoo

Big Zoo and I Ubered to Stroudsburg and each scored new shoes at the running store. Mine are shredded way ahead of schedule because of the f*ing rocks. We got our ride back to the Clarion just before a heavy, pounding rain mid afternoon. I’m not hiking in it, woohoo!

I waited for the rain to break and got some resupply, did some regular world paperwork and then had dinner with Big Zoo and Sprouts. Nobody celebrated Anubis’ birthday with him, poor guy.

AT DWG to Fort Montgomery

I’m just going to let the pictures tell the story this stretch, pretty much.

5/17 16.7 miles

So long Rocksylvania

5/18 15 miles

5/19 18.2 miles

Crossword and Jake at the Secret Shelter

5/20 13.6 miles

5/21 5.1 miles 90+F

5/22 10 miles

Spider web
Black rat snake

5/23 16.6 miles

Stone shelter

5/24 11.7 miles

Brandon and Jovan from the Bronx

Besides my EAR foundation (Eradicate All Roosters, we can fertilize hens with modern scientific methods), from too much experience in tropical locales where the stupid things crow obnoxiously early, I’m starting a new effort, Whippoorwills Must Die (WMD). Yeah, I know that acronym is taken, so suggestions for this initiative will be welcomed.

Last night I settled into my side of a stone shelter, head out so mice wouldn’t run over my face, as per Crossword’s suggestion. It wasn’t dark yet so I accepted the extremely loud and obnoxious call of this bird, unknown in the West and Alaska. But it kept yelling every hour, hour and a half all night long. Crossword’s breathing pattern across the shelter from me never lost a beat. I’d just fall asleep, and then the stupid bird would wake me up again. At 4:30, still dark, I contemplated the arsenal of shot guns my husband Sliderule has locked up at home, thinking, why not? People ask me if I’m packing, why not? Instead I cursed under my breath.

I stayed awake since Crossword is a very early riser (also go-to-sleeper) and listened to him pack up and exit the shelter. Arrggh, I got up, retrieved my food bag from the bear cable and began the routine. So sleep deprived.

Down the trail, I saw a bunch of feathers. Not knowing what a Whippoorwill looks like, I wondered. First, was this the mate? Was the bird distressed and calling all night for their mate? Sad. Better yet, was this the bird itself, so noisy that some raptor, my proxy perhaps, initiated WMD?

Death zone

I will make Fort Montgomery, NY today one way or another. Have a motel reservation so I can use their computer and do a little work.

Stone work holding up a rock
Bear Mountain stone steps up
Bear Mountain

5/25 zero!

AT Harper’s Ferry, WV north into PA

Recap 4/21-4/24

Arrived DCA via Alaska Air 10 pm ET. Airline shuttle to hotel, next day Uber to Union Station for the 4:05 pm Amtrak to Harper’s Ferry, which was delayed to 6 pm. But the backpack with hiking sticks is a dead giveaway to other hikers and soon enough there were 4 women, then a middle aged couple, then a fortyish guy, so military, gathered. Just what I wanted—hikers! After an hour train ride, Patrick’s friend Shane gave 3 of us women a ride to the Quality Inn in Harper’s, less than a mile away. So it begins!

Flip Flop Festival classes 4/23, more connections made. Emmalee “Hot Rod” for the 2 rods in her scoliosis spine, is also doing the flip flop, heading home to her military family current post in Georgia after doing the north bound AT (NOBO) to Maine. Later I went to the Barn to hear Bangles (Seattle) talk about her Flip Flop in 2017. As I was leaving, Crocs recognized me—took awhile but he was PCT 2015 and knew Fish Out of Water and Apache (stinky guy) who I knew for a few days in Washington!

Flip Flop Festival in Harper’s Ferry, WV
Registered my hike with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), West Virginia north to Maine then start at West Virginia again and head south to Georgia

4/24 11.4 miles

Hot Rod, Dewayne and I hit the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) hiker send off breakfast and headed out together. We camped in the Crampton Shelter area with a bunch of other people. So far, so good.

Hot Rod

4/25 14.2 miles

This ain’t easy. I need to plan my food better. Harper’s was short on grocery stores and I’m in shitty shape, an overuse injury kept me from my usual winter running miles. Rerun (Paul) and Irish (Bridget) from Pinedale, WY, went on 2 more miles—they’ve already hiked the Shenandoahs so are in better shape. I camped at Annapolis Rocks, a campground under restoration mostly. It was just odd—windy with road noise, then clouds came in when the wind died late. The Washington Monument was kinda cool.

4/26 16.4 miles

As usual, started out good. I woke to a wet tent but hiked in shorts cause it was warm. “F*ng rocks” as Tinman would say, to OK trail to more FR. Then rain. I made it to Pen Mar shelter where Roger, the shuttle driver, picked up me, Irish and Rerun, to go into Waynesboro. I needed food, stayed at the Cobblestone conveniently located next to Applebees and Walmart. I was freezing from the rain, cold and wait, so I hopped into the shower then went to eat. Ah, laundry and a comfy bed.

4/27 8.2 miles

So I made a deal with myself. Short miles instead of another night in a motel. Easy trail, now camped next to a shelter (at 1:30!!). Cold all day, now some sun. Sightseer is here too, another OG, just back on trail after a few days off for a pulled groin muscle. I now have ample food—bagels, cheese, peach rings, chocolate, instant coffee and breakfast bars.

4/28 15.5 miles

Cold AF last night (not spelling out what AF stands for. Don’t say it out loud kids) and morning. I wore my puffy in my sleeping bag and still woke from the cold at 5 am. Cold wind, hiked in my wool longies, trek tights and rain pants, fleece, puffy and rain jacket. Finally warm at noon. I kept going. Heard from Hot Rod, she’s off trail in Waynesboro for a couple days, not Covid, a cold, but her mom got her. Bummer, I really connected with her. Hope, hope, hope, we connect further north. It was better tread yesterday and today north of the Mason-Dixon line.

4/29 13.9 miles

Met a few “true NOBOs” as they call themselves, compared to us lowly Flip Floppers. Camped last night with (loud, of course) Aussie hiker Pioneer and buddy Poppins. Met a weird, not true thru hiker PTSD motormouth, seems harmless, I hope. Cold again last night. Is it my bag wearing out? My wonderful Western Mountaineering? Or me? Not cold enough to freeze my water bottle, but cold in my bag by 4 am. Tonight I’m in Ironmasters Hostel, a private room in a building built in 1839 by slave owners when making iron was the local industry. A few years later, and a change of ownership, it became a stop on the Underground Railroad. I love this place! Right next to a general store where the Half Gallon challenge is famous—eat a 1/2 gallon of ice cream at once at the 1/2 way point on the AT and get it for free. Remember the hiker on the PNT in 2020, One Gallon? Yup, he did that. But the store was closed today.

4/30 15.3 miles

I was so comfortable last night! Creaky floors, high ceilings, caretaker Missy, heat, awesome. I decided not to try for 20 to get to Boiling Springs. Slower, lower miles, why not?

5/1 4.1 miles

Lisa’s hostel in Boiling Springs, was cold. It’s a storage shed, unheated, with their stuff stored in it, and 4 bunks. But it was out of the rain, yay! Met Silva and Splash, OGs, then Rain Catcher came in a bit later. I bought dinners and snacks on the way in so I’m OK for the 1 trail night to Doyle’s Inn in Duncannon. And it’s supposed to stop raining. Late in the afternoon Lisa upgraded me to a room in a heated single wide, so comfy!

5/2 14.2 miles

A beautiful flat 12 miles through lush, green farmland followed by a mere 2 miles uphill to a shelter. I tried to sleep in a bunk in the shelter with just 3 other hikers but got up and pitched my tent at 12:45 am due to someone snoring. Then I slept. PacMan, a short hiker dude from Jersey I think, gave me a supplementary trail name when we were hanging food bags in the shelter out of reach of rodents. “Hey, Too Tall, can you hang my bag too?”

Splash, Silva, Dana
More dead things
Sweet cows

5/3 10.4 miles

Hard, but short day—rocks! I’m going to slack pack 18 miles back tomorrow and spend a second night here in the Doyle Inn, an historic, under renovation hotel. A family has bought it, a son is a fabulous cook, another is a fabulous server, Dad is sincere, and I feel welcome in this creaky, noisy, shared bathroom building. Marlene will shuttle me out 18 miles tomorrow so I can walk back to town and dinner, then out the next day.

Rocks = the trail

PNT Forks to the End at Cape Alava

The Coast at last!

8/24 13.7 miles

I took the Olympic Hiking Shuttle to the Oil City trailhead. I highly recommend this shuttle company! A father and son hiking duo had just been picked up from Third Beach and were riding back to their car at Oil City. They asked if I knew Natasha (Poppy) and said they’d camped with her last night. Must have been quite a conversation because they knew everything about her and her hike on the PNT. Fun!

I started out at 9:30 nervous about the tides and footing, there are so many dire warnings out there. The first bit was slow and slippery on rocks but then it was a long, wide sand beach which wasn’t an issue when the tide peaked at 3 pm. Also the ropes are no big deal so far. The ropes are hanging along steep little scrambles up or down from the beach or just where the trail runs inland. They’re kind of handy, and I didn’t really need them, it’s not like using the cables to get up the Half Dome granite in Yosemite NP.

Today was perfect, clear and warm. Gorgeous! I’m camped by myself at a little campsite marked on the map, not a site that requires a specific permit, about a mile from Third Beach. There are tons of people and tents camped on the beaches, yuck, not my thing to be near so many people if I can avoid it.

Scramble off the beach

8/25 11.4 miles

Why do I worry about stuff like getting a skiff ride across the river mouth? Well because if I couldn’t it’s a 9 mile road walk around. But I got to the harbor and Gene, the Harbor Master, took me across no problem. I asked what the standard donation for gas money was and I paid a bit forward for the hikers who paid nothing. And it turns out Gene and his wife have done cultural resource work in Wyoming for energy projects, like I do in Alaska, so we had that in common too.

I had a mishap today. I slipped on a piece of seaweed on wet rock and came down hard on my right hip and hand. Split open a gash on my hip and burst some capillaries. My hand is worse, think I hyperextended my pinkie and ring fingers, both the inside and outside of my hand is bruised and I can’t really use it. Hurt so bad I had to put my head between my knees a couple of times so I wouldn’t pass out. I don’t think any bones are broken though. Time will tell.

I kept going as the tide was coming back in, and found a solo campsite on a small beach that looked like high tide would not reach it. I waited out the afternoon, thinking if I really wanted to, I could start hiking again at dinner time as the tide went out to make it a bit farther. Nobody else came down my beach from either direction and I loved it there, so after the tide started out I pitched my tent. This spot is now on my list of most spiritual places to camp in the world, along with Evolution Valley at Muir Pass in the Sierra and Dzongri, Sikkim, India in the Himalayas. I’m at peace watching the sun set to the gentle sound of tiny waves lapping the sand.

Rope assistance
Perfect campsite
View from my tent

8/26 9.8 miles

Met a couple of park rangers and their group hiking towards me down the beach. He asked where my next permitted campsite was and I told him about the “stealth” sites I’d seen marked by beach debris buoys. He said they were fine and but that he’s trying to get those markers removed. Cool guy, I blathered on about how hard it would be for Search and Rescue (SAR) to get an injured hiker off this coast. I was thinking about my injured hand, hidden but puffed up and bruised all the way down my forearm now too. He laughed and said the SAR people here were US Coast Guard rescue swimmers who would rappel down from a hovering helicopter and load the hiker into a sling basket and hoist them up. To myself I thought that actually sounded like a fun way to be rescued. Dang, too late for me, I’m ambulatory.

It was hard hiking the “beach” tide again. It’s mostly rock scrambling, slower now since I can’t afford another fall on my hand which is a mess but a bit better today. Advil rules.

Anyway I found another stealth site at Yellow Banks beach, up on a bluff—3 for 3!

See my tent on the bluff to the left?

8/27 9 miles

Hiked the 6 miles remaining on the coast to Cape Alava, the end of the PNT, and joined the 3 mile trail inland to the Ozette Campground.

I saw the same rangers at the campground and they congratulated me on my hike as Dan walked up. We drove to the Winston-Edmonds Washington State Ferry and made our way to Bothell where I get to cat sit Arya, Sarah and Sam’s cat, for a few days while recovering from one hike and resetting for the next—5 or 6 days in the Sierra with Sunset, Lonesome Duck and Disco, some of the guys I did the Rae Lakes Loop in Sequoia King’s Canyon with last year.

Deer on a misty beach walk
Dead whale

PNT Port Angeles to the Twilight Zone

8/19 10.5 miles

On the way back to the trailhead, Sarah and I stopped at the Olympic NP Visitor Center. I talked to a ranger and got the tide charts. I finally feel like I’m organized and doing my own thing. I intend to camp at all the permitted campsites that Poppy got, except for the 2 Quota controlled, just a day later than her. The park service says that should be fine, just be careful of the tides when I hit the coast!

The walk back up the bypass trail was quick, then it was road walk (closed to traffic though), easy, a long ways to trail. I camped near the hot springs in an established camp area with tons of tent sites but only maybe 6 other hikers scattered out of earshot. Perfect.

8/20 17.6 miles

I slept in till 6:30! Then hiked about 11 hours. Lots of uphill today. Lots of people too! Weird. As I was going up early afternoon I couldn’t tell if I was walking into a cloud? Fog? I put on my rain pants and got out my rain jacket but it’s not wet. Beautiful trail but no views because of the cloud. Once I accepted the waterless mist, and that it wasn’t cooling off, I enjoyed the close-in details—cedars and birds and ridge walking. I chatted with assorted campers and hikers and felt quite cheerful. I was going to camp a mile before Deer Lake but as the side trail came into view I saw 2 separate groups heading to the small campsite. I got a little concerned as it was dinner time almost but kept on and found the last site in the Deer Lake complex and nobody came into the campground after me so I was good. Most people who are doing shorter hikes (I call them “short haulers” which is meant as a description not an insult) tend to make camp earlier in the afternoon that long haulers.

8/21 17.7 miles

A lot of boring green tunnel (stretch of trail within vegetation and trees with no open views) until I headed downhill and started to spot fresh horse manure, a good omen!

Suddenly, Pacific Northwest Trail Association (PNTA) trail crew! It is so awesome to be able to directly and personally thank the individuals who actually work out here on the trail—the work they accomplish includes clearing blowdowns and overgrowth, constructing mini rock walls (“water bars” or “check dams”) across the trail to redirect water runoff, building rock steps and filling in eroded stretches with gravel.

They even laughed at my paraphrase of a famous line in the Apocalypse Now movie: “I love the smell of horseshit in the morning, it smells like….trail crew.”

After trail crew I met a retired couple who said this section was impassable until it became part of the PNT route a few years ago. They said it was so wet and swampy and overgrown they had turned back and didn’t try it again for years. I gave them the good news that crew was just ahead making even more improvements!

Then Sterling came hiking towards me! Remember Sterling was the man Poppy and I met at the PNTA office in Sedro-Woolley, the guy who gave us a ride to our motel, the Western Washington Coordinator who brokered agreements with the USFS snd the NPS to deploy trail crews out here and in the Mt Baker area. He recognized me and told me he’d seen Poppy earlier that morning and Beans a few hours later. This is how hikers get trail news—I now know that Poppy and Beans are not hiking or camping together, not that it matters. Anyhow I walked on after a wonderful uplifting conversation with this amazing man and camped alone, contentedly, at Flapjack campsite.

8/22 19 miles

I hate to say it but it was kind of boring today, the rainforest is soft and lush and green but hour after hour of it gets old. Lots of day hikers as most of my day was spent getting to a drive-in trailhead. I talked to everybody, I think the more people out here, the better stewardship we’re going to have for our public lands and wilderness, plus, don’t tell my dearly departed Dad, but unlike him, I actually like people.

The highlight of my morning happened as I was walking along, on soft, peaty tread overhung with ferns. Suddenly an animal I’d never seen before came scurrying up the trail at me. It was about the size snd shape of a shoebox, short gray fur, so low to the ground I could see neither feet, nor face, nor tail. I exclaimed, “Whoa, dude!” but it continued over my left foot and vanished out of site up the trail.

When I got to town I searched the internet and I think it was an Olympic Marmot, something I didn’t know existed, and definitely in an environment unlike any other marmot I’ve seen. A rainforest marmot, how cool! I love rodents and marmots are the bomb.

It was trail to road to bigger road. I wasn’t sure how I’d get into Forks and my motel, there’s a bus from the campground where the trail route takes a hairpin turn south to the coast. I think the issue in this area is private land, including swathes owned by timber companies, and getting permission for foot traveling on private roads, hence the extensive road walking indirectly down to the ocean. But with just a few miles left, the first car going my way stopped and offered me a lift. I gratefully accepted, it was a couple from Colorado, who I’d seen day hiking earlier. Thank you! And when I got into my motel room, sure enough the uphill road walking had irritated my left shin again, it’s swollen and sore, so no guilt about skipping.

Forks is an old lumber town, there’s some very cool interpretive displays and a museum. But seemingly the big attraction is that parts of the five movies in the Twilight Saga vampire romance series were filmed here. I never saw any of the movies but of course I recognize the actors on the movie posters all over town.

8/23 zero

Since I’d arrived on Sunday, I couldn’t pick up my box from the post office. That’s the main reason hikers look to send their resupply boxes to a business or motel or trail angel that is open 7 days a week. Not a big deal for me to have it sent back if I didn’t want to wait for Monday post office hours, then take the bus back to trail, then do a 23 mile road walk to the first legal place to camp. I could buy what I needed for the last stretch to the end of the trail. But. You can see where I’m going with this.

At the motel last night after a shower and laundry and a great meal of pizza and beer nearby, I started investigating the logistics of getting out of Forks. Looked up bus times, called them and left a message, googled shuttle services and found Olympic Hiking Shuttle, emailed them. All on a Sunday night so I didn’t expect to hear anything until this morning, Monday, when I did!

Since deciding I needed to be on my own recognizance the far side of Port Angeles, I’ve had to go back to making my own decisions, not a problem. The bus would run me a ways back to trail and maybe a bit further if the bus driver had a place to pull over, today. Olympic Hiking Shuttle could get me to the coast, skipping the 23 mile road walk, for cheap, since they were picking up and dropping off some other hikers back at their car. Tomorrow. I booked another night in Forks and paid online for the shuttle.

And even better, got a text from Ravensong who I knew was going to be back hiking somewhere in this area. She and Judith are doing a week “up the Hoh” to a glacier, and she wondered where Poppy and I were. Well Poppy couldn’t answer I think because she’s up the trail and out of cell service. But I answered and we three ate dinner together in Forks, so happy to meet Judith and see Ravensong again, they’re great!

PNT Whidbey Island to Port Angeles

8/13 16.3 miles

The zero helped! My shin doesn’t hurt. Rick dropped me at the ferry terminal, it was a 45” ride to Port Townsend where I found the lovely old brick post office and collected my resupply box. With the food I had leftover from so many days staying in motels, I think I’ll be fine. From Port Townsend the trail was city street to a bike path along the harbor, gorgeous views. After awhile the trail was going to be Highway 20 again, but the Guthook comments described an alternative bike path so I took that. Turned out to be double track dirt road for the overhead power lines. After a few miles of easy walking, it turned into a blackberry, Devil’s Club and other things with thorns bushwhack. Arrgggh, too far to turn around so I struggled on, hearing highway traffic nearby. I finally saw cars flashing through openings in the jungle and made my way to an embankment above the highway. I slid down it somehow hanging onto whatever I could find and landed on the skinny shoulder covered in blood smeared all over my arms and legs from thrashing through skin ripping vegetation. I used my water bottle to clean up a bit before another 5 miles or so on lousy Highway 20 to 101 to Poppy and our agreed camping place at a great trail angel place on Uncas Road. Greg is awesome and has a privy, water and tent space along with a shelter if it was crummy weather and a warm greeting. Plus Poppy and Tex were there and we all cooked dinner, talked and admired the flint napping that Greg has been working on. So despite the bushwhacking and relacerated legs and arms, it was actually a fine day.

8/14 21.5 miles

A dog lot of mastiffs on the next property barked off and on all night. Earplugs helped a bit.

More paved road walking today to a nicely graded dirt road and finally trail. A good day all in all, about 12 hours in transit. I realized I’d done a stupid thing and am not carrying enough food for the miles. When I’d planned, I calculated going the shorter alternate route and didn’t check with Poppy what she calculated. It would have come up if we’d taken the same ferry to Port Townsend where she shopped and I got my box for this stretch. So my bad, I’m now rationing for 100 miles, not the 60 I planned. I’ll be fine, if a tad hungry.

8/15 18 miles

Beans is back!! We haven’t seen him since Mt Baker so it was awesome to camp and talk with him again. Also Poppy gave me her extra bagel to help with my poor food planning, yay!

Today was pretty much a green tunnel (all trees, no views) to a full parking lot and great trail, tons of people (30+ when I quit counting humans) and 9 dogs. Marmot Pass was beautiful although there weren’t any marmots, disappointing.

8/16 18.5 miles

Another gorgeous pass although the trail was crap going down the other side to the junction. The next 10 miles I leap frogged with Beans since Poppy takes off early in the morning and she’s gone till the campsite, the new normal now. Beans and I got lightly rained on for an hour or two and got wet mostly because all the vegetation next to the trail brushes your legs. He was feasting on huckleberries as he went and showed me the three different kinds—I had no idea and they really look different from each other. Cool.

Got to camp and Poppy showed me some tent sites near her. I was getting cold from being wet so set up camp and climbed in to get warm. She came over to visit and Beans and I made our dinners and we all chatted with me shivering in my tent snd them sitting just outside. Hikers!

I told her I wasn’t going to follow her plan starting tomorrow. I know she went to a lot of work to get the Olympic National Park (ONP) campsite permits and I appreciate it but I need a night in Port Angeles to recharge batteries and myself. Her plan involves hiking well past tomorrow’s permitted site, then dashing into Port Angeles for groceries and food, then hitching back out and walking 11 more miles. I asked why but there wasn’t an answer. So I will finish 1 day later than she will. I am still permitted for campsites, I just have to avoid the ones that have specific quotas which is only a couple. Hopefully it works out.

Another interesting dead thing

8/17 18.8 miles

Poppy was gone when I got up. Beans said goodbye as he headed out a few minutes before I did. Another incredible pass in the alpine with good ONP tread! Hayden Pass. Then a long 9 miles down to our permitted campsite at Mary’s Falls—I had it all to myself right next to the rather loud Elwha River.

Mary’s Falls camp
Historic cabin along the Elwha River

8/18 15 miles

Pretty easy day. I heard from Catwater’s Kid on the inReach in the morning. She does have today and tomorrow off from work and will meet me for the night in Port Angeles, that message lit me up with joy. I’m feeling bad about ditching Poppy even though it’s the right choice for me and this happens in the hiking world often. One partner’s getting faster and the other is wearing out, or one has a different time schedule or goals than the other.

You have to walk off the PNT for about 2 miles to access a trailhead and road to the highway and town. I saw a hiker woman making lunch near the junction and went and asked her about the “bypass trail.” She was going to walk out too after her lunch and said, “I want to give you a ride to Port Angeles!” And so it happened, what a hoot she was, from Portland, and in a previous season she’d hiked 500 miles of the PCT. She dropped me at my motel, telling Sarah, “Your mom’s a badass!” which Sarah laughingly agreed with.

After being on short rations for the last stretch, real food and beer was especially welcome. And I try to learn from my mistakes, so I studied the trail ahead pretty carefully, bought resupply, a leg sleeve for my sometimes still sore shin and made a reservation for a night in Forks. Also the Super 8 has a resident cat, Douglas.

PNT Bellingham to Whidbey Island

8/9 23 road miles

Ravensong dropped us off on the road where she’d fetched us from yesterday. What can I say about today? Road, all road, through lovely flat farmlands with that wide open feel I love. Walking Highway 20 isn’t my favorite thing to do. But I’d reserved a lovely motel room in Anacortes—we had our own bedrooms which helps since we seem to be at the point of being constantly irritated with each other—too many weeks together. I don’t think talking it out will help. Feelings would be hurt for no resolution.

8/10 25 miles

A bit of trail in an Anacortes neighborhood to roads for a very long time. Feels like I have a shin splint on my left leg. A bad day when your hiking buddy walks off ahead in the morning and at the end of the day you find yourself ahead of her with some kind of accusation floating in the air. Did I pass her when she was in the little store at a road junction? Doesn’t matter, there was 1.8 miles, off trail, from the “trail” junction to our motel, downhill, but she did not want to walk it. (“I’m not doing 25 miles!”) I had an Uber OK for awhile but that went away. She caught up and flagged down a ride, amazing boldness, yay!


Annoyed with me again, this is getting old. My leg is hurting bad, and the shin is kind of swollen, so I’m not walking the beach but sticking to the road.

I let her know that I was going to stay with a friend on Whidbey Island and she was welcome too. But mid day I got a text that she was at a trail angel’s in Coupeville.

Rick and Mike (and Ellie the Weimaraner) picked me up around 3:30, handed me a beer, and whisked me to Rick’s house in Freeland. Ocean view! Quiet and comfy. It was so great to talk with these smart engineers. Plus they cook! And sweet Ellie let me pet her and scratch her belly.

8/12 zero

Lovely relaxing day. My shin needed this rest and barely hurts anymore. Rick cooked me King Salmon, yum! Thanks Rick! Thanks Mike! Hugs, scratches and doggy talk Ellie!

Poppy zeroed at Happy House and decided to take the early ferry from Coupeville to Port Townsend even though I’ll take the later, 8:45 am ferry because I need to get my resupply box during post office hours. We’ll meet at the end of the day at Greg and Heather’s trail angel place to camp.