It’s time to put this at rest…blogging for the PCT. Reminded about this because I hung out with Whatever who hiked Oregon with me- I never finished this, it’s about time. I love reading other hikers’ blogs and wanted to pay it forward a bit but…it’s hard! I have a newfound respect for sure for those hikers that indulge. I got super burnt out by the PCT and by the PCT I mean the whole culture of many of the people I met on the trail. What I call the dude-brah phenomenon.
For those who nerd out and read about hikers, over the winter there was this whole to-do about “toxic masculinity” on the trail. IDK, I think that words are powerful and they’s more fighting than healing words…I prefer to call it the dude-brah phenonmenon. The dude-brah phenomenon is certainly not limited to those of the male persuasion, at least not what I witnessed (tho for sure, I definitely saw it more amongst guys, but there were more guys…IDK). I started to witness even in the desert, it picked up a notch going into the Sierras, where I got off and hung in Bishop a few days to rest which is also where everyone was freaking out/being judgmental/being judged by if you did/did not go through at that time…HYOH was SOOOO discouraged last year and that was super f’ed up. LEGITIMATELY PEOPLE DIED, HELLLOOOOO. Let me remind y’all once again about Haiku’s #1 rule of thru-hiking: Don’t die.
I escaped these people for a bit when I skipped to Truckee and an area I felt more safe tackling, then when some of the early Sierra people started filtering through it came back full force. I actually had on multiple occasions someone say, oh, you skipped Sierras and are coming back later? Have fun on your section hike. Whaaaa? I don’t even know what to say, but this is not the type of camaraderie I’d like to be around.
I did meet some cool people tho as well coming into Oregon, especially the two Germans Chipmunk and Triple S. I’m not sure if it’s because they were older as well. My buddy Grouse/Quick Start from the AT joined me there. The first day we actually got on trail (we dicked around in Ashland for 2 days first, haha) we managed a 30, as well as a momentarily sketchy side-trail adventure (already losing points with the purists club, well, F you, we had burgers and free beer), we were over it. Since it was a heat wave (it hit 114 in Ashland a day or two later) and also sections were starting to get closed due to fires, we decided f it, 25ish/day is fine, let’s take 4 hour siestas by lakes. Or trail magic with Cold Drinks. During this time Grouse/Quick Start found her new name (she didn’t like her old names)…in trying to describe herself to other hikers, she was like, “You can call me whatever”…so obviously this became her name (Whatever). Hahaha. Classic.
The dude-brahs were a drag tho. Example 1: Shelter Cove, all these dude-brahs bragging about how fast they are going and stuff they went through trying to outdo everyone else. I’m standing in line at the grill talking to someone behind me, I feel someone bump into me. My reaction is to push hands out, which land on a hiker who keels forward into the ledge, then sideways onto the ground. Just straight passes out. He came to right away but it was a heart-stopping moment for a sec. Until he goes: “Huh uh…hey, yeah, so I’m probably low on electrolytes, I ran 20 miles here this morning in 3 hours…yuk yuk yuk.” I mean, this guy actually just put his health at risk, and people are no lie, giving him high-fives. Does anyone else think this is just terrible, or is it only me?
Soon after there’s another guy from this crew, an older dude trying to relieve his youth hiking with a pack of younger hikers. He takes a break at a lake where Whatever and I have decided to siesta for a couple hours. He makes some comments about how there’s no way he could siesta like we are, he’d just be thinking about how many miles he could have hiked during that time. Riiiight. He starts yammering about the Sierras and starts to grill me about it…I can tell he is about to be super judgmental about me skipping to do it at the end of the season by his other comments, I don’t even want to deal. I say the Sierras were fine. Which they were. I hadn’t done much of them yet. Imagine whatever you want dude, my hike isn’t your business.
Soon another older gent comes by and they start getting into this competition, as I guess only old dads can do, about the accomplishments of their sons. “Well you know, my son just finished his post-doc in medical research…delayed his entry into the workforce you know, but starting at a salary of $200k a year isn’t too bad”…”Oh yeah, I know what you mean. My son knew he wanted to be an engineer at age 5, so he accelerated his courses and had his doctorate by age 22”. Yada yada yada.
Whatever comes over and shows me her phone. On it she has typed: “These dudes suck. Can we leave?”
We cut our siesta short by 2 hours (including not swimming as we’d planned and hike on. I parody the dads. “Well you know, my son’s so advanced, he actually lives in the future. It’s been a little difficult for me on the trail, but not too bad. I actually have stage 5 testicular cancer, but I’m managing. Explains why my balls are bigger than yours tho.”
As soon as I say this we immediately have to take a pee break mid-trail. It’s just too much.
Later we see two super cool hikers, Gutenberg (she’s a printer and has block-type tattoos floating up her arm, so cool) and JC (Jesus Christ, named for his sandals). They’re sitting in the middle of a burn section by a tree. “We have service here!”. Ok! Resume siesta. Shit! Then I spy that dude coming like gangbusters again. We hear him yelling up to us. “We have to lose him!” I shout. Whatever wants to get water just off trail at a lake so we hope we can hide and he’ll just pass us. Then we hear him shouting at us asking if we see any girl packs. Um, seriously WTF? I’m like, yo, what’s a girl pack? And he’s like you know, it’s smaller, some other nonsense. I say there is actually not any discernible difference between a woman’s pack and a man’s…if he’s talking about why MY pack is small, it’s because I’m ultralight and my base is tiny, I don’t need a lot of room. He gets angry and says he’s saying it because he found a girls’ rain jacket on trail and is trying to return it. Oh yeah? How does he know it’s a woman’s? “Well, it’s pink.”
Y’all wanna slap anyone yet? We decide to rename him Girl-Packs.
The trail gets closed at Fish Lake right after we pass through and as we are coming into Crater Lake there’s tons of smoke. We apparently (along with a few other hikers) got on the wrong trail a few miles before, and the fire was about a mile west of that. Neat. When we got to the highway signs were posted that the trail we were just on, and north of there was closed…as was the alternate on the Rim. The dude-brah purists decide to hike on the highway that has no shoulder and cars zipping by at 60mph…um, no thanks. After a night and most of another day trying to figure out what to do, this trail angel gives us a ride to Diamond Lake where 4 of us girls just chill. So much better.
I think actually Shelter Cove was after this part…few days later we opt to go into Bend, a town we both wanted to check out. More issues with fires ahead, it’s still hot (Whatever is a lil less heat tolerant than I), tons of burn sections, it’s just kinda meh out here. But Bend has fancy coffee shops and eateries (Wild Rose Northern Thai Eats is actually the best Thai restaurant I’ve ever been to outside of Thailand, primo and 100% authentic!). We hitch back to the trail but then realize the guy is giving us a ride to Highway 20, instead of Highway 242. The trail is closed north of Highway 20 anyway. ugh. Well, we hike like 2 super flat and pleasant hours to Big Lake Youth Camp, which is where we wanted to get anyway that night, for the buffet. It’s a good thing we did, since it’s the last night for it apparently. Rides around the huge Jefferson fire closure seem to be offered mainly here, it would have been difficult to get one at Hwy 20/Santiam Pass anyway. A guy named Maverick might be able to get us a ride the day after next, but we manage to snag one from this other dude for the next day, along with a couple French hikers.
Ollallie Lake is a pretty remote place- no idea how we would’ve gotten a hitch here and most hikers we find out later aren’t able to, instead hitching to Highway 26 or even to Timberline Lodge or Cascade Locks. Even the PCT at some point is like, there’s no way to get around this one. It’s super chill there, and we have a good hike out after buying a snack or two. Timberline I find is super overrated and this hiker there named GQ is tagging onto our group of Whatever and I pretty hardcore. It’s very obvious he’s 1. kinda full of himself (red flags: software developer who can “live or work whenever/wherever I want”; says with a completely straight face, later explained to me because of his “shirt, general cleanliness and beard maintenance” that it’s “obvious” why he’s named GQ; thinks that Manayunk is the best part of Philly….um….nooope?) 2. interested in my hiking buddy, who by the way, has a boyfriend at home. I feel like sometimes she can be a little oblivious to interest from men…this is a thing it’s been difficult for me to understand historically, when dudes are/aren’t interested in people, but this time it seems very obvious. And she is super attractive, and also pretty chill/not giving AF. The brunch at Timberline is just ok for me and they’re annoyed that I don’t agree with them I think. Then we just keep hiking and hiking and hiking…20 miles clicks by and even tho I’ve requested a break I have to keep pushing to try to catch up with them. I have a mini-meltdown around 6pm when we stop to get water and he still wants to do like 8-9 more miles for a, IDK, 34 or something? I’m frustrated- he’s not in our group, why are we letting him dictate our hike? The rest of the time we’ve been chillaxing. I have my fear of abandonment issues, about how I’m always a person that people just bide their time with until they find something, anything better. Whatever is like, I just assumed you’d take a break if you wanted one, which is not how we generally do things, but makes sense. We hike maybe 4 more miles to a campsite up the hill, which is totally fine and still like 28 or whatever for the day including the time off @ Timberline. I get my period soon after this night which makes sense why I’m PMS’y but I’m in a Mood until the border.
Once in Cascade Lakes I’m still in a Mood and worrying about time, I don’t want to stay overnight even tho I do. Whatever decides to splurge on a little cabin hotel and I crash on the floor. I find out I messed up my Canada border crossing application, and have to hitch to Hood River the next morning for the nearest fax machine. I try to get a ride, this sketchy ass dude comes up, I explain as I’m standing next to Whatever. He doesn’t look at me at all, only stares at Whatever. I’m not sure what to do but I kinda need to get this done and I’m a tough girl sooo…? Then he’s like, “Wait, she’s (pointing at Whatever) not coming? I don’t knooowwww….”. Wow. Maybe turned down for a hitch for being too fugly. WTF. I say, never mind, I need to grab something else from the hotel. Although again, not dead yet?
Again we dick around town but there’s not a ton to do. Trail Days is starting later that day so I decide to stick around a bit…it starts up, it’s windy AF, all the vendors have their cuben tents flapping wildly in the wind and I feel like it’s not a great way to sell your stuff? Thermarest takes my loaner pad (thank god, it sucked, tho grateful to have something) as they’ve sent me a new one (apparently old pad was unrepairable- this makes pad #4). There’s really not a lot of things to do here tho and dude-brahs are approaching from all sides so it’s definitely time to split.
There’s a climb out of Cascade Locks but it’s moderated by tons of blackberries. Couple days later I get a hitch to Trout Lake near some trail magic (22oz craft beers on ice, are ya kidding me). Trout Lake has a great lil restaurant and super friendly people. I decide I’m hitching back to Oregon for the eclipse, which everyone is super judgmental about (“I can’t imagine taking that time off, think how many miles you could do in that time! You’ll lose the continuity!”) Unnngghhhh. So.over.it.
Getting to the eclipse is probably the easiest thing ever. I make a sign that says: “PCT Hiker to ECLIPSE” where I get all crafty and put a lil eclipse art after it. I get a ride to Hood River after 10 minutes and then as I’m getting out of the car, another one pulls up and offers me a ride. Score!
The second car has some kids in their 20s who are pretty chill, one of them really wants to go to the festival in Madras. We first take a rest break by the Deschutes River at a picnic spot and it’s very, very dope. Desert fun time! With rivers! I learned more about the Oregon Desert Trail while in Bend and this makes me really, really want to do that hike someday. I’ll hit up the PCT sections that were closed in 2017 probably at the same time as well. We get down to Madras but I see thousands of people over at the festival. Think wistfully about that picnic site. With a store across the street. Yeah, big festival isn’t for me right now. I get a hitch back with some drunk Native Americans coming back from a baptism in Vegas. Drunk as in they are actively passing beers around the van, and the driver is drinking. Um, well, it’s not SUPER far to Warm Springs?
I get to the site and end up making friends with this dude who is a PCT trail angel. He actually went to Trail Days offering rides to hikers, and no one wanted to take him up on it, all wanted to head to the border. This might be the only time in our lives we see this phenomenon, WTF? Anyway, he’s down with me camping behind his truck for protection (the state of OR decided to not enforce rules about no overnight camping during the eclipse). The next day we drive north a bit on the highway and find a great site near the road and open desert. I’m able to have my own space and do my own thing. Yo! The eclipse was definitely one of the most awesome things I’ve ever seen in my life, I totally want to see the next one in the US in a few years. The trail angel gives me a ride to Hood River and on the way back to Trout Lake I get a ride with a guy who gives me the ins and outs of mushroom hunting…apparently quite lucrative! It’s pretty cool but then he starts going on about George Noory and Coast to Coast, and seeing if I’m a Trump supporter or not, so I’m pretty relieved to get out of the van and start hiking again.
Back on trail, hopefully with my diversion I’ll see some different people. Washington ends up being full of pretty chill people and more importantly, some spectacular landscapes. There’s some dude-brahs, but maybe the ones from trail days either got ahead of me or are still partying behind me because of Trail Days. When I get to Snoqualmie it’s hot AF and hazy AF…another fire is approaching! Ugh. I decide to take the rest of the day off and try again tomorrow…it’s pretty easy to find other hikers to do the same thing- including this French girl and US guy that were on the hitch around Jefferson in Oregon, and Gourmet. Frens!
I’m the only one who wants to do the Goldmeyer hot springs alternate, of course. It proves to be a clutch decision, as 1. so interesting to be on lightly maintained trail, with some sketch rocky sections, and then mosses and shit 2. it’s in the next valley over, so no smoke! 3. other access points to the hot springs are closed, so I have them all alone for a couple hours. Incredible! Definitely the best springs I’ve been to in the US so far. Just don’t camp there, rodents are so bad. I’d hike a mile to the bridge and camp on that. The hike the next day back to the PCT was just incredible. I find out later from hikers who did the normal route that it was pretty meh and not great views. At Lake Ivanhoe I look up and see what looks like a mushroom cloud in the distance, cripes. A couple days later there’s a 100 mile section of WA closed too due to the fire.
Winding up towards the border…at some point I see Triple S again, yay! I miss the side trail for a lake we were gonna meet up at for lunch tho…which was also where I was going to refill water, whoops. 1L for 20 miles, and a big climb at the end, yah, I was hurting. When I finally got to the next source I chugged almost a L without filtering ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
When I got to Stehekin it seemed I caught up with Gourmet and Triple S, but unfortunately also a bunch of the dude-brahs…the other guy at my campsite got this girl loaded and had noisy sex with her while I was cowboy camped like 8 feet away. Yoy. I didn’t want to eat the overpriced food at the restaurant the night before so when the bus dropped us off at the bakery, I was like, you know what? I’m’a eat here for a bit. Again other hikers were being judgmental “you’re so close to the border? How can you waste a couple hours??? Just get some cinnamon buns” but actually I think the food (like, actual food- curry chicken soup and salad and stuff) was the best food on the entire trail. So fresh. I had a great conversation with Reptar who I met in the desert. He was working on a documentary of the trail, it was very refreshing. Later that night I ended up camping where Triple S and other hikers were anyway. Found a replacement washer for my water filter, score!
The last few days to the border were pretty spectacular including a rainbow 5 miles before I crossed over. I got to hang with Triple S which was great but with that main pack of hikers that included the super-annoying Girl-Packs. I’m at the border too soon for my flight and have to stay 3 nights in Vancouver, during which time I shatter the face to my phone, but it still works?
Get down to Sacramento on the plane where I stay overnight on hotel points and then take the Amtrak to Truckee…I super love taking trains and hang out in the cafe car where they have a guy giving interpretation and local facts. In Truckee I get a hitch from a local who seems bored and buys me beer at the cafe near the trail…another hiker joins us and he gets beer as well. I hike about a mile up the trail kinda drunked, yah…set up a super shitty campsite.
The next bit is just meh for me, Desolation Wilderness, I’m not feelin it. Then I get my period- early, again! Why do I not plan for this. I have to get off trail and hitch to town early (was going to try to hold out to Sonora Pass) and I say F it. It’s been super cold too so while in Lake Tahoe I buy some thicker leggings. The next couple days I’m just not making the miles I want to- like 25s instead of 30s- and I’m just draaaaagggging. Colder temps + All The Wind = no bueno. Then I hear rumors of a snowstorm coming, great. I have a resupply planned for Sonora Pass…supposed to start snowing later that night, it will definitely hit at that elevation at least a foot…ugh, what to do. F it, I hitch to Bridgeport, I’m done. I decide I’m quitting and going to hot springs, get a room at the hotel. Aight.
The next day after hitting up the hot springs and looking at the snow up out on the mountains (Travertine Hot Springs! also super dope) I keep my eyes out for hikers. I spot a guy and get a harrowing story. He got caught in the storm and ended up hiking at night over the pass, because his tarp situation flooded and his down bag got soaked. Blizzard-like conditions, he dropped his headlamp and also couldn’t operate his phone because his hands were too numb. He decided to try to hike the couple miles to Kennedy Meadows North but then he knocked on the door of these guys camped in a tricked out bus and they let him crash. He was super chill and a SOBO hiker from Washington. We shared a room that night and the next day met Miguel who was this sponsored hiker from Mexico doing a long section. I don’t even know how to explain his situation except that he had everything paid for by this retired rich guy, and then the dude decided to quit, but he was still gonna pay for him, so we all crashed his hotel room for free. I decided to unquit and me and hiker #1 (I can’t remember your trail name! Sorry! But we IG frens, it’s all gutt). We made it over the snow bit a good 15 miles…I didn’t want to start hiking at 5:30 the next am, so I never saw him again.
Sierras were, uh, mixed. I definitely liked barely seeing anyone on trail. Between it being late season (mid-late September) and then the snowstorm clearing people out, it was pretty sparse. All the cottonwoods or aspens or whatnot changing to yellow were super beautiful.I sang lots of Tori Amos with my earphone in, probably sounding like a maniac. In Mammoth the trolley stopped running…I selected the Duck Lake alternate on the way back which was primo. I got to the Muir Ranch turnoff a day too late to grab food there…disappointed, but kinda wanted to be done. I got to stay in the Muir shelter on one of the nights with 3 other hikers which was pretty fun. Each day started getting more and more windy, although very sunny. But long tedious days trying to rush to Mt Whitney and Lone Pine so I could get back to LA for my flight. I got over Mather Pass and then right after I got down to the S Fork of the Kings’ (where Strawberry died, wild! It was ankle-deep at 9pm in early Oct) I dropped my phone on slickrock, recracked the surface, and it stopped working. Nononononono! No more easy maps, no more gps, no more I-conquered-Whitney-finale-pic. Well, it fit tho. This hike was about letting go of any and all expectations.
Anyway the day with Glen Pass I saw a few more JMT’ers which it had been a couple days since I’d seen, a beautiful day really and the wind died down a bit. Which was good because I also had to do Forester. So happy I was doing it then and not in June which would’ve been socked in. A long day the next (Whitney? whatevs at this point PS I guess those Korean hikers didn’t understand to send me the pic they took of me) but I got into town late at night and had an underwhelming, but tasty post-trail celebration. Felt a sense of confusion the next day- none of the other hikers were ones who’d finished there, there were a couple of SOBOs, mostly just random travelers- what am I doing here in Bishop again and civilization and all that? I took the bus to Lancaster and then train to downtown LA where my friend Chris picked me up and returned me my trumpet but didn’t have time to hang due to a gig, so I sat in his house alone for 2 hours before I ubered back downtown to have Japanese hotpot and get drunk on wine and sake with my friends Erin and Jay. Flew back to Philly, had a bizarre gig that night playing what I call “Mummers rep”, 2nd line tunes I don’t actually know, and some Balkan stuff on the street, find an apartment within 3 days, come back and it’s a lil like I never left? Or I did, but so much is the same. IDK, but I do feel a sense of relief here, the familiarity of things, the non-stress of LA or cruise ship pressures. “How to eat a watermelon and be yo’self” sorta shiz. I think it’s the right place for my home base, though I know I am done with the normal person life and need to have my adventure time still, at least in part.