Monday, September 5, 2016

Day 1- First day back on the PCT

Back to the Pacific Crest Trail after two years. In 2014, hiking the 1500 miles from Mexico to Castle Craigs changed my life. What will returning to the trail be like?
Entering the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, where we will spend all our time this section.
As Taryn drives us up I-90 to Snoqualime Pass in Washington (Thank you Taryn!), my eyes adjust to gree-blue hue of towering giants.  I think about how just two weeks ago, I was traveling I-90 in Montana as I left my second Americorps term. What are my Montana friends at the others end of this road doing today? 

The Alpine Lakes Wilderness- wow alpine and lakes and wilderness. Three favorite things! Only it doesn't feel like untrammeled wild lands.
Jan climbs from the trailhead.
Just an hour outside of Seattle, the trail is swarming with people and littered with toilet paper, jumping up dogs off leash and the roar of highway. If I were back at my park in Montana, I'd pick up the TP and talk to the dog owners about wildlife and being courteous. But here I just keep hiking and then wrestle with myself and wonder where my ethics have gone. Who have I become out here? 

"Hi Joan! Remember me I'm S." says a backpacker heading south. Sure enough I recognize his sweet dog- the same one he was carrying atop his frame pack when we met and hiked the PCT in California in 2014. Instantly I feel that incredible sense of community and small-world-restored faith in humanity everything-will-be-OK. Remembering that moment back on the PCT after my stress fracture, I connect with all the memories of what its taken to get here. I realize I am at my new/ old home. I will figure out what it all means.

First there is the soaking in the scenery and the fact of the PCT! There is much ohhh -ing and ahh-ing and standing around gaping while other hikers pass us by.  
Joe Lake
Obligatory first day jitters come in form of a heavy pack. Extra food, extra rain gear for cold rain and warm clothes for below freezing temperatures-- because sometimes we pack our fears but we also pack years of experiences of hunger and near hypothermia.  When it starts to sprinkle, I am glad for both cape and umbrella.

On the plane ride yesterday, I listened to a TED Radio Hour podcast episode about "Slowiing Down." And decide that shall be my theme of the week. Slowing Down will require both lollygaging fun (to slow the hiking pace to prevent injury) and watching/ observing (to slow the mental pace).

What is there to watch? I suddenly miss the focus of my citizen science loon and mountain goat surveys in Glacier National Park, where evenings were for watching lake or slopes for science, recording sightings, feeling productive for collecting data and contributing to the larger scientific project. What will evenings be for here? Will I feel lost that I'm not contributing to anything? 

In camp, we lay on the pine needle ground and watch stars come out.  It feels like enough to just watch them and wonder.

Falling asleep, my brain is still in work mode.  Oops I forgot i left supplies under the porch of visitor center and I forgot to add something to the resume I just sent in. The work world is going on without me and probably not missing me but why am I missing it so much? Then I remember to quiet my mind and sink into the comfort of my hammock home.


  1. I find I have to go through an adjustment period depending on what kind of trip I am on and who I am with. It took me years to stop dismantling illegal fire rings on non ranger trips! Glad you are back on the trail.

    1. Thanks Mary! I can relate to that now. I'm finally transitioning to remembering I don't have to talk to visitors about dogs off leashes-- I can just let it go- yay!