Washington PCT Section I
2299 to 2292 (White Pass)
Frost. Mist rising. The sound of elks bugling. Maybe one of the most beautiful sounds I've heard. On par with the cry of the loon at least.
Thoughts cloudy and swirling with brain fog. Definitely a fever. Must pretend I am OK until I get somewhere safe. Must hike hike hike.
I question every northbound hiker about the next section called the Goat Rocks and about the Knife Edge. The phrase "extreamely sketchy" is used nearly universally. Some add "most dangerous thing I've ever done" and "hardest part of the PCT" and "Don't cross it like I did the snow and 100 mph winds. I could have easily died up there."
I get cell phone service and check weather and there is a high chance of storms the next few days.
I think about what it means to be brave versus stubborn. I think about words like grit and fear, adventure and safety, comfort and risk. I try not to think of it in terms of quitting. Mostly I just want to be somewhere I can lay down and be warm until my head stops swirling and the feverish chills and aches go away.
The store at White Pass is so warm. Warmth, ah what a beautiful precious thing!
Steph (who helped care for me when I got the stress fracture in the Sierra section of the PCT in 2014- and who helped me get back on trail) has sent me a resupply box here and its bursting with wonderful food and surprises - a true Care Package! Where will I be when I eat this wonderful food? I have no idea.
The northbounders sitting around the store have wild looks like they have escaped death but barely. While I've been hiking through rain they have been hiking in falling sleet and snow and the winds have been even fiercer.
I sit and talk to the northbounders about the pros and cons of the two routes through Goat Rocks. There is the low route, the official PCT, over the Packwood Glacier with a "really sketchy" snow traverse that has iced over in the storms we've been having. The hikers that went this way describe a steep scree scramble before the icy glacier traverse with tough kick steps. Jan has told me not to go this way. She says that more people die on the Packwood glacier traverse.
Some of the hikers say they tried to go over the high route alternate over the knife edge but the wind literally knocked them off their feet and they had to turn around and take the other way.
Neither if these sound like good options.
Everyone says wait until the weather is better. But how long do I wait?
In the meantime, I need to wait to get my new hammock and I need to wait until my illness gets better.
It takes me a while to get a ride at White Pass to the town of Packwood. Am I sticking my thumb out too high? Should I wear my red raincoat or blue fleece shirt? Am I smiling too much?
But the wait is worth it because the woman who picks me up is just the right person. Deborah works at a community college in Yacama and we talk about the joys working with college students and AmeriCorps. Mount Rainier finally shows itself on the drive down and then Deborah drops me right off at the hotel some other hikers recommended. Thank you Deborah!
I get a room at the Hotel Packwood which is a deal for $45 including laundry and is right across the street from the public library. I sit on the porch and watch my tarp, poncho, and ground cloth flapping in the brisk wind and the storm clouds building over the mountains. The poncho has a fresh collection of new holes, and I wonder why I wasted all that tenacious tape and waterproof spray on it instead of just buying a new one. I take stock of the dreadful state of my feet and the feverishness coursing through my body.
Then I spend the next two days recovering in town and devising a plan. They only charge me $31 a night for the room the next nights and I find some deals at the grocery store so I don't waste money on going out. Once I am in bed I realize how sick I am.
I also realize that I have more than two choices. It's not Knife Edge versus Packwood Glacier traverse. I can be ANYWHERE.
This is my life. This is my hike. I can make choices. I have freedom.
I will choose to hike through Goat Rocks section some other time. I have hiked 300 miles now in Washington. That is good. I will be back. For now, I decide I want to be in Oregon. I grew up in Portland and even though I haven't been back for many, many years, Oregon is my roots. It is important for me to hike there now, I decide.
I don't care that the thru hikers do the trail in a linear manner. I want to make meaning in my hike that is my own personal thing, that is mine alone, that is for my reasons.
Then more good news! Renee/ Pathfinder is in Sisters, Oregon but will come meet me in Portland/ Cascade Locks to hike southbound through Oregon together. I'm excited because its fun sharing the trail with a good hiking buddy. It will mean adjusting my pace again though, but I decide I don't care how many miles and at this time of year it will certainly be safer hiking with Renee than solo.
The day before I take the bus/ train to Portland. I talk to northbounders who waited for a break in the weather to cross the Knife Edge and they say it was one of the most beautiful days they've had on trail. I briefly think about continuing on. I know I could do it safely by waiting, watching the forecast and timing it right now that I have gathered all these stories and information. Talking to them though allows me to come to peace with my decision. It makes it feel like I am not avoiding challenges, but rather that I am making a positive decision for myself.
Let the Adventure Continue....