I am not afraid of storms for I am learning to sail my own ship. – Louisa May Alcott
What luxury to sleep in a bed. I didn’t even mind the trains passing, rattling the window and blasting their horn. Early enough I’m up, packed and downing a few cups of coffee in the little lounge area the Cascadia Hotel reserves for us thru-hikers we share with a huge selection of games and a hiker box from which I could have just about done a full resupply. (I did eat two packets of tuna yesterday)
At first, the road seems too quiet for a hitch. A few cars pass, pulling into the inside lane. Then a guy takes a U-turn and picks me up. I break the cardinal rule and put my backpack in his trunk, but he’s dressed in running clothes and tells me he’s headed up the PCT north for a trail run. I can trust this one.
Turns out I’m his first ever hitchhiker. I assure him my ax is in the trunk and he’s safe! The PCT resumes at a ski resort heading straight up under chairlifts disappearing into the mist. My breathing is heavy, steady, my steps as Catherine would describe – about the speed of an escalator, slowing working up to a pass with a monster modern chalet. Here I meet Lisa heading north and celebrating her birthday with a new pair of shoes.
Down I go as the mist slowly begins to clear. I see a sign telling me not to build campfires with a half mile of the lakes. Yes, lakes plural. This whole section is one glacier-left-behind-pothole-lake after another. At the first, I run into big smile “Fluffy Bunny” from The Netherlands and we head up together, ecstatic when the sun comes out and doing all we can to keep our feet dry in this section.
Mosquitos swarm at each lake as we slowly rise, biting right through my merino. Tremendous views open up as the escalator bumps it up a notch onto a rocky path. Catherine bolts up the trail behind me on coltish legs, and behind her is dour Sebastian. Fluffy tells me he is such a downer, she didn’t have the heart to tell him his fly was down.
Up and over like cresting a wave and into even more spectacular mountains spread out before my eyes, snow covered, jagged with an abundance of wildflowers. The trail dives down on soft needles,
Vivaldi’s Gloria bounces along in my mind and I think of happiness. Happy now with sun and dry feet. Happy now in this simplicity feeling strong on easy trail. Happy being totally me far away from the people who hurt me.
Victor Frankl tells us in his landmark book “Man’s Search for Meaning” that the only thing we can control – and no one can take away from us, including in his case, the Nazis – is our dignity, our attitude towards life and ourselves, what meaning we choose to give things. He does not claim we will never be hurt or treated unfairly or even killed, but, in the end, we are in charge of our inner life. It gives us so much power remembering that very simple fact.
It also saves a lot of time wasted on anxiously worrying over other people’s actions and decisions. My sorrow was like a lead weight flying to Washington two weeks ago. Slowly it’s turning into irritation, which actually makes me giggle a little because irritation is the mosquito on my shoulder working his way through my shirt to suck my blood. Sorrow, on the other hand, is a gaping wound that won’t stop bleeding.
I’m walking so well today, I go on and on, stopping briefly to talk with two chatty women about gear – especially my Kavu hat. Everyone loves how bright it is. I give a little demo before extricating myself and moving on over huge boulders with water running beneath and passing a man with a long lens who shows me a stunning picture he caught of a black bear. I wonder if he left food out to bring the bear closer?
Two overly tanned young men accompanied by a young woman brag to me how far they’ve come. I ask if they might snap a picture of the middle-aged solo hiker.
Over another pass the mountains are even more breathtaking in their grandeur, snow crested for one wave after another. A lake shimmers in a distant bowl.
I choose a camp spot next to a rushing creek, birds singing. Just as I’m set and ready to enjoy my own company, an odd young woman comes up my side trail. Dressed in a floppy button-down shirt, lycra shorts and an orange jumper, multiple piercings and head shaved under a baseball cap she tells me she is “Grapefruit Punk, but you can call me G-punk.” She sits down and says maybe she’ll just make dinner and shove on. I suggest we cook together. Her manner is gruff at first, but she reveals an engaging personality once I ask her a few questions.
She’s a performance artist and grapefruit represents her heart – sweet, messy, juicy. Her PCT project is a nude selfie each day to see how she changes, but the process – trying to get just the right picture without being seen – is an art form in itself.
She asks me if I’m ‘hell bent’ on finishing the trail and I laugh, not entirely sure. I ask if she is ‘hell bent’ and she answers so eloquently and frankly that she was full of anxiety before starting, but soon met other people doing a myriad of different things, she learned to lighten up and take it as it comes.
Such a delightful and interesting young woman, I feel I learn something myself about being in the now and living one day at a time, not rushing or pushing – and certainly not forecasting an outcome. There is so much freedom and roominess in that approach.
After we eat our food and talk more, G-punk decides to stay. It’s still light and only 8:30, but we both crawl in and are likely soon fast asleep ready for what tomorrow brings.
Perhaps another day of sunshine?
I’ll take it.