Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I did it!

That's right, September 25 at about 10:30am, I reached Canada! 5 months, 2,656 miles, and 6 million steps from when I left Campo on April 23. What an amazing feeling that was to stand at the northern border of the US, after walking across the country all the way from the southern border. Even the rain that pounded down on me that entire day, could not dampen the excitement and success that I felt. Over 5 months, I've experienced pain, sweat, tears, blood, fear, loneliness, cold, hot, thirst, hunger, and exhaustion. However, the good will always out-weigh the bad and I have no regrets about the trip; I'd do it again in a heartbeat!

So I left the Dinsmores near Skykomish, with Jimbrick, Wiz, and Buttercup. Unfortunately, I lost Cricket when he left, due to the fact that I wanted to let my shin splints heal up a bit. Cricket did achieve his goal of hitting the border on September 24, so he could make it to school on the 27. Congrats man, wish I could have been there with ya! Anyways, I hiked with those three from Stevens Pass all the way to Stehekin. We had a great time together as we wandered through some of the most rugged terrain on the entire trip, Glacier Peak Wilderness. It was beautiful and fortunately it only rained on us about half the time ha! That's good luck, for Washington anyways! My shins also felt great the entire way and never gave me any more problems. Despite the wet weather, this made the rest of the trip much more enjoyable.

When the four of us got to Stehekin, I decided to get my resupply box and get right back on trail. I was aching to get this last stretch done as quickly as possible and go home to see my friends and family. Jimbrick, Wiz, and Buttercup wanted to stay in town for a bit, so I hit the trail alone once again. The weather continued to worsen over the next few days, as I began pushing big 30+ mile days to get to the border. The north Cascades up above Rainy Pass blew me away with stunning beauty and sheer ruggedness. I set myself up to hit the northern terminus on the morning of the 23rd and passed Balls and Sunshine that morning as they returned from the border to Harts Pass. I got to the border, spent some time celebrating (alone unfortunately), and began the 30 mile trek back to Harts Pass myself. I camped that night with about 14 miles left to do in the morning, to Harts Pass where I would hitch down to Mazama or Winthrop to call my dad for a ride. I never saw it coming as I went to bed that last night, too excited to think about what might go wrong...

That night it got very cold, one of the coldest nights I'd had on the entire trail. It rained all night, up until morning when I awoke very excited that I did not hear the pitter-patter of the water hitting my tent. But when I opened my tent, I found the rain hadn't stopped, it had just turned to snow! I gathered my stuff up very quickly and began the journey back to Harts Pass. As I climbed higher towards the pass, the snow came down harder, and began to accumulate more and more on the ground. When I finally arrived at Harts Pass later that morning, there was already 3 inches of snow on the ground and it continued to pound down hard. 2 days prior, I had passed through the area and seen 50+ cars there with people camping, hunting, and hiking. That morning however, there was no one.

I freaked out. I'd expected it to be an easy hitch from Harts Pass down to the highway. I certainly didn't expect it to be snow covered and deserted! Everything I had was soaked from the days of rain and now I was cold and shaking and very alone in a near whiteout. I did not have enough food to hike down to the highway and I was not prepared for conditions this cold and brutal. I found the outhouse and cowered inside to escape the elements. I broke down in the bathroom as I shivered and contemplated what I would do. I really had no idea, I just wanted to go home so bad! 2 1/2 hours passed as I sat helpless in the outhouse, when I heard the sound of an engine. I ran out of the bathroom, waving my arms in the air as a truck crawled up through the snow on its way down the mountain. 4 older gentlemen sat inside and I asked if I could possibly get a ride to the highway, the town, anywhere where I could make a phone call. They generously made room for me and I was saved! These 4 men had been up looking at old rusty mining equipment when they'd realized this was the not the day to be up there and decided to turn around. I truly think this was a god-send and someone was definitely watching over me, as we passed no one else on the way down the long, winding forest road. Carl, the driver, invited me back to his house in Winthrop where his wife Roxy fed us, laundered my clothes, and provided a hot shower as I waited for my dad to pick me up. Even though this was their first time bringing a hiker home, Carl and Roxy are true angels that were there for me during one of the toughest times on my entire trip. I am so grateful to them!

So here I sit at home, in a chair, with a roof, freshly showered, full of good food, and a television making noise in the background. As much as I love all these luxuries, I must admit that I miss it already. The trail was my home for 5 months and the thru-hikers were my family. I had the most amazing time on this trip, I can't even begin to find the words to explain my experiences. Keep following, as I have a wealth of photos still to get posted on here and in the next week or two I will be working on a sort of post-trip closing post. I have a lot of things I'd like to say about my adventures, the places I've been, the conditions I traveled in, the people I met, the help I received, and hopefully some great advice to the thru-hikers of the future. Thanks for following everyone, I love you all! -HeadBanger

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Walking in the rain...

Hey guys, I'm currently at the Dinsmore's Hiker Haven in Baring, WA. And man am I glad to be here, because is pouring rain outside. Only had about 10 miles to do this morning to make it down to Steven's Pass. When we reached the trail head, Cricket and I had just planned on hitching up HWY 2 to Skykomish or Baring, but trail angel Tom was already there waiting to give any needy hikers a ride. Thanks Tom!

We have been so incredibly lucky with our weather here in Washington. It has generally been in the 60 to 70 degree range everyday with sunny skies and decently warm nights. However, that all changed after leaving Snoqualmie Pass on Wednesday. The first night out, it began raining and never really stopped. Not only has it been raining, but the temperatures also dropped considerably. This all makes hiking fairly miserable and I look forward to the nights when I can climb in my warm comfy sleeping bag and forget about the cold rain that pounds my tent. I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later, after all, this is Washington right?

As if the rain and cold wasn't bad enough, I'm now dealing with a new injury. Just in the last two weeks, I've began to experience shin splints. They typically like to begin bothering me sometime in late afternoon and make the pounding footsteps very painful. I've had them on both legs now, although it typically only hurts on one leg at a time. It started in my right leg before White Pass, however after a night of rest I no longer noticed it. Now it's mostly been my left shin, causing me pain about every other day this week. The pain usually goes away after I've slept for the night and given my legs some time off, but today it still hurt when I woke up. This is an injury I've never felt before and I wonder why it decided to start acting up now! You'd think by this point my body would be tough as steel after 2400 miles of training. Well at least I'm here at the Dinsmore's, time for a day of rest and I'll assess the pain in the morning...

Cricket and I spent the week walking through the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, which I hear is extremely beautiful. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see a lot of scenery. Just clouds and rain for us and the occasional view of a turquoise colored lake. The terrain is becoming more and more rugged as we get deeper into the North Cascades. Next up we'll enter the Henry M Jackson Wilderness and then the much loved Glacier Peak Wilderness. I am so happy to be getting closer to the completion of my goal and the end of a very long trip. This is no time for new injuries, as I am less than 200 miles from the border. This last week has left me with very low morale and I hope I can turn that around in the next few days. So here's hoping the weather gets better and the injuries subside. We'll see you soon guys! -Headbanger

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Greetings from Seattle followers! I made it to Snoqualmie Pass and Cricket's aunt picked us up and took us back to her place to eat, shower, and do laundry. So incredibly awesome, thanks Boo! We've had great weather all week, right up until we got into overcast and slightly rainy Seattle ha, classic! Spent all week hiking with Cricket and sometimes with Balls and Sunshine. Unfortunately in this last section, we spent quite a bit of time walking through clear cuts, which are visually displeasing and very hot due to the lack of shade. However, the trail magic has made it so much better! My dad at White Pass, sodas from Shrek at Chinook Pass, donuts and soda from Magic Man on a logging road, chili dogs from Not-Phil's Dad on a forest road, and a random soda cache cooler before Snoqualmie! Finally Cricket's aunt to top it all off, trail angels are so awesome! So just two more stops till
Canada, Skykomish and then Stehekin. Looking forward to the Dinsmores in Skykomish, just 4 days away!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

No goats, but lots of rocks...

Hey followers, this time I'm coming to you from White Pass Ski Area in WA. My dad came out to meet me here for the weekend and ended doing some trail magic. Last night we sat around eating great food with Balls, Sunshine, HalfFast, RedBlaze, Scouts Honor, and Cricket. It's been a good time, but I can't stay long, gotta move on.

Two days ago we entered the the Goat Rocks Wilderness, WOW! It was almost like being in the rugged high Sierras again, however with a very lush-green Cascades feel. The scenery was absolutely amazing, with Mt Adams behind us and Mt Rainier in front of us. The trail followed the top of a ridgeline for just a few miles, across very loose rock, with steep drop-offs on either side. I kind of felt like a mountain goat walking along that path, perched up above jagged rock and steep snow slopes. It's a hard call to make, but I think I must say this was my favorite stretch of trail thus-far on the trip. So awesome!

When I left Cascade Locks, I spent the first night alone, and then ran into Scouts Honor and Cricket the second day out. I've had a great time spending the week with these guys, through the longest stretch in WA. The mosquitoes have begun to die out, however the black flies have been biting and annoying. We went through the Mt Adams wilderness and skirted the base of the huge volcano for a few days, which provided classic North Cascades scenery with beautiful green meadows and abundant wildflowers everywhere.

So next stop will be Snoqualmie Pass, a little less than 100 miles away. This trip is winding down as I get closer to the Canadian border, my goal since the beginning. Although this has really been the adventure of a lifetime, I'm tired of walking. I love this trail and it has taught me so much about nature, people, and myself, but I'm ready to come home. There's no doubt I will miss the social aspect of the trail, the amazing people I've met and spent time with. Something about the thru-hiker culture can really make you feel at home on the trail. The people on trail are genuinely good-people and I've made some awesome friends that will go back to various places all across the world, and I will miss them dearly. Thru-hikers are a special breed, I love you guys!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hey guys and hello Washington! Ha, yep I'm back in my home state. This has been a crazy week and I'm just so stoked to finally be so close to home. I left Sisters OR on Tuesday with a plan to do 140 miles to get to Cascade Locks OR by friday, before the Post Office closed for the weekend. JimBrick, Buttercup, and Wiz had the same plan, so we did 42 miles the 1st day, 45 miles the 2nd, and after 10 miles the next day I could go no more. My feet had given up, so I hitched from Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood, down to Cascade Locks to take some well needed zeros. Spent the weekend with my Mom at PCT Trail Days and had a blast. Unfortunately, that 44 mile section I missed is now closed due to a wildfire, so it will have to wait until another day. I'm excited to spend the weekend in White Pass with my dad and then push on for the finish line! I'm so worn out physically/mentally, but will be so
sad it see this trip end. This has been my life for 5 months and I love it! I am Hiker Trash. -Banger