August 16, 2018
Got back on the PCT today. I’m not even sure how much the day count matters now. Last night I lay awake having a mild panic attack. Should I be doing this? Is it worth all the hassle of getting back on the trail if I’m just gonna end up getting off again because a) so many fire closures, b) loneliness because most thru-hikers are done already, and c) I’m only at Lake Valhalla and I kind of just want to go home. It just took way too long to get my health sorted out and back to normal. Six weeks!! Good Lord.
When I got home I couldn’t get in to see my doctor for a week, then I had to wait two more weeks to see the specialist, followed by some tests and a 10-day round of very strong antibiotics, then another week and a follow-up with the specialist. Six freaking weeks. When it was all over, my parents were due to travel out to Idaho for a visit, so we all three ended up going so they could then drop me off at the trail so I could resume my hike.
My parents and I left Coeur d’Alene, ID at 7:00am, and after a 4.5 hr drive and one flat tire in Leavenworth, WA, we finally made it to the Stevens Pass trailhead. My parents hiked in with me a little ways. The trail near the highway is so nice and flat, straight, and fairly wide. My parents teased me, saying this hiking business didn’t seem so hard at all! But they knew as well as I that these are not typical trail conditions! It was hard to say goodbye to them, what with how unsure I was feeling about the whole thing. I didn’t tell them that, though.
So far, everything is beautiful. I love Washington. The going is so much easier here than so many of the trail miles I hiked in California, but even so, I’m still thinking of being done once I reach the border. Hitch to Seattle with Sparky and Ghosthiker, hang out in Seattle for a few days catching up with friends, and then go back to Coeur d’Alene or Costa Rica. I’m just not sure what I’m going to do. Obviously, I’m gonna hike to the border, at the very least. I was so anxious to get back out here and finish. I guess I’m pretty bipolar when it comes to this trail. Or maybe I’m just lonely. At least when I hiked the Tahoe Rim Trail, there were PCT hikers everywhere, even if I didn’t really know them.
Last year around this time, I packed up my random assortment of basic hiking/camping gear (I don’t even want to know how much my pack weighed then) and drove out to hike this short section of trail. I started at the Smith Brook Trailhead, then hiked SOBO along the PCT when the trails met. My goal was Valhalla Lake. I only hiked in a few miles and camped in a nice flat, green meadow. There were a few other hikers there at the time, but it was around 7:00pm by the time I got there and they were all already sleeping. When I crawled out of my tent around 8:00am the next morning, they were all gone. Thru-hikers, for sure.
I hiked down a side trail to the lake to enjoy the quiet morning, then packed up my stuff, and started back the way I’d come, now heading north. I was passed by several thru-hikers along the way, all thin and tan with tiny packs and fast paces. I looked on them as if they were otherworldly and thought to myself, “That’s gonna be me next year.” My 2018 PCT hike was already in the making at that point.
Near the turnoff for the Smith Brook trail, I took a seat on a large fallen log and had a snack, hoping that maybe if I waited long enough I might get to chat with a thru-hiker or two. I wasn’t disappointed! Two young Germans stopped to talk for a bit. I believe they were brothers. The older only stopped long enough to say hello and then hiked on, so I didn’t catch his trail name, but the younger one went by Peter Pantless, on account of his very, very short shorts. It did kind of look like he wasn’t wearing any pants! I asked him only a few questions because I didn’t want to keep him.
“I’m hoping to hike the PCT next year, I want to see where this trail goes,” I said, gesturing to the nearby bend in the trail that disappeared into the trees.
“Why don’t you go see now?” He asked with what I thought was a mischievous little smile.
I laughed. “Next year.”
Shortly after that, we parted ways and I hiked back down to my car, more determined than ever to make my big thru-hike happen next year.
It’s so quiet out here. I don’t hear any birds at all. The silence keeps creeping me out. At least it’s not very hot. It’s humid, which is an unwelcome difference from California, but it’s not hot. I’m definitely thankful for that.
I did 9.7 miles today. Not bad for my first day back, I guess. I thought I’d be so happy to be in my tent. Laying in that enormous cushy bed at my parents house, I couldn’t wait to be sleeping outside again. The whole time I was home all I could think about was getting back on trail. Now that I’m here, I keep thinking if I hike back to Stevens Pass, my parents will still be there and they’ll take me back to Coeur d’Alene where I belong. With people. With my family. Maybe if I’d hiked alone the whole time in California, I’d be used to this solitude. It’s the silence that’s getting to me, though. Where are all the freaking birds at??