The Attempt Episode 5: 500 Miles
One state down. Two to go.
The Attempt is sponsored by Gossamer Gear, manufacturers of functional ultralight backpacking gear, designed by hikers.
Previously, on The Attempt…
“Hey it’s Ben. It’s first night of PCT trip.”… “It’s day 3”… “Oof. Day 5”… “Day 7”…”Day 16 I believe”… “Day 17”…”Day 20”… “Yeah, it’s a good day.”… “You now how he said at the beginning, in that interview I did with him, that he’s looking to find toughness on the trail?”… “I don’t think it’s a good answer, but I think it’s the best answer I can give…toughness.” … “Well I think he’s already pretty tough. What impresses me is that he seems to learning how to be gentle.”…“Third thing I’m grateful for is Mount Rainier because it is the most beautiful gosh darn mountain on the planet. Ok that’s all for now.”
Julia: You’re listening to
Benjamin: A podcast my sister makes
Julia: It’s called the attempt
Benjamin: I see what you’re trying to do!
Julia: (Laughing) Alright…
(Rain and thunder)
Julia: Remember how at the end of the last episode I mentioned there were some dark clouds in the distance? Turns out, it wasn’t just rain…
Benjamin: Oh shiiiit. Oh my god. Hail!
Julia: So yeah, Benjamin got hailed on… in August. Anyway, we’re gonna pick up from here and let Benjamin take us to the Southern edge of Washington.
Benjamin: Last night we had a pretty freaking awesome thunder storm. Really lucked out. It was about 30 seconds —just after I got in my tent that it got really bad. Minor leakage in my tent, but overall, pretty snug as a bug in a rug. Uh, other silly things. At lunch today I was trying to open a packet of buffalo chicken and I just absolutely sprayed it all over the place. But it started raining again so that got clean. My socks are soaked through. My shoes are soaked through. That’s not great, but otherwise pretty good spirits. We are actually now walking away from Rainier and towards Adams. That’s the next big mountain. So yeah, feeling pretty positive.
Julia: At this point, I’m starting to pick up on some patterns with Benjamin’s recordings. Like the one we just heard is a Captain’s Log: socks are wet, leak in my tent, sprayed myself with a buffalo chicken. It’s like this off the cuff retelling of the most eventful moments of the trip. And then there’s another kind of recording, which I think of as more Notes to Self. It’s like he has these ideas rattling around in his head as he hikes and he just wants to process them out loud. Like for example, this one just a couple days later:
Benjamin: Here are some habits I want to kick. I want to stop swatting at every mosquito that lands on me. I want to stop being jealous of people who I think have it more figured out than me. I want to stop being cautious in a counter-productive way. Like when I know I need a certain amount of food, I don’t want to take more food. I want to stop being concerned about catching up to others who are ahead of me or about others who are behind me catching up. Because this isn’t a race and it’s a really silly way to think—Oh another mosquito – fuck! I swatted at it. See? I did kill it though. That’s a good number of habits to want to kick for now. Ok.
Julia: And then, a little later, we have another Captain’s Log.
Benjamin: Bit of a rough go of it last night. So my trowel for digging holes for my poops broke – snapped clean in two. So that wasn’t super good. And then the tent that my parents actually bought and resupplied me with a couple days ago came with a hole. So I woke up with a mouse in my house. More specifically I woke up at around 3:30 in the morning because a wet mouse had fallen from the ceiling in my tent where it was clinging and landed on my neck so that was a pretty upsetting way to wake up. I think I went, “aaaah fuck!” or something like that. And then spent a couple minutes getting the mouse to leave my tent. Um, didn’t sleep a whole lot after that. Another highlight of yesterday was there was some trail magic. A really wonderful person who goes by the name of Stark Naked – she rented a truck and drove out to this forest road. So I stopped there, had a couple sodas, cookies, chips, played a game of cards. Um, so yeah. A bit of a mixed bag. Thanks to Stark Naked – super nice person. And thanks to the little mouse for visiting. And thanks to the trowel for breaking. Those are my shout outs.
Julia: And now, for my favorite kind of recording I get from Benjamin: The Talking To Himself in the Woods variety.
Benjamin: I thought I’d do a recording as I make dinner today. It took me a while to set up my tent and stuff. I was really tired – just like sleepy tired in addition to my feet and legs being tired. Just to go over my stuff that I have here. I have two isobutene fuels…I have a pot that’s comically large…tiny little stove… I say that because I get made fun of by people who see the pot and they’re like: oh you’re cooking for a whole family?! “No, I’m cooking for myself. It’s 1 liter it’s not that fucking crazy.” But everyone else has these tiny pots… And, gonna boil some water. While that boils, what do I want to eat? I’ll save my bars for breakfast… I don’t need to poop more so I won’t have that dried fruit. Ooh I’ll have chips. That’s what I want! And cookies for dessert. Ooh I forgot about all this. Pretty good crushed. Oh fuck yeah. Nutter butters and oreos for dessert. Dorito and Cheezits properly crushed…let’s pick… rice and beans so pretty good. I have lots of stuff in front of me so I’m gonna put the phone down and figure this out. Bye!
Benjamin: Hello. Um I am walking South of Trout Lake. So Trout Lake is a little town in Southern Washington and the town is just incredibly hiker-friendly. You can camp in the back yard of the general store for $5 and after three days of rain storms and thunder storms up in the mountains, dropping down into the valley where it was sunny with hot food and friendly people was just so darn lovely. And now I’m back on the trail for the next stop of Oregon. I’m really excited for that. I think it’ll feel really good to have one state done. And it’ll also be the Proclaimers day because I will have walked 500 miles but I will need to walk a lot more than 500 more. And I’m thinking today about what this guy I met said a week or so ago about how peaceful he feels just walking through the forest sometimes and I feeling that right now. Yeah, just feeling positive today. Forecast is really good for the next few days. It’s like 80 degrees but I’m in the shade. So yeah, feeling peaceful.
Julia: Over the course of his hike, in all the various types of recordings I’ve gotten, I’ve been able to hear my brother feeling lots of feelings: Excited. Exhausted. Soaked. But peaceful sounds really nice.
So, you might have been wondering, “how long does it takes to lose track of what day it is on the trail?” Well, for Benjamin, it seems like a month did the trick.
Benjamin: Good morning. It is about 9 o’clock AM. And it is… I want to say… Tuesday… the 13th… of August. And today I am… I don’t know exactly where I’m gonna go today, but I’m still walking south. I’m nearing the 500-mile mark, which is exciting. I am enjoying the sun and particularly today I’m thinking about how much I’ve enjoyed the process of kind of seeing mountains I’m familiar with in the distance and then actually walking to them and then seeing another one. First, you know, you kinda saw Baker in the distance. You walked past it and saw Glacier Peak. Then you pass it. Then you walk past Rianier, then we passed Mt. Adams. And then today for the first time I saw Mt. Hood. Yeah, I think that’s really cool. These are mountains I kind of grew up looking at and it’s very satistfying and very — emotional is the wrong word – but very touching to me to go past them and to have the benchmarks of actual mountains, volcanoes – that’s pretty cool. I think I’ll remember that for a long time. I think that’s one of the highlights of the trip so far for me. It’s sunny. Forecast is good for the next few days. I’ve really enjoyed meeting the folks I’ve been walking with. People like Hansel and Gretel – german brother and sister – I’ve been kinda leapfrogging a little for several days now.
Julia: So this brings me to one last type of recording I’ve been getting more and more of recently. Let’s call these Cameos.
Benjamin: Alright, Hansel. You can introduce both of you guys.
Gretel: (Laughing) We don’t want to introduce ourselves.
Hansel: Ok, we’re Hansel and Gretel from Germany.
Gretel: Yeah. Brother and sister, hiking together. So far we haven’t argued a lot. And we’re happy to be here, to have this experience – this opportunity.
Hansel: And meet lots of cool people.
Benjamin: I won’t make you do it anymore.
Benjamin: Good morning, it’s about 7:45 on Wednesday morning the 14th of August. We’re about 34 miles from Cascade Locks, which is the first town in Oregon. I’m walking with this guy Odie. Odie’s short for Outside Dog. He thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2013, and a couple years later started the Hiker Yearbook, which is a physical book that he produces kind of as an art project. And we just kind of have been going at the same pace so I’ve been walking with him for about 2 days. He is just a fascinating dude…
Benjamin: You can just record for however long you want.
Odie: Alright so the Hiker Yearbook is basically a high school yearbook except for it’s anyone who’s attempting to thru-hike or do big long sections. Everyone sends their real name, their trail name, and their email address or contact. So when you get home you can look up Twinkle Toes or Dirt Dauber and stay connected. They call me the keeper of the memories, which is pretty cool, but I’ve lived outdoors for 6 years on the Appalachian trail and the pacific crest trail doing this. I live in a school bus and I travel Georgia to Maine and then every year I travel out to Washington and hike Washington and Oregon and see everyone out here. But um… I love it. I’m a military veteran who didn’t adapt well (laughing). But yeah, hikeryearbook.com. It’s easy.
Julia: Sometimes it surprises me how social the trail is. Every person he passes is a new friend. And anyone who knows Benjamin knows that he’s really good at that. Making friends and building this strong sense of community. In fact, it’s so second nature to him that sometimes it feels like he has to make an effort to be on his own. To find some solitude. As much as he seems to love meeting friends on the trail, I think he also kinda likes those days when it’s just him, walking. Even when it gets tough.
Benjamin: Hey so to be honest this has been a bit of a difficult day. I mean – I’m happy and healthy, I’m just frickin tired. But amid my grumpiness, I came around a corner a few minutes ago and all of a sudden saw views of Mt. Hood, the Columbia River, and the Gorge and it was pretty gosh darn cool—ooh! There’s Cascade Locks! Look at that! You can see the town down there! Amazing! Fuck yeah. Wow, this is really pretty. Oh my god. It’s really pretty. Yeah, I’m on this like ridge kind of 3000 feet above the river and all that’s gonna go down tomorrow. Ok that’s all.
(Washington State Anthem)
Benjamin: I am about 100 yards away from Bridge of the Gods, trail crosses from WA to Oregon. I feel, for the first time on the trail, I’ll say I’m proud of myself. This is kinda the first benchmark. Shout out Jay Inslee. Shout out Washington. Shout out Seattle Storm. Go M’s. All the things I love. Let’s fucking go!
Julia: This is the most Benjamin way he could’ve crossed the border – shouting out to Jay Inslee and sports. But seriously – 500 miles is such a feat. In fact, I thought the occasion called for something a little different to end this episode.
Benjamin (on the phone): Hello?
Julia: Hey how’s it going?
Benjamin: Going well. How are you.
Julia: I called him because, in our family, we have a special way of celebrating milestones. You might do something like it – some kind of Roses, Thorns, and Buds or something like that – but the Lozano-Drachmans are strictly a high-low-huh family.
Julia: I was wondering if you have a high, low and huh for Washington?
Benjamin: Yeah I’ll do these off the cuff. So my “high” was the day after I – the day I saw you, Antoine and I were gonna stay another night but then we were like screw it, we’re going out! We’re leaving! So at like 6:00 at night we started the trail and we timed it perfectly to get to a ridge and right as the sun set behind Mt. Rainier and we were both just like, blown away. We both were simultaneously like top 5 views we’d ever seen. At that point we were actually east of rainier and it was setting behind Rainier in a fashion I had never seen before. The “low,” in a surprise to no one, was probably foot health. A lot of foot pain. Blisters. Speaking of which, I actually just got my first blister in about 100 miles. And then the “huh.” My “huh” was probably when you – when I heard in the very second or third episode that you made. When you said, “Benjamin said he wanted to get tougher but he’s learning to be gentle with himself.” I was like huh. That is really interesting. That stuck with me as one of my top 5 takeaways from the last few months. And I’m really glad you said that. I’m not sure if I would have appreciated that lesson had you not done this project, so I’m very grateful for that. That may or may not have happened in Washington, but it was about my time in Washington so I’ll allow that.
Julia: So, that’s Washington in a nutshell. The high: Sunset behind rainier. Low: Blisters. And the Huh: Learning to be gentle.
Julia (on the phone): Alright, I love you, brother. Talk to you later! Bye!
Julia: You’ve been listening to The Attempt, produced by me, Julia Drachman, with help from Doug Beyers. We are a production of Bad Cat Media, created in partnership with The Trek – a media company dedicated to thru-hiking and long distance backpacking enthusiasts. Find all the episodes of The Attempt at thetrek.co/the-attempt. You can find more information about Bad Cat Media on our website at badcat.media. You can also find photos and behind the scenes content on our instagram and twitter – we’re @badcat_media. The music you heard in this episode is mostly from Blue Dot Sessions. Thank you so much for listening – next episode will be out in a week.
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