Reflecting on Washington

As I sit in this cafe attached to the hostel I’m staying at in Portland, I’m crunching on a toasted everything bagel, sipping my black coffee, and the Chili Peppers jam on my headphones. I cannot help but to think back on the past month. Let’s rewind a bit to catch up, I haven’t written in a while so if these thoughts aren’t even close to coherent I sincerely apologize for wasting any time spent reading this nonsense.

Six months leading up to me leaving for the PCT was probably the craziest chapter of my life, to date at least. A side project, my third job at the time, turned into my own little business that sustained my life back home and also this hike I’m on. I never saw the results we achieved coming. I just wanted a new way to test myself. This blog post is about the hike and not the build up to it, so if you want to see how everything went down, check it out!

So much has happened in my life in just a month. June 22, we had our last (for now) pop up dinner. I moved out of the apartment and kitchen that I grew leaps and bounds in the following two days after, and I flew to Seattle the day after moving. I spent about six hours overnight walking around downtown Seattle because I got in around 1 AM. My train to Seattle was for 7:30 that morning so I did the touristy thing on foot all through the night. I can’t say I’d recommend doing this. I slept on the train all the way to Bellingham and from there I got four hitch hikes up the the PCT. One month from that train ride I crossed the Bridge of Gods into Oregon! As far as mileage goes I’m at 506/2,650.

The beginning of the PCT honestly rattled my nerves the first week or so. I’ve never been to the west coast, and certainly have never hiked on mountains like these. I never had any real experience with sketchy snow hiking. I did my research on self arresting and kick stepping but still, research only does so much when on a steep hill with serious consequences. I originally flew with my ice axe to Seattle but ended up sending it home in Bellingham after getting the current snow reports. I kept the microspikes, however. I used them when I probably didn’t need to and sent them home before I really needed them. I’m still here to tell the scary tales, though!

I knew the PCT was going to test me because I got rained on pretty much all day while hitching up to the mountains. The next day I got poured on right as I was setting up camp day one on trail. In July I had eight days of sunlight and was wet every other day. A couple locals told me since it was a below average snowfall this last winter, the rain is coming later due to the climate shift. To be told I essentially picked a really wet year to hike south did not make me feel any better while I was cold and wet. The silver lining was that if it was not so wet, there would probably have wildfire issues like the last couple years. I saw first hand how destructive those fires can be and am thankful now for the very rain I cursed at the time.

As I made my way south the mountains got less and less intense. I’d say the first four or five required the most attention to detail. Once snow faded, elevation gains and losses became my biggest challenge. We would climb up 4,000 ft, go down 3,000 ft, and then back up to 5,000 ft. Physically it wasn’t that intense but mentally it was exhausting.

It did not take long for me to find my routine once again out here. Generally I’m up early, around 5 or 5:30 AM. I like to get my miles in and if I have higher elevations to get to I like to get that done early as well. Mental focus breaks down over the course of the day and I’ve got to be sharp while going through the trickier parts. I’m in bed by six, usually, but I’ll make exceptions depending on the weather and how productive I was that day. Life goes on this way, everyday, and every few days I’ll take care of my chores like laundry, groceries, and showering.

It was refreshing to see the scenery start to change after us south bounders hit Goat Rocks, our grand finale to this very tough state. We hit Goat Rocks on the perfect day with perfect weather and from 7,100 ft we descended to 123 ft at Cascade Locks. I went from mountains that look like Everest to the jungle. It was fun to watch that scenery evolve over the course of a couple days.

In hindsight, I’m thankful for every single challenge Washington gave me. The relentless mosquitoes, the cold, the rain, the wet overgrowth, the snow, the fog, the falls, the obstacles, the pain, the ups, and the downs. I don’t like to hike long distances because it’s easy. I do it because it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I personally like to stretch my limits. Washington, you made me stronger and I’m extremely grateful for that!

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