Semi-Civilzation: Miles 200-300

Day #13

restraint, forced at first,

an affront to today’s goals,

but long-term tonic

Hiking your own hike is surprisingly difficult.

It’s a motto that sounds intuitive, a tautology even (who else’s hike could you hike?)  The reality is that external forces always stretch & shape what “your hike” ends up looking like.

Unintentionally, I’ve been cranking up the miles.  Maybe it’s the people I’ve been near; maybe the knowledge that at one time I was doing ~23 miles/day on the AT; maybe the vague threat of early snow in the Sierras.  I’ve been trying to make hay while the sun is high, but without the necessary training/buildup.

My feet hurt.  My back is chafed.  I take minimal breaks and still get in late.  And what for?

Yet sitting at the river for an hour feels like an affront.  Like I’m giving less than my best.  It feels intellectually unsatisfying.

It takes intentional retraining to not view pauses as a guilty pleasure.  A positive approach, though still problematic in its roots, is to view smaller miles as the key to bigger miles later on.

BrAdventure says, “don’t should all over yourself.”

Day #14

coffee & convo:

such a complement!  what else

could be the new norm?

In the fashion of yesterday’s multi-hour river rinse in the Waptus River, I saved today’s coffee packet for a midday brew.  The morning descent went through a sustained burn area with views of Chimney Rock & company.  After fording the Lemah River, I set up my stove and Dave, an east coast evangelical for “hike your own hike,” decided to do the same.

Dave is a hearty believer in naps, talking with fellow hikers, and attaching via paracord any lost-then-found items in a practice he calls “tying down.”  While I mixed squares of dark chocolate into my mocha, we mulled over topics like thru-hiker entitlement and the nuances of LNT ethics.  It was a good hour.

Buoyed by caffeine and an elated sense of self-control, I fairly skipped through the scree fields below Chikamin Peak.  There was an impromptu marmot photo shoot and fleeting glimpses of 3 mountain goats near Gravel Lake.

Day #15

time flows like water

into a sinking ship, it

was always too late.

Town days always move too quickly.  It is nearly impossible to be on-task and also relax, with the latter usually winning out.

The seven miles down to Snoqualmie Pass seemed to double as I dutifully allowed the hordes of day hikers the uphill right-of-way.  The one, the wonderful, the celestial Celeste brought Rachel & my stinky self back to her house to do town chores.  We mailed home our ice axes & microspikes, resupplied at Grocery Outlet, laundered & showered, and feasted on home-cooked food: all the town things!  The process was exhausting.

Celeste, her husband, and her son are all co-workers from the winter.  We taught at Crystal Mountain, which is ~2.5 miles off the PCT.  Celeste and Scott are aspiring thru-hikers with many miles of trail running already under their collective belts.

Between chatting, cleaning, and getting digitally organized it was far past hiker midnight by the time I got to bed and far later before I fell asleep.

Day #16

all-natural lie:

we condone our chronic flaws

out there is “true me.”

Today I thought about the escapist mentality embedded in the concept of wilderness.  

Specifically, I was considering a quote from William Cronon’s seminal essay “The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature.”  No quick summary can do this provocative piece justice; just read the thing yourself on  But the quote that kept repeating itself to me was the following: 

“By imagining that our true home is in the wilderness, we forgive ourselves the homes we actually inhabit.”

This bit builds on Cronon’s larger point about the artificial duality between civilization and nature, between the disease and the cure, when in fact all are inseparable and inexorably entwined.

I thought about how the same quote applies pretty well to certain serial thru-hikers.  By locating our “real” selves on the trail, it becomes possible to neglect the career and mental health of the “less-real” off-trail self.  When we emerge from the woods and find that little has changed, instead of solving the immediate problems we just start saving for the next thru.

Day #17

timeless hiker trash

shelter rats slugging screwball

murmur-buzzed dusk

First shelter of the trail!  Spent the night at Mike Ulrich Cabin.

The hills were hot and rolling today with many overgrown road crossings and one notable water carry.  I forgot my trekking poles at Celeste’s house and though I’ve honed my walking stick technique–I named it Tickler after the whipping cane in Great Expectations–it’s still far less efficient.  I used my X-Mid as a tarp last night, tying it to a tree; the setup was surprisingly functional.  I also lost the jade necklace I’ve worn for 4 years straight somewhere in town.  For a talisman like that, there’s no replacement.

Shelter life, even among strangers, is familiar.  There are the storytellers & chefs, singers & readers, smokers & swiggers.  It was a scene that felt far less out of place than it should have.  Sunset for once came early.

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