Tell the ones that need to know, we are headed south..

It’s 7:30 A.M. on a cloudy morning in Stehekin, Washington. Maybe cloudy isn’t the right word. I’m trying to be optimistic. It’s actually just filled with smoke from yet another fire because… ’tis the season/year out here on the PCT! If it weren’t for the sore throat I woke up with, I would have thought that from inside this little bakery, we were about to get some rain. I would be spending the day this way if I were back home, too. It’s nice to notice the parallels of city and trail life, and how my desire to relax and write over coffee and breakfast remains strong. So here I am, half way between the trail and town, feeling comfortably well fed and rested. So, what better time to fill you in on the craziness of the past couple of weeks?

We got all the way up to Mount Shasta, a great town filled with crystal shops and a small population who believe aliens live in the mountains and that when clouds cover the peak, it’s just the energy of the earth charging them. Then there are the people who paint their doors purple and call themselves the “I am-ers” which, when I saw it on a book store front, thought it was a reference to Sylvia Plath’s famous line “I am. I am. I am.” Apparently not. They just…are. Or something. This local insight came to us from our tour guide, Tony, who reminded me of all the Tonys back home in New Jersey. He was a former ranger in the military and a retired cop who knows everyone in town and who kept us laughing at everything from the towns ideology to the fascination with mycology. Still, I was fascinated. I loved this place! The downside of Shasta? Well, it was full of smoke and learned that there were multiple fire closures just north on the trail.

It was a tough decision to make but ultimately, we decided that instead of alternating between hiking through smoke and hitching around the fires, we would find a way to the northern terminus where we could hike south from Canada. Hopefully, we thought, that’ll give the fires time to burn out. As us east-coasters have been informed time and time again, that’s apparently not how it works. In addition to our wishful thinking, the decision came from the frustration that our reasons for hiking would be lost. Hiking through smoke and around fires would take away from the experience of just being out in nature. It would take away from feeling strong and healthy. It would take away from my own soul searching. Constantly having to check our phones for fire updates or to post requests to the trail angel page sounded like the exact opposite of what my mind and body desired when I set out on this adventure. So… Let’s get to Canada, turn around, and see what happens!

Announcing this decision on social media resulted in the most hiker trashy responses imaginable, and I couldn’t have laughed any harder. Less people cared about our safety and more we’re just pumped we were going to #soboordie again. I was reminded of the 2016 southbound AT community and how funny it was to mock the hiker trolls and those who constantly doubted our ability. We haven’t really had that out here. When people warn us of the dangers in the Sierras and now with the fires, instead of a bunch of us casually saying “yeah but we’re South bounding, sooo….,” we have to just politely say “Yeah we heard… Thank you” and try to explain in a polite way why ‘No, we aren’t going to take your advice and just quit.’ In many ways over the past week, I feel like I’ve constantly been biting my tongue. Other times over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been spoiled endlessly with food and car rides.

SO! let’s get back to that! The trip up north!

Tony took us from Mount Shasta up to Ashland, and even stopped at the state line on the highway for an official welcome to Oregon. From there, Soulshine’s cousin met us at a brewery and then took us to a craft beer event before hosting us for the night. Soulshine’s mom then rented us a car and we drove to her hometown of Albany, where a BBQ was thrown together for all of us. The photo of us at the Oregon sign was printed out at her dad’s house and between the food and the turn out, you’d think this was a party that was planned for weeks. I can’t explain how comfortable we felt staying at her mom Patricia, and Dave’s place, either. Dave said he has read my blog and was complimenting my writing to Soulshine’s other family members in a way that I just could never confidently talk about it.. so Thanks, Dave! We were truly taken in as family, even if just for 12 hours before leaving for Seattle. We wound up stopping in Portland for dinner at a brewery (there’s a pattern here), and crashed at a friend’s AirBnB. The next day, we got to Seattle where, at that point, I was just exhausted and overwhelmed. I didn’t really want to be in a city. I knew I should be excited to discover a new place, but I just felt like there was too much energy and I had none left. After a few hours in Seattle at a (clears threat before admitting we visited another) tap room, we drove up to Philipide’s friend Matt’s place in Everett. After working the night shift at a hospital, Matt treated us to late night drinks and lunch the next day before drove us 4 hours up to Hart’s Pass before getting back for another work shift. Is this recap making you as exhausted to read as it is for me to write? Thought so. Here’s a photo break:

We were overwhelmed with generosity that exceeded the culture shock of the cities, and couldn’t be more thankful! Now, alas, we are back on trail! After the 30 mile hike to the northern terminus, we turned around and hiked 80 southbound miles thus far.

It’s been an adjustment: a beautiful and refreshing adjustment. In a way, it feels like the first few days of a new adventure. It’s a fresh start on a familiar path. New and breathtaking views on this same journey. Miles of climbing, sweating, ridge walking, and knee-pounding descents. A few thousand feet up and a couple thousand feet down. As I hike south, whether it be the mindset or the physical direction, I am seeing things in a new light. I feel free and full of reason. Washington makes me feel like I understand the drive behind my choices. This place has reminded me of why I love traveling by thru-hiking and how different it is from any other form of traveling that I’ve done before. I have been inspired to write and draw more frequently and it’s helped my energy while I hike. I doubt myself, scare myself, and trust myself all at the same time. I also feel that when writing about it, it is usually in this mindset and so you probably get the point.

As for the growing fires in southern Oregon and now Washington, who knows what will happen? The truth is nobody knows! But everybody thinks they know. We fly out of Seattle for a wedding in a couple of days and have a flight back on the 17th. Our plan is to keep on keeping on this beautiful journey until we reach a big stretch of fire closures. From there, we will just have to trust that things will unravel the way they’re supposed to. Washington, i love you. Southbounding, I love you. Keep on keepin on. Until next time…

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