Since Monday I have been holed up in Winthrop, Washington, waiting for cold weather gear to arrive in the mail and for a window in the early winter storm. I am accompanied in a small hotel room by fellow hikers Cherub, Bad Seed, and El Jefe. It is too warm in the room and smells like armpit and crotch. Tarps and tents and sleeping bags and backpacks cover most of the floor. No four people ever were as tired and as tense. At least not these four.
Every day that has passed has found me more anxious, irritable, and uncertain. My head is spinning. The sensationalist news swirling the PCT grapevine (the PCT-L and the 2013 Facebook page) morphs and worsens hour by hour. Hikers with no way of contacting the outside world — because they are hiking in the mountains — are presumed missing or worse. Put simply, people are freaking out.
I ask the same questions of myself and get asked the same questions by others. Repeatedly. Have the answers changed? No. Are we looking for better answers? Yes.
We want to know for sure that we can walk 60 miles safely to the Canadian border. We want to know our hikes will be final — complete — the way we always imagined.
My hike was supposed to end today at the Canadian border. 2660 miles and 168 days on trail. It is my mother’s birthday and I wanted to celebrate that for her, rewarding her for raising me to never doubt that I could do absolutely anything I wanted. Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail has reassured me of that principle, and she has supported me so much along the way. In fact, today she wrote me:
Keep up your spirits! You’ve had LOTS of
snow experience, so I know you can do this.
Thank you Mom. I love you.
We are peparing to do what it takes to get there. I will share a tent with Cherub. Bad Seed and and Jefe will share a tent. We all have extra layers, extra food, snowshoes, and a realistic sense of what we’ll feel like and be able to accomplish. Specifically, we will feel miserably cold and wet, exhausted from lack of rest and sleep, and will only be able to make a fraction of the daily miles we are used to.
But we want to try.
Hikers are being told not to even try, that it is impossible. To ice the cake, fear-mongerers, ignoring the actual probabilities of such things happening, are warning of dangerous scenarios such as getting lost or tumbled in avalanches. Yes, bad things happen. But not to everybody all the time. Frankly, the fear-mongering is sad.
Did it ever occur to these people to suggest we not try to hike 2660 miles at all? The whole hike has been strenuous, if not dangerous on occasion.
People are astonished we would hike 2600 miles to get where we are. Why would hiking through snowy mountains for 60 miles be any more astonishing?
We want to try.
We want to try because we need to know for ourselves that we really couldn’t. If we can’t there will be huge disappointment, frustration, anger — grief.
But if we can, the forests near the Canadian border will echo with our screams of delight, and otherwise be quiet.
Despite blowing my PCT budget, I have continued to hike over 1000 miles. I’ve gotten by on a little trickle of income from my sewing pattern sales, by dipping into my “reintegration” budget, and from several donations from friends. If you can help at this point with even just a dollar, it would take a lot of worry weight off my shoulders. Extra unbudgeted days off trail and winter gear costs (I bought snowshoes for Cherub and I, and layers of clothing) add up. One part of me is ashamed to ask, but the other part is pragmatic. Also, I offer you my daily PCT photo journal, and the promise that I will send you a small, utilitarian gift in thanks.
For a really good idea of what the trail looked like yesterday, check out Toots McGoot’s excellent blog post. THAT is where I am going for a leisurely and fun snow hike tomorrow. :)