The story of the amazing returning cat.

11/26/2012 (Jen’s bday) – Minneapolis, MN

Hello my beloved readers, all two of you ūüôā

Boy, do I have a story for you today! (You can skip the preface by scrolling down to Fall 2006)

Preface – Last I wrote I said that I would be following my heart in all things and see where it took me. I was true to my words. From Bellingham, I left for Livingston, Montana, and house-sat for my friend Jim for a week and half. That week and a half was a journey in itself. I simultaneously experienced the equivalent of a childhood summer vacation (sleep late, watch movies, read books, take baths, walk around … nothing to do but what I wanted to do at any moment – wonderful!) and a fast-track spiritual mind-expansion (this happened last time I house-sat for Jim as well. I think his house is built on a special energetic vortex). But this isn’t the story I am writing today. From there, I drove to Minneapolis, via Rapids city, the Badlands, and back to Rapids city because I had forgotten my pillow there. When I got to Jen’s house, the Arthur Ave house in which I lived when I was writing my Master’s thesis two winters ago, I decided to stop and stay. It’s a good house, with great people, and I feel good in it.

There is, however, a man I love. After being gone all year (India, then the PCT) and having not spoken to him in 7 months, we fell back in each other’s lives. So, here was the situation as of this morning: I could go to Bellingham and be with him, I could go to India and find some assistant work with my Yoga teacher from the teacher training I did earlier this year, I could go to Thailand for an¬†advanced Yoga teacher training, I could go back to school and study energetics, I could become a barista in Bozeman and have a fun winter of ice climbing in a new place, I could stay in Minnesota, I could write a book, I could … There are times in your life when the future is so wide open that the only thing you can do is nothing. You can only sit on the shore of a sea of options in a state of trust that the most propitious current will make itself known, eventually. That’s what I did. My only job here was to keep an open mind, an open heart and watch for opening doors, knowing that any introspective time is followed by a time of action, and that I prefer to wait until I know in which direction to leap. But that was not counting the odd option out, that option I just could not have imagined in a million years. That is the story I am telling you today.

Fall 2006 – I was on a hike to Fragrance Lake with my friend Mike when a little black and white feral kitten came out of nowhere and straight to me. He sat at my feet, looked up and meowed. I am not typically a pet-person, so I don’t know why he came to me, but he was¬†insistent¬†and assertive. When I picked him up, he started to purr very loudly, so I took him home. Smaug was a good addition to our home. Chuck took care of all his basic needs, food, etc., and I tormented him as a sibling-cat would. I always admired him; he was fearless, loving and¬†independent. He could hunt his own food, chase a full grown¬†raccoon¬†three times his size, catch a bird in flight 7 feet off the ground in one paw swipe, and find the most¬†inopportune time to lay on me, my computer or my book¬†. As soon as he was grown enough, he ruled the neighborhood. He obviously lived with us by choice, not because he needed anything from us.

Summer 2007 – One day, Smaug left. He was gone all summer and we figured he finally had met his match in a raccoon or other large animal. He never seemed to have much concept of his own small size; it was entirely conceivable that he had taken on more than he could chew to his demise. Summer passed. Fall started. One night Chuck said, “You know, he’s been gone three months, I just don’t think he’s coming back. I’ll take the cat door down” . That same night, some wild meowing happened at the back door. Smaug had returned. He looked like Skeletor, but he had a lot of energy. He came into the house, followed us around and meowed fervently for several hours. He had always been a quiet cat so this was unusual behavior for him. We figured he had many stories to share, “… then there was the time under the bridge … then there was the time with the raccoon … then there was the time …”

Winter 2009 – Chuck and I decided that it was best if we parted ways. Since he was moving to a house and had a job and I was about to embark on what has since been a nomadic life, roaming half-aimlessly and intermittently living in my truck, it made more sense for Chuck to have Smaug. I didn’t want the¬†responsibility. Chuck and Smaug moved to Seattle. I visited once, but Smaug only gave me the cold shoulder and pretended he didn’t know me (Chuck though was very nice). Then Chuck and Smaug moved to Longmont, Colorado (which involved having the cat sedated because he hated being in a cage in a car). Wherever they went, Smaug adapted well, caught prey, brought them home,¬†terrorized¬†the neighborhood, and napped and purred on Chuck’s lap. Then, one summer day, two years ago, Smaug left again. He had left once before, so Chuck didn’t worry. It seems summer infuses that cat with an extra need for roaming, to which we both can relate. Months passed, then years passed. Eventually, Chuck got a new job in Seattle and moved back west, but without a cat.

Summer to fall 2012 – I talked about Smaug a lot on the trail, a lot more than would be normal, I think, for a person to talk about a cat that she didn’t keep when she had the choice and who was likely dead at the fangs of some Coloradan predator. I wished a cat would find me on the trail as Smaug had. After the trail, I drove my friend Threshold to Breitenbush hot springs and stayed with one of her friends who worked there. In the house was a Smaug-cat. His name was Mr. Pickles; he looked just like Smaug. He was fierce, outdoorsy and liked to lay on my chest when I was trying to read exactly in the same way Smaug did. That made me sad. I started to cry a little bit and Mr. Pickles gently extended his paw with claws retracted and petted me on the cheek. He understood. Unfortunately, Mr. Pickles’ owner was very fond of him and wouldn’t let me take him away, though I asked. I started thinking that if I stayed in the US (instead of going to India or Thailand), I’d get a cat. Really though, I didn’t want ‘a’ cat, I wanted MY cat.

Today – This morning, I was walking along the Mississippi River trying NOT to ponder the many decisions cropping up in my mind – do I stay here? do I drive to¬†Bellingham? If yes, when? etc. -. I said “Universe, I just need a sign. Show me what I need to do next. Oh, and clearly too, because you know I don’t get subtle messages. Thank you.” Not sooner had I uttered this little request that my phone rang. “Hi, this is the Longmont Animal Shelter. We have your cat …” I called Chuck. “You know why I’m calling you?”, “Yes, That Damn Cat showed up (we used to affectionately call him TDC – That Damn Cat – so he wouldn’t know we were talking about him) after being gone for two years!” I told Chuck I’d take him. Chuck said he would too, but that he couldn’t go get him because of his work in Seattle. I, however, am just roaming anyway. So, that’s what I’m doing … I’m driving to Colorado tomorrow (Jen’s birthday is tonight and I want to stay for that), getting my cat from the Longmont Animal Shelter and visiting with CO friends, then driving back to¬†Bellingham¬†where I will likely stay put for a while because in addition to a loved one, I now have a cat.

So, that’s the story of the amazing returning cat. The Animal Shelter people said he looks dirty but healthy and that our story just made their year so that they will try to cut the retrieval and mandatory¬†vaccine¬†fees to a minimum to help us out. They also said that he seems “grumpy about being in a cage” (big surprise) but that his ears perk up when they call him Smaug. Oh, and they sent me a photo:

Ha ha! He does look grumpy.

I leave Minneapolis tomorrow, after having breakfast with my best trail-friend LB (Last on the bus). I’ll be in Colorado in two days. And … Leap!

XOX.

The Roaming Bobcat.

Ten lessons from the trail

My good friends Northstar and Shutterbug recently posted “Five lessons from the Trail“. I loved their post. The content rang exactly true for me. Inspired by their example I decided to add a few of my own.

First, here are the first five (by Northstar and Shutterbug):
http://wanderingthewild.com/2012/11/12/five-lessons-from-the-trail/

Senses awaken in nature. People are good. Hike your own hike. Fewer possessions is freeing.  Wilderness is home. 

To these I would like to add …

Joy is our natural state. On the trail life is reduced to its most basic necessities: water, food, sleep, shelter, safety from the elements and natural beauty. Because our minds are freed from having to handle what Northstar and Shutterbug call the constant jumble of sensory information, we are open to tackle deeper and deeper levels of thought. Because the trail is so long, at some point we run out of things to ponder, analyze, consider or solve. When that happens, the void that is left seems to immediately be filled with a sense of joy and peace. So, at our most basic level, underneath it all, this must be our natural state.

Life is a mirror (you get what you give). I have experienced this more than once on the trail: If I approach the road in a joyful and optimist state, I wait for a hitch less than five minutes; if I approach it with a bad attitude, it will be a long while before I get picked up. The kindness and generosity we received as hikers I believe is in direct correlation to our own state of open-mindedness. The opposite is true also. Fear attracts scary situation. People who feared bears had bear encounters. I started the trail worried about poisonous plants and managed to get poison oak on one leg and poodle-dog-bush on the other. When I became grateful for the cortisone cream two generous hikers gave me, the oozy mess cleared up over night.

All you need is love and gratitude.¬†Somewhere in the first few hundred miles of the trail, I became so frustrated with my UV water purifier and so jacked up on iodine that I stopped using any sort of water treatment. Instead, I held the water to my heart and told it, sincerely, “I love you, please don’t make me sick, thank you”. If you have read some of my previous posts, you know that the method proved excellent the whole trail, including with that one batch of “bear pooh water” (see “I believe in angels”). Inspired by my success, I also used this method as sunscreen (I love you Sun, please don’t burn me, thank you), bug-repellent (I love you spider, please stay off my tarp, thank you) and holographic deck (I love you trail, could I get a shady spot, mosquito free, by some water, thank you). Seriously, it works. Try it for yourself.

Freedom is an intrinsic quality. Before I left, a good friend told me that the PCT would likely be the one place where I could find enough space to¬†accommodate¬†my humongous need for freedom. All former thru-hikers I have met mention “freedom” as the greatest gift they received from the trail. All that fresh air, clean water and open space seeps into your soul and sticks. I think freedom is always in us, but sometimes our vision of it is clouded. Once we touch that quality within us, it remains wherever the end of the trail finds us. Some of us continue to wander, travel, explore or hike; others return to former lives and jobs from an expanded perspective. In all cases, you can take the hiker off the trail, but not the trail out of the hiker.

Laugh it off.¬†Never mind great truths and life-changing discoveries; we know nothing. Any labeled identity we create for ourselves will be destroyed as soon as it’s uttered. I once wrote on this website that my feet hurt, the next day my feet stopped hurting. I once wrote that I preferred solitude, the next day I found myself ¬†hiking with a small group of fun people and loving it. I once was very upset at the thought of no-longer being a “thru-hiker”. I think we all feel that way. That is in part why we seek the company of other thru-hikers post-trail.¬†Am I still a hiker if I’m not hiking? Who cares! Each experience is worth its weight in gold. I think it’s important to not take ourselves too seriously and as Dacia so eloquently put, to get out of our own way, learn to surf the wave, revel in the power of it, and let it all come together.


I love you thru-hikers, thank you for the experience.
I love you readers, please forgive my many typos and grammatical errors, thank you!
XO. TheBobcat

Flow: An interview with TheBobcat

We join The Bobcat on this rainy Halloween for a status update and reality check. A jasmine tea brewing, Railroad Ave as weird as we had left it, laptop is plugged and ready. Let’s catch up …

Good morning Bobcat, it has been a while since you last wrote and some of your readers might be wondering about your whereabouts. How is your post-PCT reintegration into real life going? 

Well, Bobcat, since I am both asking the questions and answering them, this might be a bit of a redundant interview, but as you know, I am not reintegrating.

You mean you are resisting reintegration? 

No, I mean I don’t believe in “reintegration”. Reintegration implies that the trail was an adventure outside of what you just called “real life” rather than an integral part of it. I think some people might feel this way because on the trail a certain flow is established that seems¬†unnatural, almost magical. This is reflected in the terminology. On the trail we speak of Trail Magic when our needs are fulfilled effortlessly, of Trail Angels when strangers show us kindness and so forth. I believe that the magical quality of the trail is actually a quality intrinsic to life, it’s just that on the trail people expect it and are therefore more attuned to it. Even pragmatic hikers who argue vehemently that magic doesn’t exist believe in trail magic; I had the pleasure of meeting one of those hikers. So, rather than “reintegration” to some separate, less magical reality, I am living my post-trail life as an extension of my trail life.

Mmh. Interesting. So, what does “living a trail life” actually mean in the day to day?¬†

The basic premise is a blind trust that all is well, all is as it should be, I am always exactly where I am supposed to be and the Universe is benevolent and loving in all situations.

It seems if all is always well and you are always exactly where you are supposed to be that you easily could be stuck somewhere. Wouldn’t you lack motivation to grow and explore if you are always content with where you are?¬†

If that were the case, I would not be The Roaming Bobcat, now would I? One aspect of trail life is to follow one’s heart. This is a cat with many names; anything from God, Allah,¬†Jehovah, Inner-voice, HigherSelf, Intuition, etc. We actually know what we need, even when we don’t know that we know. If it were right for me, I would feel great joy at staying put, but as it is, my own heart, in recent times (everything always changes, including this sentence), has found its greatest joy in random meanderings.

I see we are going to have one of those “higher” conversations this morning. Would you take it down a notch and give us some examples?¬†

Sure. You want specifics … While I was on the trail, I really longed to be back in Bellingham. I felt it was my home. I even passed on applying for a park ranger job in Death Valley, which had my name all over it, to return to Bellingham. When I pulled into Bellingham the day after finishing the trail, however, I felt a clear pull to continue on south. Despite numerous reasonable reasons to stay in Bellingham, I got in my truck and drove to Portland. Many times on the trail I felt that my heart was inadequately small to hold the magnitude of joy I felt. This is how I felt on the drive down to Portland. I was moving to Portland to become a yoga instructor there and felt absolutely sure that it was the right move.

But that’s not what happened?¬†

No, as indicated by my presence here, that is not what happened then. I had a lovely week in Portland with my friend Weathercarrot, but at no point did I feel a drive or excitement for yoga job searching of any kind. I resisted the urge to judge myself for this, even after balancing my checkbook and discovering that my credit card was maxed out. The trail cost me a lot more than I had anticipated.

This doesn’t sound like a “need fulfilled” sort of situation …

Our lower earth-bound-selves, or ego, are not in a position to judge what needs are fulfilled in most situations. The fact that I had no money was the perfect backdrop to test out my hypothesis that my needs would be fulfilled without any pain on my part if I just believe they would. I am not very receptive to¬†subtleties¬† and the Universe knows this, because I am of It (Its creation, you might say, though that is only a pale reflection of the bigger picture), so it is easier for me to see the inner-workings of the Universe in contrast to a dire financial situation, if that makes sense. I’d like to return to the topic of money later, but let me tell you what happened next.

You got money? 

Yes, I did. A friend of mine from the trail,¬†Siddhartha¬† got a job near Ashland and asked me if I could cat-sit for him for a week. This was a blessing ¬†because the day I was to start cat-sitting was the day Weathercarrot was flying out leaving me without a place to stay in Portland. At the last minute, however, Siddhartha got a job in Portland and no longer needed a cat-sitter. As a joke, I texted him “can I have your job down south then?”. He answered “let me check”. A few minutes later, I got a text from another trail friend, Threshold, saying “You are in. We leave in half an hour”. And that is how I got a job working on an organic farm near Ashland. That made me giggle, a lot. I drove overnight south and started work at 8 am the next morning. It was so different than anything I had ever done. I loved working with the plants. I loved the people, the landscape, the long crazy physically hard days (from 12-15 hours a day; our longest day was 17 hours). It also paid pretty well. I worked at four different farms while I was down there. Food and lodging was covered, so any money I made went straight to my truck’s glove-box (I had no pocket). I was there for about three weeks. Just about when my back could no longer take the work, Threshold said she needed a ride to the Breitenbush Hot Springs, where a friend of hers worked. I was the only of the transient employees with a vehicle, so I drove her there. Soaking in hot springs was exactly what I needed, especially for free. As an extra present from the Universe, the day after we got there, an advanced acro-yoga class started. I was told that it is almost impossible for staff guests to get into classes, but I don’t believe in ‘impossible’ or ‘almost impossible’, so I got in the class effortlessly. I suppose it would have been fun, but when I woke up the next morning, I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt in my heart that I was moving on from there.

How did you know?

I could feel that immense joy invade my heart at the thought of getting back in my truck and heading north.

But you missed out on staying for free at a very expensive resort and doing a serendipitous acro-yoga class …¬†

I could answer this on several levels. At the most basic physical level, I think it was wise of me to not subject my body to the rigorous workout that a week of advanced acro-yoga demands. Working on the farm did a number on my back. On the highest level, I would say, there are no rules and who cares. If I feel more joy by leaving than staying, then why stay? This falls under the “if it ain’t fun, don’t do it” rule – with the caveat that there are actually no rules, not even that one. Again, everything changes. Still, as a starting point, following the fun is a good rule.

Okay, so you drove north with some cash and a broken back. But you don’t have enough to cover your credit card debt and you are still not looking for work. So, how is THAT helping with your needs?¬†

Money will come to me, in a form or another. I think that free-will really only applies to the world of form. I mean, we create our own reality with our conscious and unconscious intents and as a reflection of the energy we put out, but the higher Self underlying needs are still fulfilled. We choose the question, not the questioning.

Whatever that means, mumbo-jumbo-hippy-girl … I guess your readers can see that super-hippy new leather-patch coat you found in a free box you’re wearing. You look like a caricature.¬†

I am quite pleased with the free coat, yes, thank you for noticing :-). What I mean is that nothing matters. I will not be financially broke because I do not dwell in “financially broke” energy. I live generously and the Universe matches me. If I return south and work some more at the farm, my credit card debt will be taken care of, if I drive away from the known source of income, my underlying energy remains, so necessarily the Universe aligns itself to match my energy. I think that is what “manifesting” essentially is, but I don’t claim to know how it works. I’m just experimenting, as I said earlier. And it could all fail, and I could go broke, and that’s fine. I’ll keep on assuming things work out until proven otherwise.

So if you are not working at the farm, what money-making activity will you engage in up north? 

I don’t know. That’s the beauty of it. I have been working very hard at “not creating”. It’s pretty obvious to me that I always get what I wish for, so I am trying not to wish. I feel that way the Universe has free reign, unbound by my potentially misguided earthly wishes. I am bypassing the “be careful what you wish for, you might get it” energy.

And how is this working out for you? 

Not so well, actually. It turns out my brain is a mad wishing machine. I have 100 dreams a minute. The less I know where I am going and what I am doing, the more I come up with plans to fill the void.

But isnt’ you forcing a void a form of resistance? Shouldn’t you accept the fact that you have dreams and plans and wishes?¬†

Maybe. As I said, I’m experimenting. I don’t really know how it works. All I know is that I wake up everyday with peace and gratitude in my heart. Maybe dreams, wishes and plans are like thoughts, they should be observed but not taken to be absolute truths. Or maybe our conscious dreams are irrelevant, our higher-Selves dreams are those being fulfilled, and those are never wrong. Or maybe I’m just a hippy in a leather-patch 70s jacket with a giant tear on the back arm. It’s all good. I’m exactly where I am supposed to be, wearing exactly the jacket I am supposed to wear.

And this perfect life, do you plan on continuing living it solo or are you looking for a life-mate, or do you already have someone in heart already? Some of your readers have been wondering and trying to find clues to your love life in between the lines. 

Ah, yeah … Oh, look at the time! I’m supposed to go meet Megan 30 minutes ago. Sorry, that’s all I have time for. It was nice chatting with you. Thank you, readers, for putting up with my randomness. Love to you. More soon …

I believe in Angels

I have a dream, a song to sing
To help me cope with anything
If you see the wonder of a fairy tale
You can take the future even if you fail
I believe in angels
Something good in everything I see
I believe in angels
When I know the time is right for me
I’ll cross the stream – I have a dream

– Abba – “I believe in angels” –
Song stuck in my head for most of Washington thanks to my friend Margaret.

I have told you about the steep hills of Washington, and about my almost extraordinary night-time 40 mile adventure, but these were really just sidelines to my Washington experience; Washington was actually all about my angels.

I am blessed with amazing friendships (not to be confused with French hips). As I got within driving range of home, they all came out of the¬†woodwork¬†(Woodwork, you know, just west of Steven’s Pass) to spoil me rotten. Here they are, in order of appearance:

Mile 2155 – Cascade Locks – Bridge of the Gods, border between Oregon and Washington.
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I have several angels to thank right around there.

I’ll start with the beautiful Ana Sofia, my soul twin. Ana picked me up at the Timberline lodge on Hood, not Cascade Locks, but her impact lingered, so I will include her here. Ana drove me to Portland, got me and all my clothes cleaned, took me on a civilization¬†reintroduction tour, which included wonderful fancy restaurants, deserts and more deserts, then released me to Dacia in the afternoon (see Reintroduction Inoculation story). That day with Ana, I felt out of place in the off-trail world and maybe also resentful about my sudden loss of super-hero status. I have heard stories of besties falling apart after one of the friends hikes the trail. Nope, not us. A few nights later, we talked about the visit and its weird vibe. We would have been fine without the talk, but I think we both benefited from it. I know for my part I needed the feedback. I am not a thru-hiker any more than I am a geologist, a yoga instructor, or even Melissa TheBobcat Park. I am Nothing. These roles I step into are merely that, roles I play in the world for the purpose of learning, growing, awakening. I think it is much easier for people who dislike who they play in the world to operate from a higher plane. I just love who I play so much, I get sucked into the role – like when Val Kilmer couldn’t let go of his Jim Morrison persona after he played in The Doors. The greatest gift Ana gives me is to set me straight when I need straightening. We all need a ball-busting angel sometime. The second greatest gift Ana gives me, on a continuous basis, is rescue from anywhere anytime. It’s like having my own personal AAA. When I needed a ride to the airport to get on the trail, she took a day off, drove up to Bellingham to pick me up and back all the way down to the airport. When all my maps got soaked in the one of three rains we had, she reprinted and overnighted me the whole set. This list could go on for such a while that you’d probably fall asleep. Just know this: Ana is amazing.

In Cascade Locks also, my thanks go to Anne and Del. My God I was tired when I got to their house! They gave me precisely the combination of space and company I needed. I enjoyed getting a computer to myself for a whole day, and being able to nap without time restrictions, but I did spend a lot of time alone on the trail, so I equally loved chilling out on their back¬†porch, catching up on life adventures (they have just returned from living in Dubai for a few years) and day-dreaming of next adventures. I can’t wait to see them again … it’s in the works.

Weathercarrot was my third Cascade Locks angel. He came from Portland to share with me a border crossing on my 42nd birthday. We hadn’t hiked together since before Etna in northern California, and it was fun to fall in step again and engage in mind-boggling conversations. Although I think Weathercarrot is the bee’s meow (and the cat’s knees), even when we “hiked together” we rarely actually hiked together. We quickly figured out that we shared a fierce¬†independence and¬†stubbornness¬†about hiking our own hike. We understood and respected each other’s need for space. After he left the trail I indulged in the most delicious lonesome selfish hike ever. In turn, this made the occasional visit or phone call feel like a great trail treat. Weathercarrot, who has hiked over 20,000 miles – I was with him when he crossed the mark, and I sang him a “happy 20,000 miles” song -, says that at the beginning of any thru-hike you know that you are on the brink of meeting amazing, exceptional, fascinating people, you just don’t know who they are or in what way they will be fantastic yet. He definitely ranks as one of my top finds for this first thru-hike.

Mile 2303 – White Pass, WA
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There was magic at White Pass. In hiker’s speak that means that there was a tent setup at the pass with free food and drinks. The trail angels there, Mother Goose and Lost and Found, had vegetarian chili, fried¬†zucchini¬†bread and cookies for weary hikers coming out of Goat Rocks. In addition to this “public” magic, I had my own trail Angel – none else than the famous pilot and photographer John Scurlock. In order to meet with me, John drove all the way down to White Pass. On the way, he stopped and bought so much food for my ressuply that he probably could have resupplied ten hikers for all of Washington. He set up a tarp on the ground in the parking lot at the pass and literally covered it with food. When I told him “John, you went food-crazy!”, he replied “I just wanted you to have choices”. I have ressuplied at grocery stores that had far less choice than what John had mustered up in his little car.

John also was my Canadian Angel. He took a day off to drive up to Manning Park and get me and Deborah (BlueGirl) back to the USA. I was glad that John was our ride back. I alternated between the joy of being done, the¬†excitement¬†of the next adventure and a deep sadness at the loss of my trail, my trail friends, my open space, my silence, my trail lifestyle. I know they aren’t lost completely – they live in me -, but there are just things I might not get to do again for a while, like eating a half-gallon of ice cream sitting on the sidewalk in front of a gas station in the middle of no-where. Those were the thoughts that made me cry. John understood because he was a PCT hiker once himself, 39 years ago, and that made me feel better.

Mile 2402 – Snowqualmie Pass, WA
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By the time I got to Snowqualmie Pass, I really felt home. I used to live right down the hill from the pass and I have been up in that area and on all the trails around it extensively, though never on the PCT. My friend Margaret kidnapped me right off the pass. She hiked in a few miles to meet me and I loved that she did that. It was like being met “in my world”, a much gentler extraction than when I have to hitch to town or meet people at trailheads. I am a frequent guest of Margaret and Steve’s living room floor. They have taken me in on my way to and from the strangest adventures. The best part about staying there is that the spoiling is highly customized. When I am there, I get to drink my favorite tea in my favorite mug, Steve cooks exactly the meal I have been craving and Margaret supplements it with a full bowl of spinach (“Wow did you know I was craving spinach?” – “You ALWAYS crave spinach” – I guess that’s true). Their attention to details about my preferences is remarkable. I sometimes feel they know me better than I know myself.

In addition to being one of my best friends and an exemplary angel, Margaret was also my resupply person for the whole trail, i.e. the person who was burdened with storing all the crap I no longer wanted to carry on the trail but couldn’t bring myself to throw away so I just sent it home, the person whom I called whenever I needed something that I didn’t have time to find myself (new earphones, my passport, an emergency $100 when I lost my credit card, an ipod filled with fresh songs, etc.), ¬†the person who kept an eye on my bills and paid them when they became overdue and I was out of reach (I’m all caught up now), basically the person who took care of all my off-trail affairs. She did so with gusto too. Any box I received had something meaningful to us but so quirky that it would be sure to have the post-master raise an eyebrow. I kept a lot of the boxes, they live in the back of my truck now and hold gear. When Margaret and I first met, we tried very hard not to be friends. I no longer remember why we did that, but that plan was an epic fail.

Mile 2595 – Rainy Pass, WA
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“2646 – that means nothing to me!!” … oh Deborah, my beloved BlueGirl. Deb’s timing for joining me was impeccable. I was just at the point where I ‘didn’t want to anymore’, and here was this ray of sunshine and enthusiasm to help me along. That is what she had signed up for. She told me about a year before I even got on the trail that she would walk the last section with me. The reasoning was that the weather would be ugly (fall in the Cascades) and I would need a cheerleader/ moral supporter to help me get to Canada. The weather turned out fantastic, but Deborah’s company was no less precious to me. She saw the trail with fresh eyes, got excited about vistas I was no longer noticing, and she did push me up that last hill after I stopped and flat out refused to climb up any more hills when the map showed an all-the-way downhill to Manning Park, BC, our final destination. Deborah made the trail fun again. We have a well established banter routine that amused us and other hikers. We didn’t lack in material to tease each other … everyday was filled with silliness. Here is a few choice stories of our four days together:

On day two, Deb discovered that I had no water-filter. She had assumed I’d have one. She didn’t know that for the whole trail my water-purification technique has been to hold the water to my heart, tell it that I love it and ask it to please not make me sick. So, on day two, there I was demonstrating the safety and effectiveness of my technique by scooping water straight off a little waterfall and drinking it in place. After about a quarter of the bottle, Deb said “Is that a big pile of bear vomit up there?”. I looked up and right in the path of my water source was indeed a big pile of something that looked like bear vomit. I stopped drinking with a look of stupefaction and sprayed out anything still in my mouth. It turned out to be bear poo, not vomit, and my love-purification technique worked just fine for me, even in the face of drinking obvious bear-poo-water, but I didn’t live down the bear-vomit-water incident for the rest of the trail.

On day three, we met a hiker we both thought was very handsome by the name of Gondo. I’m sorry Deb, yeah, I’m about to tell the Gondo story :-). Later that day, Northstar and Shutterbug asked us if we remembered the name of the man at the trail magic. Deb, in an effort to remember, said “G-g-g-g-g-g …”, to which I answered, “no Deb, that’s the sound WE make when we see him”. After that, all we had to do was mention G-g-g-g-g-gondo and we’d both laugh¬†hysterically.

On day four, in the late afternoon, Deb and I got tired and irritable from too much walking, hunger and maybe slight dehydration. On the last hill before camp, Deb turned around and asked me how far the water was from camp, but since the water was at camp, her question confused me. Finally, I caught the part of her question about the location of the next water. My answer was “2646”. Now, any thru-hiker would have known that I meant mile 2646, counting from Mexico, which is how water sources are cataloged on the maps we almost all carry. But if you are not a thru-hiker, you might have Deborah’s reaction, “2646? That means nothing to me! Never mind!!” and walk on. That one was funniest after the fact, but then it was very funny.

It was such a treat to have a best friend on the trail. After only four days we had so many inside jokes that every break was an opportunity to laugh. It made me regret having done so much of the trail solo, but I got what I wanted in the end. I just think that I might consider hiking with others more on subsequent thru-hikes, and if ever Deborah can join me … she would be my top choice. BEST hiking partner ever!

————–

That’s all. This wraps up the PCT 2012 stories.

Thank you so much to all my readers for visiting and reading and commenting. I started the trail with a giant thirst for open spaces, freedom, solitude, walking. I feel I am now fully satiated on all fronts. I hope that the stories I wrote represented my states of mind and the trail accurately. This is the end of the PCT stories, but not the end of the adventure. My life is a crazy continuum … so keep this link. There’s more to come! ūüôā

Thank you trail for taking such good care of me. I love you!

Love to you all too.

XOX – TheBobcat.

My 40-mile day, or how to shake off trail blues

I really felt there was kryptonite in the trail for most of Washington depriving me of my walking super-powers. For hundreds of miles I struggled to get even 20 miles a day. I was contemplating calling Deborah to tell her I would be late to our Rainy Pass meeting when a sudden last burst of energy kicked in. On that last day before Stehekin, I woke up feeling I had a lot of “walking” in me. I wasn’t planning on doing a 40; I just felt like walking fast and far. From my camp below Mica Lake, on the flanks of Glacier Peak, I went down about 1500 feet, back up 3000 feet, down 3700 feet and back up another 4000 feet (so, I had climbed the equivalent of Baker from Sandy camp twice that day before dinner). I stopped at the Suiattle Pass and ate a snack bathed in the golden light of a spectacular sunset over Glacier Peak. That’s when the idea first sprouted. I had already hiked 30 miles, I could just keep on going and do my first 40. It seemed fitting, this was my last full solo hiking day. I could have a grand finish. The next day would be a half day into Stehekin, then another shorter (19 miles) day to Rainy pass, then Deborah would be with me.

That 40 miler was one of the most fun adventures I had the whole trail. It took me another five hours to complete the 40 from Suiattle¬†Pass. I crossed giant boulder fields in the dark,¬†negotiated¬†slippery terrain that glowed silvery in the full moon and relished the clear starry sky. To my right, a moon-backlit cloud flowed over the jagged dark outline of a peak like an ethereal wave. To my left, the interplay of light and dark shadow on the trees bark made them look alive. My friend Ninja¬†believes¬†that trees are mostly asleep during the day and awake at night, when they watch us go by. That is exactly what it felt like. I was walking under the curious eye of the entire forest. The vibe was neither one of¬†approval nor one of disapproval. Curiosity is probably too strong of a word. The trees don’t really care, I think, that we walk among them, but they do notice us in a non-interfering kinda way. As the night got deeper, I had an increasing sense of conclusion to my PCT journey. This was the last stand of a vision quest, a five and a half month vision quest. Had I learned what I had set out to learn? I thought I might be granted a vision, maybe a totem animal to represent my growth progress. I suddenly remembered I was hiking alone in the dark and asked the Universe, aloud, that if a totem animal was to appear, to please have it be nothing large or scary. No sooner had I finished asking that a golden salamander appeared in my head-lamp. It looked exactly like my tattoo. I took a few more steps and found a golden toad, the same size at the salamander. I¬†believe¬†omens and totems always come in three, so I was expecting another small lovely golden animal. It took another half hour before I encountered the third animal.

I came around the corner on a very steep part of the trail to find my way completely blocked by a very large fully spiked-out porcupine. I was startled. My heart was beating so loudly that for a moment I couldn’t think straight. My first reflex was to turn to the full moon and ask “Moon, what do I do!?” It didn’t answer, or maybe it did … right after asking I began singing a Harry Belafonte song to the porcupine. Something about being sad to leave Jamaica. It made sense then, I promise. I am not sure how it affected the porcupine, but singing calmed me instantly. I extended my pole (That) to see if I could¬†persuade¬†it to move off the trail and let me by. It thrashed its tail violently at my pole and lodged several quills deep into the rubber on the tip. I was glad that wasn’t any of my body parts. I saved the quills. It took another fifteen minutes of pole probing and singing before the trail¬†widened enough to allow me to run on by. By then it was almost midnight.

A little while later, I noticed that I was not very stable in my steps. I think by a combination of too few snacks and water-breaks and too many miles walked by the fading light of my head-lamp had left me dizzy. In this state of wobbliness, I came upon a wide wild river. The only bridge was completely destroyed and unusable. I could have slept there and¬†negotiated the crossing with fresh legs in the morning, but no, instead, I found a log a hundred feet or so downstream and decided to cross it. I climbed over the roots and talked out loud to myself before letting go of the safety of this natural vegetation belay. I said “Riiight, so I am about to cross over a raging river on a slippery log, in the dark, on unstable legs, and absolutely no-one knows where I am.” That made me laugh. In fact, I hadn’t felt this alive in a long while. I could probably write a 2000+ word post about how living close to danger makes me feel more alive, but I want to get to the end of this post here, so maybe some other time … I took three full yogic breaths (Sequoia would have been proud of me) and suddenly felt my whole body focused and strong again. I crossed that log as though it were a highway.

With all the¬†excitement of the totem animals, porcupines and log crossing, I hadn’t noticed that my back was soaked. My back had been soaked for a while, but earlier that day I had been pushing some 3.2 to 3.5 mile per hour speed up steep hills, so I had assumed it was sweat. Now it was night and I was walking much slower because my head-lamp didn’t allow me much foresight, and I was still soaked. Horror! After five years of faithful service, my platypus water-bladder had finally turned in its resignation letter. My pack was soaked, my sleeping bag stuffing sack was soaked, my pants were soaked. I wasn’t upset though; I was mostly sad. That platypus had been with me up and down baker at least 17 times, and up Rainier, and to India, and down the Yukon River, and 2580 miles out of 2660 miles of the PCT. The seam was open, I wouldn’t be able to repair it. Also, even if I could have, the drinking tube looked like a corroded artery, the mouth piece was disintegrating and so dark that it would likely have made another hiker than myself sick, the main bag was tinted yellow from bad water and iodine. Once the initial sadness had passed came the realization that it was almost 1 in the morning and that I was going to have to sleep in a wet down sleeping bag. I had a little conversation with the Universe. I said “Is there any chance that my sleeping bag could be dry in there?”, It said “It would take a miracle.” I said, emphatically, “I believe in miracles!” but the Universe said that that would be a big miracle, even for someone with as much faith and magic as me.

I got lost after that. I walked around in the woods for a while. I was still on the trail, so I wasn’t technically lost, but I could not find the camp spot and the water that were marked on my map. There were no other place to stop. I was out of water. Once again, that made me laugh. I felt so tired, and loopy, and alive, and just so damn happy to be having one, possibly last, adventure on the trail. I switched off reasonable¬†mode, reason apparently could not figure out where on hell I was on that map anyway, and switched on intuition mode. I followed my instinct blindly and within fifteen minutes caught sight of a reflecting square in my head-lamp. That was a tent, which meant camp, which meant water. Then all was well. I dropped my pack and located myself on the map – I was exactly 40 miles from where I started that morning, to the first decimal. I ate some of the hunters cheese (see last post) and drank a full liter of water. I had decided that I would sleep in my rain gear to stay warm and just unpack my wet sleeping bag so that it could start drying. When I got the sleeping bag out of its stuff-sack, it was completely dry. I couldn’t believe it, and yet I did, because I do believe in miracles.

It was 1 am by then, I was only 8 miles from Stehekin and feeling a happiness of a magnitude I hadn’t experienced since the early days in the desert. I felt rejuvenated and walked much stronger for the rest of the trail to Canada after that day. Spending three hours at the Stehekin Bakery also helped ….

… Still more to tell … but this is all for now.
XOX – TheBobcat.

Washington – Kryptonite

One of the Universe’s funnest games is to prove me wrong in whatever I claim to know about myself. ¬†In my last post, for example, I claimed to have thru-hiker super-powers. I can walk 30 miles a day and sustain 4 miles per hour, I told my friends. The next day, I walked across the Bridge of the Gods over the Columbia River, the border between Oregon and Washington and found out that a villain had planted kryptonite in the thick green underbrush that accompany the trail for most of Washington. My God, Washington is steep! Suddenly completing a 20 mile-day was an impossible feat.

I had heard that Washington was the hardest section, but I assumed this stemmed from a trail burnout state of mind. This was partially the case for me. Entering Washington felt like the beginning of the end. The exuberant joy of my desert days were a thing of the past, the stage where the trail felt like my living room was fading, the next stop actually was Canada. Canada Рwow! My friend Weathercarrot had come to the bridge of the Gods to wish me a happy birthday and walk a few miles with me. When he pointed out that I had less than 500 miles to go, I broke down into tears.

With 500 miles to go, I felt heartbroken to have to leave the trail, ever. But the trail provides all that is needed, even if what is needed is the incentive to leave it. With 400 miles to go, I grew more excited about the prospect of a real bed and flush toilets. With 300 miles to go, I had to acknowledge how tired my body was and began fantasizing about sleeping for entire days once the trail was over. With 200 miles to go, I became tired of the solitude for the first time. I joined a group briefly, but that didn’t work for me either. I longed to see my off-trail friends. With 100 miles to go, I did not want to do *this* at all anymore. I didn’t want to walk, or dig a hole to poo, or eat another fuel-stove meal, or have another nuts and fruit snack break. I was done. Except I wasn’t, so I kept on going. Whereas at the beginning of this journey I berated myself for missing even the tiniest part of the trail to day-dreaming, music playing or other mind-distracting activity, here I was in one of the most beautiful sections of the trail doing all I could to forget where I was. I turned to ipods, internal mind-games, even counting marching ants (they go walking one by one, hurrah, hurrah …). Occasionally I stopped and looked around, then invariably felt guilty for my lack of¬†appreciation¬†and apologized to the trees and mountains.

For months, I had loved every step, sight and day on the trail. With 100 miles to go, I hit the proverbial “last mile”. Quitting wasn’t an option for me. It actually never even entered my mind. I might have been done, but I wasn’t about to not complete the trail. Instead, I found ways to distract and entertain myself. One day, I climbed on a ridge to get cell reception and called my off-trail friends (and discovered that all of them were at work – wait, what day is it?) The next day, I stopped for two and a half hours by Greg and John’s fire. They were two hunters with enough food for a small army. Not only did they cook me a sumptuous meal, including elk sausage of their own hunt, but also loaded my food bag with cheese, chocolate, nuts and yummy gummy bears. The next day, I laid on a grassy meadow with my friend Bow Leg and didn’t leave for several hours. I also slept in, stopped before dark, and indulged in long flower photo shoots. I didn’t hike more than 17 miles a day that whole stretch. After all these short days, I felt deflated. I wasn’t sure I still had the walking super-power of which I had boasted just a few weeks prior, and I was falling dangerously behind on my schedule if I wanted to meet Deborah at Rainy Pass on time. So, the next day, I walked 40 miles.

Next … the 40.

Done deed

2012 PCT thru-hike completed. Distance hiked: 2,663 mi (4,286 km). Finish date: September 29th, noon-ish.

Terminus companions were Blue Girl (Deborah) who joined me at RainyPass, Nugio and Pounce, whom I met a few days prior, Oregon, whom I met in Oregon, a day past Ashland and Shutterbug and Northstar, whom I met way back in the desert then didn’t see again for several months until our paths crossed again and repeatedly for the last four days.

There is two more stories to come. I just need to write them, I’ve been indulging in a wild Bobcat’s sleep schedule (18 to 20 hours a day, with occasional breaks to catch prey).

All is well. I miss the trail and am glad to be off¬†simultaneously. More soon …

 

Reintegration inoculation

This week is my birthday week. I will be 42 in two days … I’ve been milking it for all it’s worth. My arrival at the Timberline Lodge, on beautiful Mount Hood, coincided with Labor Day weekend, so I decided to take a zero (0 miles, rest day) in Portland to rest my feet and eat something else than Ramen.

Seeing my friend Ana walk up the paved trail that joins up to the PCT was surreal. Here she was, hair done, perfect makeup, perfect fashionable outfit, perfect high heel shoes, a vision out of a magazine, smelling delicious, but unlike anything you’d smell in the woods. and here I was a happy thru-hiker. Of all my ratted hair, torn pants, tapped pack and other hiking side-effects, the smell was what offended her most about me. She lovingly insisted that “we need to get you cleaned up. You can’t go out in public like this.” I actually don’t smell as bad as some of the other hikers. My pack does a bit. The foam’s acquired a bit of a funk in the muggy heat of ¬†the early Oregon days (it’s in the wash as I type this). Her insistence¬†to have me “cleaned up” and more¬†conformable¬†to¬†society’s¬†standards bothered me a bit. We all get attached to our self-image sometimes. I love the trail, and I love who I am on the trail. Melissa is pretty cool, but the Bobcat is free-er, wilder, greater. I like that I smell like dirt, twigs and sweat. I like that my feet’s calluses are permanently black, with¬†encrusted dirt that cannot be washed away. I love that my life weighs less than 20 Lbs and comes with a different scenery everyday. I love the people who live in my world, and the fact that I feel like a super-hero, and have been treated as such for the past 5 and a half month … but I’ll get to this.

So, I got cleaned up, and Ana and I went out to some of the best restaurants in Portland. Hanging out with one of my best friends was like a dream. The whole scene was like a dream. People looked so clean that they seemed fake. It’s not so much that I didn’t fit in as much as I wasn’t in. If you watch fancy people on the red carpet of the Oscars night on TV, it really doesn’t matter that you are laying on your couch at home in sweat pants. That’s how I felt. My dirty trail shoes and unwashed hair were absolutely irrelevant to the scene at hand. I wasn’t there, but I was fascinated and probably staring more than was appropriate. The strangest part was the sudden¬†anonymity. Even in trail towns, I am still a hiker in a town. People either know, guess or are curious about thru-hikers. Then come the questions. Where are you hiking from? WOAH! Mexico – what!?? You’re going how far!? Canada! – that’s amazing! Congratulations! Those who know usually have an envious awe. “I’ve always wanted to, but now <insert excuse>”. Those who look at us in disbelief at first, but since we look the part, they must in the end expand their mind to¬†accommodate¬†the new information that there are pretty normal looking people out there who can walk from Mexico to Canada. You get used to being a super-hero really fast. But there I was in Portland, wearing jeans and without a pack, completely unspectacular. On one hand, I didn’t like being¬†anonymous, but on the other hand, there is a strange¬†internal¬†strength that comes from knowing you can do exceptional things, even when nobody else can tell. I think that’s how Clark Kent and Peter Parker cope with it.

Truth is, I actually don’t feel that exceptional. I walked over 2000 miles. So? I have girlfriends fire-fighters, ultra-marathon runners, single moms and full time workers. Those are the people who deserve the super-hero capes. Me, I am mostly indulging in the most open-space¬†unbridled freedom I have ever experienced. That really doesn’t require any special skill or extra fortitude. I’m at the point now where I have seen many friends leave the trail. I wouldn’t be one of them. I feel too much joy out there. As Maddog said, there are days when your Serotonine is through the roof. I like to think of it as perfect alignment with my higher Self. In either case, for those of us for whom the trail provides the greatest joy we have ever experienced, quitting would be challenging; walking 2650 miles is the easy path.¬†¬†There are, of course, some things about the off-trail world I miss, and getting a taste of civilization for 30-some hours brought them back to mind. I miss sleeping. I’m just really tired these days. I just want to get off trail and sleep for a month, and not walk anywhere. I miss driving, mochas, earrings, movies, flush toilets, friends you can visit, food that isn’t cooked with just hot water, fresh fish, beds long enough for your body including feet and head (I sleep on a very comfy pad, but it’s a small, and I’m taller than a small). Huh … That’s actually it.

On my second day in town, my friends Dacia and Matt treated Weathercarrot (who is off-trail in Portland) and me to an amazing four-course meal that included steak, two different kinds of raw fish dishes, fresh-made pina colada and other wonderfulnesses. In one fell swoop that covered almost all the things I had been craving, including time with off-trail friends. Dacia released me to the wild the next morning, right where Ana had picked me up. I felt like I had gone home. There are even more things about the on-trail world I will miss when this is all over, like freedom, open skies, mind-boggling vistas, quirky instant random trail friendships, fresh water straight out of streams, the smell of dirt and pine trees and flowers, the comfort of knowing what today’s task is (walking!). I will miss having my entire life in a pack and knowing I have all I need, nothing more, nothing less. I will miss peace.

Yesterday, I took the Eagle Creek alternate route, which features waterfalls every 5 minutes – funny, just the day before Panama Red was telling me he felt there weren’t many waterfalls on the PCT. Well, I hope he took the alternate. There is even one with a tunnel, so you can walk underneath the waterfall. So cool! – where was I? Oh yeah. At one of the waterfalls, I sat down for a snack. Since it’s my birthday week, I treated myself to a resupply at Trader Joe’s. My food bag is ri-di-cu-lous! It is¬†unnecessarily¬†heavy for a three-day section, which I ended up doing in two days anyways. I’ve got dried pineapples,¬†pumpernickel¬†pretzels, sugar lemon cookies, heavy Indian pre-cooked meals, and more. Mmmh mmmh mmmh. I sat with my ridiculous delicious food bag for a while and was amazed that I was even there. The green all around me was so vibrant, the water so clear and refreshing, the silence so pervasive. If there is an image of peace, I think I was sitting in it. These are the moments on the trail that I will likely never adequately be able to share with you, not with words, nor with photos. They just need to be experienced. I often feel a state of euphoric joy when I first leave town. I think it stems from a combination of proper nutrition and a sense of returning home. This time, the section was so short that it was carried over from Portland to Cascade Locks. I have it right now. It’s like internal heaven.

Another reason for my state of euphoria is all those volcanoes. Oh, volcanoes everywhere!! The Jefferson wilderness and the Sisters were some of the most scenic sections of the trail. I loved California, but Oregon I must say takes the cake for mountain vistas … and I haven’t even gotten to the big volcanoes I know and love. Washington might yet prove to be where my mind explodes from too much beauty. Already, yesterday I could see Adams, Rainier and St. Helens in one vista, right before entering the Columbia River Gorge, and that is after two days of being on or in plain sight of Mt. Hood. I just love the Cascades so much. I am definitely a Pacific Northwest girl. The vegetation has been morphing to the lush greens of my Bellingham home and the weather is turning to a crisp cold in the morning. If you are on Facebook, you’ve seen the photos. Fall is definitely approaching fast, if not here already.

Less than 500 miles to go, one more season (fall), a handful of volcanoes, and still friends to meet and surprises in store. One month of¬†walking¬†left. ¬†I am not ready for the trail to end yet. I might never be ready …

May you all follow your dreams and find yourself with dirt under your nails occasionally – except you Ana, you wouldn’t like it ūüôā

XOX – TheBobcat.

 

All downhill from here

“I was fair as the summer day
Now the summer days are through
You pass through places
And places pass through you
But you carry ’em with you
On the souls of your travellin’ shoes”
(The BeGood Tanyas, “The littlest birds sing the prettiest songs”)
(in my music collection thanks to Jen Wright).

The miles are going by so fast now. I was in Ashland, complaining that the library there wasn’t allowing me enough time to write a story to share with you, just a minute ago it seems. Half of Oregon is already gobbled, now nothing more than memories, photos and wear on my shoes – oh, and smoke in my lungs. We have been blocked by fire closure after fire closure since we entered Oregon. To mix it up a bit, I avoided the forest service’s recommended road walks by bushwhacking and linking up non-PCT trails. As long as it takes us north, no rule* is violated.

I have been hiking mostly alone, except for those fire detours. The first fire detour I navigated with Weathercarrot, my friend of 1200 miles or so now – a miracle given the size of both our need for space; the second with the handsome Maddog. Maddog and I have been playing catch up without ever catching each other since we last hung out on the tallest point in the lower 48, a good place for a meeting. This is one of the greatest gift this trail offers its thru-hikers: the temporal space to get to know amazing human beings. In the off-trail world, friendships have to be build piece-meal over the course of months or years of short interactions, but out here, we have the opportunity to hang out all day and all night, for however long we chose to (or can keep up with) . We sleep under the same mountain shadow, fire up our fuel stoves at the same time and test each other’s ramen noodle enhanced dish of the day. We can talk or walk in silence with each other for hours, and laugh and cry and share, or not, like we do in the outside wold with only our closest of friends. I have loved everyone I have met on this trail so far. I had a nemesis, but now we are friends again – that’s unfortunate, now I have to find another nemesis. The trail attracts the kind of people I would like anyway, but also, I have been very happy since Campo and have some serious love-goggles on for the whole world. That is fine by me. May we all have love-goggles on more often. Reality is whatever we chose to see it as anyway.

I did go through a day or two of “funk” back in the northern California forest – that “Virginia blues” of which I wrote whenever I wrote last. That didn’t last too long for me. Oregon has provided mind-boggling beautiful views every day. The vegetation changes constantly, more and more volcanoes are silhouetted in the orange light filtered through the smoke in the air, and because we are all hiking more miles than we ever did, towns are coming by faster, which means less food to carry, so lighter packs, so less foot pain, so more fun. It all works out, perfectly and in the proper time-frame.

My experience isn’t a universal hiker’s experience, however. Most of us are getting stronger, faster and more motivated by the impeding finish line (still 650 miles away), but I also have friends forced to get off-trail temporarily due to giardia, stress fractures, or the need to recover from trail burnout; a few have quit, some are thinking about it. I do not take my good health, high spirits or happy feet for granted, not by a long shot.

This library computer is cutting me off.
I will be in Washington before I have a chance to write again. I will also be turning 42. 41 was friggin’ amazing and I can’t imagine 42 will be any less wonderful. Yay for the forties!

Thank you for visiting, whoever you are, my 70+ readers!

Love to you! and happy trails.

XOX – TheBobcat

Halfway!

Okay, I have 15 minutes left … and Go!

I have passed the halfway point. That is the ‘miles’ halfway point; with the faster pace I am currently keeping, the halfway point is less than halfway in time spent on the trail. And still I am not out of California. Pretty close though.

I’ve hit that mental place in the trail they call “the Virginia Blues” on the Appalachian trail. Trail friends are quitting, other are just unmotivated. For me it takes on the form of a greater incentive to get home. I miss Bellingham. I miss Baker. And still there is no place I’d rather be than on the PCT. There are days when I don’t feel like walking, but I still do, and then I love it again. Whereas the trail was once the main focus of my adventure, it is now home, a backdrop against which my growth, exploration and experiences take place. Do you still “see” that coffee table as you walk through your living room? Sometimes you do, but most often, you walk by with other things on your mind. That’s what it’s like, except the coffee table is a wondrous piece of art that is different everyday.

Oh, and speaking of wondrous pieces of art. I am in the Cascades. Wooohooo! Yay! Volcanoes!!! I was so happy when I first caught sight of Lassen Peak. We could see it abotu 5 days before we got to it. I climbed a cinder cone, I stood in the sulphur of a geyser, visited boiling pools of mud and felt right at home. Lassen passed us on to Shasta, like a relay stick. Shasta now looms so large above the trail that it takes up most of the northern horizon. From here, there are volcanoes all the way, and that is a comforting thought.

Heading on home, 25-30 miles a day at a time.
I love my life.

I have much more to share, but my library time is almost up and I am off to go see a movie with Sidhartha and Weather Carrot.
Have I mentionned I love my life? ūüôā

Happy Holy Day of Obligations to the woman I love most – you know who you are ūüôā

XoXo – TheBobcat.