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.
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
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
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
“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! 🙂
Thank you trail for taking such good care of me. I love you!
Love to you all too.
XOX – TheBobcat.