“Wander a whole summer if you can…time will not be taken from the sum of life. Instead of shortening, it will definitely lengthen it and make you truly immortal.” John Muir


December 2017

Day 83: Due West

September 28, 2017

Miles 6 (+3.5 to Ozette)

PNT mile 1217

Camp: No more

Waking up to another picture perfect morning on the coast was bittersweet. Everything we would do today would be the last time. With the recent drama of Pink’s injury, we were all so focused on that, we barely realized the end was near. I laid in my tent staring at the ocean, smelling the salty air, breathing deeply the moment that would soon be over. The end of another trail. It never gets easy.

We all hiked on together, the morning about as ideal as one could ever imagine. Great weather, no clouds, a perfectly low tide. Pink was still a bit slower today, but it didn’t matter, we were in no hurry. We walked and reflected, collected treasure and admired the views.

About a mile before the end of the day there was a spot called, “Wedding Rocks.” There are petroglyphs there from old native tribes that used to live and go whaling in this area. We spent a good amount of time hunting for them and found a few good ones. I accidentally stepped in a tide pool while looking at the rocks around me instead of my feet. I laughed about how my shoe would smell like the ocean forever now, a salty memory of another hike gone by.

All too soon, we approached Cape Alava, the western most point in the contiguous United States. My heart felt as heavy as ever, but this is the first time I crossed the finish line with other people. Thumbs was still a little ways back, but Gerry (now known as Dr. Hopscotch), Pink and I made those final steps together. We rejoiced in the moment and waited for our friend to catch up to the end.

After a round of photos and some drying out of our tents, we could only hike away from the coast now. It was 3.5 miles to the small resort of Ozette where we would be able to rent a cabin and take showers before finding our way back to civilization for our reintegration. It’s a glorious and melancholy feeling. So much ends with a hike, and yet, so much begins as well.

The path out from the ocean was mostly boardwalk through a coastal forest. It was mossy and misty and it smelled divine. We approached the small resort just as they were closing, but the owner was happy to rent another cabin for the night and sell us a celebratory 6 pack to go with it.

As we sat and reminisced on our summer I couldn’t help but wonder what my next adventure will be. What will it bring? There is no turning back from the addiction of thru hiking. There is no other way to live.

Until then, I’ll check in again soon. I have some reflections I’d like to make on this hike in particular. Stay tuned and thank you once again for reading.

There are of course, 1,000 people to thank for making this hike possible:

Elaine & Dan
Faith Sheridan
Jim and Mo Foster
Margaret Loubier
Kevin and Molly Kemp
Lori Kennedy and Ron Boe
Xana and Panorama
Pink’s St. Mary crew
Mary of Metaline Falls
The McRae Family
Last On The Bus
The Gillan Family
Diane Hennebert and Family
Rebecca and Jon at The Happy House
Lys of Port Townsend
Sheri in Forks
Thumbs’ family
Every person who gave us rides, beers, food, smiles and support along the way. So many beautiful people!

Day 82: Recovery

September 27, 2017

Miles: 6

PNT mile 1211

Camp: Yellow Banks – Olympic National Park Wilderness Coast 

We all awoke this morning, nervous for the outcome of a night off of Pink’s ankle. He was not immediately optimistic and even alluded to not hiking at all today. My heart sank in sadness that he was that hurt; hurt so close to the end of our hike, and I didn’t want to lose the support of our friends. Yesterday turned us into a cohesive team, getting things done, getting everyone safely to the next mile. Everyone helped. Without our friends it would be a lot harder and a lot less safe.

Fortunately, after doing a few morning chores, Pink changed his tune. He felt able to walk at least to the next camp along the coast and reevaluate, while Gerry was volunteering to hopscotch backpacks again. It became attainable to move forward and that is all any of us could have hoped for. We are in an isolated wilderness and we have to get out on our own and safely. Any forward progress was the best case scenario.

Though we faced rocky shores all day, we managed to move through smoothly and efficiently. Pink’s ankle improved, a miracle at best considering the demands of walking miles of rocky coast. None of us could really believe our eyes as his stride returned to a more normal gait and he was able to keep up and carry his own pack. We are all grateful. 

It turned out to be a superior day. The weather was top notch, the hiking short, challenging and scenic, the company extraordinary…and we got to camp nice and early. We arrived at 1pm and though we could have moved on, opted to rest for tomorrow. One more day sees us  finished with the trail and out of the wilderness. How did we get here already? I feel as if it crept up on me, like I didn’t really see it coming. I didn’t realize it was our last full day on trail until we got to camp. There are only 6 miles left to the end. Six. 

I am so relieved to have had such a wonderful day. The worry and stress over Pink’s injury really changed the mood, but today brought a lot of positivity.

The afternoon was spent playing in the waves, building sand castles, creating shade, collecting sea glass and buoys, relaxing in the sun…all on a perfect beach on a perfect fall day.

I can’t believe I’m going to finish a trail again tomorrow. It’s so different this time.

I could stay on this beach forever.

Day 81: Bad Ankle

September 26, 2017

Miles: 7

PNT mile 1205

Camp: Cedar Creek – Olympic National Park Wilderness Coast 

Clear skies in the morning gave the day an early glow. Sunshine touched the tops of trees and worked its way down to the beach. We grew warmer as the day progressed, finally out of the rain once again.

A lot of today involved beating the tides around rocky capes and points along the shore. Some of the tide warning areas do not have overland trails, so you just have to make it before the tide comes rolling in. Sounds easy enough when dealing with a short distance, but coast walking is different. It is hard.

Often we are crossing tidal pool zones that are covered in seaweeds and slick as oil. You learn quickly which color rocks to avoid (usually brown, always shiny) or you would easily have to answer to your tailbone; and that is the best case scenario. This kind of walking requires patience and caution and it takes a lot longer than usual. We are up against the ocean and she is fierce. 

The tidepools were very cool and so we’re the views. The day was fun for me, I felt so good and happy. Then one of the worst things that can happen, happened. Pink twisted his ankle.

At first he said he had just fallen and was fine, but soon his limp told a different tale. He was struggling to walk and it was obvious. He painfully admitted that it did not have a good outlook, but powered on to camp because he kind of had to. We could have pressed the emergency beacon Thumbs carries, but he felt he could make the short distance. Gerry (the saintiest saint on the whole trail) hiked fast ahead of the group to the first obstacle (some boulders) and dropped his pack. He then returned to carry Pink’s over the boulders and moved on to the ropes at the next overland trail. Gerry alternated carrying his pack and Pink’s pack for the whole 2 miles, over obstacles and down one of the steepest ropes we have had on an overland trail. Gerry is so amazing and selfless and I am in awe of him. Not to mention he is (was) a doctor who doesn’t seem overly concerned with Pink walking on in this way. I don’t think I can be more grateful than I am for his help today. It was a long 2 miles of Gerry hopscotching and Pink hobbling while Thumbs and I tried to keep spirits up by keeping it light; admiring the gorgeous views and singing songs. It was a trying day on everyone.

We will evaluate the situation in the morning. For now we are all pretty beat from taking on a bigger load today. Thumbs and I split most of the camp chores and let the guys rest. Now it is our turn.

The sunset was also very classic and I saw my first green flash! I always thought it was a myth.

Day 80: Whale Bones

September 25, 2017

Miles: 10

PNT mile 1199.5

Camp: Hole In The Wall – Olympic National Park Wilderness Coast

As the weather forecast promised, rain arrived around 2am. It was gentle and didn’t seem to last very long,  though there was a healthy mist when we woke up. It was a wet camp again, coupled with sand to present us with an interesting new challenge. The 3 of us were a focused group getting gear situated before we sat down to breakfast. Even with the extra work this morning, we were on trail by 7:15. Not an easy order for us, but getting up before dawn is a rare necessity that sometimes has to be accepted (and though Pink hates it, I love it).

The 3 of us walked together along the beach, chatting and inspecting tidepools. The mist never stopped, but it ebbed and flowed with intensity. There were giant whale bones around one point and we stopped for some pictures and sheer awe. Those things are massive, and really quite heavy.

The overland trails were pretty muddy making for some interesting ascents and descents via ropes. Some slick spots had my heart racing, but I used patience and caution, making it safely each time. Pink always makes it look so easy. He has much longer limbs than I, it’s hard to compete with! His height can be a real advantage and his energy seems to be limitless. In the meantime I just take quicker steps and keep up the best I can.

The beach was a fine display of mixed seaweeds, unique rocks, decaying sea life, plastic and a variety of driftwood. The plastic is unsettling and sometimes more out of place than you would think. We even found a dish rack a restaurant would use for glassware just laying on the shore, covered in seaweed. Our trash in the oceans problem is serious.

Looking beyond the trash was a beautiful landscape though. Coastal fog draped over rock pillars and islands in the sea, trees and cliffs outlined the shore and the lapping and crashing of waves made audio contributions; deep and rhythmic, percussive as it drew back over the rocks.

The mist turned into sometimes rain and we got wetter and muddier. We took a quick snack break in the trees when a couple happened upon us. The guy, “Neon,” just finished the PCT and was quick to offer us a ride from the trailhead to the post office…to a restaurant and then back to the trail. We piled 3 hikers in the backseat with wet backpacks and got everything done quickly. We were not able to dry our tents though…a lingering chore we knew was unlikely to occur.

Once we said goodbye to Neon and Kat, we hopped on trail to walk the beach north. There are less than 20 miles remaining, but it will take 2 full days with tides and rocky shores. Today we only went a few more miles where we found Thumbs at a campsite at Hole in the Rock. The rain continued as we set up already wet tents on the beach, trying to avoid sand and water from getting on everything. It wasn’t easy, but I’m dry at the moment. Not much else is though.

We have 8 miles tomorrow, only having to worry about tides in a few locations. Some spots have an overland “alternate,” but some could leave you stranded. It’s a new game, a puzzle to solve every day of how far can we get to the next tide sensitive spot before we have to wait it out. It’s fun but also a little stressful. I think we will do great and it feels good to be with Gerry and Thumbs here at the end. What a journey.

Day 79: Tide Charts

September 24, 2017

Miles: 10

PNT mile 1189

Camp: Toleak Point – Olympic National Park Wilderness Coast

We all woke up to sandy, wet tents, but were well rested due to needing to wait for low tide. We couldn’t pass the point until the tide was below 3′ and that wasn’t until 9am. That’s an excuse to sleep in on trail if I ever heard one. We slept until 8am and got through it all safely.

Though tides were low enough for safe passage, the walk was not that safe. We had to walk on slick rocks the size of bowling balls never too sure of your footing. Some rocks were more conglomerate, making the surface rougher; a sure thing for good traction. The smoother ones were not to be trusted, especially if there were coats of algae on the surface.

Once safely across the rock obstacle, we met our first set of ropes and ladders. These are in place on the sides of the beach to assist one up or down the cliffside to or from an overland trail. These trails are in place to avoid beaches with no safe passage or to cross a headland jutting out to sea. They are rather tricky, marvelously muddy, exotically beautiful and full of adventure! It’s kind of fun to use ropes to go up and down to the beach, alternating between the inland or the shore. It feels good to be muddy and salty, exploring the tide line for treasure from the sea. This is a wild coast after all. A special and beautiful place indeed. I want to come back here and spend a lot of days just enjoying the raw, rugged coastline. This is amazing!

We are now camped with Gerry in the trees by the shore. We can hear the waves crashing and it is warmer tonight…hopefully less condensation. We had the luxury of eating more fresh chanterelles with dinner and are cozy by the sea. Tomorrow is more coastal fun…I love this so far!

Day 78: To the Sea!

September 23, 2017

Miles: 2

PNT mile 1179

Camp: The mouth of the Hoh River…on the beach! Olympic National Park

The morning always goes too fast in hotels. There is always the last things that need to get done and it all takes time. Before you know it, it’s time to check out of the room and move on. We certainly dragged our feet as much as we could, but we were done with chores and were hitching back to the trail just shy of 24 hours after we arrived.

Two girls on vacation gave us a ride and were fun to talk to. One girl was from Australia and the other had lived there but was back in the States now. We had some fun conversation about cattle on public lands and same sex marriage in Australia. The ease of the ride had us back at the trail earlier than expected. Since our permit tonight is for the trailhead, we didn’t really have much hiking to do.

We sat by the Hoh river while we ate leftover pizza and cinnamon rolls in the sunshine. After studying the maps and having the ocean within sight, we decided to at least check out the beach and see if we could make any headway. We have to study the tides for this section and make sure we don’t get trapped in the wrong place at high tide. The section just north of here is one that requires passage only at a low tide and we wouldn’t have a low enough tide until after sunset, so we set up right on the beach in some piles of driftwood with another hiker named Gerry.

It’s hard to believe we have made it to the ocean. 4 days from now we will be coming to the end of the hike. The hike just started being so good and exciting and now it is time for it to end. It’s been a strange hike, but upon reflection it has been a wonderful and challenging experience. I like how it has enhanced my skills and taught me new ones, how it has worn me down and built me up…but mostly wore me down, the rugged beauty, the raw wildness, the PNT is something special. I’m very excited to embark on the coastal section even though it presents whole new challenges, that’s what makes it good.

(Pictures uploaded in backwards order…oops)

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