Laurie and I wake up on Madeline’s futon in Bellingham. I never sleep before a thru hike and this time I did. I’m almost shocked at my seven hours.
I drink coffee and Laurie figures out how to work Madeline’s espresso machine, so I pour an extra shot in. I take a few bites of my breakfast burrito, but I can’t really stomach it. I wash my face. I eat a bar. I use a toilet and I shit around on the internet. These are small luxuries that I will miss.
Our trail angel, Erika, arrives exactly at seven AM. Laurie and I load into the car and we’re sharing our ride with a 21 year old named Daniel and a 22 year old named Inge. They’ve both just graduated from college and their faces are so shiny and new!!! I feel old and young at the same time. Are we really that different, me and the young people? The answer is yes, but in this moment it feels like no.
On the way to Hart’s pass I am blissfully pacified by my phone, my excitement, my bag chips, the idea of resting my eyes. Our trail angel hiked great chunks of the PCT last year and she tells us about her favorite and least favorite days. I wonder which days I will like, if anything will feel hard after finishing the Mogollon Rim Trail a little more than a month ago. That route took every single thing I had right out of me both physically and emotionally. Anything’s gotta be better than that.
I miss Carrot. Things have been really hard lately, we have a difficult time communicating and hearing one another’s needs and we’ve thought maybe we’d give up a handful of times. I can’t give up on the idea of my relationship with Carrot, though. Because in the moments when I am on the precipice of great possibility, she is the one that I long for. We have so much trauma, our negligent and mean parents, our horror show circumstances in the formative years. I don’t care, though. I want to walk through our trauma together. I want to make it work.
Do you know about attachment styles? In queer world, we love astrology. Astrology is a system to codify our actions and behaviors, a rubric of explanations for why we are the way we are, why some of us are great to one another and intolerable to someone else. Attachment styles are kind of like that, except for that instead of being based on magic and planets and stars it is based on history and cultivated behavior. From what I understand, I am an anxious attacher. This means that I feel abandoned easily and when I do it feels like I am dying. Carrot tends toward avoidant attachment, which means that when I’m hurt and I cling, she feels like I am trying to steal her soul. These ways of being are because of neglect and abuse and we learned them from beliefs we cultivated when we were very small. I feel sad for us when I think of our attachment styles, wish she was in the car with me right this moment so we could brainstorm some strategies to keep the tiny flame of our love going, even in the emotional storms.
At Hart’s pass we hang half of our food in the outhouse. First we’ll go 30 miles North, up toward Canada so that we can get pictures of our smiling faces with the border monument. Then, we’ll turn around and come back to our hung food, praise the ripe stink of the outhouse for keeping our bags safe, and continue South toward Mexico. It is illegal to get to the Northern terminus from Canada, so even though this adds sixty miles of walking to the 2,650 mile journey, it’s kind of the only way.
Laurie is a therapist. We chat about attachment styles while we walk, and I am careful not to give too much personal information away. Carrots story is public, but the details aren’t mine to share (and besides, it’ll all be in her second book— which you should definitely read.) Laurie soothes me with her compassion and then we lapse into silence. The PCT Is so beautiful, just hanging out in Washington’s mist. The mountains occasionally have mild snow patches but nothing too bad. It’s lightly drizzling but nothing severe. Today, I think the PCT is perfect and I try to zone out.
At the 9.8 mile mark I wait for Laurie and we check in. We feel okay, we want to go further! It’s only 3:00 PM besides, there’s plenty of light left in the day.
Laurie and I separate and it starts to rain harder. Fat thick drops are cascading down the sleeves of my rain jacket, but the temperature is warm so I try to stay in my gratitude. I weave in and out of a burn, and I feel tired for the forest, sorry about all the humans. I climb over downed trees and I roll my ankle hard, falling to my knees. I am tired of rolling my ankles on long distance hikes, frustrated to note that though I haven’t done much in the way of training since the MRT, I’m still a little bit hurt. The rain intensifies. The temperature drops. I am officially grumpy.
I hike as fast as I can, and my pace surprises me.
I NEVER hike faster than when I’m cold and wet and today is no exception. I climb over rocks and snow patches and wild flowers and pass under thick tree cover. The rain turns to slushy snow flakes and I start to shiver. Snow?! On a long distance hike?! Again?! (I’ve hiked four trails or sections of trail this year, it’s snowed on all of them, how can I still be surprised ?!) I push as hard as I can, right up to the campsite at 14.6 miles. There are already a handful of hikers set up there and the snow is dumping. It is in this moment that I know I’m going to have to set up my shelter, lay down my plastic ground sheet, blow up my neoair, change my clothes, and cook my food as fast as I can. I am drenched and confused on the order of things, but shivering- I eventually do get it done. The pitch of my tent is laughable and much of my gear is very wet but in my quilt I am medium warm.
I heat lentils for dinner, toss a giant glug of oil in the mix to give it more sustenance. I wonder what I’m doing, if my ankle will be ok, how long it’ll take me to get back down to rainy pass where I hope to see Carrot. The wind whips but the rain subsides and I start to dry out, even with my shelter’s shitty pitch. Eventually, I sleep.
📍This section of the Pacific Crest Trail is on unceded Nlaka’pamux, Syilx/Okanagan, and Columbia-Wenatchi land.