Today Bogwitch and I want to walk 25 miles. We’re comfy in our shelters, we’re surrounded by our friends, and still the alarm is set for five and we pack our things, drink our coffee and go. If we’re going to make it we have to move quick.
My stomach is bothering me. It’s been bothering me since Trout Creek, really. It intensified while I was in Portland, giving me diarrhea so bad I felt hollowed out. I thought it was my period. I thought it was the Chipotle I ate. I thought it was the fiber I’d consumed in town, that my body wasn’t used to it anymore.
Today, it has been one week and I still can’t stop shitting. I’m dizzy when I stand up. I’m cold sweating on perfectly gentle terrain. I want to hike 25 miles but I also want to feel good while I do it.
I clench my jaw and just try to go. By noon I’ve gone 12 miles, stopping for lunch at a spring. I haven’t seen anyone all day, Bogwitch whooshed ahead at eight AM and I am deeply lonely. I think I see Carrot’s foot prints for a moment and then I remember that she’s not here at all anymore, won’t be coming back. Bogwitch got new shoes, I don’t know what the bottoms look like so I can’t track them. I’m just here, shitting and walking by myself. I can’t shake the feeling that it makes no sense.
After lunch the heat intensifies and we start to climb. On an exposed ridge I get a ping of reception and it is here that I lose it, sobbing while I text my friends about how alone I feel, how I’m pale and pasty, how I’m scared of the diarrhea right now because I don’t want to continue to lose weight. It is on this ridge that I decide that A) I am going to get off trail and get a poop test and B) I think I actually might be done.
This year I’ve hiked 1800 miles. Before this year I had hiked zero. I’ve hiked through rain and hail and sleet and snow and heat and humidity and bad directions and inaccurate GPS tracks. 99% of the time I’ve had a great time, and here on the ridge, covered in biting flies feeling like the biggest dumb ass on Earth, I am not.
I don’t have to hike in Oregon. I’d said I was just committed to Washington, that everything else was a bonus. I’ve always said I’m not likely to do the whole PCT this year, that I’d miss my actual life too much. If it’s time for me to fix my stomach and eat and do yoga and pet my dog quietly for the rest of the year that could be ok. I don’t have to do so much to feel like I have a purpose.
I zone out to an audiobook. Mt. Hood peaks out and I wait to feel something, but instead I feel nothing at all, a void inside of me where awe is supposed to go. In my last two miles, I walk a sandy exposed climb and with every step I think: I’m done. Done done done done done done done.
I get to the Sandy River, which I plan to cross to camp and it is a raging chocolate milk water nightmare. The water is thick with silt and I cannot see the bottom of the river. It’s difficult to tell how deep the water is, where would be the least raging, if it’s smart to cross at all or if I should just wait ’til morning.
I am meeting Bogwitch, and so I cross gingerly, right near a couple and their dog whom are attempting to do the same thing. I anchor my legs as hard as I can, bending my knees to stabilize. The dog crossing next to me begins to wail, and I nearly cry as the dog gets pushed downstream just a little, howling. Bogwitch shows up across the river and myself, them, and the couple all cheer the dog, encouraging him to swim hard, get back to his people. I touch shore just as the dog does and we exhale our collectively held breath. If I saw a dog get swept down a river, I am really not sure what I’d do.
Once across, I lay out my situation to Bogwitch, mention my stomach and my morale and the honest truth that Bogwitch is getting stronger as I get weaker. That every day I grow more and more sure that I am not going to be able to keep up.
📍 This section of the Pacific Crest Trail is on unceded Chinook, Molalla, Wasco, and Wishram land.