I hear Bogwitch quietly shuffle in their tent. It’s five AM. They want the breakfast buffet at Timberline, which ends at 10:30. They’re on a mission, I tell them they don’t have to wait. They’re up and out quick.
My stomach wretches. Quietly, I eat rice noodle ramen and drink half of my coffee. I’m addicted to caffeine, but the acidity makes me gag every other sip.
I look at the selfie camera on my phone. My eyes are rimmed in deep bags, I’m pale. There is no way I can hike nine miles before 10:30. I want to sleep for one thousand years. I want to cry until I have nothing left.
I hike a mile, shit, hike two miles, shit again. The urge comes so fast, it’s hard to dig a good cat hole and I feel guilty. I’m cold sweating, and I’m noting the facts. I cannot hike faster than this, though it is not at all fast. Carrot is gone, my two friends that were maybe going to hike Oregon with me decided not to, Bogwitch is faster than me on a normal day and they’re getting stronger while I waste away. The band of my spandex shorts is baggy. I shit again and I feel really, really alone.
On this exact day last year, I took my first steps on the PCT. I was so scared to long distance hike then, really unsure how to set up my shelter, how to use my stove. In one year, I have hiked just a little over 1800 miles. I know how to hike now. I know how to use my gear. I know exactly how much water I need for what conditions, I know how to set up my shelter when the ground is too hard for tent stakes. I know how to keep mice out of my shelter. I know exactly how much fuel both a small and a medium canister provides. I know how to crush miles when I feel like shit, I know how to reel it back when I am treating this part or that gingerly. I know how to acknowledge the unceded indigenous land I walk on, how to be a grateful guest. I know how to blog when I can barely think. I know a lot about long distance hiking, but in this moment I also know that I should stop. Not stop hiking forever of course , but stop for this year. My goal was to finish Washington, and Washington I did. For now, just over 1800 miles in a year is enough.
I decide this and I cry. I cry not because I am about to be done hiking, but because I have four more miles of climbing to go and I don’t know how I am going to do it. I shit twice more and I crawl to Timberline Lodge. The closer I get, the more people I see. Children and the elderly pass me with ease. When I arrive Bogwitch tells me I look as white as a sheet.
I hitch out to my friend Emma, who is waiting for me with her car. With every mile away from the trail, I know Bogwitch is headed ever South, that this decision is permanent unless I want to hike alone. I don’t want to hike alone, and when I finally leave Emma, the tears about that come for real.
Hiking has given me so much purpose since my entire life changed in 2018. In 2018 I closed the business I worked so hard to build. I divorced someone I thought I’d love forever, but it turned out I could not. I prioritized queer relationships. I lost my home and my dog in the divorce. I moved to Tucson. I got a new dog. I loved myself, and honestly I fucking hated myself too. Because I didn’t know why I needed to level everything to be happy, and I also didn’t know if happy even really existed.
Through all of this, I let myself do the thing I’d always wanted to do but never quite made time for : I decided to take the time to walk. I walked in Alaska, Washington, California, Nevada, Arizona, and Oregon. I walked with my lover, my friends, with strangers, and alongside people I downright hated. My walking filled a lot of my time in 2019, a good chunk of every month, most of April and May and all of July. While I walked I open mouth sobbed again and again from so many emotions. I sobbed from my broken heart and from the injustice everywhere, from my fear of a police state, because I need a mom that I’ll never have, because people I love are dead, because people I love are alive and beautiful— so fucking beautiful I can’t believe we get them here and now, in this place on this planet.
I’ll miss walking. It’s hard not to acknowledge the pride that walking makes me feel in my body, though that feels tricky in a world where I don’t exactly want to center myself and my body, what with all my cis, thin, white, able bodied privilege. And what about the thing that my brain does that makes me think I should probably exercise all day every day no matter what? Long distance hiking certainly doesn’t do much to assuage that, so I guess that’s something I’ll think about with all of my free time off trail. I’ll think about what part of me has a really cool new hobby and what part of me thinks I need to do something really hard and taxing with my body to be a cool person in the world.
But for today: there is my dog. There are endless tall cups of filtered water with lemons slices, vegan and gluten free buffalo wings in vegan ranch. There are my friends who say “oh thank god” when I tell them I’m going to get a poop test and I’m going to get a blood test while I’m at it, maybe my vitamins and minerals are off. There is a bed, one that I sink into, that carries me away, that catches my tired bones and exhaustion and says:
It’s ok, Muffy. For now you can rest.
(For those curious! I have a sweet sweet combo of cryptosporidium and anemia! The crypto will go away on it’s own and the anemia explains….a lot. I might get back on trail for a section or two and I might not, but either way I plan to rest hard!)
📍 This section of the Pacific Crest Trail is on unceded Chinook, Molalla, Wasco, and Wishram land.