Category Archives: travels

The Final Chapter…In One Book…of a Multi-Part Series

A very upset heron trying to find some solitude

My 2017 adventure has come to an end. Not for any one reason, but because of several deciding factors. The first being that I’ve been out of money for at least two months now and I’m unwisely racking up debt. Followed by my desire to not walk in wind and rain. In spite of my best efforts, I’m a fair-weather hiker. 

The last of the sunny days in Oregon

Today I got pelted by sand flying at me at 65 mph (according to the weather report). There’s also that I wanted to surprise my parents for the holidays. 

Waterfall on the beach after wine tasting

Then a number of small reasons: my feet hurt, I’m tired, my mind is restless, I’m itching to start building toward my next goal and next adventures, I need to exercise my mind for a while because I feel myself going dim.

Formations in the rocks on the windiest day on the trail

I have had time to reflect on my life, and on my hike. In the beginning, if you remember, a trail angel said that he did his thru-hike in stages. California was to think about his past, Oregon was to think about his present, and Washington was to think about his future. Mine was in a slightly different order, but it’s the same in essence. What I’ve come up with is this:

Scott modeling the intensity of the wind


Past:

My past really doesn’t matter anymore. It happened and much of it sucked (my 20’s). I imagine that memories will grace me from time to time and I’ll scowl in disgust before moving on. The people in my past will remain there and they will never be part of my present or future. It’s not that I can’t forgive, it’s just that forgiveness doesn’t mean I have to make the same mistakes again. Lessons learned.

A slew of sea lions, defiantly relaxing outside of the sea lion caves that some jerks are charging people $17 to see. These sea lions refuse to be tamed. 

Present:

Shhh…don’t tell anyone that I’m listening to the menacing wind from the comfort of a hotel room, where I’ve been for a few days. I’m going to say that my “present” is everything that has happened on this long journey. 

Bridge on the way out of Florence

Many of you have been following along, reading about my complaining, frustration, awe, and whatever mood swing I was spiraling through at the time. 

Soaked up to the crotch by a rogue wave. If only you heard me scream.

This hike has been the single most meaningful journey of my life. I know I am going go struggle to explain its significance because, unless you’ve been there, there’s no way you will really get it (See: “Adventure Types”).

After our wet day with the wave, drunk sliding was in order


I don’t know that I’m much more confident than when I started, but perhaps more determined to succeed? I don’t know that I’m much more fit, but maybe habituated to move? Not wiser, but proceeding with a clear mind. Not more creative, but more inspired. Not more alive, but maybe I’ve finally woken up. 

Saying goodbye to Scott

At one of my weakest moments, my brother wrote encouragement that I’ll never forget. “You never started this adventure to compare how much better someone is than someone else; you started it to be better than yourself when you started.” I may not be anywhere near my goals or anywhere near being the person I want to be, but for the first time in years, I’ve taken a step forward. 3,081,178 steps to be precise.

Driving 1000 miles to surprise Scott for his birthday and finding him within 30 minutes of getting into the area


I am proud of myself. I’ve met amazing people. I’ve seen things that brought me to tears. I’ve been places that many people will never go. I’ve done things that some will never do. I found pieces of myself that I thought were lost forever. I found a reason to have faith in people. I started to dream bigger. I’ve accomplished so much more in this journey than I ever thought I would. Which brings me to…

Gorgeous evening finding Scott


Future:
I’ve gone over dozens upon dozens of life scenarios. I think I’ve found one that fits. (Fingers crossed). I found a lovely program in the Peace Corps, hiking 6 miles every day to a tiny school in Nicaragua, to educate children about the importance of preserving the rainforest.

Top 2 sunsets

In my journey this year, my hiking partner and I met a very nice man who worked for the forest service. We were discussing clear-cutting with him. He was happy and adamantly proclaimed “it’s good for the birds.” This man was not evil or vindictive. He was simply not educated on the subject.

Geese hanging out until they go home in the spring

I’ve walked through many forests, and you know what I heard? Life. Everywhere. In abundance (with the exception of one creepy spot in Lassen). And you know what I heard in the clear-cut sections? Nothing. Complete silence. …it’s good for the birds.

Sunset eagle


Now you can imagine when I saw that rainforest program pop up again, how it just felt right. I think this year, I’ll be learning Spanish.

Late autumn trees


If the Peace Corps works out (I’ll blog about that too, contingent on internet availability), I will follow it with grad school…possibly a doctoral program in psychology. We’ll see. 

Coos Bay during a storm

I also will make art again. That is a certainty. And I will attempt the Pacific Crest Trail again because it was worth every struggle to get there. As far as love, it’s up in the air right now. Who can really know where that will go.

The owns who own the town, Orick, CA.


Thank you for coming on my journey with me. For assisting with my sanity. For encouragement. For company. For something to occupy my mind. I hope this inspired you to move from “dreamer” to “adventurer.”

Beautiful morning after sleeping in a parking lot on the way home


A river otter saying hello and upsetting anything with feathers


Small bird serenading me at sunrise


Beautiful sunrise on the very last day of my long journey


And a proper sendoff

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Adventure Types Footnote

Fancy mushrooms

I’m writing this as a kind of footnote to my next blog which is already very long. This helps to describe people you’ll meet during a thru-hike, compartmentalized into very absurdly generalized categories.

Rewarding view after a long climb


Adventure Types:
In talking to people over the past 7 months, it’s funny the types of people you meet. I’m talking about strangers here, where it’s easy to lump them together. Hikers. Non-hikers. And dreamers. Or possibly adventurers/non-adventures would be more appropriate? It’s probably terrible to lump people into these categories, but for the sake of this story, just go with it.

Estuary with bald eagles

A hiker/adventurer, you can spot instantly. When you’ve been on a journey, long or short, that has significance to you, it changes you. I don’t know how and it’s difficult to explain, but you can see it in people. In a simple “hello,” there is a difference in the way people interact. When you say hello to a hiker/adventurer, it’s an instant spark of recognition, like talking to a favorite cousin. You’ll immediately fill each other in on the past few months of your lives. And offer any food or beverage you have in your possession.

Estuary again


When saying hello to a non-hiker/adventurer, it’s a curt acknowledgement. Enough to be polite, but not enough to get to know one another on any level. This kind of person will ask about your hike because it scares them on some level. They want to share in your experiences for the main purpose of confirming that they never want to try it. This isn’t to say they don’t get out and do things, they just prefer to enjoy fun in a responsible fashion. Responsible doesn’t include vanishing from your life and job, then running out into the wilderness and doing everything your parents taught you not to do. For example, hiking alone, eating mounds of junk food, hitchhiking, talking to strangers, accepting food and candy from strangers, getting into windowless vans. It goes on like this. But you’ll never what this person does for fun because you are a stranger and they don’t want to talk to you.

Deer on the beach as we were watching whales

The dreamer often finds themselves right in the middle. They’re a little scared and a little too set in their life to make the journey. But they often become adventurers because it all sounds too good to pass up. Or they live in comfort while finding excitement in the adventures of others. Dreamers are often caring, generous, and encouraging. They may even talk others into adventures but still not go on any themselves. It’s a fine balance, but the scale is easily tipped because they’re just waiting for the right inspiration.

Sandstone cliffs at Pacific Beach


Pacific Beach Haystack Rock


Searching for glass floats in Lincoln City. There wasn’t a treasure at the end of the rainbow.


Tide coming in at Lincoln City


Colorful Tidepools

 

Lessons in Letting Go

Lake Louise

October 9th

It’s been a long week and we were never able to get back on the trail. We waited too long and the snow set in in the mountains. We began making backup plans to keep the adventure going, but differences in opinion tore us apart. For the first time in 4 months, I am truly alone. I’m trying to be excited about it as I set off on my own adventure. But I feel like I lost my best friend. Some of my most significant days were with him.

The snow when we were supposed to start hiking

Fully in Autumn

Astoria

This trip hasn’t been at all what I expected it to be. I’ve done less than half of the trail and yet it’s more than I’ve done my entire life. It changed my outlook on life. I’m afraid I’ll never be satisfied after this. The trail feels like home and I’m homesick. Now I’m driving a rental car north in hopes of reaching Alaska before the snow. I hope it will clear my head and heal my heart. After that, it’s back to the Oregon coast to start walking home.

Aspens in Prince George, BC

Snow and aspens on the way to Alberta

October 14th

I didn’t reach Alaska, but instead spent a few days in the Canadian Rockies, snow and all. My rental car is a trooper and made it through the snow like a champ. Jasper and Banff were amazing.

 From waterfalls to ice fields to glaciers, it was gorgeous. I saw a lot of wildlife: 3 eagles, 7 deer, a snow bunny, 15+ elk (with 2 males sparring), and at least 30 big horn sheep that were hanging out in the road. 

Beautiful evening in Jasper

Yesterday, I sat in some hot springs in Banff as tiny snowflakes fell on my face. I think the rest of my life needs to be filled with moments like that. I drove through 5 National Parks in total and might go through another today as I make my way west.

Cold little rental after being scraped off in the morning

My mind is clear now, but my heart is still sad. I’m making my way down to Astoria in the next couple of days. I’m ready to start walking.

Canyon at Athabasca Falls

So cold that I needed a babushka

Athabasca Falls

On the road to Banff

Parking lot at the icefields -4℃

Columbia Icefield and glaciers

The closest I’ve ever been to a big horn sheep

Big horn sheep licking minerals off the road and knowing this is their territory

A perfect blue glacier

Made it to Banff, the first national park in Canada

Cave and Basin. The spot that inspired the national park system.

One more shot of Lake Louise because it was that beautiful