Posted by: blinklove | July 1, 2010

Lost for Good?

“Lost for good?” Though I gave it little attention, this thought did bounce about in my head. Oh, where to begin…

The slugs are as big as your hand! AAAAh!

Oregon is beautiful, green, and alive. I finally began to feel confident again about our place on the trail as we began hiking from Cascade Locks. The trail much reminded me of my favorite parts of the Appalachian Trail, and I was almost skipping along despite the weight of my pack. We hiked 17 miles our first day, and 23 the second. We had a tough river crossing and a steep 6 mile climb, but other than that the trail was simple and beautiful. Some snow here and there, but nothing we couldn’t tackle. Our third day, yesterday, we planned to do 7 miles into Timberline Lodge. We would eat a hot meal, buy some more food, and continue on our way to Ollalie Lake.

We knew we were going to be confronted with more snow, but we could not have imagined the state of the trail. I barely want to type this for I have no desire to relive the day again in my mind. Yet, at the same time, this is our blog, our journal, and I want it to be honest and personal. I want to remember everything. So here goes: The snow started off in patches, and did not seem to be a big deal. The trail is well marked and pretty easy to follow. Then suddenly, it was gone. Snow covered everything.

We have been through this before so we just continued hiking up, since we knew we were supposed to be climbing 2000 feet. We climbed and climbed and climbed, until the clouds finally began to break and we caught a view of where we were heading- directly up Mt. Hood. We turned to the right and began looking more desperately for the trail. The next several hours we searched and guessed where we needed to head. I get dizzy just thinking about it. We had eaten all of our protein bars at this point and only had dehydrated meals left. We were bushwhacking and grabbing on to trees to keep from slipping down dangerous slopes. We were post-holing to our waists.

It is one thing to climb a mountain as a thru-hiker. You are already worn thin from previous hiking and too little food. You see the top and you know you have got to go for it. You get yourself excited by imagining the view from atop, and the muscle you will build along the way. As you begin your climb, you feel the weight of your pack more than ever before. The mountain drains you physically. The mountain drains you mentally by reminding you of all the climbs you have made so far, and how many more you have left to do. You start to think about how you will be doing this exact same thing everyday for the next five months. You begin to question why you are doing this to yourself? Finally you are at the top, and what do you do? You keep going. Climbing mountains are tough as a thru-hiker, but climbing the same mountains covered in snow is a completely different world.

Oops!

My first fall in the snow was on the second day. I slipped, hit rocks, and had to grab onto thorns to keep from sliding further down the mountain. The third day, my body would have wished for this simple fall over and over instead of what it endured. We were relieved to find the trail, but celebrated a bit too quickly. After being lost in the snow for several hours, we had to cross a freezing cold river. Stephen just left his socks and shoes on given that they were already soaked through from the snow. We crossed the river and headed up the trail- less than 4 miles less to Timberline Lodge. Oh, but who would have known, the trail was completely demolished. Avalanches and mudslides have destroyed this section of the trail. We had absolutely no choice but to leave the trail and make our own way up the next 2,000 ft climb. How frustrating! We began heading straight up, once again. By now though, our bodies were tired and we were very hungry. We did not want to stop to cook a meal, because we knew we could eat at Timberline Lodge and we did not want to waste a nutritional dehydrated meal. We did not know what sort of re-supply there would be at the lodge, and we still had about 50 miles to Ollalie Lake. Plus, we just wanted to get inside and be warm and safe!

My mind was still racing with motivation but my body was having trouble keeping up. As I pushed off from a small pine tree and hustled up the steep incline to the next small tree, I noticed I was breathing heavily- but wasn’t that to be expected? Yet when I reached up and grabbed a hold of the next tree I gasped for air and no air came. Oh no, not now…but yes, an asthma attack.

I have exercise induced asthma and had three asthma attacks on the AT. Asthma attacks are not a big deal to me. From my experience, they are only a problem if I panic during them. I learned from the first few that I do not need to panic, I just need to keep my mind calm and wait for the air to come. I had warned Stephen before the hike and a couple times since that I might have one, and not to worry. I sound like I am dying and tears stream down my face, but I know what I need to to and I do it. So during the attack I was not scared for my life, but just like every other one, I did feel like I was fighting for it. I knew I would win and be fine. The downside is they completely, and I mean completely wear me out. So after some Albuterol and a few minutes of normal breathing, I tired to get going again. I had no choice, I was hanging from a tree on the side of the mountain. And that was my breaking point. After the attack I just felt like I had nothing else in me and fear took over. I looked down. If I fell, I was not going to stop. If I was lucky I would hit the last tree I used as a hold, but it was too small to keep me from continuing to fall down the side of the mountain. I just hung there, trying to make my next move, trying not to let the fear conquer me and set me off balance.

Have you ever been climbing and reached higher than you felt comfortable? Have you ever been bungee jumping? This is the fear I was experiencing. The fear right before bungee jumping. I know it very well. I am afraid of heights and I have bungee jumped three times, sky diving twice, hang gliding, paragliding… I enjoy these sports because I face my fear, but all the time knowing I will be okay. The difference yesterday was that I did not know I would be okay. It was the same fear but without the parachute, without the harness, without the ropes. It paralyzed me. Stephen crawled down as much as he could and tried to steady himself so he could give me a hand. I had no choice, it was literally go for it or fall. So I gave it everything I did not have left and met Stephen’s hand. He helped pull me up to the next tree and we kept going.

This is what it looked like when the trail disappeared, before it got steep.

Luckily I became a little delusional after that which made everything appear easier. I could keep writing pages, but to sum it up we just kept climbing in the snow. We cut across a mountain we just knew had to be in the direction of the lodge. We were getting much closer when suddenly we came to a glacier canyon. This was most devastating. We had to go up even more of Mt. Hood to get around it. We walked straight up in less than 30 degree weather. This was Stephen’s breaking point. He began stopping every five steps to encourage himself to hike five more. We did not want to stop to eat because it was so cold and we felt like we were really close. Yet once I started seeing spots and almost fell over, we knew we had to. We stopped, cooked a meal, tried to warm up our toes, and then kept climbing. We knew we were close, for we were now higher than most of the ski lift. We hiked to the top of it, and saw the lodge at the bottom. We literally ran down to it. HOOOORRRRAAAAYYYY!!!!!!

We do not want to go back out there =( Since the lodge is literally on the trail, we knew it would typically be a place most hikers would stop for a night or at least a meal. Yet we also knew that no one had done what we just had. There were no footprints and the trail was literally impossible to walk on. We asked at the front desk if they had seen any thru-hikers. A man said yes, he had seen one. We asked which direction the hiker had been heading and he said, “I don’t know. He was really out of it and I could not tell from where he had come.”

So my big question is- where is everybody else? A couple hundred came out this year with the intention of hiking the entire trail, where are they? Are they battling though the Sierras? Did they just skip that section and they are in northern California with sunny skies and green hills? Did they go home?

Where is the trail?

I have been researching on the Pacific Crest Trail Association website and Trail Journals. Seems to be that almost every south bounder, if not every one, has aborted their hike or headed to another part of the trail. A lot of people have gone home saying this is simply not the year to hike the PCT. Some people are attempting southern Oregon. Some have skipped the Sierras and are trying out northern California. One person who chose this route documented,”The most experienced mountaineers were not making it through the Sierras, so we are skipping this section and heading north”. Yet reading more, some folks are fighting through the Sierras as we speak. There are reports of multiple avalanches and of course, very difficult water crossings. One that really gets me is, “He told me he crossed a river, pack over his head and water up to his armpits- the man is six foot four.”

So I have to say I feel better knowing that almost every other hiker is as dumbfounded as we are, all over the place and in search of anywhere in decent shape to hike some miles. Time is crunching on all of us. We have decided not to stress about miles, but to just do as much as we can every day and hope that this year brings a late winter. We want to be home, but we will not give up. Charles is our motivation right now, and he is the picture that stands for the thousands of homeless animals and people around the world. We know what it is like to be cold. We know what it is like to be hungry. We know what it is like to wish to be inside with someone to take care of us, or at least to tell us we will be okay. We have put ourselves further out of our comfort zone than we could have imagined, and we keep doing it in hopes to raise awareness for those who do not have a choice. I do not know what the end of our PCT story will be, but I do know we will not stop until we have given it everything we have left, and then some more.

feather

We miss you Prince Charles!

Advertisements

Responses

  1. Heather & Stephen,
    Paula sent me the latest on your hike and it reminded me of some of former backpacking days, only worse and lasting longer. Technology has changed so much since my time but the realities of trail life and inclimate weather carry a thread through the same cloth. Speaking of cloth, was that really a dress you were wearing on the trail Heather? You are such a hippy born late.
    We can cringe reading this and looking at a bloody leg but we do so in a shelter with controlled environment and maybe a glass of veno depending on the time of day.
    Kodos to both of you for being out there for those four-leggeds who need a helping hand from humans. As to Prince Charles, he is beautiful and lucky to have come accross you two.
    May the trail be good to you both. May you have enough food and water, be warm when it cold and cool when it is hot, have shelter when you need it and exprience a better balance of inlimate days and beautiful days than you have had thus far.
    Deb

    Deb

  2. Hi you two! I love and miss you tons and can’t wait to see you soon! ❤

  3. You both are courageous and are great at telling your story.

  4. I was really relieved to read that you had arrived safely at Timberline Lodge! I am one of the 2 senior women who met you on the trail and told you there would be lots of snow as you got up there (I’m the one with the overly energetic chocolate lab).

    As soon as we started driving home I started thinking that we had been remiss in not telling you our complete thoughts- namely that there was way too much snow to find the trail and that becoming lost for awhile was a certainty. This happens to hikers all spring and early summer here. I also remembered that you would have to climb up out of Zig Zag Canyon after crossing the river and realized it would be terrible- there are always slides there even without snow and it is extremely steep as you discovered.

    So I was very relieved that you made it safely, and next time I’ll tell people the full story (no doubt most will ignore it coming from a lady in her 70’s, but that is their choice).

  5. Wow. Thank you so much for sharing this story so openly. I know it must’ve been difficult to relive it again thru words. Please know that you are truly an inspiration and if you don’t complete every mile of the trail you will still be an inspiration. You’ve saved an abandoned desert doggie and you’ve raised awareness to so many people. Please stay safe and know that we are all with you. Sending good thoughts your way…

  6. Heather and Stephen,
    I’m inspired by your dedication, commitment, strength of body, mind and spirit, passion, devotion, and love that keep you going. Please know that your safety is what really matters when all is said and done, and if that means coming home early, then please do so. You have already surpassed tests that some people do not go through their entire lives. I’m just in awe of you two and hope the rest of your trip is better.

  7. Glad to know you are not going to stress about the miles. You two have already done an amazing job of bringing awareness to the homeless, and I know will continue doing so the rest of your lives. If you finish, great! If you come home and decide to tackle this another year, that is great too.
    Just be safe, and stay healthy.
    I am sure that Charlie misses you. Not only did you safe his life, but showed him what love was all about.
    Thanks to both of you for all you do; not just for the animals, but for all of us.

  8. Golly — What an adventure/challenge/ordeal! Do take care of yourselves. As Leslie said — we want you both of come back safe and sound.

  9. What a story! I know that both of you were absolutely pushed to the breaking point- but you did not break and you made it! This will strengthen you both in difficult situations the rest of your lives- and you are both handling it so courageously, as you have decided to not stress beyond being sensible. I hope you will not worry about doing every single mile of the trail, and that the main purpose is just as Heather said in this incredible tale- to raise awareness of all the animals who want a warm place, food, etc. So, stay safe and find a part of the trail that isn’t just pushing to the breaking point, but is more enjoyable! Love you both so much. PS. Stephen, I got my Father’s Day Card when I got back from Costa Rica. It meant so much- thanks! Dad

  10. I am in awe of the 2 of you. I also hope that you both know that postponing this hike might be a smart thing to do. That is a heck of a hike in the best of conditions but this year sounds brutal. I support whatever you two decide to do. I guess, I want you to know that it is not a failure to delay this a year. You guys know that. We just all care about you and want you both to come back safe and sound.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: