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Monthly Archives: September 2011
As far back as I can remember, I don’t think I’ve ever had a weeks vacation time that wasn’t broken up to make a few extra 3 day weekends throughout the year, ear marked for something family. Last week my vacation was off to what turned out to be a GREAT start, learning and sharing with a National Park hitch-hiker, I wasn’t sure what to do next. My bags were packed to catch up with friends in Seattle, and thoughts of an ‘Urban Hike’ with hiking26 Fans came to mind, time and again. Feeling contemplative as I was from the previous days venture, I started off driving by the nearest Interstate exits in case Stanislav hadn’t been able to find a ride into Seattle. No sights of him, so I took off with my camera to check out a former train tunnel on the John Wayne Trail. Structures of distinction make great backdrops for gown clad photos, but the ‘Tunnel Closed’ sign left me disappointed, and ready to hit the Highway.
It’s the time of year to find PCT thru-hikers out on the trail up here in the northern reaches, as they near the end of their 2600 mile trek. Not far from where I hit the highway, I exited at Snoqualmie Pass to find the PCT Trailhead. I excitedly found a group of PCT’ers kicking back at the nearest gas station, gorging themselves on high calorie junk food, playing Frisbee, and discussing whether they should break up a six-pack of beer for the evenings campsite.
I was hesitant to walk up to such a large group (15+). As soon as I said hello, told them I was following in their footsteps next year, they accepted me as one of their own. Happy-go-lucky, and relaxed from the night prior, one guy pointed to where they’d camped, a hotel, which happens often on the PCT. Taking a night away from the tarp or tent, and bathing in streams, is good for morale. I asked if they thought that was cheating at all, and someone called out “not if you walk there, only if you get a ride”.
Surprisingly they started asking ME questions. “What maps are you going to use?”, “Where are you starting”, “what are you wearing” .. oh wait, no, that last question was my little shocker for them. In just a few short minutes I gained more invaluable information on maps and guidebooks that are not only good, but will save me money. The cost of the guidebooks I had intended to purchase run in the $200 range. Updated yearly though, with water caches and re-routed trails, current maps are necessary. Mentioning the large group of hikers, someone said that this was the largest group bottle necked into the same area, at any one stop that they’d encountered.
I was also told not to give in to FEAR MONGERING ! Many people on the trail, and off, will say that certain sections can’t be done – “you better skip that section – this part of the trail is impossible.” But I’m told to ignore them, and “hike your own hike, go at your own pace, and don’t let the fear get to you”. Right, I’ll remember that guys!
The response to my wedding gown plan was a quick one “I wonder what HIS trail name will be”. Everyone on the trail ends up with their own trail name, which is often given to them, by those that hike with or near, ranging from ‘are we there yet’ to ‘zoro’ these names stick with you for a lifetime. I left completely stoked, taking with me their high energy and positive attitude.
Down the road at the Trailhead, I gave up on my Seattle plans, and decided to spend the day hiking the PCT. I’ll let the photos tell that bit of the story… Check them out here
Along the way I encountered a crew blasting fallen trees off of the trail, and another wonderful day hiker, who, at the highest elevation of the day, pointed far beyond where we stood to show me where the PCT continues through the Cascade mountain range. Just short of 8 miles in, I had to turn around at a set of gorgeous alpine lakes, or risk a dark descent back to my truck. All in all it was another amazing experience.
Off the trail, I stopped to give in to my Diet Coke cravings, grab a Snickers bar, and call to see if I still had a place to crash in Easton. Rolling past a coffee shop, I noticed the silhouette of a b/packer, which I found odd, as darkness had set in, and any thru hiker should be hunkered down for the evening. Looking closer, I realized it was Stanislav. His surprise was as great as mine, as I was supposed to be in Seattle, and he should be closer to the peninsula by now. Sadly, after several hours the day prior, he wasn’t able to catch a ride. So as I drove him to the camp site down the road, we made arrangements to reconvene in the morning, where I’d drive him the rest of the way to his destination. Seattle would have to wait for another day.
Aggravated and hungry, I peeled up my driveway, vaulting gravel, pinecones, and dust into the mid morning air. Slightly stressed out and Feeling as though I’d wasted a days vacation locked up in my cabin searching b/packing food on the net and experimenting with trail nutrition. All things that can be done this winter. Although my trip into the Olympic National Forest wasn’t scheduled until Wednesday, the sun was shining and plenty of trails to explore lie between home and my destination, the peninsula West of Seattle.
Before I could even get the radio tuned in, stop for breakfast, and a Diet Coke, or begin my mental list of things to do on the way to Seattle, I passed a young man, not two miles down the road, walking down the highway on which I live. Clean cut, and sporting all the gear of an adventure backpacker, I decided to ‘pay it forward’ or in my case, ‘pay in advance’, and offer him a ride. Hitchhiking off the Pacific Crest Trail into re-supply towns is the norm, and I figured I’d do my part to help advance this guy to his next destination. I doubled back to see if he was interested, and he gratefully accepted.
Freeing up the front seat, I tossed my pack in the bed of the truck, as he did the same. Noticing the PCT sticker on the window, he lit up and asked in a Russian accent, if I’d hiked the trail. “Not yet” I replied, “Next year” and in my mind I thought, “ oh if you only knew HOW I was going to hike it, you’d likely not get in the truck’. So there in the back, lay two backpacks, two sets of trecking poles, and a Rubbermaid container crammed tight with wedding gowns.
This trip I was embarking on is one that I’ve been waiting all year for. Hiking with Ryan, (aka Green Tortuga) who is of the few experienced long distance hikers that responded to my queries about the PCT, AND didn’t seem to block me when I shared my project plan with him. I liked what he had to tell me, the simplicity in which he relayed his thoughts on gear, and his willingness to spend a few days hiking with me as he shared what he could about life on the trail. My mind has been craving more info than the internet can provide someone like me, and I was anxious to spend that one on one time learning more from a pro with 7000+ miles of trails behind him.
Imagine my surprise then, when Monday mornings hitcher, Stanislav, a 33 year old Russian, residing in Anchorage, Alaska, tells me not only that he too is headed to the same National Park 400 miles away, but he also has spent the last 5 months hiking about the West, including more than half of the Pacific Crest Trail. I tried to restrain my excitement as I thoughtfully asked him the questions I felt were most important. One conversation led to another and I broke down and told him about hiking26. As an artist himself, he appreciated the idea, and further conversation was had about mens attire found around the world.
Many invaluable lessons were learned as we rolled across Washington on the I-90 corridor. I remain fascinated as I listened to his Worldwide adventures. It seems that cash is key when it comes to crossing Amazonian borders into unencumbered villages where clothing is unnecessary, and life – as well as minds- are simple, almost on a juvenile level. He educated me on keeping it basic, inexpensive, and persevering.
Time would pass, then a new topic would bein. We discussed the meaning of LIVING. Family, Friend and Life Obligations leading to Guilt. Questioning if it’s selfish to take time away from daily duties to immerse oneself in the Wilderness. And as we grow old, what will happen to the adventurer, without a retirement plan, who spent every dime earned on food, fuel, and fantastic journeys? My thoughts shared on this may not be comforting in the long run, but seem to make sense for me now. The golden age of story telling is coming to an end. As the pioneers that have worked strong and hard, to build this country, come to pass, and the technical age takes over, I fear that 50 years from now, the opportunity for the young to relive adventures through first hand narration of an elder, will be scarce. So precious are these stories of life lived outside of offices and cubicles. From a foreigner in a distant land, paddling through rainforests for months wearing only a pair of shorts, to discovering abandoned remains of the Cold War, or as little as a few precious hours with an unlikely companion, as they swap tales and talk of the precious moments in life. These are tales that need to be told, if not written and bound for all to read. These men and women that venture far from the city, exploring what’s left of the natural world, are the Authors of a new history, purveyors of that which can no longer be experienced.
So my answer to this quandary and even my own personal fears lie in that which I have just written. It may seem simple minded or wreckless, but some lives are meant to live outside of the confines of the norm. Just as my stimulus craving creative mind appreciates the structures of the metropolis on an evening drive, past the glowing neon of city central, I too appreciate the grand cover of the deep forest, or a peaceful respite, many miles from the light polluted sky, where the Milky Way is a clear swath of light illuminating the airy cathedral above me.
There were no lulls in the conversations had, just my own contemplative silence, as my copilot dozed in and out of sleep. Nearing Easton, WA, and the end of our journey, where I was to stop for the evening, and Stas would stick his thumb back out in the wind, attempting to arrive on the Olympic Peninsula sooner than I was scheduled to arrive there, I asked if he would like to listen to the radio. He said no… with the windows cracked, he said that the wind was music, and that was just fine.
One statement spilled from the lips of my new found friend. Something so simple, yet profound, it will resonate in my mind for ages, (and hopefully come to light whenever it’s most needed to be recognized). He said that when it’s late, he’s tired, it’s been a long day. When he’s crossing a frigid and rushing river, holding his pack over the water, and he’s hungry. When there’s miles to go before he can rest for the night. At that moment, he has to remind himself,
So maybe we can all remember this, and learn from the wise words of a well traveled Russian, Alaskan fisherman by trade, explorer by natural curiosity… when life gets stressful, or we’re having a bad day at work, stuck in line, or stuck in traffic
– It’s Temporary. In a few hours, this will no longer matter, In the following days, it will all be forgotten.
Parting ways at the intersection of the fast life interstate, and the small town Exit, was difficult for me. I felt there was more for me to learn and lessons to absorb. This unexpected and unforgettable experience all began in a stressed out state, and never would have happened had I not been running behind, as it seems, i was right on time. I spent the rest of the evening catching up with my friend Steve, a great Elementary teacher, and sharing with him the story of the unlikely hitchhiker, and wondered how much closer to his destination he continued to travel. Little did I know how soon we’d cross paths again…
In the past months, I’ve been struggling with all of the options of what hiking26 COULD be. There are so many ideas that I’ve had, photos I want to create, and stories I wanted to share, but time, stress, my job, and MOSTLY my overactive imagination & thought processes all kept getting in the way. I’m far better with images than words, but in fighting the constant battle of personally defining the alternate end results of hiking26, kept me from giving back anything to you, the Fans. I felt that i should keep everything as much of a mystery as possible, therefore, this can be whatever YOU want it to be. It seems to mean something a bit different to each and every person that encounters the site. Finding things to write about while keeping the Dress/Mustache/Man/Hike NEUTRAL is just impossible. All of the things that are ‘ME’, i.e. the things that mingled to create this Project to be what it is, are anything other than Neutral, so therefore, I can give you nothing, or give you me…. My guess is you’d rather get more of me, and less of the void that silence has created. So as time runs out for me to get out and hike and train and enjoy weather before the snow settles in to my cozy Northeast Washington town, I am back on track to give you both… So stay tuned, as I share with you what this project has meant to me, from facing a learning disability, to realizing just how simple I tend to like things. So here we’ll move on together, with the trials and tribulations, the frocks and the frivolity, and who knows what else to come. Thank you to every one of you who has made this a reality so far. It’s been one heck of an exciting and scary ride thus far. Until tomorrow… Ron