Day 132: High Camp, busted

Day 132
Miles: 11.5
From Trout Lake to campsite on old lava flow

The monastery hostel has big picture windows and no shades, facing northeast to Mt Adams. I ditched J in the middle of the night for my own twin mattress, but as day creeps up on us he sneaks back in beside me, and we watch the great face of the mountain turn towards the sun.

We have hot tea and sausage, eggs, toast, fruit, hash browns, and conversation for breakfast. Kozen sits down and eats with us. (I wonder if he considers this breakfast? He’s been up in prayers since 3am.) He chats with us about the trail, life, religion, and then completely floors us asking: “Does this journey have a spiritual component for you two?”
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Day 129: bursting the bubble

Day 129
Miles: 22
From rock creek to campsite on a saddle

‘Twas the night before hiking
And all ’round the campsite,
It was all to my liking
All tucked in for the night –

When outside of my shelter,
I heard a great clatter!
Everything now helter-skelter
Lights and shouting, feet a patter!

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Day 126: PCT Days!

Day 126
Miles: 0
Portland to Cascade Locks

Three days to do my chores just means a mad scrabble on the fourth morning to finish them all. J and I precariously load our bicycles with boxes and make one last ride together, to the post office. Resupply: mailed. We pack up our backpacks, and weigh them and ourselves, just because there’s a scale in the house. Both our packs, with our gear, five days of food, and a liter of water, ring in at exactly 30lbs. Not bad. As for myself, I’ve gained back seven of the pounds I lost in the Sierras, and I think all of it is in my thighs. Bike muscles. It’s a relief to not be on the edge of emaciation anymore.

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Days 124 and 125: Going nowhere fast

Days 124 and 125
Miles: 0

My burning desire to finally get back on trail and to start the final push to Canada has been thwarted by my burning desire to hang out in Portland, eating delicious food, taking naps, and seeing old friends. Snap. On top of that, doing our food resupply for this last stretch seems to be a three-day process for me and J. One day to buy, one day to pack the boxes, and one day to mail them…

The weather is beautiful, heartbreakingly perfect, the sort of weather you don’t even realize is weather until you think back on days full of lunches on patios, long bike rides around town, evenings outside: Portland in the summertime.

Our chores are almost done. We’ve been to REI (new undies and socks). We stopped by the Snow Peak store, full of titanium and other things we can’t afford. I bought a new titanium spork. This one is purple. I also bought a beautiful wool blend, long-sleeve shirt, on an incredible sale for a still outrageous price, to replace the purple one I’ve worn down to rags. J convinces me that’s it’s too beautiful to ruin hiking, so I just put in the box of things to mail home instead.

Most importantly, we bought hundreds of dollars of groceries. We sat down on the sidewalk in front of Safeway in downtown Portland and ripped everything out of the excess packaging (so much packaging!) and bicycled it back to J’s brother’s apartment. J’s brother&girlfriend are healthy types, the sort of people who have a house full of delicious, nutritious, organic food and a drawer of high-end chocolate, and it is downright embarrassing to be doing our hiking resupply in their house. J and I wait until they leave to do the necessary work of divvying up bags of candy bars (pounds and pounds), 2 lb bags of gummy bears, 2 lb bags of sour patch kids, 2 lb bags of skittles, potato chips, wasabi peas, instant potatoes, pop-tarts, tortillas, tuna packets, brownie mix to stir in straight with our instant coffee, and on, and on. Once it’s all sorted and packed into USPS priority boxes, J tries calling some of the resupply stops in Oregon to see if we can re-route some of the boxes there (that we never picked up) to resupply stops in Washington. Shelter Cove resort won’t even talk to PCT hikers about their boxes unless you’re there in person to pick it up, and we are no exception. Other boxes we simply can’t find. (J threw away the tracking numbers back in Reno, and I’ve been upset with him about it ever since. I should probably get over it, but it continues to be a problem, over and over. Don’t throw away your tracking numbers! Don’t do it!) But! finally the Big Lake Youth Camp kindly agrees to forward a box for us.

Aside from chores and the temptations of the good life here in Portland, the biggest reason for our delay is PCT days. I’d never heard of PCT days before yesterday, but apparently it’s a thing – a thing sort of like kick-off (aka ADZPCTKO). It’s in Cascade Locks, right where I will be getting back on the PCT, taking place at the same time I will be getting back on the PCT, and I have a ride. (It’s 3D to the rescue again.) I wasn’t initially interested in going to PCT Days – I don’t need any gear, and I don’t know that I’m particularly excited about getting caught in the hiker bubble that will inevitably result. And, one more thing that I don’t particularly like to acknowledge to myself, is that I’m still not sure how I feel about my bicycle detour, and I’m definitely not sure how I want to talk about it to all the other hikers who put the miles in the hard way. (The real way?) There are the things that happen in your life, and then there’s the narrative you spin out of the raw material. I’m not sure that the narrative isn’t more real than the facts. The facts disappear with the passing of time, gone through your fingers the moment they’re over, but the narrative – the story – persists. Every day I spin that narrative a little bit more, here on this blog, choosing what is positive, what is negative, what I will preserve, and what I leave to moulder on the dust-bin of a leak memory.

I don’t have a story to tell yet about the bicycling. It hasn’t needed to be a story, it still was. Now it’s over, and I get to create it from scratch.

Meanwhile, last night in town. A mad push to finish some blogging, a last night with friends. Forward and onward.


Day 123: Work??? and other thoughts

Day 123
Miles: 0

We wake up on Nick’s floor, next to Pacman, snoozing on the couch. Back in town. So many chores, decisions. The detritus of town-living.

Being in the city is still overwhelming, even after being on the highway for weeks. A city is funny place to transition back to the trail, but that’s the plan. I’ve been texting with 3D, and she’s in Portland too, which is crazy and amazing.

Wait a minute, you say. What DID happen with 3D? Last that Team Whiskers saw her, she was riding away, alone, to find her way back to the PCT. Short story is she pedaled north into the blistering Central California heat to the small town of Weed, fortuitously caught a bus to Ashland, OR, and found her way back to the PCT, then hiked Oregon. (The longer story can be found on her blog, HERE.) She sent us texts of hiker parties and rainbow kitty unicorn butterflies and Crater Lake. We sent her pictures of redwoods and the sea. She was the instigator of this crazy bicycle detour, and then left us to ride it out her own way, on a parallel journey, ending up here, now, same as us.

I have all these mixed, conflicting feelings about the PCT, and being a thru-hiker, and seeing other hikers. J and I have had an on-going discussion/argument about what, exactly, does it MEAN to be a thru-hiker, and we continue it. It’s a good question. I’ve been thinking about it since my very first day on the trail, when I had to decide if I was going to call myself a thru-hiker or not. Can you be a thru-hiker when you haven’t gone thru anything (or hiked a single step yet)? What if you only go part way thru? What if, just for example, you bicycle thru, just for a part of it?

The other question, for me at least, is just how much all of this internal questioning is motivated by what I think my peers will think about it, about me. So much of “cool” crowd in the PCT/long-distance hiking world seems centered around the glorification of those who hike faster, longer, farther than anyone else. Competition seems so firmly ground into our psyches that most of us have no idea how to deal with having dozens of other people around us having parallel experiences. It doesn’t make any sense to think this way – your first 25 mile day is not negated by your friend hiking their first 26. In fact, no one’s achievement is in any way affected by any other’s. The PCT is not a race. It’s a place, 2660 miles long, and one mile wide. Seeing all of it in one year, in one trip, in one go, to see it thru – that’s something special. But it doesn’t have a thing to do with your worth as a person.

Or so I tell myself. The things I know consciously, I am striving to learn to understand unconsciously. A lifetime of living in the ratrace is hard to shake. I know that getting off the trail and onto the bicycles has saved my PCT trip. My feet, after a month of not hiking, have finally stopped hurting. (The shooting heel pain struck as recently as last week.) My body is strong again. My spirits are high again. More importantly – most importantly – my soul-destroying, neurotic obsession with an “orthodox” thru-hike, at the exclusion of finding meaning, hope, or joy in my journey, has faded and left. I would not have relinquished it voluntarily, but the fires took it from me. Gave my heart back to me. A gift.

This is something I will have to think about some more.

Speaking of the ratrace, I’m going to go into the office today. (It weirds me out just to write this sentence.) I was lucky enough to get a leave of absence for this summer, and I didn’t have to quit my job like so many others. However, my work email password expired in… May… so I don’t actually know if I really still have a job. They could have laid me off two months ago for all I know. I can’t update my password unless I’m on the company network. I tried to update my password in Reno, as my friend Jule, who was hosting me, works for the same company, but the network was down that day. So, I’ll try again today, at the office in Portland.

I borrow Nick’s car, and navigate his standard through Portland traffic and a maze of freeway interchanges and through the suburbs – all terrifying. I’m out of practice at this sort of civilized thing. Wearing my hiking pants and the shirt without any holes, I walk in and convince the admins to let me borrow a computer, and I catch up on my email.

Can’t say I’ve missed it.

I still have a job, and I’m relieved/disappointed to have real life waiting for me, just around the corner. You have to pay for adventures somehow, I guess.

I haven’t managed to take care of any trail chores – resupply, etc, – but those can wait till tomorrow. J and I relocate from Nick’s place to J’s brother’s, and say goodbye to Pacman, who we leave to his own devices. Then, biking down the streets of Portland, we run into Chris and Sarah, fellow thru-hikers who were stranded by the fires in the town of Chester with us. The PCT! It’s almost here. PCT, PCT, PCT I chant to myself, pedaling across town. PCT. PCT.


A word from Pacman

Pacman, my friend and traveling companion for a month and 700 miles now, keeps a facebook community page where he shares some of his life adventures/escapades. I thought he summed up the bike trip better than I ever could, so I asked if he would mind if I shared it here. He generously agreed. (Some swearing.) (Check out his facebook page for his take on his PCT adventures, it’s worth your time. You can find it HERE)

By Pacman:

The sound of my knobby all terrain tires screamed as they ripped across the pavement. My manpaws wrapped tightly around the soft rubber grips of the handlebars. I leaned forward and low, tucked in my knees and elbows trying to be as small as possible. closing in on another hairpin turn my pinkies extended out to work the front and rear breaks as I shot a glance behind me. There at the top of the hill was Gizmo rocketing in behind me, head low, yellow team whiskers flag going apeshit as it sliced wildly through the air being dragged by the old fishing rod zip tied to her right pannier. My head back straight now I braked hard on the straight away, bike brakes don’t work we’ll at 35 mph, just before the turn now, I release the breaks and lean hard, almost, can’t help but drift to the left and too dangerous to look back, swing out of the turn hard and back into another, trying so hard to ride the line and not turn myself into taco meat, the road straightens out just as the logging truck behind me busts out with the engine break. The heinous metallic gurgling sound of the 18 wheeler clearing its throat combined with the wind, wheels, and white zombie I had blaring in my earbuds sounded like the fucking apocalypse bearing down upon me! My monkey paws squeezed tight, narrowing my eyes I took a deep breath and held it as the barreling, rock throwing, beast of a machine lumbered past, the air in front of the truck tries to push me off the road so I lean in to compensate, then at the rear the air sucks in the other way trying to pull me into it making me lean against, in a half second the truck was past and I released my breath only to capture it again for the next wild corner.

Between the amazing downhills. And tortuous up hills, the heat, the cold, the rain and fog, the UPS delivery trucks constant attempts to take us out, the 50 foot travel trailer rigs piloted by elderly folks that can’t see over the dashboard, people giving us thumbs up as well as the ones who flipped us off, the late night intruders, the dicks who swerved to scare us, the hipsters, hippies, organic ( and non-organic) farmers, bums, peddlers, vagrants, townies, and drunks, not to mention all those who told us we would die. From pulling this bike out of the boneyard in NorCal to posting it for sale in Portland Oregon this 683 mile bike ride up the coast has been a non-stop action packed, edge of the seat thriller that can be perfectly described in two words. “Terrifyingly magnificent”. Team Whiskers Northbound Janky West Coast Death Proof Bike Tour complete.


Day 120: the end of a road

Day 120
Miles: 20*
From Clay Myers state park to Cape Meares

Despite all the gray and the clouds and the gloom of the coast, it hasn’t actually rained on us – until last night. Nick must be our bad luck charm. Or perhaps he’s just his own bad luck charm, seeing as he forgot to pack his rain fly for what is turning out to be a very rainy weekend trip. Ol’ Big Blue, our trusty tarp, kept him dry last night, but it’s not going to be any help for any of us this morning.

We pack our things into plastic bags and get ready for a chilly morning. I zip my frogg toggs jacket on over my pack and the four of us ride out.

Riding uphills in pouring rain, downhills in pouring rain, and I think about how this bicycle trip is almost over. Nick is riding with us all the way back to Portland, and this will be over in the length of a long weekend. I feel like we’ve been riding bicycles forever. The Pacific Crest Trail seems like a long ways away, although technically, I’m closer to it than I’ve been in weeks. I’m glad to be getting off the bikes, but I’ve also sort of hit a stride. Maybe not today. This rain is cramping my style.

Nick is much faster than us, and he takes the front with J while they buddy it up. Pacman and I bring up the rear today, stopping first to fix Pacman’s flat tire, then to fix mine. Looks like we both ran over the metal staples in the road.

It’s lunchtime, I’m wet, I’m hungry, I’m cold, and we’re riding into the little town of Netarts. We find an espresso shop and set up camp at a table by the window to warm up. It’s a good thing the staff is friendly, because we stay there for hours. The evening is going to creep up on us quick, though, so we head back out to find a place for the night. The clouds have rolled back to let in the sun and the steep uphill to Cape Meares reminds us that we probably didn’t bring enough water. (Where’s the PCT water report when you need it.)

Cape Meares has a road that wraps up and around the headland before coming back down to run alongside Tillamook Bay. A series of landslides has destabilized the road, so it is closed to cars. But it is open to bicyclists. This sounds like a bicyclist booby trap, but’s it’s actually a bicyclist’s dream – a windy, scenic road that is totally closed to cars? We walk our bicycles in past the gate and start a dreamy ride down the winding road pasted with wet leaves, silent except for wind in the trees.
“This is pretty post-apocalyptic,” Nick observes. The black, nice pavement looks both new and abandoned. We look for a place to camp, but the trees are too thick. We keep riding with our eyes peeled for a temporary home and we finally find it where the road meets the landslide.

The landslide turns out to be below the road, not above it as I had imagined. Instead of sliding onto the road and covering it with debris, the slide is pulling the road out from under itself and the landmass slumps. The road itself is crevassed with tension cracks, all backfilled with gravel. On the downhill side we see the original curve of the road, with old pavement curving out until the pavement disappears in huge blocks slumping far down the cliff. The old road section is bermed off, but just on the other side of the berms are long stretches of pavement that used to connect. Plenty of room to pitch some tents! We just need to remember to stay away from the cliff side when we get up to pee in the middle of the night.

Like always, the free campsites are the best ones. Quiet, spacious, with a view – we watch the clouds turn gold, then pink, we make pot of soup to share, we watch the ocean go from blue to silver to gold to purple. “Well,” says Pacman, “looks like a good time to get a little squirrely.”

Last night by the sea.

The end of the road

Looking out over Tillamook Bay




Day 118: Portlandia

Day 118
Miles: 42*
From Washburne State Park to Beverly Beach State Park

Along with indisputably better views, our stealth campsites also motivate us to break camp by the break of dawn. The ride out is chilly and foggy. We agree to take a break as soon as we hit a coffee shop (standard plan) which feels like foreeeever. The sun behind the thinning fog breaks over our shoulders in big, gold rays.

The Green Salmon coffee shop in Yachats (yah-HATZ, not yeah-chits) has our name all over it. We wait patiently in line behind a couple ordering espresso.
“So your lattes, what kind of milks do you have?” they ask.
“Well, we have cow milk, goat milk, soy milk, almond milk, oatmeal milk -”
“Is your oatmeal milk gluten free, do you know?”
“Yes, totally gluten free”
“And your espresso beans, they’re from Sumatra?”
“For this month’s special, yes, free-trade only.”

“Have you ever seen Portlandia?” Pacman whispers to me, interrupting my eavesdropping.
“No, why?”
“There’s an episode I’ll have to show you later.”

After getting our drinks and warming up a bit and charging our cellphones (No plug left unplugged, is our motto) it’s time to do some miles. We watch a photographer take pictures of our bicycles through the storefront window. I wonder if they’d be able to pick us out as the owners.

The highway keeps to the coast, classic Oregon: white sands, black headlands, blue water. We pass through Waldport, stop at the subway. (Pacman should probably be sponsored at this point.) I wander into a junk shop and buy a silver spoon to replace the titanium spork I lost. 25¢.

Another bridge – with a barking herald of harbor seals, sunning themselves below the span. Ride to Newport, another bridge. A bicycle shop in town is listed as a warmshowers stop, so we check it out. They let us upstairs to use their washing machine and shower, begrudgingly. Pacman needs some work on his bike and they help him out, but also squeeze him dry. They pressure us about not buying anything, so we get the bicycle lights we should have bought 500 miles ago (probably a good thing).

Getting through Newport is a flashback to more traumatic bicycling days, and I’m remembering why I don’t like sharing the road with cars. The wind, building all day, makes us earn those miles. No place to camp. We chat up a surfer about stealth camping but he doesn’t recommend it. You wouldn’t think a little patch of ground for the night could be so hard to come by.

We end the day at Beverly Beach Campground, in the hiker/biker section. Pasta sides go down easier when you eat them with a silver spoon…


Hey Dirtnap, nice hi-vis.


Who needs a spork anyway.


Day 113: leisurely afternoons

Day 113
Miles: 27*
From the Rogue River to Port Orford

There’s a man out there, fishing. I rouse myself. “J, did that guy have to walk down the trail by us while we were sleeping?”
J, laying beside me, answers, “I think so.”

I’m creeped out after all.

Pacman is already packed up. We get up and get our stuff and our heads together. The guy finishes fishing and walks past, obviously uncomfortable. “Don’t worry!” I want to tell him. “We’re all respectable, lovely people! Tax-paying good citizens!” I don’t say anything besides good morning. It’s strange to be suspicious. I’m not generally considered to have any dangerous potential.

Even with a stop at a diner for some biscuits and gravy, we’re on the road by 8:30. That’s the time we got up yesterday, so I feel good about that. It’s not windy yet, and we cruise easy out of town, over some hills, through forest, across a long stretch just above the sea – then I catch myself. “Gizmo!” I think. “Are you enjoying yourself??”

I’ll be durned. I am.

We take a break at an ocean overlook. It’s spectacular, like the rest of the coast. “Pacman,” I tell him. “I was thinking about what you said yesterday, about bicycling with a headwind being better than hiking through snow. I haven’t tried that, so I can’t say. But I was thinking about other scenarios.”
  “Oh yeah?”
  “Yeah. Like, would you rather bicycle with a headwind, or ride big mountain passes?” I pause.
  “Passes,” we both chorus in unison.
  I laugh. “Exactly! How about headwinds, or twisty roads with no shoulder?”
  “Headwinds!” we say together. So things could be worse. So far, Oregon has had lovely shoulders, and a lot less traffic. It’s nice to not be terrified all the time. We pass lots of south-bound bicyclists, and one pair on roller-blades. The woman looks absolutely petrified with fear. I hope she’s not planning on taking the 101 south of crescent city. She’ll get killed for sure.

We’re almost to Port Orford when the wind starts picking up. Noon, just like yesterday. It looks like we’re going to have to do all our riding in the morning. Riding into a headwind is a waste of time. It’s only 27 miles from the Rogue River to Port Orford, but it’s our stop for the day. Pacman has some mail to pick up in Bandon, another 27 miles from here, but it’s Saturday. We can’t leave Bandon until the post office opens, so we might as well take our time.

We get seafood, hang out at the dock, hang out at the library. I’m still dreadfully behind on blog posts.

We go up to the Port Orford Headlands, a day-use area with a totally unnecessary hill to get up to it.. The Oregon coast is probably as incredible as the backcountry of Kings Canyon, with the cliffs dropping down to the sea. We cook dinner – a huge pot of spaghetti. “Cheers to the best travel companions,” says Pacman.

Four hours of pedaling, we’re all exhausted. We lay down our sleeping pads for a an illegal camp and fabulous views. We’ll have to clear out early tomorrow.



Picking blackberries by the sea




Day 111: back in the saddle

Day 111
Miles: 28*
From Crescent City, CA to Harris Beach State Park, OR

This morning is miraculously clear – like we carried the sunshine back with us. It’s our first sunny day since we left hwy 36 – a good day to restart the journey. I’m nervous but it’s time to go.

We meet Pacman at the Burger King, his bicycle leaned against a bench out front. There’s another bicycle there as well. It matches all of ours, but it’s a local itinerant, not a bicycle tourer. I can never decide if we have more in common with bicycled homeless or the lycra-clad vacationers with $2000 machines. We’re our own sub-category, I think.

“Damn son, so good to see you guys,” Pacman tells us. “I fell in love with a homeless girl, gonna come back and marry her.”
“Oh yeah?”
“Well, maybe not. You guys ready to ride?”

And we’re off, riding into the sunshine, happy to be together. It’s good to be reunited with Pacman, our last link to the PCT. This journey feels so derailed, directionless. We’ve left our path and our fellow pilgrims for beaches, redwoods, fog. Restaurants and hot showers. Cell phone service all the time. Fresh fruits and vegetables. Part of me doesn’t believe that this will ever loop back around, but the road is there, it goes north, and that is our cardinal direction of choice.

Roadside blackberries, a pleasant day, the Oregon Border. Oregon! Done with California at last! One hundred and eleven days in California. I wish we’d been able to walk the entire way, to be able to say we walked California one end to the other… Well, we’re still self-powered, and we’re here. Oregon!

As soon as we cross the border the highway shoulder gets wider. This is a good sign. (Almost as good as the Welcome to Oregon sign, ha.) We ride the wide shoulder to Brookings, stop in town. I go in a thrift store on the main drag to try and maybe find some bicycle shorts that aren’t size XL mens, but I buy a pair of gleaming white Nike hi-tops instead. Pacman and J go across the street and spot that says: Brewery. The arrows point down a set of stairs to the building’s basement, and they follow like it’s the Pied Piper. We go down a long hallway into a very small tasting room, with a few locals inside, drinking pints. We plant ourselves on the stools and pretty soon the tiny room is packed to the brim with a friendly crowd from town, pans of food and desserts filling the countertops: it’s their Thursday afternoon potluck. (What is this, Cheers?) They fill our plates and make us tell our stories, egging us on (as if I needed encouragement). One couple offers us a place to stay for the night, but I’m still not very good at taking advantage of hospitality and I somehow flub it, and after everything we end up back on our bicycles, looking for a place to stay. I don’t know if being so reflexively self-reliant is always a virtue. Maybe I should learn to accept help.

Luckily there is a state park just down the road, and we ride the two miles just before sunset, pay $5 each for our hiker/biker spots. J and I go down the cliffs to the beach, a wonderland of gleaming sand, cliff faces, water and light. Cormorants skim the waves. A family of sea otters runs down the beach. Sea otters are terrible runners. They look ridiculous.

The state parks here in Oregon come with free hot showers, but it takes me half an hour of wandering through a vast parking area of RVs to find the bathrooms. I see one family sleeping in a tent, and hundreds of RVs. When did “camping” turn into “RVing”? Why does one night at a camping spot cost $35? I though camping was supposed to be the cheap option, the way for families on a budget to get out and see the world, or at least a way to make your kids learn how to entertain themselves for at least one night without electricity. This place is so lit up you can hardly see the stars.

I’m not even grateful for my shower. The coast is fabulous, but this campground depresses me. I miss being able to sleep under a tree for free.

Goodbye Crescent City



Harris Beach State Park