In the middle of a Blue Star dream
It is early in the morning in Portland, and the house sleeps, as it should. I am up early with resupply thoughts racing through my head. Did we forget something for the stretch between here and Etna? It is 580 miles away. Before the early afternoon, we will have packed over 30 boxes full of Knorr rice meals, Couscous, Instant mashed potatoes, tuna, shelf stable bacon, pepperoni, sausage, Cliff bars, Snickers Bars, every other bar you can think of, seaweed, cereal, Pop Tarts, hot chocolate (to make cereal milk), jolly ranchers, electrolytes drink flavoring, lukotape (for blisters), duct tape, batteries, replacement plastic bags...
When we started the trip, a man named John Smith, who I met through a PCT Facebook forum, a Boy Scout troop leader from Yakima, Washington, met us with a 15 passenger van. He piled us in and had snacks and treats enough for, well, a whole troop of boy scouts, and he drove us 5 hours to Hart's Pass. He wouldn't let us help him with gas. But this wasn't his first go at generosity with us. John had reached out privately to me on Facebook to encourage me that this hike, north to south, could be successful for a family,
Stephen, as you know, having read his son Silas' report, joined us for the first stretch. Nearly 100 miles. It is nice to have your youngest brother step out of the van with you into a cold snowy day at the top of a pass headed into the wilds. And if you are an older sibling you know why. You can't look at your youngest brother and say, "I have made a horrible mistake, let's get out of here." Oh no, you have to look at him and say, "To Narnia, and the North" or "Once more into the breach my friends". You have to pretend you knew exactly what you were doing. And so I did, and so we did. Hilariously... now... he and I got our wires crossed and he arrived a day early to meet us. Now, in God's goodness (as I reflect on it) that meant that Stephen needed to be home to Denver a day earlier than I had originally planned, which meant we had to really push it. Push it, here means, that at the end of the day, you have to drag 2 hours more from your tired legs and feet than you think possible.
Stephen brought his dog. We were all (in)famous up and down the stretch to the border. "Oh, you are the family with the poodle." One guy hiking the trail, Mad Max, said, as we sat at the border monument for pictures, "You'd better keep that thing out of my pictures. My friends would never let me live it down."
One night, on our return from the border, in the traverse (switchbacks) between Woody and Rocky Pass we awoke to the sound of helicopters. Aiden crawled from her tent and saw someone signalling the helicopter from the side of the mountain not half a mile from us. Two hikers had been headed north and mistakenly taken the old PCT route, a high traverse between the passes, slipped, and fell. From what we later discovered, one hiker had sustained minor injuries, and the other, multiple broken bones. Both were air lifted.
I am glad Stephen came. He carried us through the first part.
I kept telling myself what I had read. Three weeks. Three awful weeks, and then it gets better. 18 miles is miserable at first. Terrible.
June, you will get stronger on the climb, you will get faster, remember... 3 weeks.
Henry, I know you hate it here, and you want to be playing FIFA at the Ewert's... 3 weeks.
Georgie, I know your knees hurt, I know you miss the cousins... 3 weeks.
Aiden, I know you are feeling impatient to go faster, that's your 3 weeks of suffering... be patient.
Monica, I thought there were going to be more opportunities to shower... 3 weeks.
We passed hikers, and hikers passed us, and they showered the kids with praise:
Gentleman overlapped us for days, and said, "It just makes me so happy, every time I see you guys."
Sassafrass would pass and say, "Every time I come to a scary spot I say, 'Georgie is doing this, come on Sass, you can do it!"
Columbus and Blue Bear declare us their inspiration for the future, They reach toward their heads and not finding their hats, say, "I tip my... sunglasses to you!"
And to pull us the rest of the way there, the rest of the way through the pain of the start stood the Browns. The Browns at Chinook Pass on the 24th, and pizza. "Kids, we have to make it 20 miles a day to get there, can you do it?"
And they did it.
Here I sit in Portland, 180 odd miles from Chinook Pass in the house of my cousin Nathan and his wife Jody. We packed out of White Pass with 8 days of food, and we made it in 6 and a half. We have found our legs. Nathan took the day to play host to us yesterday. His younger brother Owen also has taken time to chauffeur us around. They have fed us, and allowed 6 stinky hikers to foul their showers, clean their gear, and resupply in comfort.
If I am typing incoherently, please forgive me. There is an unfulfilled Portland promise that I have to keep. You see, we stopped here on the way North to see Monica's vacationing parents. And Grampy treated us to Blue Star Donuts. Since the moment it became apparent to Georgie that we would not be going home, she has been using her journal pen to trace the logo of blue star donuts on her hand. They only keep the doors open till they serve the donuts until they sell the batch they've made for the day. You get one shot. So as soon as the house stirs, I am out of here.
It's the people you see. This trail is hard. It is beautiful. It is painful. It is wonderful. I have had better moments with my kids than I have ever had. I have sat with June and cried with her through her despair at the base of a hill. I have sat with Georgie and prayed with her at the top of an excruciatingly beautiful pass, we both were missing in our self absorption. She, missing it for longing for home. Me, missing it for obsession with miles before dark. Confession. Time. So much time. So much slow time.
I have been sending video home. You will have it at some point. And in the video you will see, and we will remember that it was fun. It is fun, though we tend to miss it in the midst of the if only's.
I have been taking selfies/us-ies every day because I think it can be a cool way to document this thing afterword with a sort of a stop action video. I will add a series of them to post here to give you a snapshot of us through this first period.
Here is to Washington. And to all the folks who have made this possible.