Two of my friends and I have an annual ritual; sometime between Thanksgiving and early in the new year, we head north to the Korean spa in Lynwood, soak, get warm to the bone, and get scrubbed until our skin is almost as soft as a newborns. Sitting around in hot water, especially at this time of year, often seems to lead to some introspection and reflection on what the past year has been like and what lies ahead. The last time we did it, I was looking ahead to my 40th birthday when Ambika started talking about her plan to hike a 100 mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail. I asked questions, listened intently, and an idea started to bloom in my head. That's what I wanted to do to celebrate turning 40. Something bold. Something big. Something physical. Something momentous.
At some point, I decided to go for it, and asked Ambika, "If I can get Tyler to agree, could I come, or do you really want to go it alone?" I don't know how she really felt in the moment, but she said, "Sure!" and this tiny spark of an idea (built upon Ambika's) became something that was really going to happen.
It's taken a little while to really let the experience settle in. And as I've found myself missing the experience and seeking out other people's blogs I've been at times underwhelmed. While talk of miles and pack weight and starting and ending points are of great interest on the trail, they can hold less allure in the day-to-day world. So I decided to tackle this in two ways: one going over some of the day-to day experience, another with some more reflective thoughts on the experience overall. It still won't be the full blow-by-blow. For that, you'll need to sit for a narrated slideshow with a glass of wine.
So here goes....
Day 1: Getting Started, Snoqualmie Pass to Meadow Creek (~12 miles)
I'd found myself feeling anxious the few days before heading out. I'd prepared, not as much as I'd liked. It felt weird to be disconnecting so entirely. I felt guilty about leaving Tyler with the kids and doing something that felt so completely selfish.
Day 2: Long and Slow, Meadow Creek to Reliable Creek, (14 miles)
We knew from our planning that access to water was going to be an issue for a few days and near the beginning. So while we only needed to average ~11 miles a day, we had some potentially long days at the front end. When our packs were heaviest and we were least conditioned. While we kind of jointly made noise about seeing how far we got, I knew Ambika really wanted to make it the whole way, so it was the one day that I was a little slower than her as we went up and down and up and down. We did meet a great couple about two-thirds of the way along who were thru hiking (going from Mexico to Canada) and were likely in their 60s. they were so happy and mellow and enjoying the experience that it helped me really appreciate what we were doing and just keep walking. Those last few miles were a slog, and man did my shoulders ache when I threw down my pack for the last time that day, but then I knew we *could* do 14 miles, pack and all.
We also learned the advantage of going southbound this day--all the thru hikers were northbound. We met one other couple going south over the 9 days--but it was great to occasionally get into on water, when the climb would end, and, on this day, whether there were any campsites in the foreseeable future. There were a few, thankfully, though they were far less trafficked and definitely felt wilder--there was a lot of scat, and we heard an owl hooting at us during the night.