Flippity flop

The direction I’ve been traveling on the Pacific Crest Trail recently went from Northbound to Southbound.

When we got to Shasta, we found out that fires in Northern California wouldn’t allow us to cross the state line into Oregon.

This was so disheartening. I’d been looking forward to that milestone for hundreds of miles! About 1500 miles – to be exact.

In addition to the fires in NorCal, fires in Oregon have closed areas of the trail in the Three Sisters Wilderness, Jefferson Wilderness and Cascade Locks area. The most recent closure includes the Oregon/Washington border. (Keeping our fingers crossed we will get to cross at least one state line)

If I chose to continue hiking North, I would either have to hitchhike around the fire closures, or complete miles and miles of road walking (seriously – like 120 miles of walking on hard black pavement). Not quite the same as being out in the wild wild wilderness, ya feel? Which is arguably the entire reason thru-hikers choose to, ya know, thru-hike.

A lot of the time, when there are fire closures, or closures for any reason, there are alternate routes hikers can take to still have a fluid footprint from Mexico to Canada. Some hikers have chose to hike the Oregon Coast Trail in lieu of the Pacific Crest Trail Oregon section, so they still walk across Oregon. Some hikers have found other alternates that add several miles to their journey. Whatever that journey is, hiking your own hike and doing what makes your soul happy is all that matters.

As far as road walking goes, the smoke in these areas is so detrimental to hikers, the PCTA advises hikers to hitch around the closed zones, because walking on the road doesn’t necessarily mean it’s any better for your lungs than walking on the trail would be. Some still chose to put their road walkin shoes on and make the trek – and good for them!

We chose to flip up to Harts Pass, which is 30 miles south of the Canadian border, and hope that by some miracle these fires are out by the time we reach Oregon.

Harts Pass is the closest point to the Canadian border in the state of Washington that’s accessible by vehicles. SO, our trail angel, who’s name is Matt, braved the highest dirt road in Washington to get us there. THANK YOU MATT!

We got to Harts Pass, hiked 30 miles north, touched the Canadian border, took some photos at the Northern Terminus, then turned around and hiked the same 30 miles south, beginning our hike back down to Shasta.

We hikers call this an in-and-out, or an out-and-back hike. Either way, we hiked 30 “extra” miles to be able to touch Canadian soil. Good thing Washington is STUNNING!

Flipping the trail was a tough call. I’d been looking forward to hiking in my home state for hundreds of miles. I was making plans with friends and family to meet at different stops and I was SO excited to see some beautiful souls I miss dearly.

I also realllllly (I can’t stress this enough) wanted to finish the trail at the Northern Terminus. As excited as I was to cross into Oregon, crossing into Canada after hiking 2650 miles, and finally seeing the Northern Terminus was what I fantasized about the most.

As much as the reasons to continue going North stood with me, the idea of cutting out so much trail and hitching around the closures – which would’ve been what I would personally do with the closures – was the standing in the forefront of my thoughts.

Skipping so many miles is tough to stomach for thru-hikers who are enthusiastic about completing the entire trail. Especially sections with such promising beauty! Although I’m from Oregon, I haven’t hiked through most PCT sections in the state and I’m so excited to experience what the hype is about.

Sooo flipping up to Harts Pass and southbounding the remainder of my hike gave me the best shot at completing the most possible PCT miles this year.

Our road trip started after we got a ride from a trail angel to Ashland. I’d been anticipating getting to Ashland for a long time, because my cousin lives there and we had plans to meet up.

Although I was days ahead of my original plan to get to Ashland, cousin Taylor rolled with the punches and was such an amazing trail angel to us!

We went out to a brewery for dinner, then another brewery for, uh, more beer, and ended the night with good conversation in cozy blankets. Taylor let us do our laundry, shower (without a time limit and plenty of shampoo/soap 😆) and we had so much fun just visiting and catching up. As the years pass I never get to spend enough time with this girl. I’m excited to hike back through Ashland and do it all over again! Love you so much Cuz.

Also in Ashland, I got to meet up with one of my most favorite people ever, Lauren Killgore! She was my dormmate in college, and someone who’s soul I just know and trust. We seem to find our way back to each other in some of life’s most important moments. I think that’s how our friendship will always be.

The next morning we had a few complications with renting a car – adulting is so hard – but thanks to the help of my amazing family we worked it out and were on our way to Albany, my hometown, where we’d stay the night before heading to Seattle the next day.

Pulling up to my mommas driveway was just like every time before, but this time I just couldn’t wait to run inside and hug my mom and stepdad. It’d felt like ages since I’d seen them!

Just after I pulled up, my best friend Kelsey Martinez did, too. AND she brought my favorite humans to walk the earth with her – her beautiful babies Mason and Blake! Gah I am so in love with them. It was AMAZING to see and spend time with Kels and the kids – I seriously love you guys SO dang much. When I’m home, we’ll get back to the usual routine of having breakfast/lunch/dinner together every day. Can’t wait!!

At my mommas, we spent a little time organizing our belongings and starting some more laundry before we headed over to my dads house, who was hosting a BBQ for me and my hiker friends.

This was my first time seeing my dads new house, as he closed on it just before I left for the trail. When I walked inside, Tammy, his girlfriend, had printed AND framed a photo my hiking group took just the day before in front of the Oregon state monument on the freeway. Because we didn’t get to see the state line on trail – we settled with the monument on the freeway. Seeing the photo printed and framed made us all feel at home and so welcomed – I loved that she did that. It meant a lot to me and my friends. We all signed the frame with a sharpie, a memory I will have forever.

Also at my dads was my best friend Lindsey Graham – who is a badass and HAS to hike the trail one year. Thank you for driving all the way from Eugene, and then back again just to see me. You are the BEST.

We visited, drank my dads delicious home-brewed beer, went over our trail names and feasted on ribs and barbecued chicken.

Later, we satisfied our sweet tooth with cake, cookies and lemon bars – I am so blessed to have the wonderful family that I do.

The next day we were back on the road, and headed to Seattle. We made one more pit stop in Portland to shop at Patagonia and dine at Deschutes Brewery. I got to see another best friend from when I lived in Eugene – Devyn, who joined us for dinner and drinks. Dev & I have a very special friendship and one I will literally cherish for all of my days – it was so refreshing to see you, and I’m so thankful you dropped all your plans to meet me spur of the moment in downtown Portland.

It never seems like you have enough time with your loved ones – but getting to see my friends & family gave me so much fulfillment – the fulfillment I was hoping for while I was passing through Oregon. Leaving the state, I felt satisfied, and like I was making the right decision.

Today I’m in Stehekin, Washington waiting for the Post Office to open at 10 a.m. after taking an unexpected zero day yesterday because we didn’t anticipate the Post Office closure for the Labor Day holiday.

I’m surrounded by about 15 hikers who are in the same boat as me. Yesterday, we did laundry, showered (it was such a great shower! Only $1 for five minutes AND there was a ton of super great smelling soap) and relaxed.

Stehekin sits on Chelan Lake and has a population of less than 300. Because of the holiday weekend, it was busier than normal.

The town has a restaurant, lodge, Visitor Center, post office and a wonderful bakery where I sat yesterday and began writing this blog – while enjoying a turkey sandwich and green salad. Mmmm, veggies.

Sometimes being in towns makes me anxious. Even in a town as small as Stehekin.

Some interactions consist of lots of questions about the trail & congratulatory conversations. People definitely think you’re a superhero for hiking so many miles. Others are awkward, like when you’re using the sole bathroom sink in the one public restroom to clean your stove for the first time in a week, and someone needs to, uh, wash their hands.

I worry a bit about what it’ll be like living in society again. Instead of being surrounded by nature, you’re surrounded by humans, concrete and advertisements.

I spend so much time on the trail thinking about every aspect of my life – my family, friends, passions, love, etc. and I share these thoughts and ideas with other hikers, and we bond over similarities and differences. We spend all day sharing stories and making memories, and it’s been the best thing I’ve done with my life.

I’m not sure people do that so much in society, it’s more of the hustle and bustle of daily life that takes over in towns. And that’s okay. Maybe people don’t want to talk to you, and don’t care to hear about your day – they just met you, they’re stressed out, late to work, bored or uninterested in what you have to say. And that really is okay. We’re all just humans – out here living the best life that we can.

But it’ll be a bit of an adjustment. Just like hiking your own hike, I suppose you have to live your own life. But I’m not back in society just yet – so we’ll see how that goes when I get there.

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3 thoughts on “Flippity flop

  1. Cousin Taylor! says:

    I love you so much and can’t wait for our next adventure when you make it back to Southern Oregon! I know that you were going to only pass through once, but now I get to see you twice and right before the end of your journey, so I win! Love you Cousy! Safe travels and keep that beautiful smile on your face

    Like

  2. Tammy says:

    What a beautiful read, Alex. I truly adore you and enjoyed the visit so much. It was an honor to be able to host such a wonderful group of people. Like everyone else I am excited for the day you are home. Although, your stories about the trail keep me well entertained.
    ❤️

    Like

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