CAUTION: Mensuration talk ahead. Click away now if buying tampons for your wife/girlfriend/daughter makes you uncomfortable. Read ahead if you want to better understand the challenges of a woman on the trail...but you have been forewarned--I'm not holding back with describing the reality of what it's like.
Sometimes I wonder if my body wants to sabotage me. Why is "Aunt Flow" such a bitch? She always shows up just before the vacation, special occasion, long trip...pretty much any time she can get in the way and make you miserable. You mark your calendar, count out days to try to work around her, but no. Here she is, a whole week early. "SURPRISE, aren't you glad to see me?!"
Thank God my fourth day brought me to the town of Cascade Locks, Oregon. This is the home of the famous "Bridge of the Gods", where the PCT crosses over into Washington. I was so excited/nervous about walking over it...but first things first. I had to find a store, and head directly for the "feminine hygiene" isle.
|Oregon is really concerned that you don't get lost|
|Had to get a burger too, of course|
But I have to admit, I was geeking out too. (Can I say "geeking out" about hiking?) I thought about what a thru-hiker experiences as they cross--it must feel a bit like a right of passage. I felt it a little too...even as a big fat fake. ;)
I knew as I started Washington's "section H" that I shouldn't expect much. Most hikers heading to Canada skip the first 21 miles altogether and instead march 14 miles up the highway where they can easily connect again at Panther Creek. Descriptions I read included "not great views, loads of poison oak, rocky trail, dry waterless stretches"... pretty much misery on a plate. But I was avoiding snow, and getting my 9 day goal in, so I just excepted that this was part of the deal. And besides, misery is what makes a hike great! Serve me up!
|Beautiful wildflowers made up for the ugly power lines.|
|This is kind of nice...|
|Unlike Oregon, Washington only gives a|
tiny little shit that you don't get lost
|A view of the damn|
The next day, Aunt Flow followed me hard. Again, as much as I prefer having some other hikers around, this time it was a comfort to be alone. Stopping to pee is bad enough...stopping to pull out my cup and dump it, attempt to clean it, and then shove it back in and wipe all the blood off my hands...that is another show altogether. For those who are wondering what a cup is; it's the only way to survive when you are bleeding like a stuck pig. Supposedly it will hold 8 hours worth of menses, but for those of us who are blessed to be pre-menopausal and are having a "full shed" kind of day, it will get you through an hour or two at best; but that is way better than stopping every 20 minutes to change a tampon.
Besides being upset with my period, this day felt like I would never stop going up. Relentlessly up and up and up. I let out a sob when I looked at my watch, thinking I had been going for hours when it had only been 20 minutes. This is when I learned lesson # 54: For heaven's sake, just stop and take time to collect yourself when you feel overwhelmed. I know this seems obvious, but I really don't like to take breaks. I pride myself with my "slow and steady wins the race" determination. When I'm feeling frustration, my ego tells me to keep going so I can "earn" the privilege of stopping at my destination. But this trip really taught me it's okay to be slow AND take your time. What a relief!
|Again, good job with the signage, Washington!|
|The good thing about "up", is it usually brings you|
to the views.
|More clearcutting and forest roads, but at least there's|
a good view of Mt. St. Helens!
|So many wildflowers! I can't get enough!|
That night was bad. I was too scared to leave my tent, but thankfully I was so dehydrated I didn't have to pee. (They weren't kidding when they said "dry waterless sections"--we're talking 11 miles!) But what do I do about this ridiculous amount of blood? I couldn't use my cup, unless I wanted to go out and add to the predator bait; so I reverted to the tampons and the 20 minute change. But is having zip locks full of gore in the tent any better than having a circle of blood around it? I didn't think so.
And then I heard it. That's called a cliff hanger. :) Next time.