Saturday, September 11, 2021

Love is Patient (Finishing Section L on PCT)

I try to reserve my spiritual thoughts for my other blog, but sometimes I can’t restrain myself. Though I do love the freedom to just write whatever it is that I feel like writing. Anyway, “love is patient” is something that has been swimming in my head a lot lately. If you grew up in church, it will immediately be recognized as the beginning of 1 Corinthians 13, which defines the qualities of love. And though I’ve heard this verse quoted more times than I could count, it only recently struck me how odd “patient” is for the very first descriptor for love. Patience is a virtue hard earned through self discipline, isn’t it? I think of patience as something I need when I DON’T love something…like waiting in the grocery store line.

But to say that love IS patient — to say that is the VERY FIRST thing it is — well, that makes me see it in a new light. It will wait and endure and believe against all odds…but why? To prove something? 

Ambition has patience too, but with a different agenda. It produces a different kind of driving force. Hiking has taught me a lot about both. I’m not saying the driving force of ambition is bad – but I do believe love is better. 

While finishing up this last portion of Section L of the PCT (my final miles to complete all of Washington –woot woot!) I’d try to say “congratulations” to all the thru hikers I saw. And whenever they would reply back, “congratulations to you, too,” I’d feel the need to explain I was “just a section hiker.” Almost always they would correct me; “Not ‘just’…Washington is no joke!” “This has been the hardest state.” “Section hiking is even harder because you don’t have your hiker legs,” and so on. So gracious. So kind. So…well, loving. 

You feel a strength from the thru hikers who have made it to the end (usually at least five months on the trail) that comes from something other than the need to accomplish a goal. I’m feeling it growing in myself too. A brand of calm and resolve and endurance I never used to have. What a beautiful thing love is. May your happy trails have the same kind of powerful, loving patience. (Daily hiking log below as always.)

Day 1: 4-ish miles from Hart’s Pass to Brown Bear TH and back. I had to do this because last time (seven years ago on my first PCT section) I had my friends drive me down to skip these miles to make my day easier…because I’m a cheater like that. But no skipping this time. I really did want to experience every step on the PCT. Love, remember? 😉 

Day 2: 13.5 miles to Holman Creek Trail intersection. This is where the PNT comes in from Ross Lake and follows the PCT north until the Pasayten River Trail turn off in 13.4 more miles. (The only place they collide.) At first I was bummed I had to do an up and back instead of going into Canada as I had always imagined, but now I can count those 13.4 miles towards my PNT list too without feeling I’m double dipping. 

Day 3: 10.8 miles to Hopkins Lake. This is going on my top 10 list. (See previous post.) The whole day was breath taking and none of it was too hard. Rock Pass and Woody Pass and then a 360 degree view just before descending the Devils Stairway to the lake…it was all mind blowing and something I didn’t expect because nobody talks about Section L. I think maybe they are trying to keep it a secret? 

Day 4: 12.8 miles to tag the border and turn around back to the lake (with light day pack — hallelujah!) then pack up stuff and tackle that damn Devils Stairway going up this time for another 4.9 miles to camp just after Woody Pass for a total of 17.7 (ugh…almost a record, but the slackpack made it very doable.) This was the day I was told to look out for the 75 year old woman hiking alone who was confused and getting turned around. When I spoke with her the next day (Pee-Kew was her trail name) she said she’d already been out there 10 days, was minding her own bushiness, likes to be alone and “if I wanted to be rescued I’d hit my SPOT button.” She was a bona fide bad ass that I don’t think anyone needed to be worrying about. Please let me be her when I’m 75.

Triple crowner “Pooch” (over 7,000 miles on 3 trails) one mile before his goal
Another triple crowner!
“Ninja”…they are like rock stars to me

Day 5: 12.2 miles to a really nice spot just before heading up Windy Pass. I actually past it because it’s really hard to see until you get higher and are looking down on it. I was so thankful it still had a stream running through it, because I thought it would be dry and had lugged a bunch of water that I had not sealed properly and therefore didn’t have anymore. Sheesh, not the first time I’ve done that. You’d think I’d learn. 

Last night on the PCT

Day 6: 7.1 back to Hart’s Pass. I brought a grill and coolers full of hot dogs and Coke and I finally got to do trail magic which was a blast. “Sausage” (who ate FOUR…a fitting trail name obviously) had just finished and needed a ride so I got to be a trail angel too. I absolutely loved hearing his stories and he made the drive home go so fast. I’m sad it’s over, but I know there are plenty more trails around to be loved. 

“Good Vibes” said she was dreaming of hot dogs for weeks <3
“Sausage” in the shadows. Congrats to them all!

Monday, August 23, 2021

A Grand and Not Crammed Third Yearly Trip


Jed was a hoot. I spoke with him, I believe, three times. I had to keep calling back the Olympic Park Permit Office to change my reservations, because nothing seemed to be working out. (You are supposed to make these online…which I did…badly. So I needed help. But be warned, getting someone on the line is not easy.) Anyway, somehow, every time, I got Jed on the other end. 

This was our third year doing a week long hiking trip together–not Jed and I, of course–I mean the gals I met three years ago on a Facebook hiking page. (see here) Previously we have had the privilege of doing sections of the PCT – which blessedly don’t require permits. We were going to continue our tradition by tackling Section L that takes you all the way to the Canadian Border…but y’know…Covid. Going to the border and then turning around did not seem terribly logical, so we had to come up with a different plan. 

My current obsession with the PNT (I know, only one letter difference makes this confusing, but a VERY different trail than the PCT) gave me a new focus as I labored over a strategy to cram in as many miles of it in seven days as humanly possible. (My human, that is ;)) But all these miles depended on getting the right permits within the Olympic National Forest, and every plan I could muster was coming undone by a permit deficit somewhere along my route. 

Jed saved me with a simple question: “Why do you have to do all the miles on the PNT?” And the simple answer was, “I don’t.” From there, Jed helped put together a much more simplified six day trip that included the best and got rid of the rest.

Later I discovered this loop has a name– “The Grand Loop.” And anything that is as truly grand as this loop should have nothing to do with “cramming.” Thank God for Jed. (Who also made sure I didn’t attempt to go from Dose Meadows to Moose Lake in one day. Ugh, will I ever learn to pay close attention to elevation gain?) As always, a detailed itinerary below if interested, but don’t leave without my trail blessing: Happy “new, improved, and less crammed” trails!! 


Day 1: (Does not count in the “6 day plan” btw) A very early morning to get to my 6:30 am ferry reservation which inadvertently gave me an important lesson–a Port Townsend to Coupeville reservation is not the same as a Coupeville to Port Townsend reservation. Duh, right? So anyway, $10 reservation fee wasted, but I got on the 7:15 and was still able to secure a campsite at Deer Park on a Saturday. I used this day to enjoy the half mile Rain Shadow Loop (drive Deer Park Road till you can’t drive no more) plus do a six mile up and back going east on the PNT from the campground.

A little car camping never hurts
View from Rain Shadow is worth driving to the end of the road

Day 2: The girls arrive! Warning: the parking situation here is dismal. Our solution was to park back to back (stacked in one spot) since we would be leaving at the same time. But be kind to yourself and others and carpool here if at all possible. This loop begins at the Three Forks Trail parking lot, which is within the Deer Park campground. (Look for signs.) We started with the 4.7 miles DOWN to the Three Forks Camp. Overall I think counter clockwise was the best way to do this loop and this was reason #1. To end with these never ending switchbacks going UP would have SUCKED.

Three Forks camp is really nice with a shelter and fire ring and a good log for cards 🙂

Day 3: 8.6 miles to “North side of Graywolf Pass” which is not a really a camp, but apparently you can get a permit to stay there if you talk to someone like Jed. There is something like established spots around a lake (maybe tarn?) that you come to just before the final push up and over, but we had 5 tents (yes we are all Divas and like to have our own) so we just sort of made our own spots a little further up. Also, I almost made a HUGE mistake this day, thinking I was on the right trail when I wasn’t. (There’s a trail that goes to Cedar Lake off of the Gray Wolf River Trail I wasn’t aware of.) I won’t bother to explain my reasoning in the moment, but I am happy to say I stopped not too far in to dig out the map even though I didn’t want to. (Thank you lesson #1 BRING A MAP ) and USE IT

Not bad camping around this little lake if you only have 3 tents
Grey Wolf Pass felt hard…ha ha, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

Day 4: 8 miles to Dose Meadows. This was the first day I was really glad to have my hiking umbrella. (And not to be my last!) A few of these miles are in direct sun, and it was HOT. So sweaty when arriving at camp that I dunked in the stream–there is a great spot behind the farthest site. This is the one day Jed kind of did me wrong by hyping up the “Thousand Acre Meadow” that is supposedly just around the bend and the only reason people go to Dose Meadows. Cool Jed, I’ll have to check that out! Information not given: It’s a thousand foot gain in that little extra mile and a bushwack besides. Thankfully we actually ran into a ranger (who asked if we had permits — so don’t try to go without getting them!) who filled us in and told us we would get a good view of it when we hit Lost Pass the next day. FYI it appeared to me that the glorious Thousand Acre Meadow is exactly like every other meadow — just bigger. I don’t really understand what the big deal is, but I sure am glad not to have pushed another thousand feet that day to try to find out! 

Beautiful (and hot) open meadows
Thousand Acres over on the other side that looks exactly like the acres we are standing in…what am I not getting?

Day 5: 3.4 miles to Upper Cameron. (Going over both Lost and Cameron Pass) This took me almost 5 hours, just to give you an idea of how punishing these “short” miles are. I shudder to think I had considered combining them with the next day to make a 10.4 day– because y’know, 3.4 is too easy! OMG, I would have DIED, because Grand Pass was the worst of all. WHY CAN’T I LEARN LESSON NUMBER #39 (A better story of not learning it is here  ) Oh, and if you find my old phone (the one I used only for taking hiking pics because I wisely worried I’d drop it) on the scree field coming down from Cameron Pass where I slid down on my ass because folks on top advised me to “cut across under the snow field” even though that’s not what they did, please excuse the naked beach pics I took on my birthday hike. Fireball is to blame. But (or should I say “butt” ;)) I sure would like my phone back just the same. ( Btw, not assuming other hikers know what the fuck they are talking about was lesson #49 …yet another I’ve not fully learned.)

My Samsung’s burial ground…RIP
The best campsite was Upper Cameron!
I am the clear winner of the dorkiest head net prize

Day 6: 7 miles to Moose Lake. Like I just said, Grand Pass is no joke. But there is a great stream half way up, and a tarn on top, so don’t load up on pounds of water and make your life easier. 

Do I really have to go over that?
Creative filtering while I cool down in the tarn
Moose Lake

Day 7: 12 miles back to Deer Park. We talked incessantly about the upcoming miles while at Moose Lake; mostly trying to wager just how bad they were going to be, because that’s how you get after the days we had. I was, as usual, in denial about the elevation gain. “We have the difficult assent to start, but once we get up–easy 7 miles of ridge walking. No problem.” Never listen to me. I am elevation gain incompetent.

See?! Look how easy!

But the views? Worth it. So my friends still love me…I think. We all went to Bar N9NE for the usual beer and burger reward. A total dive, in the right kind of ways, with great food. But don’t expect homemade Ranch dressing, because it is a bar after all. (I will never live that down! ;)) I did extend this trip with a solo overnight at Flapjack Lakes on my way home, which I will write up soon.

Cheers to us!! Until next time!

P.S. I was just contact by another hiker that my phone has been found and he is mailing it to me! Hikers are the best. Follow me on Instagram to see more pics and silly videos. (But I will keep the naked ones to myself ;)) Link on homepage. 


Friday, July 30, 2021

Good and Bad Decisions on the Wonderland


What do you do when you don’t get the permit you so painstakingly planned to obtain? In my determined quest to secure a spot at the most popular camp on the Wonderland, I committed and invested by:

  1. Taking a day off work.
  2. Paying for a campsite close to the ranger station so I could get up super early and be in line an hour before they open. 
  3. Snatching yet another campsite at the trail’s start where I could leave my car and have my support team come and camp before they had to drive another hour next day to pick me up at where I planned to end. 

So when it all falls apart, you contemplate cheating and stealth camping without a permit – if you are naughty like me, anyway. My determination (or you might call it stubbornness) can sometimes get in the way of my better judgement. But I reluctantly decided to be a good girl and just stay at the White River campsite by myself and day hike instead — call Amber and Chuck and tell them they don’t have to make the three hour drive after all. 

“Go with the flow, Kelly, and just be grateful you’re here,”…I tried to talk myself into having a good attitude, even though I was still recovering from seeing the coveted “Summerland” get crossed off the walk up permit list taped to the Ranger’s door just minutes after they opened it. (Sheesh, what’s a girl gotta do to be first in line? I missed it by two people.) 

Then the “flow” took another turn. I overheard two other hikers who were doing the whole Wonderland talking about how they were staying at Summerland that night, and before I knew it I had invited myself along. Who does that? But they were SO welcoming…”Party at Summerland!” they announced jovially. But how was I going to make this work now that I no longer had a support crew coming?

ZERO cell service meant using the “emergency/urgent” pay phone at the campground (yes it will work for a mere $16) and as I was having no luck with anyone answering, my chance at Summerland started walking away.

“Are you coming?” they asked.

I stood with phone in hand, nobody on the other end, and yelled back, “I’m just trying to make a good decision.”

They laughed in unison as one of them called back, “Screw that!”  These were my people! I had to go … good decisions be damned. 

My kinda gals!

Those 19.3 miles were well worth the stress of not knowing how I was getting back to my car. And though my first EVER attempt at hitchhiking could have been worse, I would not recommend it. Standing in the hot sun and getting the “hell to the no” look for over an hour is more demoralizing than I could have imagined. But the trail provided once again, and a young lady road tripping by herself decided to head north instead of south to help me out, and ended up staying with me at that campsite I had snagged back at White River that had been sitting dormant for two days. My good and bad decisions aside – it all worked out in the end. May your happy trails do the same. (More detailed hiking log below if interested.) 

Day 1: 7 miles to Summerland. Passed FOUR rangers, so I’m glad I didn’t cheat! These miles are all up, but it’s not bad until the final mile or so. Funny story–as we were just getting snuggly in our tents, we heard a voice asking “Are you in there?” Ummm…why? Turns out we were being “evacuated” by a fellow camper because he saw a bear roaming through camp. We all gathered around the bear pole like it was some kind of fire drill. But just look at it!! (Pic below) A veritable motherload of jerky and God knows what barely above our heads – no wonder a bear came sniffing. (Though I couldn’t help joking to my new hiking friends that it was actually the aroma of my Smellyeos that had lured our furry intruder.)

Plenty of room for little ol’ me 🙂
I paid my way in Smellyeos 😉
Maybe a bear would be thinking, “Fresh meat or jerky?”
Morning from our camp

Day 2: 12.3 miles to the Box Canyon parking lot. These are tough miles, though I think they would be more challenging going the opposite direction. The other extremely popular campsites at Indian Bar are just as beautiful, and could also work in splitting this long hike into two days. But if you are a bad ass like Glen, you don’t worry about permits and you just day hike the monster. (From Sunrise actually – an almost 23 miles day!) I would also suggest a key swap would work really well for this hike, and I almost convinced two ladies I met while eating lunch who were going the opposite direction into giving me their keys! (Glen put the kibosh on that as he interjected stories of having his garage door opener stolen out of his unlocked car…thanks a lot, Glen! ;)) And btw, I’m still not done with the damn Wonderland!(First attempt here ) I still have those 5 miles from Reflection Lakes to Longmire. Who knows when that will get done, but there’s dinner at Longmire for anyone who will drop me off AND pick me up 🙂

Even though I left camp at least an hour before them, the girls caught me quickly of course.
I still love you, Glen 😉
How could anyone say no to this face? 😉

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Royal Basin F-Bombs

 Royal Basin F Bombs

Permit #4 is in the books. Since I’ve got my special “local pass,” I’ve done Bogachiel, Oil City to Third Beach, Enchanted Valley, and now Royal Basin – all in the Olympic National Park. Plus I have four more classic trips booked before the end of the season. (All for $45! Getting my money’s worth!) Fingers crossed they all pan out.

Many of these miles are on the PNT…many are not, including this trip’s miles. I grabbed this permit simply because I could, and because I figured it must be beautiful if it was so popular. (I think it was the last spot available, and I secured it months ago.) 

We pulled up to the parking area after nine miles of some pretty serious potholes and I foolishly drove past the only parking spot thinking maybe it wasn’t big enough. The car behind me did not hesitate to squeeze in. F***. Okay, keep going and see what we can find.

The actual HUGE parking area (room for 75 cars?) is past the first non actual parking area (20 cars, maybe?) and it was full as well. Holy moly, it’s only 9 am!…but it was a Saturday. Thankfully Julie had the brilliant idea to back in at the far end, essentially creating a new row. (Don’t worry, we were careful not to block anyone in. Very nice vault toilet in this lot, btw.) 

When I snagged this permit, I was a little disappointed. At just under 4 miles in, the “creek” spots seemed inferior to the what I was sure would be spectacular camping at Royal Lake or Upper Basin. Plus not having the option of hiking up the 8 miles one day and out the 8 miles the next day meant a whole lot of hiking on day one. But something is better than nothing, so we were going to have to make it work.

Heidi is not afraid! I’ve learned I just can’t let myself think about it

We expected serious crowds after seeing that parking lot, but to our delight we saw only a handful of other hikers. I suppose the majority of people were crossing the bridge at the one mile mark to go across the Dungeness and into the Buckhorn Wilderness where trails aplenty await. (Including PNT miles…next time!) 

We found our lovely creek spot to be far from inferior – besides seclusion (good for the ukulele concert to come) the water was steps away, plus there were NO BUGS! The one thing we could have done without were the obvious pee puddles right next to the fire ring. Is it so hard to point it toward the bushes, guys?

One way to keep bugs off

But now it was time to tackle the rest of the increasingly upward miles – though now thankfully without our heavy packs. I like to think I could have done it with those 35 pounds on my back without crying, but the f-bomb count that last half mile to the lake (with maybe a pound in my little day pack) suggests there would have been serious tears if not for our blessed “inferior” creek spot. 

Take off shoes? Nah…who has time for that?

Though having to return to our camp meant dealing with a bit of a worry if we could do the steep seven-tenths of a mile past Royal Lake (bug infested and not where we wanted to hang out) to the upper “lake” (tarn actually–also mosquito infested) and back the five miles before dark. But no risk, no reward, right?

The F bombs at the end where the good kind…the “are you f-ing kidding me?” kind. After a “happy birthday!” shout to the lucky party peeps across the lake, we quickly took a few pics and turned right around. One thing to always remember is down is way faster than up. Literally I think it took half the time, so it wasn’t an issue. Was it worth the push and the f-bombs and the bug bites and the wet feet and going over the scary log bridges twice? The pictures show the obvious answer. Happy f-bomb trails! (Condensed hiking itinerary below if interested.)

Somebody knows how to throw a birthday party!
Floaties and all 🙂


Day 1: 3.5 miles to Royal Creek camp (there are many spread out over a mile or so) plus the 10 miles to upper basin and back for a total of 13.5 miles. 

Day 2: An easy stroll out of just 3.5 miles. I have to say as much as I LOVED those views the day before, this hike out might have been my favorite part. Going slow while enjoying the stream views and moss and quiet – it was sublime. And an easy day meant lots of time to spend in Port Townsend, which was also glorious. (Thank God we had a reservation on the ferry. We might have been setting camp on the beach if we didn’t! ;))


Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Sedona Bliss


West Fork Oak Creek is perfection

Bliss is a word that came up when I searched for an antonym for suffering. Suffering is what a write about most often when I tell my hiking stories, because suffering is what adds interest. 

But there is “suffering” (too many mosquito bites and such) and there is SUFFERING (losing a child, cancer, etc.) and I really struggle with writing about the serious kind. I have a draft on my spiritual blog about suffering that has been there since 2017. Though this post will have neither the lower or higher case variety, because this hike lacked suffering of any kind. So I’m afraid it will be a pretty boring post.

I was headed to Arizona to visit my dad who recently moved there because of his Parkinson’s. (Capital letter suffering that I am already feeling uncomfortable mentioning.) While making the plans (this was early June…suffering would be a major part of this story if I did this hike in July) I remembered my hiking buddy from Oregon had mentioned going there to adventure with our other Arizona native hiking friend.

Can you see the face?

And from there, somehow everything came together seamlessly. I spent time with my family – and I also was able to spend three days with two of the best ladies I know on the #1 rated trail in Sedona. What an amazing time – I can’t think of one thing that went wrong or that I didn’t enjoy fully.


I could probably write about how great it was, but the pics tell you all you need to know. Well, except where we camped, which I’m afraid is top secret. So that pretty much leaves me with this short little boring post. Though you know I’ll take bliss over suffering any day, good story be damned! Happy (suffer free) trails!

Sorry, you’ll never know!
I love hiking, but family is everything! I will be back, Arizona!