This is What Borderline Looks Like

I am two weeks into my season in Montana. I have had two episodes so far. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how my life will pan out with my illness progressing so quickly. I’ve known these new people for two weeks. Now let me allow myself to share my feelings without self-judgment. By two days in I developed romantic feelings for one my fellow crew leaders. Once that feeling sparks it envelops everything. If he smiles at me I’m overjoyed, if he talks to me I’m overjoyed. My head quickly decides it’s him. I love him. I want him. I need him to want me. Our first Friday night (February 10th) a group of us went out to dinner. I got drunk, but not so drunk as to be completely out of control, no, just drunk enough to confess my feelings. So that night I pulled him into the bar bathroom and we made out and I felt bliss. He asked if I wanted to go to his house. Yes! Of course. So we walked to his house. And in the dark of his room we kissed and I held him and he held me and my heart felt like it would burst. I slept there with him and woke up far less uninhibited. I was embarrassed and bashful, but underneath that there was that supreme joy. My mind and heart took our actions that night as confirmation and validation. But I know myself, my habits, and my therapist told me before I came out here that I had to wait five months before I acted on any feelings I might develop. So I told him I wasn’t supposed to do this, I was supposed to be chill. He accepted that and said we would chill. At that moment I should have asked for ultimate clarification. Because I thought we both reciprocated the feelings. I thought that even though he would respect that I needed to chill that he still wanted me; we would just be casual about it. So we talked in his room that morning about random things and then he drove me back to my apartment, where I spilled the details to my roommates and I felt GOOD. He came back to my apartment later that day with another crew leader and I led them through a yoga sequence and then the three of us walked around town. And I felt GOOD. I cannot stress enough the extreme happiness I felt.

So then we have another week of work. And I try to be chill. I watch every thought I have and try to maintain it in a healthy manner. I was so sure that he reciprocated these feelings. My feelings grew through the next few days and I decided to hell with my five month rule, if I feel something I should act on it, life is short, I like him and he likes me and I would tell him enough with the casual shit, let’s just do it. (Do it meaning: be together, and kiss and touch and care for one another.)

Two nights ago we all went out to dinner again and I approached him because if I didn’t my body was going to explode. I said I wanted more of what we had. He said no, not right now, this whole Corps experience is new to him and he’s trying to get used to everything. My heart drops. I mean DROPS. Plummets. Shatters. I turn around to one of the girls, JT, and ask her to get my bag because I need to leave that space immediately. She hands my bag to me, he walks away and I storm across the street, bracing myself for the swelling storm. I collapse on the sidewalk in the melting snow and sob. JT tries to console me and I keep saying “Why, why, why, I can’t do this again, I fucking can’t, I have to leave, I have to quit, I have to die.” I wanted to jump in front of the passing cars. I asked JT to tell my ride I have to go home. She leaves and my roommate comes to me, to help drag me to the car. I’m still crying and screaming and I grab rocks from the ground and hit myself in the head with them. She’s freaking out, dragging me into the car, where I slump in the backseat and sob some more. Once I got to the apartment I went straight for the knives, she stopped me, I fell to the living room floor and our other roommate came out. The two of them stayed with me for an hour while I cried. They forced me to sleep in the living room with them.

In the morning I went to the bathroom and used my razor to hack my arm. My roommate didn’t know what to do, she had JT come over, and after they talked to me for an hour we left the apartment to walk. They took me to the Helena cathedral. I sat in the pews and sobbed. We went to JT’s apartment where I drank tea and cried again.

When I got back to my apartment I texted him. Because I’m desperate. Because “not right now” is very different from “never” in my mind. So he came over and we talked for a while. I told him everything that happened. And he was alarmed and worried and sorry. I asked him for a definitive answer. The answer is no. Not now, not ever. I could barely look him in the eyes. He begged me to call my mom after he left. He asked if he should give me space at work; he said I can call him if I need anything; he said he was sorry he wasn’t more clear with me; he said I don’t deserve to be treated the way I treat myself.

I know to outsiders this seems ridiculous, unnecessary, crazy, etc. But all I know is how I feel. And time has no bearing on my feelings. I have known this guy for two weeks. Fourteen days. That amount of “time” means nothing to my mind or heart. My heart fully opened and welcomed him in. Gladly. All I know is I want/ed him, and I became certain he felt the same and I experienced such sublime joy in that belief, and now I’m wrecked. Not having him feels unfathomable. Excruciating.

I’m sharing this because I don’t know what else to do today. I’ll probably leave this library, go back to my apartment and succumb to the crushing grief. It’s bubbling up right now.

Growth Pt 3

When my season in Yosemite ended I was pretty distraught for several reasons. After 5 months of sleeping outside, working outside, eating outside, LIVING outside I dreaded going back into a city. Yosemite was paradise. I saw the wildflowers erupt over the landscape in the late spring and shrink away in autumn. I drank freely from the waterfalls, rivers and lakes. My crew became my dear family. My best friends. I developed romantic feelings for one of our sponsors. Strong romantic feelings. With the end of the season, our crew, the people I spent every waking hour with, would go separate ways. I didn’t know if I’d ever see that sponsor again, much less have anything become of my feelings.

One month after I went home to the Bay Area I overdosed on pills. I developed pneumonia in the hospital and once I was stabilized I was transferred to a mental health facility. They diagnosed me with Borderline Personality Disorder. (I was already diagnosed with Depression in 2013 during my first 51/50) And with that diagnoses so many things were explained. I was released after a week and a half and proceeded to have the worst month of my life. I didn’t want to live without him. It was unbearable. I was on medication and seeing a psychiatrist and therapist. A week before Christmas I overdosed again.

Yosemite was the greatest experience of my life and the following three months were the worst.

In 2016 I began doing yoga every day. It saved my life. April worked some magic on me.

Then in May I went to Utah.

I had a handful of episodes while there. For many years I have known that alcohol is not my friend. It is my depressant. I turn horribly violent toward myself. Near the end of the season I decided to drink seventeen beers, which lead to me sobbing and punching myself and my friends calling the cops. It took five officers to hold me down and cuff me. I wound up in the hospital again.

These have been a messy two years. They say there is no cure for Borderline Personality Disorder. I just have to continue my therapy, meds, yoga, and ride out the storm. I’m doing okay this month. I’m learning more about myself and my illness. I am angry that I have episodes. It’s time I could be spending enjoying myself. That man I was so sure I loved has not been a part of my life since February 28th 2016. And here I am, surviving his absence. And all the things that had upset me for whatever reason in Yosemite and Utah are shadows of something I’m not sure existed. Each time I succumbed to anxiety, self-hatred and imagined rejection I was wasting my time. Literally all of my suffering has been in my own head.

I learned valuable skills in Utah. I widened my circle of ridiculous friends. I continued to reaffirm my undying and unrelenting love for this Earth. Utah was another step on this path that is the only path for me. I’m where I need to be. I’ve met exactly who I’ve needed to meet. So in three days I’ll be in Montana, beginning the next journey. I hope in a hopeless sort of way that I don’t make it harder for myself.

I’ve reread this post a few times now and I’m bummed out by it. I truly have been doing better. My life is a mixture of impossibly beautiful highs and nightmarish lows. I don’t want the lows to eclipse the highs. It’s only when I’m in the thick of it that it feels like the primary experience. That isn’t the case. Remembering that is a huge part of my coping.

So. As for the good things….I still do yoga everyday, and I grow with it. I have amazing friends and I feel their love. I’ve been able to visit all the mossy, hilly places I adore while here in Martinez. Of the countless spectacular lands I’ve gotten to know this place is forever one of my favorites. Ever since Yosemite I’ve been much less insecure with my appearance; I don’t hide under clothes like I used to. I finally read Derrick Jensen’s Endgame, which has further cemented my loyalty to Earth above all else. I’ll be posting about that another time, but needless to say these times call for drastic change, and I’m going to fight to protect my sacred Earth.

Until next time –

Growth Pt 2

Gave y’all a quick little update about my 2015. Wellll, last year I was a crew leader with the Utah Conservation Corps. It was vastly different from the Backcountry Trails Program. In Yosemite our only contact with friends and family was through snail mail once a week. No cellphones allowed (they would’ve been pointless). We were in the park with only each other for the whole 5 months. In Utah I shared an apartment with three other corpsmembers for half my season, and the other half I lived out of the van I bought. From June – August my schedule was 4 days on/3 days off. All the work was front country. Six weeks at Pipe Spring National Monument in Arizona, three weeks working around Provo and Salt Lake City. During the fall season our schedule was 8 days on/6 days off. Where were we working during those 8 days? Escalante National Monument. What were we doing? Cutting invasive Russian Olive and Tamarisk along the Escalante River. The sound of chainsaws reverberating off the canyon walls made me feel like I was in Jurassic Park.

So after my season in Yosemite I knew I wanted to do more trail work. I applied for that job in Yosemite because of my love for our Mama Earth, but I finished that season totally and completely in love with my crew. And I got hooked. I needed more. So of course I went to Utah. It was different. I don’t want to say it wasn’t as good. Comparison does no one justice. I love/d Utah. I lead a crew. It was very intimidating and frustrating and I cried a lot (surprise?). I learned how to use a chainsaw. I had to come to terms with cutting down trees and spraying herbicide. There was a lot of mixed emotions.

I visited all five of the National Parks, bought my first vehicle, got my second tattoo, started rock climbing, inadvertently ate too much sand, perfected my Raven call, touched the Colorado River, smeared myself with mud from Goblin Valley and fell in love with the people again. I love corps people. They are hilarious and weird and strong.

Jen and I got caught in a storm in Capitol Reef in the middle of the night. The lightning was relentless. I stood outside the car in the wind and rain, watching the pitch black landscape light up like day for half a second before descending back into darkness. We huddled in the car, eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Just two girls who didn’t know each other existed weeks earlier.

I LOVE Utah. People write it off. That’s their grave mistake. Utah is perfect for people who need to be outside. Hiking, skiing, rock climbing, you name it. It’s gorgeous land. So diverse. And you can camp nearly anywhere. Go to Utah. Protect Utah’s lands.

Just as in my last post, this summary is hardly sufficient. I want to share it as quickly as possible because on February 5th I’m flying to Helena, Montana to begin my 10 month long season as a crew leader with the Montana Conservation Corps. Round Three is about to begin. First Yosemite, then Utah, and now Montana.

I’m going to post Growth Pt 3 soon after this, but for now here’s some Utah photos.

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Growth

I have not touched this blog since September 2014. I want to come back. I love writing. It’s cathartic. And some groovy things have occurred since I last shared with you. In 2015 I did the California Conservation Corps’ Backcountry Trails Program. From April to Mid September I worked in a place called Yosemite National Park. You’ve heard of it, right?

I was on a crew of twelve. We lost two crew members in the first month. The remaining ten of us – in addition to our supervisor, two cooks, two sponsors and one foreman – became a family of dirtbags. From April to the end of June we were stationed at Hetch Hetchy, where we worked at the rockslide just beyond Wapama Falls. What was our work? We constructed rock walls and stairs out the fine Yosemite granite. We slept in our tents, woke at 4:30, had communal breakfast, packed for the day and hiked to our worksite. At the end of the day we (sometimes) took a solar shower, ate a communal dinner, had class and then went back to our tents by 8pm. On our weekends we broke off into groups of at least three and did backpacking trips around the park.

From July to mid September we were stationed at Benson Lake. Twenty miles in the backcountry and surrounded by raw, powerful mountains. Everyday we hiked up the PCT and worked along the trail just below Seavey Pass. I met many thru-hikers. And every day after work we bathed in the lake.

This quick summary does no justice to the experience. Per the program’s rules, we each kept a journal through our season, and we had to have 10 pages per week. My journal is one of my dearest possessions. I documented our season the most thoroughly, writing down quotes my crew would say constantly. The pages are filled with drawings, pressed flowers, grasses and feathers, and my feverish love. That journal is in Washington right now, tucked away in my grandma’s garage. I am in California.

It is my intention to publish the story in its entirety.

How can I describe bathing in Benson Lake? In the morning the water was perfectly still. Sometimes by the late afternoon it was as choppy as the ocean. Allie and I would swim out the farthest. As soon as the initial burst of cold wore off I could stay in for what felt like days. Floating. In my journal I described it as being “Baptized by Benson”. I loved it. I know that lake with an intimacy that chokes me up.

I fell in love with the work. Good ol’ rock work. The frustration of finding a rock that you think will fit, moving said rock from where you found it (sometimes this took hours) to the project site, realizing it doesn’t fit, weighing the pros and cons of chipping the rock away with a single jack until it does fit or just finding a new rock and starting the process over again. I built three sets of stairs on the PCT. They’re still there right now. I’m so fucking proud of that.

Our camp at Benson was quite the setup. Three helicopter trips meant we had a fully functional outdoor kitchen. An oven. We ate like Kings and Queens. Once a week our resupply came via mule packers. Old trail worker legend says if a mule shits on your rock work it’s goodluck. They never pooped on mine.

Shall I tell you about the sweat lodges? First you build a tent out of tarps, dig a pit in the center, fill it with campfire roasted rocks, poor water over the rocks and proceed to leave this dimension. Once you’ve sweat so much you think you’ll pass out, you  crawl out of the tent and stumble naked down the beach, more zombie than human, and slip into the lake. It’s nighttime, by the way. So the lake is a tapestry of stars.

I’ve never felt cleaner, more pure, than during those five months living in the mountains of Yosemite. I was tired, never acclimated to the elevation and never caught my breath, missed my cat, thought my feet were actually breaking, covered in sweat and sunburns and so immensely happy.

I took over a thousand photos. Here’s a few of them.

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Wildflowers and Elk

August 30th

By five in the morning I felt ready to rise. Peeking out my tent I saw stars. The clouds that filled the sky the night before were gone for the most part, making me think maybe, just maybe it’d be a clear day and I’d get to see those spectacular views of Mt Rainier, Adams and St. Helens from the ridge. I lay in my sleeping bag and listened to the call of a lone elk fill the air. That sound was beautiful. Precious. I unzipped my tent and, while still huddled inside my bag, I watched light gather on the mountainous horizon. The silhouette of the peaks and trees grew more defined, slowly the few clouds became pink. And still that elk called out.

When my bladder refused to wait any longer I crawled out of my tent. Before I even stood fully upright I heard hooves thundering down the mountain side and there he was. Dark brown, strong, huge animal bolting into the cover of the trees. That lone elk. I’m the only one who shared the sunrise with him that day.

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After bathroom business I ate and packed up, watching with apprehension as clouds gathered more and more by the minute. Hugging the ridge I knew the trail would traverse. So be it. I left the finest campsite I’ve ever lived at for an evening and got moving. That morning I hiked through the best scenery. Ice cold streams falling down the mountains, rushing over rocks, lined with wildflowers. So. Many. Wildflowers. And those puffy Dr. Seuss plants, which, thanks to Google, I now know are called Western Anemone.

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It got foggier and foggier. Me thinks views of Mt. Rainier wouldn’t be in the cards.

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It was cold. The ridge with arguably the best views of the whole trail was shrouded. I rested on a rock, trying to avoid the fierce wind. Looking south I watched the northbounders appearing out of the mist. I asked Oak (….super cute dude) if there was any visibility the way he came. Nope. Well crap. He asked me if I had a rain jacket because he was concerned my puff would get soaked. I assured him I had a jacket, just hadn’t put it on yet. We chatted a bit more, then his friend showed up. They said their goodbyes and continued on. Farewell, absurdly attractive boy, I’ll just sit here in the clouds on a rock. And that’s how it is. Hikers flitting in and out of each other’s lives. Bound by sweat and exhilaration, joining for moments and then moving on. That’s when I decided to head back down the way I came. You see, climbing in the cold with my hands going numb without the payoff of a killer view just isn’t worth it in my book.

As I hurried down I put my headphones in and listened to Givers’ full album. Their music in that landscape was the perfect joyous mix, elevating the scenery to even more fantastic heights. Mountains, flowers, dramatic clouds and my favorite band. That’s what I’m talking about.

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During the last downhill section right before Highway 12 some bonafide cowboys came up the trail, horses, mules and all. I stepped aside to let them pass. The second man peered down at me and with a marvelous southern accent said “Hey there, young lady.” It made me smile. Sidenote: The trail is so SO narrow and crumbly in spots, I’m horrified by the idea of taking a horse on it. I’d crap my pants. After zigzaging down the last hill I trudged to the Village Inn and got a room for two nights. Showered, got rid of the filth, hobbled to the store for dinner. So many hikers. If I had been on the trail the entire time I wouldn’t have been so solitary. I did briefly chat with some. Then went back to the room, gorging on all the horrible non-food that I trash talked pre-PCT. Return of the King was on tv, which meant I spent the rest of the night bawling like a baby. Lord of the Rings always makes me cry but this time was different. Frodo inching up Mount Doom, so exhausted and desperate for their struggle to end. Sam being the pillar of strength he is and carrying him the rest of the way. I’m done with the trail for this year and so I cried for the hobbits and myself and plans that fall apart.

Then I crawled into bed, burrowed under the the covers and slept like the dead.

Introduction to Goat Rocks

At my aunts house I told her how desperately I wanted to hike Goat Rocks. As it so happens on the 28th her and her family would be driving through White Pass on their way to Kennewick. So I planned one last hurrah. They dropped me off Thursday night and I stealth camped at the trail head. There was a box waiting for me at the Kracker Barrel store so I popped in there the next morning, mingled with the thru-hikers. When I told a guy named Doc about my experience on the trail this year and that Goat Rocks would be my last bit of PCT hiking this season, he told me it was great and so important that I was still doing all I could do. That being out there as long as I can is enough and valuable. I really needed to hear that. So thank you, Doc.

I ordered a hot chocolate, ate a chocolate muffin and packed a poppyseed muffin (!!!) for a trail snack. Doc gave me his contact info, I gave him salami from my box. At 9:10 I headed back to the trail, so so so ready for the next few days.

I didn’t write much for this day. Instead I’ll let the pictures talk.

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Glorious poppy seed muffin. Have you ever seen anything more beautiful?

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This was my absolute favorite campsite I’ve had on the PCT. Just perfect.

My First Hitch

August 18th

When I woke up I still felt kind of crummy. It’s hard to hop back on trail in Washington when everyone around has had months to form bonds with each other. It’s like starting at a new school in the middle of Senior year. At that point I didn’t feel like subjecting myself to that isolation all over again. Too Close and Short Step were still in Oregon. I missed them. I missed having a place in a group. And there was the fact that my leg still wasn’t 100%. So in the morning I breezed down the trail 9 miles, crossing stream after stream, stopping in my tracks as a herd of elk blew through the forest. When I reached Wind River I cleaned up a bit, watching as dragonflies and birds flew over the water.

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I would have liked to stay at the river longer. Instead I went up the the highway. Now, I’ve never hitched before, and I prepared myself mentally to wait for a while. I set my bag down just as a car came into view, stuck out my thumb and as expected that first car blew by. I think to myself “Alright, the next one.” But then I hear tires screeching over gravel and I see the first car coming back. He asked me where I was trying to go. I don’t even know where I am, not sure what towns are nearby. He was a super nice guy named Alex, on his way to Indian Heaven Wilderness. I tell him this is my first hitch; he says this is the first time he’s picked anyone up. Refuses to let me pay him and takes me to a grocery store in Stevenson.

I go inside and eat chicken strips and they are so good. Then I buy Cheetos and eat them while thinking about how anti-processed food I was (am?) only a few months ago. The trail changed me in the least expected way. I called my aunt. She lives in Washington. I haven’t visited her in years. I love her. She loves me. Surely I could stay with her for a while. But she isn’t at home when I call her. They’re in their favorite place called Mossyrock. So she makes a call to the Bishop’s wife in the nearest church ward. Within a few hours a woman who lives in Carson (a town Alex drove me through) picks me up. She told me she was at that grocery store earlier and saw me sitting there. Ha! She drove me to Vancouver and there I waited as my aunt made the two hour drive to get me. Emotion of the day: Gratitude.

The Day Of (Mostly) Endless Shade and Berries

August 17th

Woke up refreshed. Yes! That’s the first time I experienced that on the trail. My inflatable pad worked shockingly well and my body didn’t hurt. As I left camp I spotted two deer, who then spotted me and darted away into the trees before I could even think of reaching for my camera. The morning hiking was lovely. So much water everywhere. So lush. So green. And the berries! Holy cripes. Fresh berries right off the bush are magical. I stopped a lot.

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During my brunch break I stopped at a log that had a stray pair of cargo fatigue pants laying on it. And a little bottle of lotion. I reached the conclusion that the pants belonged to Rambo and he was somewhere in the area wreaking havoc — pantless and without his lotion. Poor guy.

Most of the day looked the same. Green tunnel. Dark, a little muggy. It made the climb not awful. I don’t like climbs. Every few seconds I think to myself “Screw this trail, I have to stop.” But the funny thing about climbs is that sure enough after wanting to chop my legs off because they feel like cement, after my lungs are fighting for air that just won’t come fast enough, after sweat has drenched every bit of my skin, after “Nope, not gonna make it.” plays on a maddening loop in my mind, I eventually reach the top. And at the top everything is perfect. (And then you go down and up all over again)

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Hello, Mt. Hood.

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This was also the day I walked through about 100 million spider webs. Pretty sure there was one on my face at all times. I didn’t see any thru-hikers the first portion of the day and I began to wonder where the heck they all were. At 2:30 I took my lunch at Rock Creek. Gorgeous. I would have camped there if I didn’t need to do 6 more miles.

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After about 30 minutes a girl named Fizzle showed up, followed by her pals Butter and Pedi. I left soon after. They’d be hiking faster than me and I didn’t want to camp alone again. It didn’t take long for them to catch up and pass me. I was tired from the morning climb. The trail was heading up again and I fell behind. Something was off, felt like I was gonna puke, so when I saw a tiny campsite only big enough for one sleeping bag I dropped my pack and accepted that I’d be alone for the evening again. But after maybe 6 minutes I realized as tired as I was, that physical discomfort was worth going through so I wouldn’t face the darkening forest by myself. Packed my crap up in a flash, and high-tailed it out of there, hell bent on catching up with the others.

That was an unpleasant last hour of hiking. I feared I wouldn’t catch them and for some reason nothing seemed worse than that possibility. Eventually the trees opened up, the trail crossed a dirt road and there they were. During dinner they told stories about a friend of theirs who pooped his pants twice. Butters said there’s no excuse for that happening once, let alone twice, and if it came down to it he would cop a squat two feet from us eating dinner if it meant not crapping himself. The conversation stayed along those lines, leading to Pedi at one point declaring in a solemn voice “Butt chafe is real.” See it’s those types of stellar hiker discussions over dinner that I miss the most when I’m not on trail. Once the convo came to an end we each retreated to our sleeping bags. I wasn’t alone.

 

First Day In Washington

August 16th

The train ride was uncomfortable. Got very little sleep. A few seats back was the world’s loudest snorer. Once I reached Portland Patrick from the PCT Facebook group picked me up. Have I mentioned how awesome it is that strangers do such nice things? Because it is. On the way to Cascade Locks we made two stops. He had to deliver a bounce box to Mountain Mama. Surprise! I hadn’t seen her since Day 4 in Julian. Also met her friend Nectar. After catching up for a bit we took off to go pick up Lion King from the movie theater. He’s a trail celebrity basically, having hiked the behemoth American Discovery Trail. Rad dude. We headed to Subway. My first time eating there. Jim Gaffigan was right, that crap isn’t fresh. Bleh.

They dropped me off at the Bridge of the Gods. I sat for a few minutes eating my not so superb Subway sandwich. A woman gave me some huckleberries she and her husband picked earlier that day. Those were legitimately superb. By the time I headed across the bridge it was 6 pm.

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I camped at Gillette Lake. Gushing stream. Beautiful trees. But I was alone, and just like that the loneliness came back. I tried to ignore it though, knowing it would pass. So I crawled in my sleeping bag and shut my eyes with the sun still perched on the horizon.

Third Time’s the Charm?

Just wanted to let you readers know I bought a train ticket to Portland, and I’ll get back on the trail in Cascade Locks on the 16th. This summer sure didn’t go according to plan, but seeing as a time machine hasn’t been invented (that we know of…) it would be a waste of the present moment to keep wishing for a different outcome. I have been enjoying my time off trail. One of the things I most looked forward to while on the trail was the sunsets. Well, I never did see a single sunset out there that surpassed the ones I’ve witnessed here at home.  I’m probably biased though.sky 009sky 041My gear will be receiving the very welcome addition of an inflatable sleeping pad this time around. Still tweaking my food supply. I hope for the best. Whatever awaits me is exactly as it should be. See you soon, Washington.