Day Five Today’s Miles: 11.6 Total Miles: 52.4 Camp 7 (near Hobart Bluff Trailhead) to Hyatt Lake
I slept in until 6:30 a.m., and started my morning with yoga stretches and meditation. I focused on affirmations of safety, wellness, and “I’ve got this!” I wanted to face my fear. I was determined to be brave. Today was the final day of backpacking with Carl during this first leg. He wouldn’t join me again until the final few days at the top of the state.
We topped off our water, and hit the trail by 8:30 a.m. I was excited to finally be hiking north instead of east. Big animal tracks greeted us first thing. Carl wanted to see a large mammal, apparently not satisfied with his rattlesnake experience yesterday. I didn’t have a strong desire to see any large mammals, and I made a mental note to add that to my morning affirmations.
We made it to the Hobart Bluff trailhead in no time. One of the best outhouses on the trail lives here. In fact, you can hike the first 50.6 miles of the Oregon PCT (Northbound) with facilities every night if you plan accordingly. This section is particularly nice for anyone new to backpacking, and wanting to be “eased” into the scene. There is nothing special about the camp at Hobart Bluff Trailhead, our spot last night was far better. I’ll take a beautiful location over an outhouse any day.
Three miles up the trail, the PCT passes through the Green Springs Wildlife Sanctuary for one mile.
We hiked grassy savannas with views into the valley, and open hillsides.
It was a hard day. I was sore, and my body ached more than the previous days. We took many breaks, several involved taking shoes and socks off to allow our feet to breathe.
Toward the end of our day, we heard the sound of water and got so excited! This meant we were almost to our destination for the night. On the shore of the outlet of Little Hyatt Reservoir we took a proper break, soaking our feet in the water, eating the last of our food – which included a treat of a freeze dried ice-cream bar (that wasn’t very good), and chatted about our five amazing days together.
The kids met us at Hyatt Lake campground where we found a spot to stay for the night. I was tempted by the cabins with hot tubs rented out at Camper’s Cove Resort, but we decided $12.00 for a spot at the campground was a good deal, and more in our budget. We had to reserve online because of the pandemic, and none of us had great phone service. After a frustrating 30 minutes, and an $8.00 fee to reserve online, we had our spot for the night.
At 5:50 p.m. we headed to the Camper’s Cove Resort for dinner to discover they close at 6 p.m. Oh no! I planned on us eating at a restaurant for this night in my resupply bag planning, so I panicked for a minute. It certainly felt like we were out in the middle of nowhere, and we were mega minimal camping tonight. Why would a restaurant serving dinner close at 6 p.m.?
Thankfully the woman inside, (ironically named Sunshine because she was not all that friendly) told us about another restaurant just 10 minutes down the road, open till 8 p.m. – woohoo!
We were immediately so happy the other place closed, because we knew this would be superior in every way. The menu was ideal, the owner of the restaurant was beyond friendly, the outside seating was great, and they even had a play structure our little one could play on while we waited for our food. Slam dunk perfect, and the food was AMAZING. This was a highlight of my entire Oregon adventure. (Well, I REALLY like food.)
When we got back to camp I had a mini breakdown; I couldn’t find my phone anywhere. Carl even drove around to retrace our steps. All I could think was, “Now I can’t hike the PCT!” My daughter, Hadlie, was probably hoping with fingers crossed, “Now I don’t have to hike part of the PCT.” (The plan was for her to join me the next three days.) Crisis averted when I finally found it in the car.
I got the four-year-old to sleep around 10 p.m., and happily fell asleep myself after listening to my daughter freak out about all the bugs she could see (on the outside) of her tent. Oy, I’m backpacking with her tomorrow? 🙂
Day Four Today’s Miles: 11.5 Total Miles: 40.8 Callahan’s Mountain Lodge to Camp 7 (near Hobart Bluff Trailhead)
Sleep did not go so well last night. I tossed and turned in my big comfortable bed with pillows. You just never know with sleep…My daughter had an 8 a.m. Zoom meeting for work, and I was up on my computer as well. I checked the PCT Facebook pages for any pertinent updates, and even posted a photo. I was really doing it! I met my very first thru hiker at breakfast. I envisioned seeing several PCT hikers at the lodge, but this would be the story of my journey; there just weren’t that many people hiking this year.
I was nervous about being alone in a few short days, and hoped I’d find a buddy to tag along with, (like all the PCT videos I watched on YouTube). I wasn’t scared to hike solo all day, but I was nervous about being alone at night. (If you missed my spooky story of solo camping Labor Day weekend 2019, you can enjoy it here.)
*Shannon was a spunky woman who was not shy in telling me all her terrifying close-encounter animal stories through California. This was NOT the kind of conversation my anxious mind needed. She was averaging 20-mile days, but taking the day off (zero-day), was heading into Ashland today. Shannon would easily catch up to me, and maybe we could try to stay together for a bit. I didn’t think there was any way I would ever be doing 20-mile days, but knowing she wouldn’t be far behind gave me some comfort.
At breakfast, Carl’s vegetable omelet arrived with no veggies, but the fruit plate was amazing, and my little guy enjoyed more lizard viewing.
At last it was time to say goodbye to Callahan’s and to the kids, and we hit the trail. Our 4-year-old was really sad to see mom and dad go, mostly because he wanted to hike with us (he loves to hike).
It was 11:15 a.m. and my heart was heavy to see my daughter and son drive off, but my soul was joyous to be on the trail again. It already felt like home. The book described this section as being “somewhat undesirable,” crossing several roads with a close proximity to civilization; but, I loved it! I learned to take the book with a grain of salt. Sure, this section might not compare to the views of Mt. Hood that would greet me at the top of the state, but each day on the trail had it’s own beauty I found easy to appreciate.
Today brought a huge array of landscapes, and a wide variety of vegetation. We saw Junipers, Firs, and Madrones, sweeping views of Mt. Shasta, and most notably, we went right by Pilot Rock.
We had a couple locations of phenomenal views that beckoned snack breaks, and open hillsides with I-5 far below.
As suddenly as it appeared, Pilot Rock was behind us. This felt so magical, and I never tired of it through the whole state as I watched landmarks come and go.
One of the most interesting vegetation I saw in all of Oregon was during this section; a seed pod or fruit. It looked so edible, and there was definite evidence of critters enjoying it.
We met another hiker along the way, *Thomas. He was doing all of Oregon as well, but had a hurt knee, and was taking long breaks. We all filtered water at a piped spring (marked by a post in a grassy clearing). We planned on camping only 2 miles ahead near a pond, but we figured water from a piped spring is always preferable to a pond.
Half a mile up from the spring, Carl realized he didn’t have his sunglasses. We dropped our packs, and he ran back to find them. He returned with one of the best “close-encounter” stories of the trail…it just didn’t involve me.
He was running, trying to hurry when he thought, “I should slow down and walk. I won’t see my sunglasses if I’m running.” Nearly 30 seconds later, he saw a HUGE rattlesnake in the trail. He may have stepped right on it if he had still been running. In this area, the PCT was overgrown with thick grasses, so it was hard to see the trail. I made Carl walk in front of me through tall grass sections the rest of the day, and I was happy it was his story to tell, not mine.
We made it to what my book calls “Camp 7” for this PCT section, 1.7 miles south of Hobart Bluff Trailhead. This was Carl’s first real-deal backcountry camping experience. No amenities here, except a great water source. The pond was barely accessible, and the water looked very questionable, but Carl found a pipe with flowing water nearby, much better than the pond! Thomas camped here as well.
Carl and I snagged a wonderful spot with a great view next to a meadow full of wildflowers. This was one of my favorite nighttime locations on the whole trail, and one of my favorite evenings; probably because Carl was with me. Hiking with him was fun, and he made me feel safe. I was nervous I’d be facing the trail alone soon. Not only was I nervous about sleeping in the middle of nowhere all alone, I was nervous about carrying all my gear. With Carl, the weight was shared between the two of us, and my pack already felt so heavy.
We set up the tent and had dinner, now equipped with plasticware from the lodge. We no longer had to eat with my toothbrush! The most amazing sunset followed. We sat on a big rock for over an hour watching the sky turn colors as a doe grazed in the meadow nearby.
As soon as it was completely dark, we saw city lights below that added to the whole scene. The weather was perfect, it never got cold, and there were ZERO mosquitoes, even though we were right by the pond. It felt like a miracle. Despite the nervousness in the back of my mind, my heart was full, and my smile was wide.
*I’ve changed the names of fellow hikers I met along the way for privacy. Did you miss the beginning of my PCT Oregon journey? Here is Day One.
Day Three Today’s Miles: 9 Total Miles: 29.3 Mt. Ashland Campground to Callahan’s Mountain Lodge
I slept MUCH better last night with the help of the wind lulling me to sleep. It took some time for me to figure out how to be comfortable without a pillow. Carl has decided a pillow will be his one luxury item on future backpacking trips. I was out of the tent by 5:15 a.m. and watched the sunrise. It was a beautiful morning, and the wind had died down.
Only faced with 9 miles for today, we enjoyed our morning, not needing to rush. However, we were low on water, so we rationed last night in order to make breakfast this morning. I was feeling a bit dehydrated, but water was hopefully waiting for us at what used to be the Mt. Ashland Inn, 3 miles ahead. We were on the trail by 8:30 a.m. and enjoyed another morning of wildflowers, some views of Mt. Shasta and a giant manmade birds nest.
The Mt. Ashland Inn used to serve PCT hikers, but is now a private residence. Thankfully they have maintained a water spigot for hikers to use. I wasn’t sure it would be turned on this year amid the pandemic, but it was! With proper use of hand sanitizer, water bottles can still be filled. We enjoyed a little break snacking at the picnic table overlooking a beautiful garden full of vegetables and flowers.
I was sore and tired today, so a short hiking day was perfect. Shortly after leaving the Mt. Ashland Inn, I saw my first deer on the PCT.
There was also a fun view of Pilot Rock. We saw it the first day, and it already looked so much closer just three days later. This would be the first of landmarks on the horizon I would see far in the distance and watch it draw closer as my feet moved along the trail. This felt so phenomenal, but it was especially magical with Pilot Rock. We would go right by it tomorrow, even though it looked so far away still.
Old stage coach road
We made it to Callahan’s Lodge in no time. Taking the side trail down to the lodge, we got turned around for a minute (thanks to some locals who sent us in the wrong direction), but we retraced our steps and found the way. I crossed my first paved road today, which was weird, and later hiked under I-5, which was even more strange. We got to the lodge around 1:30 p.m., and immediately remembered the pandemic, putting our masks on before entering.
It was early in the day and we could have kept hiking, but I was excited to stay at the lodge, and we made plans for the kids to meet us here to give grandma and grandpa a little break.
The lodge offers a backpackers special for hikers who simply arrive with packs on (much cheaper than booking a room in advance). We could tent on the lawn outside the lodge, or for a very reasonable price, we could get a big corner room to ourselves – we splurged on the room! The kids were staying the night, so having a big room to coral the 4-year old would prove extremely useful. I was a little nervous with the pandemic, but we only saw a few other people there the whole time, and it was easy to keep distance.
Carl and I headed to the patio for lunch while we waited for the room. We have only eaten outside at restaurants during the pandemic, and this patio did not disappoint.
We shared a delicious pitcher of Amber ale from an Ashland brewery, but didn’t have the best food experience. However, we were gifted with a free pitcher, so I won’t belabor the point that food arrived frozen, or was completely forgotten. The service was friendly, and we have to give restaurants a little leeway during all the COVID craziness. With my beer buzz, I was happy, if not entirely fed.
Our room was ready shortly after, and we showered. Showering is the BEST after a couple days of backpacking (or 11 days of backpacking…which I will get to later in the journey). The kids arrived shortly after this, and the little one was SO happy to see me. I worried about the next four weeks. How was I going to be away for so long? We walked the quarter mile nature trail around the property a couple of times, stopping to view the waterfalls and lizards along the way.
My parents came to have dinner with us at the lodge and helped me replace the batteries in my GPS, which were already dead.
That evening brought anxiousness for me. It felt overwhelming to go through my resupply bag, and repack for the next leg, as well as factor in what the kids needed for the next couple of days. I had to figure out where Carl and I would get water the next day, etc. etc.
On top of all this, my book made the next leg sound awful; hot, not that pretty, and basically a means to an end. I felt defeated, What am I getting myself into? I was so happy to see the kids and give my parents a night off, but it threw me a little. Plus the 4-year old napped on the way to the lodge, so he was up past midnight. We had big comfy beds with pillows, but still didn’t get the best sleep. Lessons learned…
Day Two Today’s Miles: 12.6 Total Miles: 20.3 Wrangle Campground to Mt. Ashland Campground
Night one was one of the weirdest nights I had on the entire trail, and I was really happy not to be alone. It was a rough night of sleeping, or rather not sleeping. We heard creatures constantly through the night. Things walking around the tent, and loud honking noises. Our neighbor friend said it was deer, but I’ve never heard deer honk like that.
At one point, something hit the tent with so much force I bolted straight up, wide awake. All the thoughts cross your mind…What animals are out there? Will they hurt us, and why do they keep walking around our tent? What if this man cowboy camping is not to be trusted, and is going to mess with us all night? I know if I had been alone, I would have been scared until morning. This allowed doubt to creep in, “Can I really do this once I AM alone?” By 5:45 a.m., it was light enough for me to start my day, and Carl quickly followed suit.
I did a meditation that would become my morning routine. Mostly mantras that involved, “I’m safe, I’m healthy, I’m strong, I’m smart, I’ve got this,” followed by some much needed stretching. We were both pretty sore today. I guess that’s why one would want to “practice.” We made mashed potato wraps with tortillas and Idahoans for breakfast.
We hoped to be on the trail by 7:30 a.m. to beat the heat, as today would offer little shade, according to my book. We started hiking at 7:50 a.m., and had to take layers off by the time we hit the PCT, half a mile from camp. The day was beautiful, and I was SO beyond happy I didn’t skip this section of Oregon. The wildflowers were otherworldly. We saw a few day hikers today, and the locals told us we really lucked out with the flowers, it was the best display they had seen in years.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when we saw a local day hiker. This was of some concern when I planned on hiking the whole state. Would people be upset we were in their area during the pandemic? However, everyone was so nice, and asked us where we were heading, assuming we were long-distance hikers. I said, “Mt. Ashland Campground” (tonight’s destination), but quickly realized people were interested in the final destination (Cascade Locks). I then told people, “I’m HOPING to do all of Oregon.” It would take a couple weeks for me to have the confidence to say, “I’m hiking ALL of Oregon!”
We filtered our very first water on the trail, .3 miles up from Long John Saddle, and paired it with a lunch break. It was a little stream, but someone built a tiny waterfall out of a leaf up the hillside that worked perfect for filtering. This trick would come in handy plenty more times.
Here is my secret about filtered water that I’m embarrassed to share, but in the spirit of full transparency: water out on the trail makes me nervous. I worry about the .01% chance that something will make me sick, and since I have a bit of an anxious tendency, my mind will immediately go to “soiled water” if I start to feel a tummy upset. So, to battle this completely irrational fear, I filtered my water and boiled it when I had any doubt on the purity. (Insert hands over my face in shame emoji.)
The second half of the day we walked through meadows with sweeping views of Mt. Shasta, and along open hillsides.
Towards the end of the day we were feeling it. My feet hurt, my shoulders hurt, my waist hurt…we were looking forward to camp. It took a little bit of finding, but we arrived at Mt. Ashland campground, a free car camping spot with vault toilets and picnic tables about .5 miles off the trail. We had another night of amenities!
The campground is beautiful with a view of Mt. Shasta and the whole valley in one direction, and Mt. Ashland in the other. However, it was incredibly windy, therefore very cold. There was firewood and kindling left in our site, so Carl got a small fire going for us to enjoy while we ate our ramen and bibimbap backpacker meal.
We walked around the campground and found some really interesting info on the kiosk board. Check this out about Mt. Ashland Lupin:
When it got dark, we could see city lights in the valley. Even though I’m hiking to get away from it all, there is something pretty about twinkling lights off in the distance. We hit the tent by 9 p.m. again, exhausted and hopeful the wind would provide some white noise (that I’m really used to having…perhaps addicted to). Sleeping without white noise would be a struggle for the entire trail…sleep in general would be my biggest challenge.
Did you miss Day One of my PCT journey? You can find it: Here
Like many outdoor enthusiasts, I’ve dreamed of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I never really envisioned myself doing the whole thing at once, rather tackling sections bit by bit. One larger goal however, was hiking all of Oregon in one continual stretch, and that is exactly what I accomplished this summer! My partner, Carl bought me an Oregon PCT hiking book for Christmas last year (perhaps a little 2020 foreshadowing), and I found myself thumbing through the pages in early June.
In mid June, Carl and I sat down for our very first lunch at a restaurant since the global pandemic, and he brought up my trail dream in a serious manner. He told me, “If you really want to do this, I fully support you, and think you should go.” I couldn’t believe my ears; this dream might actually become a reality! At the end of a lengthy discussion, it came to these basic tenants: I should go while I’m physically able, and while I have the time and freedom. Basically, life is uncertain and you never know what the future might hold. This might be my only opportunity – so go for it!
I sat down and read the PCT book cover to cover, and discovered if I go the absolute slowest route outlined in the book, I could complete it in six weeks. That is a big commitment! It would be a long time away from my family, especially my four-year-old who seems so little still. Carl assured me he could hold down the fort. I knew he could, but it seemed like I was asking so much, and leaving for so long felt incredibly selfish. He also said he would try to meet me along the trail a few times so our son could see me during the six-week adventure, easing my worries that it was just too much time away.
I figured I could hike a little faster than the slowest route outlined in the book, so I planed for 5 weeks. I spent the next two weeks mapping out the entire trip, and organizing all the logistics. At times it felt so overwhelming, that I quit before I even started. Again, Carl encouraged me to keep at it, reminding me to have faith; everything would fall into place. I was set on most of my gear from the backpacking trip I took last year, but I made several trips to REI to round out what I needed. The shelves were bare this year; I was not the only one hitting the wilderness during the summer of pandemic living.
I didn’t really have time to send myself resupply packages, so I planned on family meeting me along the way to bring me food, company and comfort. The PCT website also discouraged resupply packages this year, and I wanted to follow all the guidelines. They also discouraged through hiking, so I figured sticking to one state was ok.
The week leading up to my departure was filled with Google Docs I shared with family and friends detailing my daily plan: where I would sleep each night, daily mileage counts, where my resupply bags would be delivered, and who I would be hiking with (if anyone).
Two days before my departure I spent an evening preparing all my resupply packages – that was a lot of food.
The night before my launch date, I packed and unpacked, and packed again. Hiking the PCT this year would be more challenging than most, with shower and laundry facilities at the campgrounds along the way closed due to Covid policies. Trying to plan accordingly, I created a resupply suitcase that my helpers could bring me so I could swap out clothes, and have options if my pack was missing important items.
I packed and planned until 3 a.m. – not a great a start to a big adventure. I don’t recommend packing the night before you do anything, but let’s be honest, this is how I usually roll. We actually brainstormed how to leave a day later, feeling so overwhelmed by all the last minute items, but with the next six weeks mapped out, it was challenging to start a day late.
At the end of the day, I got 3.5 hours of sleep before driving my family to Valley of the Rogue State Park in Southern Oregon the following morning. We met my amazing parents at the State Park (who would become key to my success on this endeavor). My children stayed with them five days while Carl and I hiked the first section.
My parents drove us two hours to the trailhead. You can access the PCT right off I-5, but in doing so, you skip 27 miles, and this wouldn’t allow me to achieve my goal of walking across the ENTIRE state. Thankfully, my parents were happy to travel four hours roundtrip up to Donomore Pass – including 28 miles of dirt road (14 each way).
I was exhausted and feeling a little out of it, but as soon as we arrived at the trailhead, the adrenaline went into overdrive and I was embarrassingly giddy. I couldn’t believe I was actually doing this! I saw my very first PCT sign and smiled so wide. We had to tag the California/Oregon border .3 miles south to officially do the ENTIRE state. Equipped with only my phone (that would mostly become my camera), Carl and I jogged to the border, wowed by the wildflowers right away.
After taking the obligatory border photo, we wound our way back to the trailhead and said goodbye to my mom and dad with many words of thanks. I realized I forgot my hat in the car, so my dad lent me his for this first leg. I was anxious to get going. We had 7.1 miles of hiking to get to Wrangle Campground, the destination I was hoping to call home on night one, and it was already nearly 3 p.m. We had early summer in our favor, with the sun setting around 9 p.m., but I had no idea how quickly we could hike; my pack felt heavy!
We got started and I’ll be honest, I didn’t feel great. My tummy was woozy, I had a headache, and a little bit of anxiousness crept in. What was I thinking? Can I really do this? I’m not even two miles in, and I already feel awful. But, I realized we only ate a bagel sandwich all day, I was running on less than 4 hours of sleep, and we were at a pretty high elevation (highest point today was 7110 ft.). I started snacking and felt better immediately, and Carl was quick to give me the trail name “Snacks.” I would definitely hike and snack a lot in the coming weeks.
One good thing about the elevation gain was the cooler temps. It was hot when we dropped the kids off in the valley, 100 degrees; it was a pleasant 70 something up here. The 7 mile hike went by quickly with views, wildflowers, and Mt. Shasta popping up far in the distance. We also saw several humming birds. I’m a bird person, so this excited me. I would see MANY hummingbirds all through Oregon.
We arrived to our camp around 6 p.m. a half mile off the PCT. We were tired and ready to be done. We had the whole campground to ourselves except for one gentleman cowboy camping in the shelter. He was practicing for a 10-day trip in Yosemite next month. Practice…was I supposed to practice? He would also be getting up at 3 a.m. to see the comet (that would be all the talk of summer 2020). This was the first I had heard of it, and considered getting up, it seemed like a thing not to miss, but remembered the very little sleep I was already running on.
We had some amenities on night one: a picnic table, and a pit toilet! The “roughing it” would be a few days away.
After getting settled in, including the very fun part of swapping into camp shoes (my flipflops), we made dinner, getting rid of the heaviest stuff first: razor clam chowder, sweet potato rice, and miso soup – first meal on the trail – woohoo! We quickly realized I didn’t pack silverware. Oh no! That is what 2 a.m. packing will get ya. Miraculously this was the only thing we forgot, and it didn’t slow us down. I had a brand new bamboo toothbrush that worked just fine those first few days. Before prepping food, I opened my hand sanitizer leaning toward the ground and had the liquid squirt right into my eye (the elevation change). Yikes – epic fail on night one; it hurt so bad.
I settled into some journal writing. I was happy Carl was with me. It was nice to be eased into this big adventure, and there really is something to be said for sharing the moments with another person. We were in our sleeping bags by 9 p.m. – so beyond tired. Day one was in the books!
COVID Disclaimer: You won’t see pictures of me wearing a mask on this journey because I rarely saw other people. This was a big reason I undertook this adventure in 2020. Being outside is the safest thing we can do fighting this pandemic (apart from staying in our home). It’s where I have felt most at ease, and happy during these unprecedented times. I had a mask in my pocket at all times for easy access in case I encountered a crowded trail, or anytime I went inside a building of course. On Day one we saw two people at the trailhead, and not another soul the rest of the hike. This would be the norm over the next six weeks.
In 2019, I spent Labor Day weekend embarking on a solo camping trip adventure. I did not expect the wild ride that ensued. I wrote a short story in the memoir class I took this spring, and thought I’d share. This is the beginning of a wonderful transformation in myself…enjoy! ………………………………………………………………………………………………….. It is no secret that I love and long for alone time. I decided early in the summer I would squeeze in a solo camping trip at some point. It checked all the boxes – affordable, time in nature, and much needed solitude.
However, the entire summer flew by with every week accounted for, so when Labor Day weekend arrived, I knew it was now or never before the weather turned. With zero plan (which is unlike me as a Virgo), I haphazardly packed my things. I didn’t have a campground reservation, which is nearly a requirement these days, I just knew I wanted to explore the Mt. Adams wilderness area.
Equipped with my hiking book and Washington state campground book, I assumed I’d figure it out, and all would fall into place. I loaded the car with my belongings and my 12-year-old Australian Shepherd Jasmine, and drove to the town of Trout Lake in Washington state, about 90 minutes from my home.
I stopped at the Ranger Station on the outskirts of town to ask about permits, maps, directions, and advice on a campground; in which I got a flat toned, “Good luck, it’s Labor Day weekend, and it’s already Saturday.”
I lost cell service leaving Trout Lake town limits, and that’s when the first thought of worry for the weekend crept into my mind. My car didn’t come with a spare tire, and I didn’t have a tire repair kit, as it was used the previous summer when I got a flat, and never replaced. With each mile I drove deeper into the woods, this worry became a little more prominent. No spare, and no cell service seemed like a bad combination.
I decided to drive the loop at the first campground I passed to see if there were any available sites. Much to my surprise, there were four or five. I figured, if all else failed, I would just come back to this campground for the night, but it wasn’t really the vibe I was looking for, so I continued my journey to find that perfect spot.
I spent the next four hours exploring several campgrounds and found zero availability. My patience was disappearing as quickly as my light. A woman I chatted with at one of the campgrounds told me about a large spot near a bridge down the road that was still available earlier in the day. As I drove back down the main forest service road, I spied the spot and pulled over to investigate.
It was a huge area with a dry creek bed nearby, plenty of forest for Jasmine to run around, and a well-built fire ring. The spot was clearly used as a free campsite by many. I was excited about the prospect of not being bothered by anyone. This would be the ultimate alone time opportunity, and it wouldn’t cost me a penny!
However, there was a little part of me that was nervous I would get scared as soon as it got dark. I was in the middle of nowhere, with no cell service…a woman all alone in a site visible from the road.
For the next 15 minutes, I went back and forth, trying to decide what to do. Finally, I let a coin decide my fate. Heads I would stay, tails I would go down the road to the campground that had sites earlier in the day. The flip revealed heads; clearly the universe wanted me to stay. I looked at it as an opportunity to be brave. Plus, there were no guarantees the few spots I saw earlier in the day at the first campground were even available anymore.
It took me about 30 minutes to set up camp, all while thinking, is this the right choice? I just couldn’t shake the scared feeling that was creeping in. Jasmine wanted in the tent as soon as it was set up. This made me even more nervous. Why did she want in the tent? What was she scared of? Did my dog sense danger that I couldn’t see or smell?
Darkness fell quickly, as it does in the middle of the woods, and with it, all the bravery I thought I had. Even after I had a fire going, the thought, maybe I should just pack up and go, crossed my mind at least a dozen times. I kept fighting it, telling myself to be brave, there was nothing to fear.
I made dinner, poured myself a glass of red wine, and did some journal writing next to the fire. With some Pinot in me, I began to relax a little until I heard a ruckus in my cooking area. I flashed a light in the direction of my makeshift kitchen and saw a mouse skitter across the camp stove. It was time to pack things into the car.
After stashing everything in the vehicle, I sat by the fire for another glass of wine and more journal writing. I still wondered if I should stay or pack up and get out of there. I found it necessary to tell myself over and over just be brave.
Half-way through the glass of wine I took a sip, and felt something foreign in my mouth, and a sharp bite on my lip. I looked down with my headlamp to see ants on the lid of my wine tumbler, and realized one of them had just bitten me!
This leads me to worry about having an allergic reaction. What would happen if I got sick, a weird rash, or I stopped breathing! I have no idea what this ant bite will do to me!
I decide it’s time for bed. I was trying to stall as long as possible since I had a sneaking suspicion it would be a long night in the tent, but I was ready to be done with this day, and I was hoping sleep would take over quickly, despite my every nerve being tense with a cloud of fear.
I had a couple things to put away for the night, and when I opened the car door, I saw a mouse run across the back seat. I released an audible “ugh.” I wasn’t going to tackle the mouse problem in the dark, but managed to ensure all the food was sealed tight so it wouldn’t be feasting all night.
I got settled into the tent while the fear inside of me festered at an even greater capacity. By this time, I had several dozen scenarios floating around in my head, all reasons I should be really scared. I knew there were bear and cougar in the woods. What if one was hungry and happened to stroll through my camp? I was thankful for the small sledgehammer I decided to grab out of the car, and held it for comfort.
What’s more frightening than large animals, is other people. The hair-raising scenes in every horror movie I’ve seen crossed my mind. Even worse, were the super strange murders in the news. Those stories are real true crimes that actually happened.
I thought about the serial killer driving by. He probably saw me set up camp and knows I’m alone. Then I started thinking about zombies, ghosts, rabid raccoons and…the big one, you know, the earthquake that could happen any day. There were so many things to fear, it was unbearable.
The logical side of me recognized all these scenarios were highly unlikely, so I told myself to calm down, breathe, try to relax, and enjoy the quiet time I was longing for. I knew the odds were greater that I would die in a car crash the next day, than be harmed by anything in the night, but I couldn’t shake the idea that…things do happen! Really messed up things. I know, because I follow the news, and I listen to murder mystery podcasts. I could be the next headline, all because I decided to camp in the middle of nowhere all by myself! I was miserable, and I was definitely NOT having fun.
Even as midnight approached, I kept thinking, should I just pack up and go? But then I remember the mouse in my car. There was no way I could pack up and go, because the mouse would probably run up my leg when I drove away, and I’d get in that car accident that is actually statistically plausible. Additionally, there was no way I could go sleep in my car knowing there was a mouse in there. My options were limited, which created elevated fear.
Jasmine seemed scared too, which didn’t help matters. I didn’t know if she was nervous because I was so scared and she was feeding off my energy, or if she was nervous because she sensed danger (dogs know things), or if her nervousness was a figment of my wild imagination that was clearly in overdrive this particular night.
I knew there was no way in hell I was falling asleep anytime soon, so I read. With adrenaline pumping through my entire being, I read for a couple hours, every so often hearing noises outside, and the occasional car driving by, so the fear barometer never eased up.
The book I had was my saving grace as it offered a distraction for me to finally fall asleep at some point around 2:00 a.m. with my glasses still on and the book on my face.
I woke with a start at 3:00 a.m. to hear footsteps outside. My heart was racing, and my panic was now at a 10. The noise was unidentifiable. It could have been deer, elk, bear, a person…or it could have been my sleeping bag rubbing up against my tent in such a way that it sounded like footsteps, or Jasmine moving around to find a new comfortable spot. No one will ever know, but I got some more reading in, because I was wide awake until nearly 4:30 a.m., at which point I was merely counting down the minutes until the sun would save me. I knew everything would be okay, and my overwhelming fear would go away once it was light outside.
I did finally fall back to sleep and got a couple more hours of rest before waking up to sunlight at 6:30 a.m. I couldn’t have been happier. Jasmine was perky too; ready to get out of the tent and explore her surroundings. Thank god that night was over!
I made breakfast quickly, and got my gear into the car with no sign of the mouse. I was anxious to get out of there.
All loaded up in my Kia Niro, I pushed the engine button only to see the “battery dead” icon in the dashboard. First shock, and then anger swept over me as I yelled, “You have to be kidding me!” Trying to remain calm, I took a couple deep breaths while looking for the owner’s manual in the glove box, telling myself, everything will be okay. Of course, the manual wasn’t in the car.
The previous night I blew up my air mattress with the car plug-in, and I must have left the car partially on, draining the battery through the night. The car is a hybrid, so I knew jumper cables wouldn’t work.
Panicking, I hailed down the first vehicle that passed by, a truck full of teenagers heading back to town. A couple of them looked under the hood of my car with me, and we all just shook our heads. We had no idea what to do. The kids were all so nice, and willing to help me. They began clearing out their backseat to provide room for me and my dog to ride into town with them where I could at least use my cell phone.
Right before I hopped into their truck, a memory flashed of the day I bought the car. I learned about a button you simply push to jump the battery! I ran to the car to check it out, explaining to my new friends as I went. Sure enough, there was a button, and it worked. I was ecstatic!
I said thank you, and goodbye to the teenagers that were prepared to rescue me, so thankful they didn’t have to. I let the car run for a few minutes, catching my breath, trying to find a calm place – the whole point of this weekend after all.
I decided to do the hike I had in mind when I chose this area to explore, otherwise the torturous night was for nothing. I drove to Little Huckleberry Mountain trail; a 5-mile round-trip hike with a 1,780 ft. elevation gain, according to my hiking book. The trailhead was only 20 minutes away, and I was filled with glee as I headed in that direction with camp fear in the rearview mirror.
As I pulled into the trailhead parking area, I saw no other cars. Normally this is a hiker’s dream; to have the trail all to herself, but today I’m feeling a little anxious about being the only one here, so far away, still no cell service…what if something happened? Of course, the previous night’s mind wanderings supplied plenty of scenarios for me to worry about.
Deciding to be brave once again, I gear up, grabbing my little backpack to discover the zipper was broken. Really, what else might go wrong?
I let Jazzy run the trail; she was finally a happy camper. Although I was worried about my car starting once I got back to it, and every other possible thing that could go askew, I enjoyed the beautiful hike. It was so nice to be in nature. With each passing mile, my stress and nervousness melted away little by little.
Until about half-way up the trail, I saw a giant paw print in the mud. I didn’t know what it belonged to, but I knew it was a big animal, cougar or bear. For the remainder of the hike up the mountain I sang, clapped and whistled, so not to startle any wildlife I might stumble upon. I felt the cougar stalking me, just waiting for a good time to pounce.
I made it all the way to the top with a sigh of relief; I was still alive! I got to enjoy the whole top of the mountain by myself, which is a rare treat for any hiking trail in the Pacific Northwest. For the first time all the fear of the past 12 hours truly rolled off my shoulders, and I was finally able to relax. Jasmine and I both had some water and snacks.
I wrote in my journal, reflected on the crazy night before, and wondered where all that fear came from, it was so unlike me. I had never been scared like that before in my life. I’m not typically a worrier, I don’t ever think of the “worse-case scenario.” I’m never scared of nature or being outdoors, typically it’s my happy place. Am I just getting older, and as humans age, we worry more?
I didn’t want to be scared to be alone, I’ve always loved being alone. I knew I would have been fine if I had chosen the campground. For some reason, having groups of people surrounding me would have provided the comfort I needed to feel safe. In my search to be “alone” I was finding that maybe I preferred having at least a few people around.
Part of my fear also came from wondering if I can’t be alone out in the wilderness. Maybe I don’t have the grit that it takes? Maybe I’ll be dependent on having people with me from now on, and that loss of independence frightened me. I’ve always wanted to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. How could I possibly tackle such an endeavor if I can’t even handle being alone at night?
After an hour of enjoying the top of the mountain, I began the descent and started seeing people. By the time I got close to the car, Jasmine was back on leash because the crowds were out in full force. I was annoyed with all the people, missing the time I had the trail to myself. The irony was not lost on me.
Feeling rejuvenated from the hike, I decided to explore the surrounding area a bit. My car started without incident, and I went to nearby South Prairie which provided Jasmine a little relief.
I also hiked the short loop at the “Natural Bridges” site.
Now that I felt better, I wanted to check out another area on my wish list. There’s a small primitive campground at the base of Mt. Adams, perfect for a home base to do hikes in the area. I decided if there were camp spots available, I’d think about staying, if there weren’t, I’d consider it a sign to call it a weekend and head home.
I began my drive to Morrison Creek Campground. It was a bit of a trek on another dirt road, causing me to think again about that potential flat tire. However, the view of Mt. Adams was great as I drove, and I felt at ease when I pulled into the campground and saw other people.
One of the best campsites was available, so I snagged it up, made myself lunch, drank a beer, and thought about what I should do. I had cell service (somewhat remarkably) which made me feel safe.
I didn’t want a repeat of the night before, so I spoke with my neighbor to see if she and her husband were planning on staying the night. They were, making me feel even more at ease. I decide I should be brave and go for it. I needed a good night to round out the weekend, and this campsite was beautiful. The creek ran right by with wildflowers all around, and Mt. Adams towered over the whole campground in such a majestic way, plus it was free!
Setting up camp was again quick and easy. I then found the last of the sunshine in the field that occupied the middle of the campground, and wrote in my journal for a while.
When I walked back to camp, I was puzzled by the sound of rushing water. I didn’t remember a creek going through that section of the campground. I arrived back at my site stunned to see the water flowing right through! Rushing water that was not there 30 minutes ago. It appeared out of nowhere as if someone on the mountain turned the faucet on. The group of people camped to the east of me, wandered over in amazement. We were all totally wowed.
I had to find a narrow spot to jump over the creek to get to my tent and picnic table. The natural phenomenon was cool, but… now I had a new thing to worry about. What if the water kept rising and reached my tent? Would I be able to sleep, or would I just be stressing all night about getting caught in a flood? I decide it’s too late to worry much about it now. Worst case scenario, I’d go sleep in the car with the mouse.
Jasmine was ready to get into the tent for the night around 6:30 p.m, but she didn’t seem worried this time. Feeling hunger, I got the camp stove out to heat up soup, but the stove would not work. Learning to take things in stride this weekend, I simply switched gears and made a fire to roast vegetables. I cut up beets, and zucchini and threw the pieces into some tin foil with butter, onion and garlic.
The sky was magical that night. It was clear with all the stars in full force, which also meant it was cold.
I made myself sleepy time tea, journaled for a little bit, and headed to bed. The water in the new creek had only risen a little, so I figured it was probably going to be okay.
I slept much better the second night, apart from being a little cold. When I woke up the next day, I was really happy I decided to camp a second night. This was the kind of alone relaxing time I was looking for. The magical stream that suddenly appeared the evening before was now totally gone.
The stove worked, so I made myself a giant spinach egg wrap for breakfast, and got ready to go on a hike I’ve had on my “to-do” list for many years.
I drove 2 miles to the very busy parking lot at the base of the mountain and headed out to Crofton Ridge on Mt. Adams via the Round-the-Mountain trail. Jasmine and I hiked 11 miles on an epic trail that circled the mountain. I never found the point where I was supposed to turn around (according to my hiking book), but it didn’t really matter as we had a great time.
Jasmine was like her old self chasing squirrels and going off trail like a mountain goat. She had been very timid for the previous few months after we lost our other dog earlier in the summer. It was a heart-wrenching thing for the whole family, and Jasmine was certainly affected. It was heart-warming to see her prance, and run, and appear so happy again; it made the whole crazy weekend worth it.
We crossed several creeks with views of the mountains the whole way. We were hot and tired by the time we got back to camp, and I soaked my feet in the cold creek.
I packed up camp and said farewell to my weekend adventure. Driving along the Columbia Gorge, the moon was bright over the hills; it was the perfect ending to a pretty epic day. I reflected on the weekend and all the fear I experienced. The possible flat tire that never happened, the scary animal encounters that never happened, the scary people encounters that never happened, the flood that never developed, the car battery that was resolved with a push of a button, and I never did see that mouse in my car again. Out of all those potential scary possibilities, the weekend turned out fantastic. I was safe every step of the way.
Maybe I can spend time in nature solo! Maybe I can hike the Pacific Crest Trail! I decided not to give up, I’d keep practicing my bravery.
The following week I told my father the story of the whole weekend, and he asked to see a picture of the animal track I saw on my Huckleberry Mountain hike. He confirmed it was a fresh bear track. He said it was probably a good thing I sang the rest of the way; you just never know…
For nearly seven years, I have worked for SecureWorld, a cybersecurity event company. Last week, just like 40+ million of my fellow Americans, I filed for unemployment. Many industries have been hit hard by the pandemic, with the event industry certainly high on the list.
At the beginning of March, I found myself traveling to Charlotte for work, a little nervous about the Coronavirus, but it was the very beginning…
The day before the conference, it was my job to speak with representatives in every booth to ensure they were all set to utilize our conference app, and answer any questions. This particular conference had 35-40 booths – that is a lot of contact – and we didn’t know the 6 ft. rule yet.
It was an awkward introduction every time; do we shake hands, do we wave, do we say anything about the awkwardness…? It was the beginning of uncharted territory, and learning a new way to communicate. One of the booths had a “no handshake” sign – a little foreshadowing of the months ahead.
For the next two days, I heard side conversations about what it would be like to stop travelling for work. I didn’t hear anyone mention, “What would it be like if we lose our jobs?” None of us knew how quickly things would shift over the next few weeks.
I was back home in Portland for only one week when our office decided to work remotely. Two days later, the shelter in place order was issued.
I was proud of the way we pivoted as an organization quickly. We moved to an all digital presence, hired a PR firm to communicate effectively with our different stakeholders, and did our best to hang on for the next few months.
We rescheduled our in-person conferences for later in the year with hopes that the wave would pass, and conferences in late summer and early fall could still be held.
However, as the weeks and months unfolded, it became clear that the conference world just wouldn’t be possible in 2020, and quite likely 2021, and who knows for how long into the future. There was nothing I did wrong, quite simply, my role with SecureWorld no longer exists.
These past few weeks have been filled with every emotion concerning my employment. A part of me is excited to find a new opportunity in a field that aligns more with my interests. Truth be told, when I took the SecureWorld job I envisioned myself with the company for a year or two; but life happens.
It’s no secret I’m sentimental. Anytime my life changes, I feel sadness as I experience the chapter closing. SecureWorld was my very first “grown-up” job out of college. I was so excited to get paid vacations, PTO, and not wait tables on the weekends and holidays.
This company saw me through buying my very first home. My daughter’s middle school and high school graduations, and her acceptance into the University of Oregon.
This company saw me through a pregnancy, and the first years of my son’s life from infant, to toddler, and now preschooler.
This company saw me through loss; loss of loved pets, dear friends, and family. For some people on my team, we were a witness to each other’s lives for nearly seven years. That’s a lot of life stages and transitions.
I have so many happy memories of traveling for work conferences, holiday parties, and Friday bar cart trivia. Some of my colleagues watched me jump out of a tree into a lake, learn all important skills like curling, lawn bowling, glass blowing, archery, and fly fishing at company outings. Everyone endured my recycling and composting presentations, and single use plastics shaming.
I grew so much with this company; learning new technologies, skills, and ways to communicate. I learned to advocate for myself and ask for what I wanted and deserved. I learned to work with a wide array of personalities, how to find work/life balance in the past four years working mostly remotely, and how to juggle managing several different projects and tasks every day while marketing to 17 regional conferences across North America.
To my colleagues: I will miss all the silly banter and serious life conversations. Thank you for all the encouraging words, teaching me new skills and technologies, and sharing nearly seven years (some of you) with me.
For those of you staying with the company, I wish you success. I never had a true passion for “cybersecurity,” but I know we had a good thing going, and it felt great to be a part of something that our audience absolutely loved.
For my fellow colleagues moving on like me, I wish you the very best. Good luck finding something you LOVE! Whether it’s a new job, going back to school, or adventuring…follow your heart.
I believe 2020 is asking us to contemplate what truly matters, grow and stretch; which is often uncomfortable, but this is the space where magic happens. I’m wiping the sentimental tears away; ready and excited for the next chapter!
One thing is certain, it is much easier to be a blog contributor when you are unemployed. For nearly seven years I have been working full time for SecureWorld, an event company, and my writing went to the wayside. During this time, I bought my first home, and had a second child. Basically… life happened.
I started to get the writers itch last year when a series of life events unfolded, giving me a book idea. At the same time, I was reading Amanda Palmer’s book, The Art of Askingand felt inspired (thanks, Amanda). I serendipitously found myself traveling to Boston (where much of her book takes place) while I was reading it, and was certain it was a sign.
I recently read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. Her belief that ideas float amongst us to be realized and embraced by a human resonated with me. Muses are real and will not wait forever. (Thank you for also inspiring me, Elizabeth.)
My oldest child left for college last fall, and I decided to take a “Writing Your Memoir” class at the community college. Yes, just like the new hit series, Mrs. Fletcher on HBO. The course was fantastic. It helped me carve out the time to write, and provided the necessary discipline I need under the pretense of “homework.”
Now life is very different, as it is for nearly all of us. My role at SecureWorld shifted drastically from marketing our in-person conferences, to marketing digital content. I also began writing for our “news” segment of the company. I’ve had to dust off those old writing skills, but I’ve been enjoying the change in job duties.
So, I’m back to build my online presence again. Much like I declared in this post from 2013, The Long Hiatus is Finally Over! I’m making myself accountable. Afterall, what better time than during the global pandemic?
During my Boston work / vacation trip (March 2019), my daughter and I spent half a day exploring Harvard. I stopped to pay my respects in Brattle square where Amanda Palmer was a living statue street performer in the 1990’s. This bronze memorial marionette was erected ‘in celebration of all street performers.’
I’m posting this event late, but the energy of the day needs to live on indefinitely, and it seemed fitting to share my moments on International Women’s Day.
Please Note: To my followers who may not know me well, I’m a new mom to a now 8 month old, a mom to a 16 year-old, still working 40 hours a week, and trying to maintain my volunteer commitments and sleeping once in a while – so…I haven’t had a lot of time to blog, but this was clearly an important day to capture.
I’m excited I shared this day with millions of people around the world on January 21, 2017 with 400+ marches happening across the U.S. and 80+ other countries.
Riding the max to downtown, the energy was felt right away as marchers poured onto the train at every stop with signs and pink hats. I knew I was right where I was meant to be, among the nearly 100,000 who attended.
The crowd waits to march…
One side of the bridge to the other side
Lining the Bridges
I loved the signs. Here are a few of my favorites – some for cleverness, some for message.
And the march begins…thousands and thousands of people funneling through Portland’s narrow streets – it was amazing.
And of course, the emphasis on Trump…I’ll let the signs do the speaking.
That pink marker is proof that it POURED!
Place & Time Images
The grand finale….
Thanks to everyone who showed up on this historic day. Be sure to take that energy with you. Pursue the issues you care most about, and keep fighting the good fight!
It’s hard to believe a whole year has passed since we moved into our new home! We owe the fabulous non-profit Proud Ground for the amazing opportunity. When I first moved to Portland 5+ years ago, I noticed houses with “Proud Ground” signs in front indicating the home was for sale. I looked into Proud Ground and found an amazing program for first-time home buyers who fit into a particular income bracket (make enough money to pay a mortgage, but low enough income to qulify for the grants).
I had my initial meeting with someone 4 years ago and placed my name on the LIST. We first looked at the home pictured above in January 2015 and 6 months later, we had the keys. Constantly hearing horror stories about the rental market in Portland (and the buyer’s market), I’m SO thankful for our home. Not only is our mortgage less than what we were paying in rent, we are home-owners, which is a pretty great feeling providing a lot of security.
From the Proud Ground website:
Proud Ground gives families with stable jobs and steady incomes the chance to buy their first home—affordably. We serve families who can qualify for a home loan, just not one at market rate. And because Proud Ground homes are forever-affordable, family after family has access to the stability and wealth-building that come with homeownership, and our region has a growing supply of homes that are affordable for generations to come.
At the time I got on the LIST I was still looking for employment, obviously not in a position to purchase a home, but the sooner you get on the list, the sooner you move toward the top. When a home becomes available, you fill out a form of interest. If you are at the top of the list, and you qualify for the loan, the home is yours (basically).
We bought this home for way under market value, so it was affordable to us. The catch, if and when we sell the house, it stays in the program so it’s affordable for the next buyer. Although we will make some money if we sell, we can’t turn around and sell it for a huge profit on the open market.
The gem of this program – keeping affordable homes in neighborhoods for generations!
First Entry – Got the Keys May 15th!
We said farewell to the Kenton neighborhood in North Portland, a place we watched become the new hot spot in Portland, and said hello to the Lents neighborhood (about as far away from Kenton as possible and still live in Portland). We had our trepidations about moving to what seemed like “so far away,” but we kept hearing about Lents being the next big thing, and we had faith it would be fabulous.
Thanks for all the great times Kenton!
Funny, my daughter and I volunteered for her 8th grade project at the Lents International Farmers Market the summer of 2014 – so a little foreshadowing I suppose.
Hard to get a smile when she had braces…
We spent the first year settling in and getting the inside organized with new Energy Star appliances, drapes on the windows etc. and we experienced all those fabulous firsts! First holidays, first storms, first seasons…
January – first snow – a special treat for Portlanders
Plenty of wildlife to keep our Australian Shepherd entertained
Plenty of room for the chickens and dogs
This spring we started working on the yard. We basically have a blank slate, so the opportunities are endless and fun (although a little overwhelming). I figure it’s one project at a time. We want to eventually get rid of the grass in the front and plant natives (that don’t require watering) and build a rain garden. I also want to begin my rain barrel collection soon on all the gutters.
Dressing up the front porch
Our big project this spring: building vegetable beds!
Since I was nearly 7 months pregnant at the time,the bulk of the project landed on this great fella!
Before the chicken fence went up…
Six weeks later – eating on our strawberries, salad greens, turnips and zucchini!
We participated in our first Sunday Parkways in the new hood! The route was only a block from the house, and even the pouring down rain didn’t stop us (or my big belly).
Hadders and a friend – May 15th, 2016
I want to extend a huge thank you to all the dedicated folks at Proud Ground for making the dream of home-buying a reality for us and dozens of other families. We look forward to many more years here and watching the Lents community blossom.