Pacific Crest Trail Diary 14: Day 96 (Bend, OR)
Updated: Sep 21, 2018
I felt that my last trail diary was sparse. I had a few people say that they enjoyed reading it and that it was a good post, but the fact is that it didn’t do enough justice to the experiences that I’ve been having on trail. Although I realize that there will be no words strong enough to put this PCT experience into the minds of those who have not experienced it themselves, I can’t help but feel like I’ve failed at doing justice to the hike recently.
It’s hard not having access to a keyboard on trail. That, I think, would be one thing that I’d change if I were to do another thru hike. I had considered looking into acquiring a wireless keyboard that works with my phone so that I can type on trail, but I really didn’t think that it would be possible to find something that was functionally useful without being overly heavy. In speaking to other hikers and reading some journals online however, I realize now that they probably are out there, and in the future I will be sure to take long adventures with a keyboard.
I am currently in Bend, Oregon’s public library. Like the town itself, the library is nothing short of impressive. It is very clean and feels very modern. The people here are really nice too, like I may have already mentioned in a previous post. Sometimes when I go into a public library along the trail and ask if there is access to computers, I get dirty looks because I’m “not a member” and because I probably smell a bit less pleasant than those who do have library cards. I didn’t get that feeling here in Bend at all though. Seriously, I just cannot say enough good about this town. I will be returning here in the future for sure, and I really do hope that it is to live.
I suppose that this would be a good opportunity to write just a bit more about my plans for after the trail, as that point is coming much closer each day, and because the plan that I’ve been working with has shaped, and changed, and finally is starting to solidify.
I expect to finish the Pacific Crest Trail at its northern terminus, seven miles inside Canada at some point between September 1 and September 7 (could be a day or two later, but that’s the plan right now). From there my immediate destination will be Valdez, Alaska. I have not been to Valdez in… shoot, it’s been a long time; I was in Anchorage 5 years ago, but I genuinely do not remember the last time that I visited Valdez. I want to see my parents. I’ve missed them greatly being on trail, and right around that time my dad has a couple of trips planned (one fishing, one hunting) that he’s invited me to join on. So I’ll fly up to Valdez for probably two weeks. The first week I’ll float the Gulcana River fishing for rainbow trout and grayling for three days. Then right after that float trip, my dad has invited me to join him on a moose hunt. I haven’t hunted big game in a lot of years and have never attended a successful moose hunt, so that will be nice. These two trips will also help me to accomplish one of the fundamental goals that I’ve set for after the trail—I want to be closer to my food.
I had a problem with the commercial food industry of the United States before I started this hike and although I was in no way wishing to be a vegetarian (okay, maybe I was a little, but just a little-little), I did want to have a closer connection to the meat that lands on my plate. I wanted to be catching and cleaning the fish that I eat, and I wanted to be hunting the animals I eat. Coming from Alaska, there is no reason that I can’t accomplish this task. And being out on trail has given me time to really think about what’s important to me in this life—one of those things is being a more conscious human being. I want to be conscious of where my food comes from and not just eat beef without caring about the life of that animal. I want to still eat meat, but with each bite I want to acknowledge the sacrifice that an animal made to feed me. I want to be closer to that “circle of life.” Sorry if I’m getting too hippy here—I’m not sure if my wording is adequate to fully explain my thinking on the topic, but hopefully I’ve expressed the general idea.
I also want to be involved with gardening. This may take awhile and I may have to wait until I’ve settled into a more permanent home, but growing my own fruits and vegetables is something that I feel much more passionate about after the trail than before. I want to shop at farmer’s markets and shorten the distance between the farmer and my plate of food. I want to live more responsibly towards the earth and towards others, and I feel that both hunting my own game and either growing or knowing the grower of my vegetables will help me to accomplish that goal. These things are very important to me after being on trail so long.
So after two weeks in Alaska with family, I will then fly back down to Washington to live with my grandparents. They have a cabin on their property, and although I’ve never been there, I’ve heard really great things. They tell me that it’s very isolated and that I will have a tremendous amount of privacy there. Once I arrive back in Washington I have a few very important goals, and I’ll list them here in no particular order:
1) Start eating very clean again. I want to start with a 5 day juice fast, then start working fresh fish into my diet, then maybe move into game animals. It’s very important to me that I stay away from processed foods though. I’m so sick of preservatives after being on trail this long!
2) Start back on my workout program. It has been extremely difficult for me to lose as much weight as I have on trail. I figure I’m about 25lbs lighter than when I started the hike, and that is eating as much as I can whenever I have the opportunity. Most of the weight has come from my upper body muscle mass. It sucks to have lost this much from something that I worked so long to achieve, but that’s just the way the trail goes. I know that it’s happened to other male hikers with whom I’ve spoken, but I don’t think that it’s affected anyone as much as me (physically and emotionally). I know the concept of “muscle memory” quite well though, so I am hopeful that I’ll be able to regain 80-90% of my upper body muscle mass back within 2-3 months. That’s a long time and it hurts me to even think about, but it is me looking at the situation from a realistic perspective. So when I get to Washington, developing a very specific and strategic workout program will be a top priority.
3) Get back into a very strict meditation routine. That’s one of the last new things that I brought into my life before starting the PCT and it’s been extraordinarily difficult to maintain to any degree out here on trail. I’m excited to get back into that again. I’ll also have my friend in Flagstaff mail me all of the things that I had on my alter before leaving for the trail. Those objects are all very important to me.
4) Possibly get a job. I don’t want to work full time in Washington, but it’d be nice to get some spending money after the trail (this trail has entirely broken my bank account), and working will also allow me to meet some new faces in Washington, I hope. I’d like to bartend at a craft brewery or winery for two or three days a week.
5) Lastly, and perhaps this is the most important part, I will be writing in Washington. I started this hike as an idea from which I hoped to produce a book. Now that I’ve just about finished the “doing” process of this journey, it’ll be time to actually produce a book from it. I conceive of the first draft of the book being finished two months after I’ve moved to Washington. I plan on the book being an autobiographical account of my life leading up to the PCT (growing up in Alaska beside salmon-filled rivers, then moving to Arizona, then becoming a teacher, then realizing what the higher education system actually is--not a system for producing education as much as a system for producing student debt--deciding to leave the life I was living, then hiking the PCT). I wish for the book to be an autobiography as well as a heavy commentary on American culture.
So I guess this brings up the question of “what about Arizona/Flagstaff?”
Well, I really don’t know the answer to that question. When I left for the PCT I did not have any intention of returning to Flagstaff for any extended period of time. I knew that I’d come back to visit, but I really identified Flagstaff as being the source of a lot of the pain, anger, and disappointment that I felt while I was living there. As I’ve gotten distance from the town however, I’ve been able to see how it wasn’t Flagstaff that was killing me; it was the university. I needed to get away from the school and the job that I was working. THAT is what was leading me to an early grave. Now that I have that distance from the situation, I can see how wonderful Flagstaff really was. The people there were like no people I’ve met in my life. They were really good people, many of them. Now that I’ve quit my job with the university and pretty well promised myself to never go back to that, I do romanticize about going back to Flagstaff to bartend, and dance in the moonlight. As my plans for “after the trail” have developed however, I have to acknowledge that I don’t see where Flagstaff fits into the picture.
A major draw for me to go back to Flagstaff are the people there—that is honestly the number one reason for returning. In the last year or two of my living in Flag, I met some people who have completely changed my life for the better. They’ve inspired me, given me opportunities, encouraged me, and shown me genuine love in ways that I never experienced before. That is where my ambivalence towards going back to Flagstaff really exists. I miss the people. I want to put them all into a bus, drive them up to Bend, and we can all live together in a happy life. Unfortunately, that’s just fantasy, so I have to make a choice in the coming year as to whether I’m done with Arizona (and the people there who I love so much) or if I’ll need to go back to Arizona with my new perspective. I doubt that there’s a “right” answer in the situation, but I do spend a lot of time trying to find one.
Life Suspended is honestly another reason that I want to go back to Arizona. This is really just a branch tangent off of the people in Arizona who I love so much, but I feel that the Life Suspended group deserve their own paragraph, because for the most part, they were completely separate from my life in Flagstaff. I knew when I left Arizona that the LS family would be hard to say goodbye to. They have a flesh suspension event taking place in August, and it’ll be the first such event that I’ve missed since I joined the group in 2011. It will be hard to not have that outlet in my life. Suspension was something that was very important to me…
Anyways, that’s where I am in regards to “after the trail plans.”
The days following Crater Lake were not overly eventful. I started seeing a lot of really beautiful lakes along the trail, but I never really spent much time at them. At most I’d take a picture beside their shores, have a bite to eat, and then move on after a few minutes. I hoped that there’d be more lakes like that north of my current location, but in looking at the map and talking with a local here in Bend, it doesn’t look like those lakes are going to continue like they were for the last 60 miles or so. I do expect to see more of them in Washington though, so there will be more adventures to come.
Bend, as I’ve said has been amazing and I absolutely see myself coming back here to live within the next year or two. Upon getting to the road I had 3 cars pass me by before a Subaru pulled over and offered me a ride into town. The driver was a really cool local girl who has spent most of her life in Bend (and a bit of time in Montana). She was happy to give me a ride back into town, and we got along quite well. She had a really cool dog named Maggie who made me miss Huxleigh like no words can say. On the drive to REI where I had my resupply box shipped, she asked if I’d like to get a beer, which I happily accepted under the condition that she could find a place that wouldn’t mind my hiker-trash attire and smell. She found the perfect spot, ordered me a local IPA, and over the course of conversation, she offered me her place to stay for the night. She had to be at work in an hour, but she said that it was totally cool if I stayed and made myself at home. I was a bit more reluctant to take that offer because I didn’t want to put her in an uncomfortable position of letting a stranger run free in her home, but she was quite insistent. Her place looked almost exactly like one of my close friend’s places in Flagstaff (build of the home and the décor inside). I felt very at home there, and it was so cool to be able to play with her dog that afternoon while she was at work.
After I showered and sorted out my food for the next leg of the hike, I went out exploring Bend. There was a small music shindig going on downtown and there were people everywhere—HAPPY people! Everyone in town that I’ve met so far has been so friendly and happy. It’s really the best feel that I’ve ever gotten from a town in my life. I just cannot say enough good about Bend.
This morning she and I got breakfast at a place within walking distance (most everything is in walking distance in this town from what I’ve seen so far). The pancakes and bacon were amazing (not quite as good as the LSA café in Ashland, but a close second). She had to go to work this morning, so when she left I went out and hit REI again. I needed new shoes BAD. The LaSportivas that I got in Ashland are causing me some serious blister issues. They hurt with every single step. I can take that pain, but it worries me that if the blisters become much worse they could be running a risk of becoming infected. So even though the shoes still have a lot of miles left on them, I had to switch them out for the Solomons that I had been wearing up to Ashland. I also bought a T-shirt there—the first T-shirt that I’ve worn since leaving Campo on April 27th. It’s just too damn hot right now to be walking around town in my blue long sleeve flannel. I also bought some bugs pray and new socks. Then, I checked where the local post office is located (so that I can send my LaSportiva shoes back to Arizona for safe keeping until after the trail) and it just so happened to be located next to the public library—how perfect!
So that brings me to where I am at the moment. I feel a lot better about this post (much easier to write on a keyboard than to type on my phone’s touch screen!), and hope that it does a bit more justice to the hike and the experience that I had at Crater Lake earlier in the week. From here I’m going to go mail off my shoes, eat another burger (good-googley-moogley, the burger I had last night was amazing!), and then wander around town for a couple more hours until my host in Bend gets off work. After she finishes work she’s headed back out to the Elk Lake where she picked me up yesterday afternoon. She’s going to camp by the lake with Maggie (the dog) and watch the blue moon tonight. She also fly fishes which is awesome as all hell, so I wish her the best on the water tonight and tomorrow. She’ll give me a ride back out to the trail on her way out to camp tonight and I’ll be back on my way to Canada. With the full moon coming up tonight, I do have some plans for mediation, but I’m going to try and be organic about the rest of the day. I’d like to get 10 miles done today, but the truth is that it’s not going to happen; at best I’ll be lucky to get 5 since I won’t likely get to trail until 5 or 6 pm. I might just shoot to find a good campsite once I get back to trail and call that good. Nothing wrong with calling today a rest day considering how great the accommodations have been here in Bend.
I still think of y’all every day. Yesterday afternoon I got some messages from someone who I only met once in my life for an extremely brief period, and he really encouraged me to keep on keeping on. Support like that really changes my world on the days when I’m feeling down, so to every single one of you who has even so much as typed me a message saying “keep it up man,” I am so grateful! Thank you all! I have made it this far because I know that there are others who are following my progress and are genuinely rooting for me to get to Canada. And baring the unexpected, I really thing that I will get to Canada. It may not be today or tomorrow, but in the grand scheme of things, there is nothing but the now, so I will be standing at the northern terminus before even I’ll be able to believe it.
Love you all.