Start of The Trail

First Section Survival Saga

image: The Start of the Trail

So I made it through the first 8 days in the wilderness by myself, hiked a total of 48 miles, had extremely challenging and exhilarating moments and managed to find a way to keep going and get out when I was running out of food. The plan for doing a little over 70 miles to Stevens Pass did not quite pan out as I expected. Though I thought I had done enough training to prepare myself for this journey physically, I found that the constant large elevation gains and then losses followed by more of the same were more challenging than I was ready for. My issues with shortness of breath showed up big time and led to extremely slow uphill sections which would then be followed by having to be careful going downhill to not hurt my knee or ankle issues. The first full day I only made it 4 miles though I had planned on 6. The second day 3.5 miles rather than the planned on 10. The third day 6 miles when I needed to do an average of 9. You begin to get the picture that making what I thought would be a relatively easy 70 miles in 8 days was not starting well.

I also underestimated how long it would take my body to get used to it and get stronger. I think I pictured it as it was in my 20’s, a few days and I’d be good. Actually I think I added a couple more for the age and weight factor but was sure it wouldn’t be too long. Each morning I would be so disappointed when just getting camp packed up exhausted me, much less getting out and moving on the trail. It may be that I was exhausted also from all the prep work of getting ready. Whatever all the factors, the reality was that I was moving forward daily but very slowly. At first I felt like a trail name of “Tortoise” would be appropriate but eventually even that felt too fast. Since I felt I was moving glacially slowly I’m going with the trail name of “Glacier”. I would speak to these through hikers doing 20,25,35 miles a day in order to do the whole PCT north to south to Mexico and they would think I was kidding about being that slow. They’d laugh and say “yes I wish I could go back to only doing 10-15 mile days” and I’d not disabuse them of that notion but think “If only”.

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All that being said each day had so much beauty to behold that I learned a lot about just being with what is and enjoying it rather than wishing it was otherwise. Often what I could enjoy was the gorgeous displays of wildflowers as I went step by step up a hill. Needing to concentrate on placing my feet carefully didn’t allow much gazing about as I walked. On a number of steep uphills I had to stop so often to catch my breath that those would be the moments that I could really look around and see the big vistas and that was glorious. I have come to really appreciate those slow uphills. Marching by would be all these fast hikers and there I would be taking in the beauty.

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Many dark times of discouragement and much patience needed to just make it through moment by moment. All the little learnings about setting up and taking down a camp, best ways to use all of my gear, how to deal with rain or too much sun, etc,etc. Questions of “why am I here” and “what was I thinking”, “how do I get out of this” all cruising around taking up space in my head as I walked. Trying as much as I could to turn off the story line but often not very successful at it. I so very much appreciated the fancy GPS device that allowed me to receive and send messages and so still feel connected. If anything I think I have made it through this first week with a embodied knowing of how loved and supported I am as so many of you took the time to contact me with your love and support. There is a place for modern technology even in the wilderness!!

On Day 5, Thursday I came up with a couple of alternate plans to hike out on Sunday as planned but in a different area. I contacted Betty and Jennifer, my Stevens Pass resupply team, with the possibilities. So grateful that they took the whole thing on, were willing to do whatever it took to support me. Betty went to REI to get a map so she could see what I was talking about, they allowed time in their schedules for doing it earlier or later if needed, even ended up borrowing Michael’s 4 wheel drive vehicle to drive the forest road in (Thank you Michael!) So out I came down the Cathedral Pass Trail yesterday. I was so very, very glad to see them waiting as I came out into the parking area of the trailhead. With no cell phone reception there for them what if we missed each other? It was a great moment to know that I can adapt, find a way to make it work and get back to civilization and my friends when the time is right. I have been here in the cabin that I rented weeks ago for this day of rest for almost 24 hours being pampered by my friends, I could get used to this! Fresh food, deep conversation, hot shower, even a hot tub to ease my aches this morning. Good day for it also as it has been pouring rain all day.

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Tomorrow I will head out again for a 10 day section heading past Glacier Peak towards Stehekin. I know now that I cannot do the full 107 miles from Hwy 2 to Stehekin as planned. We looked at another map and have found some forest roads again that they will drive me in on to a trailhead where within 5 miles (2200 feet uphill again, what’s new) I will be back on the PCT but have cut off 30 miles. So I will have 83 miles altogether to go in 10 days. I had started feeling better, stronger on day 7 and 8 so I do believe this will be realistic and doable. In all of the discomfort and difficulty over the days most of the time I knew that I wanted to continue on this pilgrimage, whatever it is meant to be. A friend of mine who has done the Camino Santiago in Spain twice sent me this quote from Philip Cousineau “The point of pilgrimage is to improve yourself by enduring and overcoming difficulties. In other words, if the journey you have chosen is indeed a pilgrimage, a soulful journey, it will be rigorous.” I think I’ve got that in spades!!

My friend Catherine has been sending me little pieces from Joyce Rupp, another pilgrim soul, that have I have meditated on and walked with and continue to take to heart.

“It is time for the pilgrim in me to travel in the dark, to learn to read the stars that shine in my soul. I will walk deeper into the dark of my night. I will wait for the stars, trust their guidance.”

I have felt this first week of journeying as walking in the dark. I am trusting that whatever it is that drew my soul to this journey will show up. I will learn to read the stars that shine in my soul. I truly am waiting for them and their guidance.

There is so much more that I could say and I will in the future but for now I need to start preparing my supplies for this next section.

Blessings to all of you on whatever journeys you are on. Kathryn

One thought on “Start of The Trail

  1. Sherry Auer

    Hi Kathryn,
    Sherry Auer here. What an amazing, brave woman you are! There is no way I could physically do what you are doing but I have just finished what I call an Odyssey of my own which I began back in 1968 when I resigned my job as a Social Worker in Oakland, California, headquarters of the Black Panthers, and headed to Europe for 18 months. I made some good friends along the way in Scotland and Ireland and met my second husband skiing in the Austrian Alps. On April 20th this year I tore myself away from family and friends in Austria where I had spent the better part of the last five years living near my son and his family which included two of my precious grandchildren. It took me three months to get to Whidbey Island. I spent 3 weeks in Scotland and 2 weeks in Ireland visiting with the friends that had become part of my international family over 50 years ago. I visited American friends who live on Lake Winniepausauka in New Hampshire for two weeks and then flew to Reno, Nevada to reunite with high school friends around Lake Tahoe where I grew up. I met up with my college college roommate in the Sacramento Valley and a number of other people who have been very meaningful in my life. I even went camping for three days with my first husband who was a Nevada cowboy! In a rental car, I worked my way up the Pacific coast renewing friendships all the way from Mendocino, California to Portland, Oregon. It was an amazing time of returning to my roots and going deep inside to connect to the essence of the person I have become. A great way to bring closure to my “Gypsy Granny” days and prepare myself for the final phase of my life.
    I am so glad to have found a link to your blog in the Unity newsletter and look forward to reading more about your challenges and adventures in the days ahead. It looks like you have chosen a good time for your trek with all the beautiful weather we have been having. Keep on keeping on and I will look forward to seeing you after you return! Love & Hugs, Sherry

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