Saturday, September 29, 2012

Bridging The Gap In Vancouver

After leaving Manning Park, we ventured to Vancouver for a few days of exploring and readjusting to the real world. We slipped into cotton clothing, went out for nice meals, caught up with my family, laid around in the hotel, watched football and tried to relax.

Vancouver is a fantastic city. We were beyond impressed. It's clean and tidy and the people are friendly and not pushy. It's got big city action without big city attitude. At first Trav and I were both a bit overwhelmed by the crowds of people and the fast moving traffic, but we found our way into some of Vancouver's larger green spaces to put ourselves at ease. There were moments that felt very Country Mouse/City Mouse. Our first stop was Stanley Park which won my heart immediately   I have a very serious love of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and I have to say that Stanley Park is one of few parks I've been in of the same caliber. We especially loved the totems and learning more about Canadian First Nations' tradition, art and culture.

You have no idea how good it feels to wear cotton.

I was so in awe, my outfit deserved it's own picture. 

First Nations' Totem

Our next outing took us to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.  We walked sky high bridges across a canyon and between giant trees.  Trav and I took deep, fresh breaths.  Being among the trees felt homey-er than the city, somehow cozier than the plush sheets at the hotel.  The park was really well put together and it was a fine way to spend an afternoon. 

In good company.

Family portrait.

The suspension bridge.

My thoughts exactly.

Treetop Adventure.

Breathe easy.

Capilano River below.

Mom and Trav above the Cliff Walk.

Dad and me on the Cliff Walk. Exciting!

Cliff Walk.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Thoughts And Feelings In List Form

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was making lists in my head about post-PCT life. (People who know me well can now make jokes about me making mental lists. Typical.)  Since we've been out of the woods, many people have asked us to expand and share. So, I thought I'd put some thoughts and reflections down here for y'all since you have, after all, followed us along on this wild, foot-powered ride.

Here goes.

Things I'll Miss About The Trail

1. A daily sense of purpose. I know we all wake up in the morning with to-do lists and such, but having that daily drive, a goal and a, well, purpose was an incredible feeling. Every day was a piece of a larger and more daunting puzzle and by the time I went to sleep I felt like I'd made headway.  I felt proud of myself and Trav everyday... how often in life can you say/feel that?
2. Simplicity. Let's be clear, it's not an easy lifestyle but it is simple. Life isn't cluttered with stuff and commitments and junk. You think more clearly, things make more sense.
3. Fresh air. The air out there is crisp and once you breathe easy every day, all day for months, you realize it's vitality.
4.  Eating whatever I want.  Two Snickers a day for months is easy to miss.
5. The company. We were surrounded by inspired, creative, driven and interesting people.  Plus, everyone you meet on trail has the same end goal as you so you feel connected immediately. I loved that.
6. The wilderness. The big, wild West.

Things I Won't Miss About The Trail

1. Digging a hole every morning. No need to expand there, you get it.
2. An achy body.
3. Being disconnected from people I love.
4. Being a machine. Thru hiking is really different that any other backpacking trip I've been on... you HAVE to keep moving. It's a marathon for backpackers and you can't always just stop and sit and enjoy your surroundings. Sometimes you just feel like a miles machine, like you're on a conveyor belt all the way to Canada. It's fun (most days), don't get me wrong, but I look forward to getting back into recreational backpacking.

Things I'm Looking Forward To In The 'Real World'

1. Diversity. I've joked that thru hikers were the most diverse group of white people you'll ever experience, but it is that... mostly white. It was wonderful to walk the streets of Vancouver with dozens of different colors, sizes, shapes and cultures of people.
2. Jeans. And all cotton for that matter.  Oh, and earrings.
3. Variety. In food, clothes, activity...
4. FRESH food.

(An admission here: This list was a lot longer while I was hiking. Now that I'm sitting in the 'real world' in front of a computer I thought I missed... I'm having a hard time generating more specifics.)

Things I'm Not Looking Forward To In The 'Real World'

1. Election noise. And noise in general.
2. Hustle and bustle. Slow down people. Take a deep breath.
3. Too many choices. I know I just said I wanted variety, but really we all have waaaaay more options that we need.
4. Drama. This is a hard one to explain, but I'll try... As we sat on the tarmac waiting to get to our gate in Houston, the woman next to me continued to make snarky remarks and create drama about the way that people were lining up the aisle. I couldn't have cared less. I was fine and comfortable in my seat and I knew we'd be off the plane in time. Big deal. People make a lot of drama out of nothing, and I'm not looking forward to being exposed to it.
5. Crowds. We had so much wide open (and beautiful) space for so long and we're both acutely aware of how many people are around and in our personal space. This is new to me... I've never minded close quarters.
6. Losing touch with the trail and the experience.

Thoughts On Staying Centered

This is inspired by my dear friend Meg's recent post on her blog. But as #6 on my last list states, there is so much of the trail life that I don't want to lose touch with.  As I float around in post-trail life, I'm working on holding on to these principles  They're simple learnings, and most are pretty obvious, but we all need reminders. Especially me.

1. You already have everything you need. Stuff is stuff and none of us need more. Get good, quality stuff that you know works, take care of it, keep it clean and working and don't get wrapped up in needing (wanting?) more. It's easy to have less when you have to carry all of it on your back, but it is an immediate actualization of how little we need to get by.  I actually saw this phrase written on the sidewalk in chalk in Vancouver and it has been on a neon, scrolling screen in my brain ever since.
2.  Hike your own hike.  Okay, so we're not hiking anymore, but I was always struck and impressed with how committed hikers are to this philosophy.  The idea is that everyone is on their own journey. Everyone is carrying their own stuff. Everyone should go their own pace. Everyone is responsible for themselves. And everyone is just looking to enjoy the adventure. It works in 'real life'... just think about it.
3. Move.  Walking 20+ miles is a bit excessive, but moving feels good, clears the mind and makes the body feel better.
4. Stay on top of tasks. Out there, water won't filter itself, dinner can't be ordered in, and no one is going to dig your hole for you. It's easy to put little things off and wait to do them later, but most of the time, important tasks go so fast that in the time you spend putting them off, they'd be done, and you can keep moving (direct plug for #3).  Plus, you get the satisfaction of feeling productive. Simple right? Now quit reading this blog and go do something. Zing!
5.  Look around. We walked though some of the most beautiful wilderness in the world, but there were days where we wouldn't see anything because we had our heads down, charging the trail. I regret now that I didn't spend more time paying attention to my surroundings. There's cool stuff everywhere, and if you pay attention, you feel more centered in yourself and your surroundings.
6.  Show gratitude. Plain and simple. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Watch Out Sasquatch...

... there's a new mythical creature creepin' around in the woods. It's a figment of my dad's imagination that seemed to grow in numbers in Manning Park, Canada on Friday.

It's the TRAVelMAG, sporting a hot pink hat and a giant beard.

As we emerged from the PCT this group of goofballs was there to greet us.  My dad, mom, brother and best friends Susie and Brian were decked in their Trav-el-Mag gear.  It was SO wonderful to see them and we were grateful for the good laugh. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Love Train On The Borderline

Rolling up to Monument 78 at the Canadian border was an incredible moment.  I cried for the last mile (appropriate, considering I cried the whole first mile) and had to stand there for a few seconds, staring at the sign that said 'Welcome To Canada'.  The fact that it listed our last 9 miles in kilometers actually helped me understand that we had WALKED to another country.

To make the whole situation that much more festive and special, we celebrated at the monument with 14 friends/pirates and members of The Love Train. We've hiked with many of these folks for many miles and many months.  We cooked dinner with Spud and Snausage on our second day on trail and finally started hiking with them in Northern California.  We met Wampus Cat and Zen on our third day on trail and have been leap frogging with them ever since. Mufasa and White Bear we met a week in while seeking shade in the small shadow of a broken down tractor in the desert.  But then there's the 3 Gay Caballeros that we just met, but immediately felt like old friends.  We sipped on whiskey (that had been carried for 100 miles or so) and ate Snickers and other sweets that had been saved to be savored. Then, we started our epic photo shoot.  (I've included links to as many of their blogs as I could find, enjoy!).

KRL's postcard.

Snausage and Histo.

Mufasa and White Bear. A brother hug.

White Bear.

Monument 78.

Wampus Cat.


Pan, Dionesis and Seano/The 3 Gay Caballeros.

Hugs all around.

Cookie. Who out cute-ed all of us. As always.

Hallmark and Wampus: Sciatica Sisters.

An amazing surprise: This is Brian, who is the dad of Bronco Jim, who we hiked with for the first nearly 900 miles.  We haven't seen Bronco in months and had no idea he was just 1 day behind us.  We'd have loved to give him a congratulatory hug, but hugging his awesome dad was close enough!

The Love Train.

HUGE CONGRATS to all of our hiker friends who went on this awesome and epic journey.  Everyone's trail experience is different, but there is so much heart, inspiration and determination (bordering on sheer stubbornness) in each one of these strong bodies.  There are many people we wish we could have crossed the border with (Garilicte, ScareCaw, Spork, Doc and Blue Jay, Macho Taco, Fairway and Just Retired to name a few) and send our love and congrats to them on their accomplishments.  We've all got 2,660 miles under our feet and 5 months(ish) of memories to look back on. Cheers!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Day 148: Hip Hip Hooray, Eh!!

September 21 at 10am we hit the Canadian border and the PCT Northern Terminus.  2,660 miles border to border.

The enormity of our accomplishment has yet to set in.  We're just so proud and overwhelmed and excited and worn out and pumped up and thrilled.  More pictures and reflections to come. Oh Canada!! 

Days 140-147: A North Cascades Review (In Pictures)

One day of rain in Washington. A record, no doubt.

Smoke from nearby wildfires.

Wampus and Zen taking a rest.

Frozen Mica Lake.

North Cascades National Park!

The 3 Gay Cabelleros! After months of chasing them, we finally got to spend time with this beautiful (and hiker famous) trio and share wine, conversation and song.

Stunning Golden Larches, the only deciduous coniferous tree, with their wonderful fall color.

Worn out socks on worn out feet.

Fall colors.

Sunrise hiking.

Hopkins Lake... our last campsite of the trip and a perfect spot.

Some last morning portraits.

This is a collection of images from Skykomish to Hopkins Lake (6 miles from the border).  There is not much that I can say about the North Cascades that can do it justice. There are also few words I could use that would describe how simultaneously difficult and exhilarating it was. We managed to do big miles over big climbs to cover the last nearly two hundred miles and though there were days our bodies felt broken down, we were getting closer and closer to Canada... and that kept propelling us forward (and upward).  The weather was perfect even though we dealt with smoky air due to nearby fires.  Our last days on trail were so special and we tried to savor them as much as possible.