The last month or so of summer had been packed with adventure! From camping to celebrating birthdays, it's been a bit of doozy to keep up with. Almost every day off has had something going on, which has been an amazing change of last year (sprained knees are the worst),so I couldn't really do much of anything I would've wanted to go do. I'd planned a few backpacking trips this year, but wildfires canceled those plans. Hiking/backpacking was my identity for two whole years and I've come to realize why I've been so reluctant to get back out there and get back into falling in love with the wilderness. I'll get to that in a minute, let's talk about some good things first.
In early August, the amazing author of 'Along in Wonderland', Christine Reed, stayed with me for about a week! This was the first time in a long time where it felt genuinely effortless to connect. The comradery among us hikers is seriously unreal, you don't even have to have hiked the same year or trail! If you know, you know. Since I'm the only backpacker/hiker in my friend groups, the ease of connecting had, regretfully, faded into memory. Getting back into hiking and not being judged for how out of shape I am, was something I didn't expect, but Christine was perfectly fine with taking things sluggishly slow. We ended up going on three hikes together: Big Four Ice Caves, Boulder River, and, the classic, Oyster Dome! These hikes are pretty well known, so I don't mind saying their names. Unfortunately, the car next to mine had a smashed window. Someone had broken into the SUV at Boulder River trailhead, so we were lucky they that didn't break into mine.
There were also a couple of birthdays that I got to celebrate! Kasten's birthday was on July 28th, and my best friend, Ethan, his party was on August 7th, where we all went to Wild Waves. I hadn't been since I was in like 8th grade, and boy is it pricy to spend your whole day there if you didn't
assumed you weren't allowed to, so we were at the mercy of whatever prices the amusement park had up. Everyone celebrated Kasten's 21st and Ethan's 28th with some drinks before playing in the water side of the park, it's best to do dry first and wet later, in my opinion. Christine needed a ride to Snoqualmie Pass so she could hike to Steven's Pass on the PCT, so we couldn't stay at Wild Waves and party as late as the rest of the group. It's quite the drive, about 2.5 hours to get there, so Kasten and I took turns driving up to Leavenworth to pick up Christine. He has since pointed out to me that I will go beyond for fellow hikers. Just repaying the kindness I received while on my own hikes. The backpacking community is strongly bonded together with the scars of tripping down trails (let's face it, most of our scars are either falls or rogue plant stabbings).
Now, back to the reason why I hadn't been out hiking myself. If I'm honest, fear is what has been holding me hostage, paralyzed. The idea of going back into the wilderness, even with the slightest chance I might run into my ex, had me frozen under a deceiving thick sheet of ice. If there ever was some kind of altercation, would there even be anyone around to help deescalate it, deep out in the woods? That's partly what makes backpacking is so freeing; want to swim naked in a lake or climb up a massive Douglas fir to write while you munch on a snack? Go for it! There won't be people out there, at least, if this was a perfect world where we are loving our wild spaces to death. Anyways, I was letting the idea any type of encounter keep me away from something I love. Instead of going out and facing my fears head on, I kept myself really busy with other things. It wasn't until PCT Days where all of my worries seemed plain hilarious!
I wasn't going to let my anxiety win the battle of going to the hiking festival in Cascade Locks, OR; PCT Days. I caught wind that he might be there and, what do you know, he was there. We ended up passing each other a handful of times over the weekend, but with Abby and Kasten, I felt safe and was still able to enjoy the myself! My ex and I's relationship was so dramatically explosive, that I anticipated a confrontation (the thing that kept at home). Living on a razor edge, expecting him to come up to me and instigating. Not the best for my weekend of shopping around all the different retailers (big and small companies alike!) and showing the gang what the festival is about. All of us kept a vigilant eye on where he was, just as a precaution. But, the whole was blissfully uneventful. He also seemed to be avoiding me, and I refused to be small, or hide, or even adjust where I wanted to go. I needed to prove to myself that I didn't need to be scared, that I can finally let go of the fear that has been haunting my subconscious.
Though, something unexpected happened. Since there was no kind of confrontation, despite what I was anticipating, the anxiety I had turned into this almost dominant, aggressive energy. I started to feel powerful, like there was nothing to be afraid of. I wasn't avoiding him, I was focused on my goal for the future; living each moment to the fullest. On our way out on Saturday, we crossed each other for the last time, about 20ft away, and, for whatever reason, I wanted to do something to display the new sense of dominance I was now starting to feel. Despite being full of this toxic energy, I left it alone. We just continued to walk out with all the goodies acquired from the amazing vendors at PCT Days. It was a true victory; the safety to be myself in a place that makes me feel like it's where I belong. I realized later that as long as I'm willing to talk about abuse I've been through, they have no power over me.
The day before PCT Days, I drove Northeast, for about four hours to Mazama, WA, to pick up one of my hiker friends from PCT '20, Blue. We spent the time on the way back to my house catching up, and chatting about how different 2022 was to 2020 on the trail for him. Yosemite was perfect in 2020, with barely seeing anyone, and this year it was PACKED. That's usually how it is on that section of trail, but nothing will ever beat our very own once-in-lifetime experience from when the world shut down.
The weekend plan was to go down to Cascade Locks together with Blue and Kasten the next morning. This would be Kasten's first time around other thru-hikers, so this was the perfect chance for him to get a sense of what trail life is like. Plus, I get to see all the gear being showcased and geek about it with him! (I've listened to all the nerdy details about Star Wars, it's time to learn about fitting backpacks and why loft is important!) On our drive down to Oregon, I got my long awaited fix while talking to Blue more about the trail and other hiker-trash related things which only other dirt-bags really understand. I made the joke that thru-hikers are basically the kids who never quite understood stranger danger. "Is that an offering of food, beer, and or a shower will get most of us in your van as we look for a hitch. Did you say laundry? We are there!"
I was able to hang out a bit with Christine at PCT Days too! She was over in the vendors area making food, and we chatted until it was time to get to the store for some after dinner sweets. Kasten and I were also waiting for Abby, so we needed to be in that direction anyways. Once gummy bears were successfully acquired, along with a perfectly timed Abby, we walked back to where Christine was camped and then parted ways. (But not after buying a tank top from her!) I'd driven for about 10 of the last 24 hours, so after I hanging out with Blue and his hiker friends, I completely was looking forward to snuggling into my trusty sleeping bag, after a classic hiker safety meeting. ;)
The rest of Summer ended up being full of working and self reflection. I realized not too long ago that my building wasn't hiring any replacements after they left months ago, and could feel an incoming closure. I applied for promotions and new jobs alike. I wasn't in a hurry until I learned about where 75% of my building was going. Let's just say, our work ethics clash, like a hammer on hot iron. They asked me to be the first one to go over about a two months ahead of the closure. When I was passed over for the promotion, I knew it was time for me to leave. There was nothing that was motivating me other than I got to work with my boyfriend within the same building if I stayed. Nothing about my work was exciting or satisfying. It didn't help that both Kasten and I were losing hair over working for Amazon.
At the beginning of October, I got an offer to go work in the mountains and took it. My last day was Oct 22nd and there's a larger gap between jobs than I expected, so I am doing some Uber Eats to help buffer the wallet a bit. It's alright, but it still stresses me out, but I can do it when I want to rather than being stuck in the warehouses. I start on Nov 16th as a Ski Lift Operator in Stevens Pass, basically on the PCT all winter!! There's worries about what I'm going to do afterwards or what if I hate it. Being a Driver Trainer was great until it wasn't, and I never like working for such a large company. Just because I might hate some parts of it, doesn't mean I won't find the joy to be found up there. Amazon was an excessive part of my life, where nothing went to plan, I got injured for an entire summer and, most unexpectedly, fell in love with the silliest goose in the pond. Now it's time for me to find a job that I have a good chance of loving. Who knows, maybe I'll make quick friends with the people at the pass.
Cheers to a brighter tomorrow,