August 16, 2014 § Leave a comment
Molas Pass to Junction Creek Trailhead – 73.9 miles 6 days Total: 127.2 miles 11 days
More often than not the people that give us a ride from/back to the trail go out of their way to do so. The ride from Silverton was no exception. We’d been standing with our thumbs up on the outskirts of town for some time when a guy across the road called out: “He girls, you trying to get back to the CT?” “Yes!” “Come over.” He’d been doing some paint work at the visitor center across the road but was ready to take a break so he took us back to Molas Pass. By 2.30pm on day 6 we were back on the trail and managed to put in 8 miles before setting up camp.
The next day lunch break was exceptionally short as dark clouds were amassing ahead and grumbling ominously. It rained all afternoon. But nature seems more alive when it rains. It’s as if the animals are saying: “Let’s go out, it’s raining, there shouldn’t be any humans outside.” Well, not quite. We startled two deers.
By 4.30pm that day the tent was up. Three hikers, Aquaman, Homebrew and Lighthouse, joined us that night and the following ones. Lighthouse carried a guitar; he played and sang at camp. Music is so much sweeter in the middle of the woods.
Day 8 saw some more rain, and even a hail shower. We found a nice camp spot on the edge of a hill, just sheltered by the trees, with a great view. To the east some mountains were still lit up by the evening light while, over the forest spreading in the valleys below, we could see curtains of rain and lightning. There was thunder, and Lighthouse was playing and singing to the elements. One of those surreal moments.
On day 9 we crossed Indian Trail Ridge in a white mist, buffeted by the wind and soaked through by rain. When the view opened up again we were back in more mountainous terrain. Upon a stony cirque, we were looking down at the beautiful plateau where is nested Taylor Lake, our destination for the day.
We just had time to set up the tent that it started pouring rain. And it kept on and on, all night and the following morning. We were stuck in our little tent, that surprisingly still holds the water well after 5 months of intensive use, pondering our options: waiting it out – spend a whole day inside a tent? Not exactly my idea of a zero day… – or hiking on – yeah, can’t see how getting completely soaked is any better…
But by noon the rain had stopped, the wind had dried the tent and the sky had cleared enough that it looked safe to make a dash for a couple of miles down the trail.
The weather was gorgeous the rest of the day and the next, all the way to Durango.
Ah, Durango. Town. Shower, social media, laundry, food and beer. Not necessarily in that order. How did we do this for 5 months?
127.2 miles in 11 days. That makes an average of 11.6 miles per day. We hiked faster than we thought we would. Well, we dreamt of hour-long after lunch naps in the sun or mid-afternoon reading breaks, but that didn’t happen. We were cold, and what do you do when you’re outdoors and you’re cold? You just keep moving.
So yeah, next time we’re going somewhere warmer. Next time we’re going to the beach. Or not 😉
August 10, 2014 § 1 Comment
Spring Creek Pass to Molas Pass – 53.3 miles 5 days
That question comes up over and over on any of our hiking trip in the US. The answer is always the same. Yes, the Swiss mountains are beautiful, but they’re different. On a hike in Switzerland, sooner or later you see signs of civilization, and not the kind you can easily overlook. Try making abstraction of a whole village across the valley.
I’ll quote two numbers that should help you get the picture. The density of Switzerland is 194,7 inhabitants/km2. Colorado is 19 inhabitants/km2 and more than half the population lives in the Denver area. In the US, and maybe even more so in Colorado, when you go out to lose yourself in the wilderness, that’s what you get. Wilderness as far as the eye can see.
Day after day, we have topped ridges only to discover new valleys beyond, to cross other tundras, to gain views to yet other mountains in the distance. Wilderness is never ending out here.
There’s been plenty of wildlife too. Marmot whistles and pika calls follow our tracks – one marmot was even perched on a trail post! We stumbled onto some ptarmigans. These birds are so well camouflaged that it’s only when we were about to step on them and they moved that we realized there were a mum and her five young ones. Deer and moose have only been brown shapes in the distance so far.
On day 2 we reached the highest point of the CT at 13’271 feet (about 4000m). Why make an easy start, huh? No, because we’re used to altitude measured in meters rather than in feet, we realized quite late what we were up to, but it’s been all right.
The high altitude (over 10’000 feet – 3000m the all time) plus the wind and a sun that’s been hiding behind clouds mean it hasn’t been so warm and has made us want to crawl back in our sleeping bags and not move anymore. But that was also day 3 and by now we know full well a lack of motivation is typical of a 3rd day of hiking so you shouldn’t listen too much to yourself and just push on.
On day 5 the CT and CDT parted ways. We followed the CT and left the CDT meandering south, 928 miles towards Mexico. With the appearance of the Grenadier Range the day before, the scenery had changed, the mountains becoming rockier and more dramatic. Now we dropped down to the Animas River and had a fright crossing the Durango-Silverton railroad tracks. Of course the train had to come our way and blow its whistle when we were walking the few meters of trail that follow the tracks!
Close to Molas Pass and Highway 550, as always when we near a trailhead, we had to wonder if the trail designers went about this way to create a trail:
“Here, pick a random number of miles.”
“Good, let’s make a first draft.”
“Shoot, we’re short of a few miles.”
“No worries, we’ll just make a 1 mile detour before each trailhead and that should do the count.”
It’s either that or they took a sadistic pleasure in imagining hikers hearing and seeing the highway that meant a night in town but rather than heading straight for it, having to go about a ridiculously circumvolunted 1 mile before reaching it. Mental torture, that’s what it is.
It hasn’t been hard to adjust to the slower pace. CT thru-hikers we met have mentioned the conflict they experience: making the necessary daily miles to complete the trail in the time they have and still enjoy it. Although we understand them, we’ve been there, we’re happy we can say: “No, that’s not us, not this time.”
It was even hard for us to comprehend that the number of miles we’ve done in 3 days on this trip, we once did in one single day.
Regarding food we still have to adapt. Now in Silverton we’re still carrying a ridiculously huge amount of food. We packed the quantity we were used to eat while we hiked between 8-10 hours a day and we had been at this for about 5 months. That’s not us anymore, we barely eat half of this.
Other than that we’re doing good. By day 2 we’d slipped right back into our trail routine, it was like we’d never left the trail and it feels good! So back out we go, see you in a couple of days.
July 31, 2014 § 2 Comments
Hum… It’s been a while, huh?
Well, it’s been a while we haven’t really lost ourselves in the wilderness. Too long a while if you ask us. But we’re about to change that.
Which trail? Ah, good question!
The last 500 miles or so of the PCT? Nope, not yet.
The AT? Nah, try again.
The CDT? Well, no… and yes. No, because that’s one too many letters. We’re getting ready to hike a section of the CT, the Colorado Trail. But yes, because the Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide Trail share about 235 miles and 40 of these miles are located in the section of the CT we’ve chosen to hike this summer.
We’ll start at the Spring Creek Pass and head towards Durango. That’s about 127 miles and we have around 15 days. That gives us a leisurely average of 8.5 miles a day. For our minds, formatted by months of PCT thru-hiking, that’s ridiculously pathetic. But this time we’re in no rush to get anywhere really so our minds will have to adapt. And anyway our bodies are in a ridiculously unfit shape.
So that’s the plan. But you know what they say. Life is what happens when you’re busy planning something else.
June 18, 2012 § Leave a comment
I’m happy to announce that the following picture, which I took while hiking the PCT through the Sierras, features among the winners of the Pacific Crest Trail Association 2012 Photo Contest. Thanks to the Booze Crew for the great photo opportunity!
And the Swisters made it into the Pacific Crest Trail Communicator, Summer 2012 issue. Check out Kolby Kirk’s article on page 18. If you look carefully at his journal extract you’ll see us there! If you don’t receive the magazine, you can see the journal extract here (3rd photo).
April 27, 2012 § Leave a comment
About 20 PCT miles from the mexican border hikers are gathering. Accomplished thru-hikers, thru-hikers to be, section hikers, trail angels and PCT fans are getting together in Lake Morena this week-end for this year’s kick-off. Some 2012 thru-hikers have already tackled several miles of the PCT and will hitch a ride south to join the festivities. They’ll pick up the trail where they left it once the party is over. But most thru-hikers will make their first steps on the trail in the next few days.
It’s been one year. There is nostalgia from the memory of our time there and there is sadness at the thought that we won’t be there this year and that we won’t meet old friends. Among the people at kick-off there will be some of the friends we made on the trail. For some it’s only to attend kick-off, for others the PCT is calling again and they’re answering.
If, like them, you’re hungry for more PCT adventures this summer, you can follow their footsteps on their blogs: Scarecrow – AdventureCrow, Life As The Crow Flies – is in for a second thru-hike as is Busted Magic – Hike your own Hike. Early Girl and Waterboy – Early Girl and Waterboy’s 2012 Pacific Crest Trail Journal – are going back to complete the miles left till Canada.
And if you love hiking stories but would like something different, you can follow Condor – The Hike Guy. He’s heading for another trail this June, the Sierra High Route. Check out his trail journals, he’s a wonderful artist.
April 23, 2012 § Leave a comment
Bill Bryson could not have chosen a better title for his book about the Appalachian Trail. Nor would this title have fitted for just any trail. Because that’s exactly what the Appalachian Trail is. A walk in the woods. I had planned my hike on the AT so that the crowd of thru-hikers would still be further down south. I didn’t want to chance meeting even a single one of them and keeping on all the way to Maine. It failed, I did meet a thru-hiker but, no worries, I wasn’t tempted to follow him north. I can’t do 2000 miles of forest. But it was perfect for a relaxing and reflective 5-day hike.
As end of April draws closer, PCT nostalgia was bound to creep in. So I thought I’d take preventive measures and take a walk in the woods. It did me good. It was great to hike and be a Swister again. Although there’s no denying it’s always more fun to be The Swisters 😉 I loved being a section hiker. It took some time to stop thinking that 10 miles a day was a lame average. Anyway, as my shoulders and back reminded me gently, my body is not used to the load of the pack anymore and I’m not as fit as when we stepped off the PCT. And I soon took to the relaxed rhythm. Waking up at 7.30am, leaving camp at 9am, a 2 hour break for lunch, enjoying a book in the warmth of the sun, and rolling in camp at 5pm. Ah that’s the life! No rush, no obsession with miles.
On the 6th of April I arranged to be dropped where the AT crosses US 522 near Front Royal in Virginia and I started to hike north. Spring was in full swing, the forest green with fresh leaves and here and there blooming trees formed splashes of purple and white. Wild flowers carpeted the ground and butterflies flew around. I hadn’t been in the wild for long that 3 deer stumbled on the spot I was having lunch. That’s the good thing about hiking alone, you’re quiet and don’t scare the animals away. The downside is that the creaking squeaking branches and leaves rustling in the wind can make you quite jumpy. I was a bit nervous at the idea of camping alone but on the 1st night I met One More at the shelter. He’s hiked half the trail section by section over the last 4 years and plans to complete the whole trail some day. The following nights we both set up camp at the same spot so I never had to camp on my own, and he was of good company.
The Easter Bunny managed to find me even out there in the woods. A Butterfinger egg was waiting for me outside my tent when I woke up on Sunday morning. I don’t know who the generous hiker was but thank you, it was a great surprise and a nice touch before what awaited me on the trail. The Rollercoaster. A succession of eight hills so up and down, up and down I went. But at the end of the day I had a shower, soda and ice cream, and slept in a bed at the Bear’s Den hostel.
On the 4thday I crossed the border into West Virginia. Virginia, with about 530 miles, is the longest state on the AT. It was a milestone for One More and he was happy to eventually be done with Virginia. I couldn’t help but smile, remembering it took us 1700 miles of the PCT to be done with California. West Virginia, wild and wonderful, if what’s written on the state’s license plates can be trusted, and the shortest state on the AT with 17 miles. For the rest of the day I was humming to myself. “Country roads, take me home. To the place I belong.”
That night the David Lesser shelter was a great place to sleep, except for the snoring of another hiker 😉 This shelter even has a wooden swing! The next day the return to civilization was brutal as the loud noise of the traffic on US 340 crossing the Shenandoah River tears you out of the quietness of the forest. Then I was in Harpers Ferry and that’s where I was getting off the trail. Harpers Ferry is the mental halfway point for thru-hikers and it’s also home to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters. Hikers usually get their picture taken there. I had some fun time looking up through their old pictures to find the faces of some PCT fellow hikers 😉
I can’t do 2000 miles of forest but I can do a few miles. It’s only a thought for now, but I might well have completed the first section of a section thru-hike of the AT. Georgia is on my mind…
Appalachian Trail – US 522-Chester Gap,VA to Harpers Ferry, WV – 53.8 miles 5 days
US 522 – Manassas Gap Shelter 10.7 miles / Manassas Gap Shelter – Rod Hollow Shelter 12.9 miles / Rod Hollow Shelter – Bear’s Den Hostel 9.9 miles / Bear’s Den Hostel – David Lesser Shelter 11.1 miles / David Lesser Shelter – Harpers Ferry 9.2 miles
MARC trains go to/from Harpers Ferry from/to Washington DC on the Brunswick line.
The Teahorse hostel is a great place to stay in Harpers Ferry. Laurel, the owner, is really nice. She makes waffles for breakfast and also offers shuttle services to/from the trail.
February 17, 2012 § 1 Comment
It’s been 4 months that we stepped off the trail and have gone home. Where are we at 4 months later? How did we live the transition from the trail to “normal” life? Are we still struggling to adapt or have we slipped back smoothly into everyday life?
I expected to be a sport junkie. But surprisingly, no, I didn’t feel an irresistible urge to go running. My body didn’t crave exercise. It relished in it though. And it still does. The fast beating heart, the shallow breathing, the strain on the muscles rush the body back to the trail. The mind follows and in no time you’re in a state of bliss. Physical exercise is forever associated with happy feelings. Memories of the trail are engraved in our minds as much as in our cells.
I expected post-hiking depression. There was indeed a period of unrest. It’s never easy to have time but no money as you have no job and you’re broke, and it’s never easy to move back with your mum when you’re nearly thirty. So add the difficulties of getting back to “normal” life after a long distance hike and it can be tough. But unrest is all it ever was. There weren’t the strong and low feelings that I expected. Only the vague and uneasy feeling that something isn’t quite right in this world but you can’t put the finger on it. The sensation gradually faded. What’s left now is a profound nostalgia. We yearn for the trail. We miss our fellow hikers. Every reminder of the PCT tugs at our heart.
People along the PCT looked at us with awe and surprise. They were impressed by our hike. We felt special, we were heroes. What we were doing was extraordinary. It comes then as a bit of a shock to be just another individual among the crowd, to realize you’re running for the train to get to work just like everybody else.
Only by returning home can the traveler grasp the full measure of the mark his trip has left on him. Going home is part of the trip; the experience doesn’t end once you board the plane. Only in a familiar context did we realize that the trail has changed us in deeper and permanent ways. I discovered a whole new confidence. I read more and watch less TV. I am more active, I’ve started projects I had in mind for a while but had never done anything about until now. We have become less materialist, caring about worldly possessions only if they’re useful.
Your mind is free to roam on the trail. There is all this time, space and quiet for your mind to wander. Here the mind is overwhelmed. There are too many distractions. It is full of the uninteresting and trivial details of everyday life – bus schedules, groceries list, jobs, appointments… There is no time and space for meditation. This is what I miss the most from the trail and with what I am still struggling to find a balance.
The secret to transition easily from the trail, with as little clash as possible, is to have something to look forward to. You need something that pushes you to move on and pulls you forward. Isabelle is doing well. She has a new job, a new flat, she moved to a new town. Exciting times are ahead for her. As for me I’m still struggling. I haven’t figured out yet what the next adventure is going to be. So with nothing to look ahead, the temptation to head back to the trail next summer is huge.
We never regretted our decision of leaving the trail and we don’t think of it as a failure. We’re proud we’ve managed to make it so far with our little experience of thru-hiking. Hearing of many hikers who had to stop following injuries, we feel lucky. We could curse picking 2011 for our thru-hike as the crazy snow that year slowed us down but we’re happy our life circumstances made it happen that year because with its beautiful snow 2011 was definitely the year to hike the PCT.
When we reached Kennedy Meadows, we swore we would never hike those 700 miles of desert again. We didn’t understand hikers that kept coming back over and over, every summer, to the PCT, hikers that were doing their 2nd or 3rd thru-hike. When we left the trail in Washington, we said we would be back to complete the PCT but the plan was to resume where we left off, there was no way we were starting at the Mexican border again. But now it doesn’t seem so certain anymore. Talking the other day, Isabelle and I realized we both could envision starting all over again. Once a thru-hiker, always a thru-hiker. No matter we said and we still think section hikers do it the smart way. There’s something in the challenge, the grand goal and the feeling of belonging to this huge family of similarly minded hikers that makes the thru-hike experience unique and makes you long to live it again. Will we? Time will tell…
October 25, 2011 § Leave a comment
One morning you’re camping in the mountains and the evening of the next day you’re in downtown Seattle. One day you’re in the US and the next you’re back home in Switzerland. It’s sad and scary how fast and easily you are off the trail. A sense of unreality has gripped us. Did it really happen? It’s good there’s the new silhouette, a few more scars, still sore legs and feet, about a thousand pictures and a dozen or so new Facebook friends that tell us, yes, it really existed.
I had read that hikers usually get Post-Hiking Depression once they go back to “normal” life. I had jokingly said that I might still get a PHD then 😉 But so far our spirits have been good. We stayed at Lucy and Larry’s home in Seattle, they have also spent the last 5 months hiking the PCT. Their hospitality and generosity were incredible. Tiny Dancer and Anchor, other PCT hikers, showed us around Seattle. Spending time with other hikers helped us to smoothly transition from the trail to “normal” life. We weren’t hiking anymore but we could talk at length about the trail with people that truly understand what we have lived and why the trail means so much to us. They have been to the same places, they have met the same people, we could share memories of the trail. Back home, we are still carried by the excitement of our return. We are going through pictures, we are telling stories to friends and family. We haven’t landed yet, we are still out there somehow. PHD might still catch up in a few days, weeks, months. We’ll see, it’s part of the experience.
We are hungry all the time. For a week we had cramps in our calves at night. We haven’t recovered fully normal sensations in our feet. Our knees are still giving us a hard time. We probably have an iron deficiency. Back to civilization life seems so complicated. We’re having trouble following schedules and being on time, we aren’t used anymore to keep track of the hours passing by. There are too many stimuli around, we can’t focus and think straight. We don’t know how to deal with stress anymore. A slight need to rush takes huge proportions, we’re almost on the verge of panic. Isabelle said the other day: “I can’t cope with the stress of daily life here. Can I just walk 20 miles please?”. Not to mention that jetlag has kicked in. We’re completely out of phase with society, we need to readapt.
I am stunned by how gorgeous Switzerland is. The vineyards and their autumnal colours, the Leman lake and the snowy mountains across the water… I had forgotten there was so much beauty right on my doorstep. I missed it. I missed Lausanne and its numerous possibilities for activities. I’m glad I’m gonna stick around for a while.
And now it’s time for thank yous.
Thank you, Mum and Dad, for the love of the outdoors and the mountains. We’re proud to be as crazy as you, Dad.
Thank you, John, for accepting to send our resupply boxes and doing a great job as a mailman.
Thank you, Anchor, for letting us store our extra gear at your place and not minding us flooding your mail box with packages.
Thanks to everybody who helped us on our way, should it be by giving us a ride, offering us hospitality and food or simply by encouraging us, should you be yearly trail angel or trail angel for a day. Thank you, Avner and his friends, the Saufley’s, the Anderson’s, Thomas, Joe, Tom, Kevin and Micheal, Doug, Bill and Margaret at the Red Moose, Marie, the couple that paid for our breakfast in Ashland, Anthony, Robin and Brion, Roger and Sharon at the Bridge of the Gods motel, Beverly at the Trout Lake grocery store, Nick and Rachel, Lucy and Larry, and the numerous people that we haven’t met but who made sure there was water at the caches and left trail magic on our path. Our Karma debt is huge, we can’t wait to pay forward all that was given to us. One of the best thing we learnt on the trail is that there are amazing people out there who are incredibly generous and who are ready to go to great lengths to give you a hand on your journey. Humankind is not just about greed, destruction and violence. Thank you.
Thanks to every hiker for the trail moments we shared. We weren’t expecting the PCT to be such a social experience but we’re glad it was. It wouldn’t have been the same without you, you made it so much more worthwhile. Thank you, Brandon, Kolby, Ryan, Little Bug and Squirrel, Marmot and Gabriel, Krista, Wolfpack, Wild Bill, Moses, Joe Dirt, Good Karma, Boy Scout, Doug aka Bonbon Halls, Space Cowboy, Mufasa, Scarecrow, Dave, Low Card, Donatello, Clammy, Henry, Andrew, Magellan, Pepper and Mace, Tiny Dancer and Anchor, Aquaman, Corduroy, Busted Magic, Leader, Adam, Luke, The Dusty Camel, Noelle, Jake, Number One, Plant, Forever and Ever, Huffa Puffa and Map Man, Java, Mike and Jeannie, Sourdough, Sprinkles and Toby, the famous Scott Garner, Slip and Slide, Hans, The Bum, Rawhide, Flying Fish, Snager Tooth…
A special thank you to the Booze Crew for the great times in the Sierras and for making us a little bit more American. It’s sad we never got to say good-bye to you all. And a special thank you to Busted Magic for all the fun, camping on pavement and everything ridonculous!
Thank you, Ryan, for making us more than sisters, you made us Swisters for life!
Thanks to our friends and family for following our progress, encouraging us and welcoming us back so warmly. We missed you!
Thanks to you, reader, for following our adventures on the blog. It was a pleasure to write those posts and I’m happy so many of you enjoyed them. I have to give Isabelle credit for providing me with some ideas, suggesting corrections for better posts, starting the ode to Tatonka and coming up with so many rhymes.
Thanks to Carrousel for their song “On y arrivera” [We will make it]. It got us through many a long day.
Thanks to Gorilla tape. It’s strong, it can repair anything. Because, as everybody knows, gorillas can take down helicopters! 😉
Keep this blog among your bookmarks. We still have 500 miles to go. And our hiking days are far from over. We couldn’t help already checking the few long distance hikes we heard about on the trail. Te Araroa, 3000kms through New Zealand. The Israel National Trail, 1000kms through Isreal. The Colorado Trail, 500 miles in Colorado. Via Alpina, 5000kms in Europe. The Great Himalaya Trail, 1700kms through Nepal. And that’s just the beginning… 😉
October 13, 2011 § 5 Comments
Cascade Locks to Trout Lake – 68 miles 4 days Total: 2223 miles 181 days + 22 zero days
And the rain fell upon the earth for forty days and forty nights. Oh, sorry, that’s another story 😉 The day we stepped into Washington it rained the whole day and the whole night. The next morning it was still raining. We packed a completely drenched tent, resisted the temptation to head back to Cascade Locks and pushed on north. After the lunch break we were that close to quitting. My throat was tight with tears at the thought that it was over. We were cold. Our shoes were soaked. Despite the raincover, the backpacks were getting wet, all we could do was hope the waterproof bags inside were holding better. There was no way the tent was going to dry during the day.
“Just walk and it’s gonna be ok.” It started as a joke many miles ago, we would say this whenever there was an issue on the trail but it became true along the way. So we walked and it got better. We warmed up, the rain eventually stopped (for that day at least…) and it wasn’t so bad to set up a wet tent at camp that night. It wasn’t over yet.
But then we learnt that several hikers had gotten caught in a snow storm in the Goat Rocks Wilderness a few days ago. We had already heard that another hiker had gotten lost in a whiteout in the same area a week ago. We were heading that way, it was at higher altitude so it was probably snowing up there and more snow storms were predicted. Snow on the ground is one thing, we can deal with that, we did in the Sierras, but a snow storm is different. It seemed unsafe to still be out there. There is crazy and there is stupid. We do crazy (obviously!) but we don’t do stupid. Our dad taught us better about the mountains than to run head first in a snow storm so we could hike about 450 more miles and reach the arbitrary number of 2650 miles. We were told Washington was a succession of amazing views, the next scenery more beautiful than the previous one. What was the point of hiking it in a white mist?
We struggled to take a decision. It was hard, there were tears. We really wanted to get to Canada. It was tough to let go and come to terms with the fact that we were not gonna make it. But we made the wise choice, we left the trail at the next road. I think we grew up more by having to take that decision than during 5 months on the trail.
We had been telling section hikers we met that they were doing it the smart way. Well, we have become section hikers. And man, what a section! 2223 miles. But we really lived it as a thru-hike and that’s the good thing, we’ll get the best of both worlds, because when we’ll be back to hike those last 500 miles, it’ll really be as smart section hikers, we’ll be able to take the time.
Because we’ll be back. This is the end for now. We are not done yet. We’ll hike to Canada some day. A song from the band Carrousel has been the hymn of our PCT since our first steps on the trail. We would sing it when we felt good and when it was hard, to give us courage. It fits now maybe more than ever. The lyrics say: “On y arrivera quand même. Demain, une autre fois.” [We will make it anyway. Tomorrow, another time]. And more importantly: “Peu importe où ça nous mène…” [No matter where it leads us…]
We are happy. It has been an amazing experience. We have met extraordinary people, shared incredible moments and seen the most beautiful things. It’s the end but it’s also the beginning of the next adventure. We are looking forward to going home and hugging family and friends. We are not walking any more miles, at last we can rest.
We are proud. We have walked a hell of a long way! There has been more good times than bad times, but it has been hard work. We usually woke up between 6-7am and didn’t set up camp before 6-7pm. We have dedicated most of our time to the trail; in 5 months we have only read a single book! Leaving the mexican border we never thought that we would be able to walk 27 miles in a day (a marathon is 26.2 miles…). For the last 5 months we have woken up with swollen feet and have hurt every day. We have dealt with and overcome the many challenges of the trail: the heat, the lack of water, the boringness of the desert, the snow, the river crossings, the logistics of resupply, the occasional tension between sisters, the pain… Modesty is a quality but knowing your true worth is as well and I think we have earned the right to say, without sounding too boastful: THE SWISTERS ROCK!!!!!
We are wiser. We haven’t found God and the meaning of life hasn’t been revealed to us. No, it’s the little things of life that everybody knows deep down but tends to forget that the trail reminded us. Take the time. You are great. Look beyond first impressions. Listen to yourself. If I quit does it mean I failed? Live the questions…
We are sad. We couldn’t make it to Canada. It’s the end. It’s time to say goodbye. When we could. We never got the chance to say goodbye to a lot of the amazing people we met. We would give anything to hike one more time in the golden glow of the evening light, to spend one more night around the fire with the guys, to get out of the tent one morning and stand face to face with a young buck, to hear a familiar voice hail: “Hey, Swisters!”, to stand on top of a pass in the Sierras and feel tall as we stand on top of the world and be humbled at the same time by the world’s immensity…
The trail has changed us. We have changed to adapt to the trail. Our eyes have been trained to spot the next trail marker or to identify the trail after its disappearance under a snow patch. We can set up and fold our tent with our eyes closed. We sleep like a baby in our tent but can’t seem to find sleep in a bed. The way our gear fits in our backpacks has been optimised over 5 months, every item has its place. After 5 days on the trail we start to think that maybe we need a shower. We think names like Good Karma, Wolfpack, Scarecrow, Mufasa and so on are perfectly valid names for people. We have become calories freak, checking the numbers on every food packaging looking for the best ratio: the most calories for the less weight. We have experimented and learnt by trial and error that not all food can be stored in a ziploc bag. We think the only proper instrument to eat with is the spork (What!?! You don’t know what it is?!?). We fantasize over SPAM for lunch and mashed potatoes with tuna is the supreme of gourmet cuisine. In our mouth “I’m ok.” means “It hurts, but I can walk so keep going.” Our feet are called Louis and Robert, and we talk to them. We refer to 9pm as hiker’s midnight. The smell of a male thru-hiker that hasn’t showered for a few days turns us on, we think calves are the sexiest part of a man’s body and men have got to have a beard. In towns we wear rainpants as a fashion statement (no, it’s the only clean clothes that’s left while we’re doing laundry…). We don’t look at coolers the same way anymore, they are forever full of magic.
We are at a loss. The trail has been our home for the last 5 months. We have slept, eaten, pooped, puked, laughed, cried, hurt and had fun on the trail. We have loved it and hated it. It has brought us pain and joy. This line on the ground has been our whole life, our sole purpose for the last 5 months. And now it’s over. We are not walking any more miles. What are we gonna do?
I thought the moment we reached the monument at the Canadian border would be the most powerful moment of my life and that it will answer all the questions. I was wrong. That moment was the last 5 months.
October 6, 2011 § 1 Comment
Bend to Cascade Locks – 148 miles 7 days Total: 2155 miles 137 days + 21 zero days
There are days when you are tired and you wish that for just one day your body wasn’t sore, there are cold and rainy days, there are days when you simply long for a “normal” life, there are days when you want to give the trail up and go home. And then there are days like when you are standing on a rise looking at the north face of Mt Jefferson and you’re glad you held on. As your gaze drops down, you can see Russell Lake, then as you follow the line of the earth, you take in the gorgeous meadow of Jefferson Park, dotted with pine trees, and then your eyes are forced to rise as they hit the massive shape of Mt Jefferson, topped by impressive glaciers. And once you get to the top of the rise and look ahead, you get the first glimpse of another lonely and distant giant, Mt Hood.
But that’s all we’ve seen of Mt Hood for the next few days as the weather turned bad, again.
We stopped at Timberline Lodge to dry out. As true hiker trash till the end, we raided the breakfast buffet there, we left with our pockets full of pieces of cake wrapped in napkins and we resupplied on snacks at the vending machines. The lodge is situated at the base of Mt Hood but you had to know it was there behind the white curtain of mist and clouds, we couldn’t see a thing.
But soon we walked through beautiful forests where there was plenty to see. Moss covering the ground, lichens growing on tree trunks and hanging from branches, fern leaves glistening in the rain, the water of Ramona Falls cascading down a mossy stone wall, vegetation of all sorts and shapes, everything so green.
And then, one morning, we had just folded the tent completely soaked and hiked only for a moment when there was a break through the trees. All white from perpetual glaciers and freshly fallen snow, its summit still wrapped in immaculate clouds, like a divine apparition in the bright white light filtering from the clouds, there it was, Mt Hood.
On our way down to Cascade Locks we passed a dozen waterfalls. The trail even went through a tunnel in the rock behind one of the waterfalls. As they say here, it was badass!
The seasons are definitely changing. Bushes and maple trees along the trail are staging autumn colors. We’re often wearing our hat and gloves. It’s still dark now when we wake up at 6am and the light is fading fast from 7pm. The challenge nowadays is to stay dry and warm. No matter how breathable Gore-Tex is, no matter that you’ve fully opened the pit zippers on your rain jacket and the sides on your rain pants, when you hike, you’re boiling in there. So your gear keeps you dry from the rain, but you’re wet from sweat. As long as you hike, you’re fine but as soon as you stop, you get cold. Same story with the tent. It holds the rain well, but with the humidity and cold at night condensation forms on the inside and it’s all wet. And backpacker designers thought hikers don’t use the many outside straps and the full volume of their packs, they devised the raincovers way to small!
After we got sick, we couldn’t stand much of the food we used to eat on the trail. That’s what happens when you eat more or less the same for 5 months! We had gotten fed up of some food before and we had just replaced the snack we couldn’t stand anymore by a new one but it had only been one item at a time. Here it’s been the whole strategy that we knew worked well that failed us and we had to figure out a whole new one, finding snacks we would like to eat on the trail and that would bring us enough calories.
Tomorrow we’ll leave Oregon. We’ll cross the Columbia River and step into Washington on the Bridge of the Gods. Just that name adds a touch of grandeur to our entrance into the final American state of our journey. We loved Oregon. As a waiter at the brewery in Bend put it, it’s a gem along the west coast. We would recommend this section of the PCT to anyone and we’ll probably be back ourselves some day.
There will certainly be more of those days when we want to give up. But we’ll remember Mt Jefferson and Mt Hood and we’ll hang on. Because there will certainly be more of those days too. And anyway there are 500 miles left, it’s gonna be hard to stop us now, we have lost all reason a while ago and have been hiking on a gut feeling ever since, we’re totally insane, out of control and damn too stubborn, we’re going to Canada!