When I was sixteen I found myself overhearing a teacher talk about a trail called the PCT. I had no idea what this was, however, this particular teacher had become a personal teenage guru-mentor so anything they said or did my sixteen-year-old self found it brilliant and amazing. I remember when I got home later that day, I pulled out the notebook I'd scribbled the term in and looked it up, seeing how it was a day and age where there wasn't a smart phone for me to look it up ASAP, and I'll spare you the horrors of dial up.
I came across a few things with the same acronym of 'PCT' but they didn't seem to fit the beloved teacher whom I swore was becoming quickly one of my BFF's. But in one of the top ten links my search brought me to trail not to far away from where I lived called the Pacific Crest Trail. Up until then, I had done heaps of road trips, flown to Europe with my family and had done camping trips, but I had not yet been introduced to the world of hiking and backpacking let alone thru-hiking. My impulsive and adventurous self leaped and jumped for joy and all the exciting concepts and ideas that came from the mere idea of hiking from Mexico's border to Canada's border.
Eight-years later, still full of beaming love and lust for the trail, only older, more wiser and a few summers/weekends of hiking behind me, my now husband and I saw that in our busy overly booked schedule of summer disappointments and lack of adventure there was a week. A solid week. There were no mandatory activities for the kids, not previously planned RSVP's and we took it. We took that week, and bolted out of town faster then the Road Runner avoiding Wylie Coyote. My two munchkin's hammed it up at their Oma and Opa's while my husband and I set foot onto the PCT to hike a 50+mile section in 4-days.
The first day was the drive to Santium Pass which is right outside of Sister, OR. My husband and I enjoyed the day's worth of a drive, taking our time in Bend, Or and enjoying the ridiculously cool REI store, (is it just me or does REI always have the cool buildings?) When we got to the pass, we parked our car and debated for a few seconds if since we still had light, though the sun was setting, if we should just grab our ready-to-go bags and get a couple miles in, but quickly decided otherwise. We camped in the back of our Highlander and played card games, re-calculated our miles planned for each day (which did us nothing after that) and slept cramped and full of excitement.
We were going to be South Bounders against the current of North Bounders trying to reach Canada against the smog and smoke of all the arising fires. Our end stop was the hot spot to a lot of thru-hikers, Elk Lake Resort. The first day was a simple 8-miles and we made the simple yet less wonderful mistake of starting into the lava field as dark hit, not understanding it would consume roughly 20-miles of our trip. There were so many things that could have dragged me down. The beginning of the monster blisters that started to consume the sides of both of my big toes, learning that I had an all-too-wrong-for-my-body pack and painfully having to be reminded the whole trip, figuring out we'd packed too much food, the constant threat of rain, the lack of water, the lava - oh eff the damn lava! And yet, somehow, no matter what, this trail's magic didn't just consist of finding a cooler full of beer in the middle of the woods or gallons of water when there was little to none left in my water bottles. The trail magic more so came in hiking through miles of burned forest and finally looking up and seeing Mt. Washington so close I could have hugged it. It came with the random event that procured my trail name of Etch-a-Sketch. It came with the warm rain when we got to a beautiful small lake. And it came our last morning on the trail when I sat overlooking Sister Mirror Lake, 7-miles from our ending stop.
I sat their, with my sketch book writing so vigorously and this tiny leaf cutter bee perched itself on the edge of my book. I continued to write, and instead, it seemed this small creature had found and interest and a curiosity in what my pen was and began to try to fallow it. At first it annoyed me, then I giggled at this small thing so curious and then I let it be.
My husband and I have always used the phrase "just be" to try and overcome some of those less blissful times life likes to throw at us, but not until over looking that lake did I actually understand the phrase I had been using to pathetically to console myself for the past few years.
I get it now. Just be. Just be what you feel like in that moment, just be who you feel you are - even if it's for a moment, just be, because that moment will soon be gone and replaced with another. Just be. It came in floods of understanding, overwhelmingly so much so I can't list it all out - but that's because in that moment that was my "just be". It's now my spot of contemplation during yoga and it's a point in time I keep coming back to as I begin to purge my house and life of unnecessary things.
Little did I know that later that day, I'd have the best milkshake ever at the resort, meet some amazing thru-hikers who shared their kindness, our trail angel would be unable to pick us up and I'd be hitch-hiking twice, finding the worst camp-ground known to man and then the worst but most amazing first shower in a week.
Little did I know that a five-day period could change my entire life. PCT I'm officially hooked and humbled by your wonderfulness. I will be back for more!
All photographs were taken by myself, Heather S. Woolery, and all Rights are Reserved. HW photography 2015. To learn more about the Pacific Crest Trail, visit their website at: www.pct.org.