With pouring rain last night and the weatherman’s forecast of days of rain ahead, we are feeling pretty good about our final decision to end our journey at 1500 miles. Yay! 1500 miles! Two days ago, Portland friend Betty whisked us away from Cascade Locks to the comforts of civilization: beds, full refrigerators, restaurants, easy chairs, and glorious showers.

I do miss the trail: the people, the daily exercise, being able to eat whatever/whenever I want, and most especially, the fresh, cool air on my face while sleeping (really). So, we are already thinking about when we will come back to hike Washington’s 500 miles (Aug 2015, anyone want to join us?).

Here are some stats for your reading pleasure:

1500 – PCT miles walked
40 (ish) – non-PCT miles walked
13,200 – highest point on the PCT in feet
14,494 – highest elevation we hiked to, Mt. Whitney (highest point in lower 48, too!)
4,000 – estimated calories I shoveled into my mouth every day
0 – pounds lost on hike, due to great shoveling efforts
3 – pairs of trail running shoes beaten to death
6 – pairs of running socks beaten to death, 2 pairs at a time
17 – base weight of my pack without food and water (in pounds)
38 – heaviest my pack was with 9 days of food (in pounds)
2 – feet that feel like wood blocks that are rounded on the bottom like a weeble wobble so I lurch strangely until I am warmed up
6 – luxury items I allowed myself on the trail (a “town dress” to wear whenever washing everything else, 2 flip flops, 2 scrubby gloves for bathing, pumice stone for d’ feet)
1 – awesome hiking partner
Countless – friends, family and strangers who supported us in this adventure, from picking us up on roadsides to sending us care packages, to meeting us on the trail to buoy our spirits, to giving us food on the trail, to making free downloadable maps, to writing good guidebooks, to building one heck of an amazing trail.

We are now visiting friends and family in Seattle and Vancouver, and then will head back to the Bay Area. The job search is beginning, Rog already has had some interviews and I have a lead on a contract. Our house will be ready for move-in Oct 1, we plan to attend two weddings….so we are well on our way to not being itinerant vagabonds.

Many thanks and big hugs,

p.s. Oh, and here are some photos of the last two days on the trail. We went an alternate route that boasted tremendous basalt canyon waterfalls.

Saying goodbye to Timberline Lodge

Ramona Falls with Trail friend, “Porsche”

Likely weather we could expect in Washington

Walking behind Tunnel Falls

The end in sight

Next day in Portland, best celebratory ice cream cone EVER (check out those flavors!). I had olive oil and salted almond brittle. Yum!

I had no idea I would enjoy hiking in Oregon so much. The terrain is so varied. We’ve hiked over desolate black lava flows without a smidge of life anywhere, drippy lush forests full of rhododendrons and huckleberries (yum!), glacial valleys complete with milky rushing creeks, and wide expanses of burned forests where new life is bursting around charred and dead trees.

We’ve really enjoyed the towns we’ve seen so far, including Corvallis where we visited my uncle and his family for a much needed rest of several days. But what’s actually been nice is that many resupply locations have been little resorts or parks right on the trail.

Usually OR daily hiking elevation profile has some ascents and descents of 1000 feet or so, nothing too crazy in the relative world of the PCT! In fact, we even managed to hike a 30-mile day (our record, which we don’t plan to break–that was plenty!) and still arrive into camp with daylight.

We have never stopped mulling the new plan to end at the Oregon-Washington border, calculating how many more days it would take to get to Canada at different daily mileages, when we would arrive where. It feels like a compulsion to keep going. There are also the thoughts of northern WA beauty and plain old stick-to-it-ness that might just steamroll this new plan. And there are the sore feet and tired spirits that make us want to come back some other time to hike the WA section. But we know we will never be in the walking shape we are in now ever again. Decisions, decisions.

Regardless, we are enjoying our last days in Oregon! Timberline Lodge is amazing!!! Visit it someday. It is grand, but not opulent. A remarkable WPA success. Totally approachable luxury. Wonderful food. Great staff. And the surroundings are gorgeous.

Here are some photos of the last stretch:





Hey all,

Remember those tired feet we talked about? Remember the aches and pains we’ve belly ached about? Remember the cookies that many of you sent?

The wicked cocktail of ibuprofen, sugar buzz high and lumbering slowly for miles without the mental stimulus of a cubicle desk job has turned us into zombies. Yep, we’re certified post apocalyptic, ghastly moaning, brain eaters now and I’ve got photo evidence to prove it.

Here are my feet, zombiefied:

Since we’re zombies now, or at least it sometimes feels like it, we figured we can take a break from all this lumbering, prop our feet up and have a Mai Tai.

After 1,306 miles we are tired. Pooped. Our gaiters are rusting. Rog’s right foot is numb (How friggin’ zombie is that?!?). We are ready to engage with the non-hiking masses. Plus it’s getting cold and wet. Cold and wet after 25 miles a day gets old. So, we will walk our final 194 miles for another eight days through the beautiful Three Sisters and Mt. Hood, pick up some very exciting care packages (Big hugs to Matt and Toby and George and Claudette). Then we’ll polish off walking past the 1,500 mile mark near Cascade Locks at the OR/WA border, check out the Bridge of the Gods over the Columbia Gorge, delight in the last care package we know of (thanks, Renee!), and then drink back a beer float (or at least Jen will, that’s what she’s been craving).

We reserve the right to change our minds and slog our way further north, but until further notice, please save those WA care packages for once we are back in our Oakland home. 😉 Our renters gave us notice they have bought a house, so the timing is great. We probably will touch down there sometime in early-October.

When we set out on this adventure, we didn’t know how far we’d go, and the many care packages, letters and emails have kept us going and going so much further than sometimes we thought we had in us.

Yes, we know we talked about moving somewhere outside the Bay Area and that seemingly idle threat still looms out there. So we’re landing back in the bay for now. In case you lost our address in our city to mountain to rambling itinerant wanderings of the last few years, it’s below. No need for care packages, just come on over after Oct. 1 and let’s hang out on the deck and have a glass of wine, a Mai Tai or a beer float (the latter guaranteed to turn you into a zombie).

419 Vernon Street, Oakland, CA 94610

There will be slide show presentations for any who want to listen to us drone on about our trip either at chez Jen and Rog or a local brew pub (one willing to serve beer floats, of course) and lots more pictures posted on the blog.


Buckwheat and Epic (aka Team Care Package Extortionists)

The trail ebbs and flows. Sometimes I have been in a lot of pain, but lately, it seems more like flowing for me. Jen’s had some foot pain with new shoes, but generally we’re moving quickly, easily and faster than before. We did a 27 mile day, then a 20 mile day with a full laundry, shower, resupply, blog post and a few job applications launched off in the middle. Then woke up to catch the sunrise over Crater Lake and during the day today we’ll polish off 28 more.

There will be more ebbs, but for now we’re coasting (ok, 28 won’t be a coast). It is easy to get stuck in comparing ourselves to others though. Some people (mostly younger by a decade or more) are moving faster than us and we’re cruising along compared to others.

We hiked with one gal down near Mt. Whitney, but she’s now ahead of us by a week. There’s no comparing. Comparing is an all-encompassing, all-losing battle and there are no winners, just losers. Begs the question: When is comparing helpful and when is it not so great? When comparison gives you a leg up and helps me complete a task, that can be powerful. When it is just helping me beat myself up or letting me judge the merits of others, that’s inelegant and makes me not proud of myself. The distinction seems to lie primarily in the realm of judging. When I can compare and note that I can be better still, that is useful. When I’m simply using it as a blunt tool to beat myself or others up, not useful. I’m working on that. The trail provides an interestingly stark metric, but the same can easily be said about dozens of other things: happiness, ease, tranquility, fun, looks, body image, intelligence, whatever. I’m spending time staring at trees and lakes and trying not to compare Oregon to California, the Cascades to the Sierra, the mountains to the city. Everything rocks. Everything is wonderful. Everything is full of blessings and gifts.

Speaking of counting our blessings, we just had the most amazing marionberry cream cheese stuffed marionberry muffin at the Crater Lake lodge overlooking the lake. Life is just so darn rough sometimes.

A little trail mail artwork and message from fellow PCT hiker Starfox:

The mystic beauty of Spanish Moss, which paradoxically is neither Spanish nor moss.

The next generation of Douglass firs coming in after a burn:

Jen and the sunrise over Crater Lake:

Hi! We are in Crater Lake NP. Just showered, ate and laundered. Now we are going to hike a few more miles and then camp. We will try to get up at oh-dark-thirty for sunrise over the lake, but we’ll see if we can roust ourselves out of bed that early. Thru-hiking hasn’t made us morning people (still? yet!). Oregon is easier hiking than CA. We are not going up and down so dramatically and can pull off more miles. My body is feeling worn out, but I am present, grateful and amazed every day.

Yesterday’s amazement was meeting legendary Scott Williamson. Ok, so he’s only legendary if you are thru-hiking because until recently he held the northbound record for hiking the PCT without support. He was on his way southbound for a bid to break the southbound record, which he still holds. Going “sobo” is harder apparently because of the steepness if many north sides of passes. He hikes 4am to 9pm for 64 days straight. Humble, nice and took 15 minutes to chat. No hurry at all.

Here are some recent photos:

Rog becoming a true mountain man?

Fellow hikers “Deepdish,” “Tank Girl,” “Pants on Fire,” and “Bliss”

Sunset over a burn area

Burn area aflame with alpenglow.

We are enjoying civilization once again, here in Ashland, OR. What a great town! Yummy food, compact and walkable, lovely vibe, nice people, wonderful plays and a fantastic grocery store rivaling the Berkeley Bowl (yes, really!). I’m in love. The next way point is Crater Lake in 4.5 days and then the town of Sisters after that.

The scenery and stops between Mount Shasta and Ashland have been fantastic. It’s been a pu-pu platter of national forests and wildernesses — just enough time in each to know that we want to come back someday for more! We trod up-up-up and around through Castle Crags State Park with its impossible granite spires and glimpses of Mount Shasta’s western flank. Wildfires in the area didn’t impact us much thankfully; in fact the haze created a blue-ridge-mountain effect, what I imagine the real Blue Ridge Mountains might look like. After Castle Crags, we marched through the Shasta and Trinity National Forests; we were smitten with granite-rimmed Porcupine Lake and wished we had enough food to just stay there for weeks. A dip and lunch had to suffice as an appetizer for some future adventure here.

Then we found ourselves in the sweet town of Etna, CA, replete with an old-timey soda fountain and a somewhat punkish soda “jerk,” the coveted title of those who work at soda fountains. We split a fuzzy, or was it a fizzy? Anyway, it was good! And why did we split one? Because we received so many cookies from our dear family and friends (thank you thank you thank you) that we could not justify pouring any additional sugar into our bodies. We packed up the cookies, and hit the trail again to find ourselves in the Marble Mountains Wilderness, which is as magnificent as it sounds. The Marbles require a fair bit of climbing and descending, but we were powered by cookie calories, the best kind. Plus, the topsy turvy marble tumbling out of hillsides makes the effort worth it. There were also wildflowers again, including minty pennyroyal, which simply makes us very happy.

And then we descended into Seiad Valley, a town of little note except for the blackberries on the roadside and its cafe with prankster wait staff — check out the photo of our “veggie wrap”! We were so thankful that friend Jill Greenblatt swooped in and took us to a cute little cabin in Happy Camp for a night where she fed us wonderful, healthy food. Thank you, Jill! Seiad Valley is worth leaving, despite the 5,000′ climb over eight miles (if you can’t imagine that, trust me, it’s a lot of ascent!). We happily pushed our way toward Oregon, knowing that walking our thousandth mile and crossing the border would really feel like milestones. And Oregon has lived up to its reputation and deluged us with a mighty storm just hours after we crossed its border. We finally had a chance to see how our pack covers and rain jackets held up — pretty well, but I plan to put my sleeping bag in a plastic bag in addition to its “waterproof” ultrasil bag.

We head out for more bodily abuse today, but we have crammed all-you-can-eat Indian food down our maws and look forward to what Oregon has in store for us. We’ve heard that it’s much easier walking than CA. We hope it is so!

Soda fountain

Soda jerk by working antique cash register

Prankster! Clearly loves us vegetarians!

Trail art. Jen in a neat nest.

Wonderous Marble Mountains

Hey all, this is a resend of a post I sent three days ago that didn’t seem to get posted to Facebook.

What is our goal of being out here on the trail? Why are we hiking 2,000 miles to Canada? There are a few different kinds of goals that show up easily. There are small vision ones like avoiding poison oak, having my feet being intact and getting to Canada. The first two are minimal impact ones like avoiding sick days. The latter is similarly lacking, but a bit like getting the golden watch at retirement. In other words, they’re not very inspiring end goals. They don’t speak to the power of purpose. So, why are we here? Sometimes it feels a bit like an egoic purpose (“I did this big thing!”), but when I’m at my best, I hope that I’m learning something while I’m out on the trail. What am I learning along the way? How I’m doing and *how I’m being* while I’m here feel like the most significant goals for my time out on the trail.

One learning that I’m thinking a lot about is optional suffering (suffering is “dukka” in Pali, the language of the original Buddhist discourses). There are two kinds of suffering/dukka. The kind I can control and the kind I can’t. Pain in my pinky toe (not optional) provides an opportunity to be present. The raw rubbing on my heal (not optional). Scratchiness of poison oak (not optional). Anxiety about getting poison oak while wading through what feel like massive fields of it (optional). Thinking about the future and what jobs will come our way, where we’ll live, thinking about the past and everything that I may not have done exactly the way I would have wanted (optional). The soreness of muscles being used hard every day (not optional). fretting about making it to Canada before the first winter snows (optional).

Each experience, if I take it individually and pull it apart, points to some element of richness in my life. These are all experiences that I certainly wouldn’t take back. If I can leave the experiences as simply experiences and explore them for what they are, not what the worry center in the analytical left side of my brain tells me they are, life gets better. In their own way, I feel like I can cherish each of those things. I hobbled for 30 miles into Mt. Shasta due to excrutiating pain in my left pinky toe. It turned out to be an infection in a crack of my dried out toe (I’m now taking antibotics and using an astringent on it three times daily and doing much better), but it was an excellent opportunity to explore a sharp constant pain. Perhaps it’s no suprise, but sharp pain is different than a dull ache or any of the other types of emotional conundrums or messiness that I sometimes find myself. Exploring these different sensations is informative.

If I don’t let these challenge areas take over my consciousness, they are simply, physical pain, ache or worry. They tend to lose their power. These events and experiences don’t have to expand to become misery. I’m working on examining them when they come, look them over, gently place each one in a shoebox and place it in a high shelf in the closet and then go on with my day.

I certainly do come up with some anxiety about getting poison oak: “Oh my god! It’s going to be nasty and terrible and I’m to get sores on my legs that are going to be impossile to keep clean…” Whew! What a bunch of catastrophing. Not so useful or fun. I’ll work to avoid to the poison oak, but almost more importantly, I’m working avoiding the optional secondary hit of self-imposed suffering. I don’t need or want that in my life. I’m working on letting it go and setting it aside.

Some of the poison oak is changing colors right now and it shows up as verdant green, mottled with deep red and some fiery oranges. It’s really a pretty plant and even the poison oak shakes beautifully in the breeze. If i can acknowlege that piece and take a few deep breaths and go on with my day, I don’t get taken over by whatever it is that’s showing up in my life. That seems like a pretty good place to be.

Poison oak shaking beautifully in the breeze:

Castle Crags panorama from the Trinity Alps:

Castle Crags State Park at sunset:

Sunset enhanced by smoke from the Boulder and Butler wildfires (these two fires known as the Salmon Complex have burned about 15,000 acres) west of Etna Summit:

Daytime view of the smoke from the wildfires. Thankfully, the fires are about 85% contained and not moving towards the PCT. Note the chopper doing rounds of water drops on the fire. We’re well past this fire now.

We have landed in the City of Mount Shasta, named after the looming snow-capped mountain that provides a pretty incredible backdrop to this cute town. Glimpses of Mt Shasta over the last several days helped us mark our progress, as it grew ever larger on the skyline.

The last ten days or so has been so varied and striking in its contrasts. We loved Lassen National Park with its lovely alpine lakes and ragged burned areas bursting with wildflowers. We enjoyed snowy views of Mt Lassen and Mt Shasta as we ambled along Hat Creek Rim, a tumbling sun-baked ridge formed by a long volcanic rift zone. For weeks, Hat Creek Rim inspired not a little anxiety for me. It’s a 33-mile waterless stretch of chaparral and heat. We’d heard there might be water caches, but how reliable were they?

Amazingly, locals go to much trouble and expense all summer long to put water at several junctions with fire roads. In two locations, we found Gatorade and sodas, too! The ongoing generosity of these trail angels is incredible.

On the other hand, not all the natives are friendly trail angels. We tried to stop some local dirt-bike yahoos riding on the PCT (strictly verboten). They knew exactly what they were doing, and not surprisingly we found that talking sense to them was a bootless endeavor!

After sweltering through Hat Creek Rim, we cooled off in the spray of the unbelievable rushing waterfalls at Burney Falls State Park. The riverbed above the falls was completely dry less than a mile upstream, but springs tap into a huge aquifer to create a deluge of water. From there, we wound through more landscapes, from splendid sun-dappled oak woodlands with gushing wild rivers (Pitt River, McCloud River, Rock Creek) to creepy, dark conifer tracts latticed with a gazillion logging roads.

And now we find ourselves in town, delighting in all things clean. We are doing pretty well, spurred on by the wonders of care packages, personal emails and letters! So many thanks to you — you are making us so excited to stop in at the post office. Really, really.

Unlike a lot of mountain towns in CA, Mount Shasta is decidedly alternative with its three natural foods stores, a great tavern boasting four vegetarian entrees along with its 100 types of beer, some decent bike lanes, and even some aliens. Apparently, the Lumerians landed their spaceship inside Mt Shasta and they use lenticular clouds that form around the mountain to access both their world and ours. There’s even Lumerian Lager on tap at the tavern. It made me wonder how many folks dining around us this evening had come by cloud!

Here are some recent photos to round out the post. First, some have inquired about our vittles. Below are two photos with four days of food. I carry lunch and snacks (including many wonderful goodies provided by friends and family!), while Rog carries breakfast and dinner. As we increase our daily miles into the low to mid 20s, our snack requirements have soared, so I’m making Rog take some snacks. :). He’s happy to carry more than his share of homemade cookies!

Four days of lunch and snacks.

Four days of dinner and breakfast. Rog claims that these meals are actually quite heavy (“Dense!” he chirps as we parse out the load), but you be the judge.

Hat Creek Rim–thank heavens for the cloud cover!

On Hat Creek Rim with Shasta beckoning in the distance.

Burney Falls State Park

Oak woodland near Castle Crags State Park.

More soon!!

Sent from my phone–please excuse brevity and typos.

Rog and Jen’s travels – some old stuff, some new stuff

This blog has a collection of the travel update emails that Jen and Rog compiled during our 2001-2002 round the world trip. We're off to do a bit more trekking around, and thought it would be nice import those old emails. Enjoy!

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