With clear blue skies and warm sun in the forecast, I grabbed my pack, and Booker the Rhodesian Ridgeback (aka the Wonder Pup), and we headed north. Today’s destination was the Chain Lakes Trail between Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan, very near the Canadian border.
To get to the trail, you take the Mt. Baker Highway (542) up past the ski area. At the very end, you’ll find Artist Point. This is a fantastic place to take out-of-town guests. Even those who aren’t inclined to hike can have an in-your-face view of Shuksan, just by stepping out of the car. And there are a variety of short trails for those who would like to explore just a little.
Booker and I had a little longer trail in mind. The Chain Lakes Loop explores several lakes in the area, and winds over ridges, through basins, and back up again. It’s a moderate level hike, eight miles and about 1700 feet net elevation gain. The trail has its fair share of talus (rocky slopes), but no scrambles or anything even close. We took the counter clockwise route, out of the Artist Point parking lot. More trail info can be found at Washington Trails Association’s Chain Lakes page.
When I grow up, I want to be like Bronka Sundstrom and her hiking partner. They are 90 and 92, respectively, and are still avid hikers. Did I mention she’s a Holocaust survivor as well? Check out this article from Craig Romano, a local guidebook author.
And check out his website, CraigRomano.com, for more articles and photographs of Our Fair State (aka Washington).
I’m in print! Big hat tip to Jessi Loerch of the Everett Herald. She spent the better part of a day talking with Jerry and Andrea Dinsmore, and several hikers who were at Dinsmores’ Hiker Haven for the day, as part of her series on the Pacific Crest Trail. Bravo!
For those of you new to my blog, welcome! I’m all about hiking the PCT and other area trails, and introducing women and girls to the wild places.
If you’re interested in following my PCT journal for this year, this is the first day . Enjoy!
When my son was in early elementary school, he asked us if he could join Cub Scouts. It was a no-brainer for us, and in that moment we became a Scouting family.
Fast forward several years, through Cubs, and into Boy Scouts. By this time, I had helped organize several campouts, day hikes, and backpacking trips; frankly, I was getting a bit jealous. I started leading trips myself. But the question in the back of my mind was, “what about the girls?” Long story short, in 2010 we formed a Venturing Crew, and my friend Jennifer and I signed up as advisors.
Venturing is an arm of the BSA. It’s designed for older teens, and is coed. Our crew was always predominately girls, and our focus was on hiking, backpacking, and going to Philmont Scout Ranch in northern New Mexico for two eleven-day backpacking trips in the Sangre de Cristos.
Prior to our time at Philmont, none of the girls had much experience on the trail. We worked with the entire crew on basic backpacking skills: cooking, first aid, navigation, you name it. When we got to Philmont for our 2011 trek, our Ranger was impressed with how much our crew already knew.
Even with all the skills in place, several of the crew members didn’t have a lot of miles under their boots. But they persevered, through heat, challenging weather and rough terrain.
We were given the opportunity to return to Philmont two years later. By now, our girls were experienced backpackers, and one of them, Julieanne, was chosen to be the crew leader for the trip. The crew leader is in charge of everything, from navigation to conflict resolution. The adult advisors are there to backstop the crew leader, but only as a last resort.
Julieanne and Anna were veterans of our 2011 trek, and their experience was invaluable in 2013. For the advisors, it was great to be able to rely on them.
I love seeing women adopt the backcountry as their own. For Julieanne and Anna, they earned the moniker Mighty Hiker Women of Philmont. I’d happily go hiking with them any day.
I celebrated my 51st birthday on the trail this year. What a tremendous gift, to be in the mountains, surrounded by God’s creation, and sharing it with like-minded people.
Some of my favorite people to meet were those of a certain age. I got to know many people over fifty…some were closer to 80, and doing long distance hikes. They weren’t the fastest on the trail (remember Hike Your Own Hike?), but that wasn’t important. The trail belongs to them, just like me, just like those fresh out of school.
So in celebration of the vintage hikers on the trail, I’m sharing an incredible poem from Nanao Sakaki. Hat tip to Sage Clegg for the reference (She’s a Triple Crowner and outdoor educator, at http://www.sageclegg.com …don’t miss her website).
Break the Mirror
In the morning
After taking cold shower
—what a mistake—
I look at the mirror.
There, a funny guy,
Grey hair, white beard, wrinkled skin,
—what a pity—
Poor, dirty, old man,
He is not me, absolutely not.
Land and life
Fishing in the ocean
Sleeping in the desert with stars
Building a shelter in the mountains
Farming the ancient way
Singing with coyotes
Singing against nuclear war–
I’ll never be tired of life.
Now I’m seventeen years old,
Very charming young man.
I sit quietly in lotus position,
Meditating, meditating for nothing.
Suddenly a voice comes to me:
“To stay young,
To save the world,
Break the mirror.”
Long distance hiking is never a race. Hopefully, everyone is out on the trail to seek their own experiences. Some enjoy photography. Some are recharged by sharing the journey with other hikers. Some prefer to go it alone as much as possible. It’s called “Hike Your Own Hike,” and that diversity is one of the things that make trail life so awesome.
A handful of years ago, one woman discovered that her hike involves crushing long distances, with speeds that leave the rest of us in the dust. Her trail name is Anish, and in 2013, she set the Self-Supported Fastest Known Time for the PCT, at 60 days 17 hours 12 minutes. That’s for 2650 miles. If you’re doing the math at home, that’s an average of nearly 44 miles per day.
“Self-Supported” means just that. Nobody’s carrying your gear for you, so that all you need on your back is water and a few snacks. It’s all up to you…setting up camp, making your food, you name it. And “Fastest Known Time” is also just that. There’s no record book for the long trails. You don’t get a gold medal. Sure, people are impressed, and maybe you get an interview or two. But you do it for you. Hike your own hike.
Anish tackled the John Muir Trail (JMT) last year, hoping for a FKT. She didn’t meet her goal. And like many of us who deal with low self-esteem, it haunted her.
This year, on August 1st, Anish set out to test herself again. She headed for Mt. Katahdin, Maine, to attempt the Self Supported FKT for the Appalachian Trail, which runs from Katahdin to Springer Mountain, Georgia, a distance of 2185 miles.
This her post from today, on the “Anish Hikes” Facebook page.
The trail has a way of answering the questions you most need answered, even if you are afraid to ask.
Those that have followed me for a while know that I have struggled with self-esteem my entire life. You would think setting the PCT speed record would change that.
Yet it only gave the negative thoughts an even more insidious way to demoralize me, especially after I failed to set the JMT record last year.
“The PCT was a fluke. You were only the benefactor of lucky circumstances. You aren’t athletic. You aren’t able. You’re a charlatan.”
On and on the whispers go.
I had to come here, to the AT, where my quest to find myself began 12 years ago and face those voices once and for all, alone.
I was to afraid to ask, but the trail knew the question in my heart:
“Was the PCT a fluke?”
The AT answered with a resounding, “NO!”
I wrestled not against the trail or external forces, but with them. If it were easy the whispers of inadequacy would continue. Instead I was challenged every single minute.
In the dark hours when I was tired, lonely, and hungry, that is when the demons came, “Why didn’t you stop with the PCT record? It will be your greatest achievement in life. You won’t ever do anything else. Now you’re out here and you’re in over your head. You will fail. You can’t do this. And everyone is going to know that you are nothing.”
But, every footstep I took was a choice. A choice to face my own perceived inadequacies.
Every footstep was a commitment. A commitment to deny that there was any truth to the words of the internal foes.
As the miles dwindled into the double digits I became aware that I was crushing more than miles. I was crushing a lifetime of self defeating beliefs.
So now, I walk off of Springer Mountain, alone just as I came. My pack, my feet, and my heart are light, unburdened at last.
And, I am aware that the end of every journey is simply the beginning of the next and that, far from being behind me, the greatest achievements of my life lie ahead.
New Appalachian Trail self-supported speed record: 54:7:48
Congratulations, Anish. I am so very happy for you.
To follow Anish, check out her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AnishHikes, and her blog: http://runhikelivelove.blogspot.com/
As a female hiker, it gives me great joy to meet other women on the trail. I love talking with them all. I learn a lot from the experienced hikers, and I gain a fresh perspective from those who are brand new to the trail. But I refer to all of them as Mighty Hiker Women.
Many of our friends and family don’t understand why we go into the backcountry. They tend to be concerned for our safety. That’s fine, up to a point. But when the fear of the unknown keeps us from hitting the trail (or, frankly, going on any new adventure), we need to rethink that fear. When we’re not sure exactly how to hike, or what gear is helpful, we need to learn what works. And one of the best ways to understand what the trail is really like is to talk with the women who are out there on a regular basis.
I’ve met, and in some cases mentored, women of all ages, who were headed to the backcountry for the first time. I’ll be sharing some of these stories.
I’d also like to share the stories of women who have been at it for awhile. I’m not necessarily talking about elite athletes (although I’ll talk about them too); the focus will be Everywoman, hiking her own hike, and learning and growing along the way.
And I’ll post hiking resources, especially woman-centric.
The trail belongs to all of us. And that’s a beautiful thing.
Note: If you are a women or girl who loves to hike, or know someone with an interesting hiking story, let me know. My aim isn’t necessarily to re-tell stories, but rather to point people in the direction of new friends.