I don't know where my love for dead animals came from, but it burns loud and bright deep down in my soul. I want to set the record straight, I don't support sport shooting or killing things for trophy, in fact, I'm mainly a vegetarian when I'm not hiking. I'm just innately drawn to the dead animals I find along my travels, roadkill included. Not just bones, but teeth, talons, wings and feathers. And I enjoy carrying them with me for extra company. Kind of like a pet you don't have to feed. I think of their past life while I hike and feel connected in a strange way. I like to rescue old taxidermy, too...The big game heads collecting dust in your dead grandpa's basement, yeah, I'll always have a spot for these on my wall. The difficulty with an international hike is that it's not so easy to post the bones you find home. So, I've been carrying them for a few days and passing them off to new friends along the way.
It's time to say goodbye. Goodbye to the North Island. You treated me well and you pushed some buttons. I'm going to start fresh down South, and I haven't a clue what will come. There are no expectations, just a belly full of excitement and two big eyes ready to take it in.
Wooooohooooo Wiiiiiiwaaaaah! I'm in love with the Tararua's. This stretch can be the most difficult or most spectacular depending on weather conditions. Let's just say I got lucky.
I met a rad group of hikers that I'm proud to call lifelong friends. Since abandoning the YOYO attempt, I finally learned how to enjoy shorter distance days. This was the first time on any of my hikes that I camped before complete exhaustion. The first time I took an afternoon nap in the sun while listening to Rodriguez on a friends phone. I get it now. Thank you.
The morning climb up Mt. Crawford was one for the books. I literally inched through the clouds for a perfect view. This is the spot, I'm certain, where angels learn to fly. A buddy left me a bouquet of wild flowers and note of encouragement on my sad day. I know I'm exactly where I need to be, doing exactly what I need to be doing. The temperature begged us for a lunchtime swim in the river, followed by a spectacular candlelight dinner.
It's simple, really, to thru hike an entire country. You just have to put one foot in front of another and trust that you'll get to where you're supposed to go.
When I say that there's a lot of road waking on this trip, I really mean it. According to my notes, I had 80 more km's to go before I hit the trail again and genius me convinced the hostel to loan us 2 bicycles for a small fee. They even agreed to pick them up at the next town. PERFECT!!! In theory, that was...
It was a complete disaster. I don't really know how to ride a bike, but that was a minor detail next to the fact that only 3 of my numb fingers could reach the handlebars. My pack became unbearable, it felt like I was carrying the sinking Statue of Liberty... All the responsibility of something noble and grand melting away into the hot sticky asphalt. I'm not ready to talk about the bike seat... Just know that I wanted to stitch my legs together, sleep with raw meat on my bum and never sit in a chair again. This feeling lasted nearly a week. Oh, and to top things off, my hiking partner (10-Speed) just happens to be a retired professional cyclist... What was that? You used to bike 25,000 kms a year?! Great. I remember a point when we were on a flat farm road with zero traffic and he had to push my back to keep me moving forward when he noticed my quivering legs. After nearly passing out on a 3 meter high hill, I knew I was in trouble.
There was a cafe, there was a phone call, and there was one last bus to Palmerston North. I only made it 35 kms before giving in to the feeling of utter defeat. Sometimes I'm happy to be humbled down, to realize that I'm not as strong and invincible as I originally think.
I hit that harmony spot where everything falls perfectly into place... effortlessly, wonderfully, even magically. I woke up at 5:00 like an energetic bunny on crack. Hop, skip and jumping my way up the mountain only to be surprised by a trail maintenance team of two. Their helicopter lift was on its way and they left me with an ice cold breakfast beer and a smile stretching from ear to ear. Mr. Pilot returned a short time later for their gear and rubish and offered me a quick elevated tour of the mountain I just climbed.
Speechlessly ecstatic. Like that little kid who wakes up and finds a coin under her pillow from the tooth fairy for the first time. He dropped me back off at the hut since he didn't have landing permission from the farmers below for my requested hitch, but I was more than happy to finish this section on foot.
I'm starting to understand how this thing works. When you do cool thing, cooler things happen to you all the time. You just have to go out there to get it!!!
3,000 Kilometers and this is step one. I have no expectations and am filled with excitement. Another trail, another country, another excuse to put off growing up. Thank you, New Zealand, for all you're about to teach me.
I finished the PNT just over two months ago and am still struggling to find the time to write about the finale. I don't know where to begin... The last stretch of Washington beach hiking was probably the most beautiful, most epic, most serene trekking I've ever done.
I learned so much about myself and pushed my limits. I met so many beautiful people and joined their lives for a tiny piece in time. There were some struggles, but I can't remember any of them now. It was perfect.
I write this here on a completely different continent at the start of another thru-hike. From my familiar Pacific Ocean to the Tasman Sea. I don't know how this happened. I don't know who I have become. I like it though, and wouldn't change a thing.
I started the ONP on the wrong foot... Two busses to Port Angeles and 1.5 miles of road walking to pick up my bear can and permits only to find that I lost my drivers license and was left with an empty bank account. The ranger had no sympathy. I was a dirty backpacker wasting his time. I left in tears for the public library to sort out my woes. OK, you got this... No problem... Stay positive. Getting worked up won't get you back on trail, Bloody Mary. It's just a little bump.
Thank you wifi... One account empty, plenty in the other. A quick online transfer, and we're all good. Oh, what's that? A shower token laying on the floor for Neah Bay? Score! I'll put that to good use and extend my hike a bit further. I reached in my pack for my water and found the missing license in the side pouch. Must have slipped out when I was planning my route. I returned to the ranger with a childlike grin. Here's your money, here's my ID, and I'll even give you a double donation for your troubles! Ba-bam, I'm back!
The only place I could find to charge my iPad and get some food on my bus route was a new sports bar called Fanaticus. What luck, just in time for happy hour! This day is turning around. I met the sweetest bartender and a local musician who just lost his wife. Our time together was short but deep. He slipped me a $100 bill with a tear in his eye, and said that his wife would want me to have it as he exited onward. We all have a story to tell and sometimes it helps to share them with a stranger. I'll never forget you and will always hold you close to my heart. Your generosity is overwhelming. Thank you.
Onward to the trail head... Oh, that was a long walk. One driver tossed me an ice cold beer for my walk and another hitched me half way up. I made it to my ridge top camp right at sunset. This is the life. I young buck decided to sleep two feet from my head and he nibbled on my camera strap all night long. Are you kidding? Who, in this crazy little world, gets to sleep with a deer? I do! I hate how habituated the "wild" animals have become in the national parks from tourists feeding them, but that night was epic.
I made it to the Hurricane Ridge visitor center for an all you can drink soda the next day. Five Mountain Dews later and I run into people I know! I asked this family to take my photo at Deception Pass a hundred miles back and here we both meet again, me on foot, them in car!
Hike hike hike, and I ended up at a car camp spot at the base of the mountain. They charged me $10 to sleep in front of the men's bathroom... Even with the bright bathroom light, campers still stumbled over my tarp all night long. My worst nightmare came true, too... A fat six inch mouse (I can live with a huge mouse, not a rat), woke me up as it skipped across my face and over my arm. This is the life, eh?
The next morning, I met a kindred spirit, an older female solo hiker out for some day trips. I was heading to the hot springs trail and was delighted that she decided to join. These hot springs were world class. Not another soul to be seen. Beautiful and pristine. We soaked for hours, I stayed hours more. This is why I do what I do.
My next campsite was some five steep miles away. An easy day. I reached Appleton Pass well before sunset only to find a friend I met several days back, napping by Oyster Lake. What? Jason, Brandon and Bloody Mary... All from the Bay Area camping together in the ONP! The meteor shower was in full swing so I laid out my tarp in the mountain top grass and we watched the show of my life. Stars streaked the sky. Ooooos and awwwwws all night long. It was like the Fourth of July!
Another day of ridge walks and views. I was happy to sleep in my first three walled shelter to protect myself from the rain. Rain rain rain... It was perfect... Who wants sunshine in a rainforest? By 8:00 a.m., I hit a high point in my trail life. A majestic million pound elk stood a few feet in front of me. He was so big and so beautiful you won't believe a word I write. His antlers were larger than my arm span. My head didn't even reach the top of his big boastful butt. This animal made my year, my life. His son was still larger than any buck I've seen. Life is good.
Inland Olympics... I struggled with your tourist toilet paper (bury it or pack it out guys, that's gross), and grumpy hikers, but you still gave me some amazing memories and lifelong friends. I'm taking it with a smile. I'm so happy to have walked across you. Thank you for setting me out straight. Onward to your beaches!
The ocean smells so delicious early morning, before the sunscreen comes out. It almost commands you to sit quietly alone and contemplate your sorrows. Waves rolling in, waves rolling out. How did I make it this far? From the mountain tops of Montana... I feel like I've waited my whole life to sit for a minute and gaze at the sea.
Why am I moving so fast when I don't want this to end? I don't want to go home. I don't know where my home will be. I feel so protected out here... So protected and completely free.
I miss you...
I don't have much more to say besides the fact that this is one of the best wilderness sections in the United States of America. Please go and see for yourself!