Turning Thru-Hiking into a Career by Renee “She-ra” Patrick

Thanks to Six Moon Designs for publishing this blog post about trying to get paid to hike 🙂


After five-months of joy, challenge, struggle, and laughter, I reached Canada on my 2006 PCT thru-hike determined to find a way to get paid to hike. I felt freedom and exhilaration in waking up each day, facing the obstacles of the trail, overcoming those obstacles, and making tangible progress towards my goal to walk across the country. I couldn’t imagine going back to the “real world” and my desk job, no matter that I had recently finished graduate school; I wanted to live and work outside and hike forever.

Sound familiar? Many thru-hikers get bitten by the hiking bug and decide to try and make hiking a career...try being the important word here. Making a career that lasts (and pays the bills) in the outdoors can be as daunting as the first step on a long trail, but as I learned from my varied career attempts (guiding, leading trail crews, working in wilderness therapy, organizing logistics for Outward Bound, starting a small hiking brand, freelancing as a writer and graphic designer, and finally to developing a new long-distance trail) I have tried almost everything to get paid to hike and live outdoors. That pursuit can be a struggle, but the rewards it can bring are so worth it, especially if those jobs give you the time and space to keep hiking.

Renee with ONDA at her booth about the Oregon Desert Trail at an event

Renee is currently the Trail Coordinator for the Oregon Desert Trail, and started the brand hikertrash. Photo by Robert Curzon

Many times these careers start as a side-hustle…as a way to stay engaged in the hiker community while still being able to pay rent, but they can lead to more if you are willing to get creative and tackle the challenges of employment the same way you tackled the 4,000’ climbs, the flood-stage river crossings, or the two weeks of rain on your hike: through determination and showing up each day.

The Experts

I talked to a few of my favorite “career hikers” to learn more about their journeys into the profession, and discovered we had many things in common. Liz “Snorkle” Thomas is an author, speaker, and owner of the gear-review company, Treeline Review, with fellow long-distance hiker Naomi “The Punisher” Hudetz. Mandy “Purple Rain” Bland makes hikers look good with her line of Purple Rain Adventure Skirts, skirts, kits, and dresses. Jennifer “Odyssa” Pharr Davis is an author, National Geographic Explorer of the Year and owner of Blue Ridge HIking Co in Asheville, North Carolina, and Heather “Anish” Anderson has made a career as a writer and speaker, breaking many FKT records along the way, and has also been named a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year.

Many themes emerged among these five women as we talked about the why and how of trying to get paid to do what you love.

Connectedness to the world

What about thru-hiking is so compelling that someone would want to make a career out of it? The overwhelming answer from these incredible women came down to: realizing I am a part of nature. 

Liz shared, “[Thru-hiking has helped me realize that] I’m a small part of the bigger ecosystem and universe. It puts everything I’m working on in life into perspective.” Naomi expanded, “nature accepts me for who I am at that moment. I truly feel alive, part of the world, and where I am supposed to be,“ and Jennifer commented, “Feeling the interconnectedness between humans and the environment has changed how I see the world and move through it.”

That connectedness to the greater world has truly been one of the best outcomes in my life since setting foot on the Appalachian Trail almost 20 years ago. Developing my relationship with nature and the world has been transformative, and thru-hiking has helped me understand that I am capable of much more than I would have imagined.

Realize your potential

“Thru hiking helped me find my strength,” Mandy explained. “We’re made to do hard things and hiking pushes you to that limit. So many times in my life I have looked back to my long hikes to find the motivation to get through the sticky stuff.”

Mandy and her son form Purple Rain Adventure skirts in front of her booth at PCT days

Mandy with her son, both wearing Purple Rain Adventure Skirts

Those of you who have read Healther’s books will recognize these sentiments: “The thing about hiking that has impacted me the most is the self-reliance, courage, and resilience I’ve found within,” she said.

Helping others develop that connection

Something that keeps me motivated to contribute to the thru-hiking community is the thought that I can help others find true joy and fulfillment in moving their body through space and time while deepening their relationship with nature. This driving force was mentioned as a pivotal factor among the other hikers as well.

“I think the world would be a much better place if everyone could feel that sense of belonging to the world, Naomi said. “So many of our societal problems come from a place of not feeling accepted. And if I can help even one person along the path to experience that feeling of complete acceptance from Mother Nature herself, I would feel like I made a difference. So that’s what I want to do – help people get outside and feel comfortable doing it.” 

“I had a great job at a museum that let me hike and come back and work, but I never loved it as much as I loved teaching and encouraging people to hike and backpack,” Jennifer shared. “I figured if I was going to stay in the museum world I would probably need to go back to grad school. I decided to follow my heart and try to start my own hiking company, telling myself that if I didn’t work I could always go back to grad school. It’s been 14 years and I still tell myself that.”

JPD with her son Gus cutting the ribbon at the grand opening of their store in NC

Jennifer had help with the opening of Blue Ridge HIking Co.

Liz shared, “For me, part of being a hiker and enjoying hiking is also about giving back. Being outdoors is about being happy and feeling like you’re truly living life. Having a career where I can help more people feel the joy of being outside is honest work and I’m proud to do it.”

My priorities were different after hiking

“I had a lot of trouble with transitioning back to ‘normal life’ after thru-hiking,” Mandy said. “I left a desk job hell bent on not going back there after the AT. I didn’t know what lay ahead but I knew I wouldn’t be going back to the daily 9-5. I think once you start living for yourself like you do on trail it’s hard to imagine following someone else’s schedule. I love the lifestyle of owning my own business, it’s full of freedom and adventure, what I love so much about trail! I found my strength and confidence on trail and transformed it into a skirt. I want to share that with everyone!” 

I like to say thru-hiking ruined me for “normal life,” and once I’ve felt that freedom and exhillariation, spending 40+ hours a week on something I wasn’t as excited about felt dull and boring. I agree with Liz’s sentiments wholeheartedly, “Hiking as a career path feels like the most honest expression of myself. It’s something that I can give my whole heart to and honestly feel like that the work that I’m doing makes people’s lives better.”

Liz Thomas at Outdoor Reatiler hosting a book signing or her book Long Trails: Mastering the art of thru-hiking

Liz with her book, Long Trails: Mastering the Art of the Thru-Hike. Photo by Whitney LaRuffa

Not everyone I polled looked at the topic of careers in the same way. Heather commented, “I actively decided that I would never make the thing I love so much into a job because it would kill the joy. Instead I focused on developing a career that would allow me to spend as much time as possible engaging in outdoor activities. There were a lot of things I tried along the way, but finally found my niche several years ago as an author of hiking books and a professional speaker who focuses on connecting the lessons I’ve learned through my hiking experiences to daily life.”

Heather Anderson holding up her book Mud, Rocks, Blazes

Heather’s book Mud, Rocks and Blazes chronicles her 54-day thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail

Don’t be afraid to hustle and be honest about your priorities

“Look for problems and use your skills to find a solution, Liz explained. “Treeline Review was born to solve a problem I saw in outdoor gear writing. I wasn’t seeing outdoor gear reviews that felt objective…instead, gear reviews felt like they were pushing readers to buy the newest and greatest thing… “I wanted gear reviews to show people of all backgrounds, ages, and levels of experiences pointing readers to trusted gear and ‘can’t go wrong’ choices, like giving advice to a friend.”

Naomi advised: “Choose your career path very carefully. Don’t assume that because you love long-distance hiking that you’ll love doing it for your career. For example, I personally would never want to be a hiking or backpacking guide. My thru-hiking time is invaluable to me, and I don’t want to risk jeopardizing that by turning it into my job. Not to mention, it would take a LOT of hustle to earn enough to live on as a guide. So don’t rule out careers that are peripherally related to long-distance hiking, and get REALLY good at your job.”

Naomi regularly hikes, tests gear, and writes in-depth reviews for her business Treeline Review

“Decide if building a business or building a lifestyle is more important to you before you get started, Jennifer said. “There are lots of freelance and entrepreneurial jobs that will allow you to live simply and maintain a thru hiker lifestyle. If you want to build and grow a consistent business it’s probably going to take you off long trails for a bit.”

Mandy encouraged, “Go for it! The cottage gear industry is having its day and as consumers we are more conscious about where we spend money,” she said. “Start small, and have a side hustle to make ends meet. If you’re tough enough to love long distance hiking, you’re tough enough for business.”

Heather also suggested: “I would advise others to be honest with themselves about their skill set and get creative. Careers these days are much more varied than in the past and there’s constantly room for innovation and self-expression that results in meaningful, impactful work.”

Some final thoughts

“Don’t be afraid to take risks. One of the scariest things I ever did was take time off for my first thru hike. I don’t know how I found the courage to do that in the middle of a recession, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. There’s never a perfect time,” Naomi advised.

“Starting my career and motherhood are very much intertwined for me. Having my own business allowed me to stay home with my kiddo through the early years and it still does today,” Mandy said. “Not to say that it was easy, but I feel fortunate to have built my life in that way. I’m still hikertrash at heart and often run my business as such, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing.”

“Running a small business is a lot like hiking a long trail. That should be a confidence boost for any thru-prenuers! It also allows you to call your own shots. I’ve guided backpacking trips pregnant and with an infant strapped on my chest. We’ve had other female guides lead trips pregnant or with their nursing infants. I think that’s pretty awesome and I doubt it would have been possible working for someone else,” Jennifer said. “Feeling responsible and providing financially and emotionally for a family and/or employees is not lightweight.”

Wherever you are in your hiking life, or career path, it’s never too late to explore how to transition your love of trails into a profession, but as explained above, it’s worth diving into your motivations. Do you want to hike forever? Perhaps focus on creating the lifestyle that allows you to take large chunks of time each year to hike like Heather has done. Want the freedom to call your own shots and integrate being a parent into an outdoor business? Jennifer and Mandy have found creative ways to do so. And finally, one of the pieces of advice that resonates with me comes from Liz’s comment about finding a solution to a problem. Have you ever wished a certain piece of gear existed, or a service was available somewhere along your hike? Listen to that wish, it just might be your ticket into a new career path.


Six Moon Designs is also selling their Owyhee Tarp with a portion of proceeds going to support our work at the Oregon Natural Desert Association. Thanks for the support SMD!

C2c Day 4 – 13.5 miles (67 total)

I tossed and turned during the night in my island of dry, and fortunately the damp clothes I wore inside my down bag ended up drying from my body heat over night. It’s a neat trick to go to bed damp and wake up dry, but it only works if things are damp, not wet.

When I heard Amber moving around I knew she had survived, and in fact she said it was the best night of sleep so far on the trip! Huh! 

We knew the miles to the sea wouldn’t take all day to walk, so watched the sky lighten with our hot coffee in hand. Daylight had us laying all our gear out and shaking off the remaining puddles. Since we had no more sleeps we could hike in all our dry clothes…beds for all tonight!

All the wet

We had arranged to meet Anne, Amber’s wife at Ona Beach this afternoon, and even though there was plenty of time, we moved at a steady pace through the chilly, and dry morning. We had a spot of cell reception last night and marvels of all marvels, found a day of no rain would see us to the ocean. How did we get so lucky?

I hobbled behind Amber, my pace starting to wane as the miles ticked by. My planter fasciitis had gone from uncomfortable to excruciating. This pain sucks. 

We entered another beautiful section of trail through the last layer of coastal mountains before the sea, and we could smell the salt in the air. Much excite!

Now the C2C has alternates that hikers and bikers will need to follow depending on the season and logging schedule. We had already detoured a bit, adding some miles onto the trip, but since some of the trail goes through active logging areas and sensitive habitats, it’s really important to abide the closures. Have you ever seen an active logging area? Trust me when I say you don’t want to be anywhere near one. The massive hulk of the machines, the size of the trees, and the speed those trucks take when barreling down forest roads can be a terrifying for a hiker. Think of the ants you don’t see but squish while walking down the trail. You are the ant in an active logging operation. Anyway, the C2C has some of those. Please follow the detours around them!

We finally popped out on a paved road near the Beaver Creek Wildlife Area. I realized with delight that this was a place Kirk and I had paddled our sea kayaks before…the wetlands are a wildlife bonanza, and that fact was reinforced by our next unexpected encounter on the road walk. 

A small red car sped by us, then whipped a u turn to come back, parking partially in the road. A loquacious local got out of the car and talked at us for a few minutes about trail, cougars, bears, and various other critters found near by. We smiled and nodded, and before we knew it she was back in the car speeding away. We looked at each other a bit confused by the encounter, but happy to be acknowledged at all.

Soon we were at the final carsonite posts on the side of the road that marked the end of the trail….but it wasn’t the end for us, we were going to finish at the ocean.

After another quarter mileish through the park we saw the sea. Packs down, shoes off, into the Pacific. Now we were done!!

We had some time before Anne would come to whisk us away to food, showers, and a warm dry bed, so made some hot drinks on the beach and soaked in the November sun.
Now walking to the ocean was fab, but we decided that walked to Corvallis might be a better way to go. Ona Beach didn’t have the delights we were craving: no celebratory beer, no clam chowder. If you walked to Corvallis you could end at a brewery or eatery of your choice. And because we all know one of the best things about hiking is eating, you might consider that for your hike of the C2C.

When Anne arrived, she sped us up to Newport for the clam chowder we had been talking about for days, and before we knew it were back in the land of walls and artificial light.

A short and sweet journey!

C2c Day 3 – 17 miles (53.5 miles total)

Ha ha, joke’s on me.

I went to bed feeling smug because we were going to hike as if the time change didn’t happen today. We hike by the light of day!
Then I woke up, started my morning coffee and writing routine and the sky started to lighten. What the?

Because my phone had been on airplane mode, I didn’t think it would change time automatically. I thought I was besting the system, but the whole time I was playing with time I was getting played.

Doh! 

The phone did change.We got a later start.
But did that extra half hour help our bodies knit themselves back together after all the stress we have been putting them under? I like to think so.

We immediately started sweating on a trail climb. The trail wove through old growth and the ferns and moss were getting mossier if that is even possible. These forest appear to be saturated most of the time…the undergrowth is thick and jungly.

We climbed up and up and may have been a bit grumbley about it until we came to a pair of big ‘ol trees and we adjusted our attitudes accordingly. 

I made the mistake of sitting down during morning break when it wasn’t raining, and we got chilled when our bodies cooled. Geez, I won’t do that again, it take too long to warm up after that. 

Managing the wet. That’s the phase of the hike we are in now. It started pouring when we were packing up, so both of our tents are soaked through. We both have wet feet, and the only solution is to keep moving. 

We had a chat about being safe in the cold wet out here, and we both agreed to keep each other apprised if we slipped into the “danger cold” phase where we would stop and fix or hike out. We still had dry sleeping bags and some dry layers…still in good shape if we manage the wet appropriately. 
More climbing and rain and lush green rainforest. We had much to admire today.
Lunch was in a rare spot of sun. I know! We are still so lucky with the sun…we didn’t expect to see any.

We kept it brief and started up Palmer Mountain, our last big climb of the trip. We’ll be done tomorrow already!

Then we hiked in best part of all, a dense old growth forest. We had to weave in and out and around the verdant life, ducking beneath green hairy branches of a forest older than everything. 

We got water next to a rushing little creek, and started up a climb. We climbed and climbed…the trail was an old road bed here so the climb was slow and gradual at just enough incline that we had to initiate the grind.

And then…at the top, but not top. We didn’t go to the summit, the road just leveled out. 
And we kept walking. A few more miles downhill brought us to a churned up hill of dirt, and we poked around looking for a flat spot to camp. Finding none but eyeing the sky that was about to start dumping on us, we decided to throw up our tents on the gravel side of the road. 

I had helped Amber put rocks on her rain fly (the ground was too hard for stakes) and had just hurriedly started putting mine up when the water came. We didn’t make it. We were still wrapped in our rain coats and trash bags and our packs were covered, but we both had rivers running through our tents. I think there were a few balls of hail too.

The sky dumped. 

We kept putting our tents up. We had to get in those wet things stat and transition to dry asap.

Once inside we kept to the islands of our inflatable sleeping pads and watched the puddles surrounding us grow.

I ate snacks and surveyed the damage: everything is kinda wet, but I know my body heat will dry out some of it over night, the temps shouldn’t too cold, and I had hot food and drinks to look forward to.

Amber was in a similar state, and every once in a while when we could hear each other over the pounding couchaphany of the rain on our tents, we shouted encouragements.

We were alive and dry with snacks. And tomorrow we would walk to the sea. 

C2c Day 2 – 17.5 miles (36.5 total)

The rain started overnight, but was very considerate and stopped while we were packing up camp. We were out and hiking at first light…that means 7:30ish these days. Daylight savings starts tomorrow, but we’ll still follow the sun’s lead, not some arbitrary number on a watch.

Amber cut that tree

We started down a section of trail that Amber had helped clear before and found a few more logs for her to come back and address with her chainsaw. The forest was dripping with rain, but flashes of blue sky still teased us from above…this would be the general pattern of the day.

Umbrellas up, Umbrellas down, rain coats on, raincoats off. We made progress and periodically had views back towards Mary’s Peak….a hiker on the C2C could summit Mary’s Peak if they wish…we did not wish, so kept moving. 

Thank you rainbow
So dramatic

Lunch found us near one of the numerous C2C kiosks that had been installed. They all contain slips to register your hike, but I’d suggest they add a trail register note book so we could read tid bits of those who had come before us, or leave advice of our own, like: “bring more whisky for this section.” (We ran out of whisky today).

Even better for a lunch break? Sun!!! We plopped down in a rare patch of sun and had a glorious lunch and lie-down in the warming light. We have been pretty lucky with the sun on this hike…but then came the hail.

We had walked close to Harlan, a town that time forgot, (a town with no services that is, not a pizza food truck to be found) when a great rush of wind pushed a small hail storm into us. We sought refuge under a giant doug fir tree as the squall passed. 

Later we pulled over briefly to let some traffic pass….30 cows and a few cowgirls on horses that is, and kept walking.

Cows and cowgirls

On and on, and on and on. We plod up the road (plenty of road walking today, but also lovely little stretches of trail) and decide to skip checking out Big Elk Campground (the half way point!) and decided to make a few more miles before stopping for camp. 

We turned onto some new trail construction and got a few liters of water for the night at a stream crossing before climbing up the many switchbacks to the ridge above. The next section of trail paralleled a road, and after we crossed the road and climbed up and the road stayed level, posited that the road may be a less “oofta” inducing experience. 

Aches and pains update: my legs feel like lead weight and my feet are angry. Amber reports feet feeling like hamburger (echoing a comment I made at one point yesterday), and sore shoulders. Since I am writing this in the dark early morning of the next day, she also adds “my neck hurts because I can’t sit up in my tent and have to hunch over. ” Note to Amber: get a new tent.

We made camp right before another heavy rain storm unleashed the wet from above, but we are buttoned up warm and dry to welcome another 14-hour night.

C2C Day 1 – 19 miles

It was February, 2020, BC (before COVID) when I last visited my friend Amber in Corvallis.


This is where I first heard about a new long-distance trail that crossed the Oregon coastal mountain range to the the Pacific ocean.


Amber was doing trail work for the almost-complete 60-mile Corvallis to Sea trail (C2C) and was putting her saw skills to the test clearing trees from the path. Amber and I met in 2007 when we were both training in a trail crew leader development program at South West Conservation Corps in Durango, Colorado. We spent days learning to use chainsaws and cutting down scores of tall pines in thinning projects for the forest service. It was back-breaking work, but we were young and the work was empowering.

Our crew in 2007


When I heard the C2C had a grand opening in August of this year, I sent Amber a text and asked if she would thru-hike it with me. The only time our schedules aligned was in early November, so we braced ourselves for the short rainy days that are typical in late fall in this part of Oregon. 


On a Thursday afternoon I drove over the pass through driving rain to Corvallis. Amber and I spread the contents of our packs across the floor of her living room and proceeded to talk our way through gear choices in what was sure to be a rainy and cold four days.

  
On further examination of the weather between here and Ona Beach, the temps would be in the 50s and 40s, so not too cold, but with 90-100% chances of precipation, we girded ourselves for constant rain.
Friday morning we set out into the dark-almost light of the day from her front door. Amber only lives 2ish miles from the start of the trail in downtown Corvallis, so why not walk out her front door? 
We crossed busy traffic and as the sky lightened we could see color and patches of blue sky. Hmmm, blue was not what we expected, but we’ll take it!

Walking to Corvallis


I regailed her with tales of pain, stress, and heat from the month Kirk and I had spent on the John Day River this summer, and we cruised through the urban part of this trail.
Sidewalks and paved bike paths took us through Corvallis and into Philomath. The benefits of urban hiking became apparent when we took an alternate to Sissy’s Donuts. Sissy herself was at the counter, and as she filled our donut order, took curious looks at our packs.

Sissy


A few minutes later we walked out with a full water supply (it will be a dry camp tonight) and our first trail magic of the trail – two donuts for the road! How wonderful! I told Sissy that she was our first trail angel of the trip, and she positively glowed. Trail community starts with lovely experiences like this! 


Then we went next door to the Dizzy Hen Cafe and ordered lattes. Multiple people stopped to hear about our plans as we soaked in the unexpected sunshine, donuts, coffee, and conversation. This is proving be to a most excellent start to the trip.


We walked out of town and turned right onto Old Peak Road. The pavement-to-gravel road wove through a temperate rainforest of dripping mossy trees in shades of neon green.

One of the many C2C Kiosks on the trail


Next up was a tree-farm part of the route…one of the only sections where you need to get a permit to pass through the private lands of the Starker Tree Farm.
A few gorgeous old-growth trees remained along the road. These mind-bending beauties had trunks so big we just had to stop and take it in. This was a glimpse into a world where the forest had been filled with trees of this size. We would be walking through a visual history 200 years of logging.


The sun was still out. Can you believe it? We had sun the whole day. It was simply incredible and highlighted the golden yellows of fall in the deep green forest. We practically skipped through the forest as if our muffin-tops and legs weren’t sore. These 40ish year old bodies were a bit achy, but also lucky to be walking through the forest on a sunny November afternoon with gifted donuts in our pack. The trail provides. 

Some massive old growth trees, the whole forest had trees this big at one point!


We made camp off a decommissioned spur road, and watched the last traces of day fade from the blue sky. BLUE SKY!

Mountain Wandering: Day 3

Awe won. Hands down. 


Sometime in the night the rain stopped. When the first light opened the day I could see to the cliff sides across the creek; it will be a brilliant day.


I was packed and walking before 8am, excited at what I could already see. Because I took a layover day yesterday, the logistics of some of those loops and lakes were taken off the table, but it is what it is. My back is feeling better, and what I can do is climb up to Horton Pass at 8,500′ and peek over the other side to the lakes basin. I need about 25+ more backpacking trips here to see all that I want to see. 


This area has a strong pull on me.


I hike up and up, the trail isn’t messing around and only has a few miles to get me to the shoulder of Eagle Cap Mountain.


Soon I can see the snow zone. About the last mile to the top will be in snow, softened just enough by the sun to make the going easy.

I’m glad I wasn’t up here yesterday. 


This is simply astounding. 


There are no other tracks, no other signs of humans, I have the world to myself today. Up top I am greeted by ridgelines shrouded in cloud wisps, lakes and snow and trees as far as the eye can see. 


After just a few minutes I turn around and gingerly follow my footprints in the snow back down down down to Eagle Creek below.


From here I just need to decide where to camp. I am due to stay with Mike and Donna Higgins in Halfway tomorrow night, but the forecast has me a bit nervous for tomorrow. Rain is coming, snow in the high country. I drove my little Honda Fit out here, and accessing this trailhead alone had me at high elevations on gravel roads. I don’t want to get stuck, so I debate camping close to the car so I can make a mad dash if the rain/snow materializes early.


As it is, I find myself mulling over what ifs and maybes all the time, especially when I’m out by myself. Planning ahead and preparing for the worst is one of the best things you can do out here. If you are prepared for the worst, everything else will be delightful! It’s very much on my mind as I am hosting a conversation this week (October 14 on Zoom – 5pm Pacific time) about safety and risk and being prepared for a backcountry adventure. I’ll be talking with two people who were on different sides of search and rescue efforts: Stacy, who broke her knee while on the Oregon Desert Trail and needed to call for help, and Tomas who found and unconscious man and needed to provide help. Should be a good talk!


So I walk out, slowly, savoring the colors and granite and marble mountains. 


I am super close to the car, and can’t find a good spot to camp, so without really thinking about it walk right back to my car. It’s car camping time! I set up diagonally across the back of my Honda fit and manage an ok night of tossing and turning. 


This was a short and sweet little hike up into the heights of NE Oregon, and it only leaves me wanting more.

Mountain Wandering: Day 2

I thought I would give the day a head start and lay low this morning. The rain started as I was finishing my coffee and made the decision for me.

Thanks for the pancakes Charlie & Emelie!


I had 2,500’ish to climb in 3 miles. If this rain is snow up there, it could be a mild snowfall or a blizzard. Both are likely. I’ll check it out later after a morning nap.


While laying about, listening to rain drops splashing off my tent, I put on an On Being podcast episode. The topic was trees with Suzanne Simard. Suzanne did the science that proves all trees are connected, and further posits that humans are a part of that connection. 


I’m working on reconnecting presently.


It’s 10:30 am and the rain has only gotten heavier. I asked for a weather report on my InReach to find the forecast is for 100% rain this morning, tapering to 40% this afternoon and 0% over night. Tomorrow, sunny. 


Ok, decided. I dug a moat around my tent to guide the puddles of water formed in the compacted earth away from my dry things, and climbed back inside for some hot cider and reading. Thank goodness the fear I carry is boredom because I have a new book, half a Harper’s magazine and hours of podcasts in my pocket. The not walking will probably be good for my back and foot too. 


Well, the day happened, and at times the rain stopped and I could spy fresh snow above. Tomorrow will be stunning.

Mountain Wandering: Day 1

Can awe overcome pain?


The planter faciatus that I developed on the Blue Mountains Trail continues to plague me. I’ve made attempts (some successful) at solving the piercing pain in the heel of my right foot, but it always comes back. 


Oh, and I tweaked my back this summer for the first time. Kirk and I were up at Elk Lake for his birthday, moving paddleboards to the lake, when I twisted while picking one up and my whole lower back twinged and I had very little movement and a lot a pain. I did it again to a lessor degree last weekend when I tried to get out of my tent. 


Both are plaguing me on day one of a 4-day solo backpacking trip into the Wallowas. Maybe I can walk it off? Not likely with the heel pain, especially since I walked that one on last fall.


Ok, it is manage it then…but I’ve got to get serious about healing both. I have a 2-month sabbatical at work next year and I’m going hiking!


So to the awe: this marble and granite chunk of Mountains in NE Oregon (where I started the Blues Mountains Trail last year) is out of this world. I’m hiking (it really feels like plodding) up Eagle Creek towards Horton Pass. The golds and reds from the October fall days are piercing blocks of color against the green and silver rock of the canyon walls. 


A family out horsepacking passes me while I pulled over to eat lunch. They look prepared to set up somewhere for a few days, and when I saw their tracks headed up to Hidden Lake (my intended destination for the night) I found something lower, saving me the 1000′ climb. I’ll take it, for the views at my new camp are already making me forget my worries. 


It was a short day, relatively speaking, but I have no agenda, only loose ideas, and there are countless options for trails, and lakes, and passes, and loops, so I’m just going to take it as it comes this time. No imposing my will on the miles, instead, letting the Wallowas (and my body) impose their will on me.