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Normal service has resumed

Monday, October 8th, 2007

I think I’ve delayed my final post as long as I can. I’m settled back in New Zealand now and about to begin the mammoth task of sorting over 4000 photos and video clips I took along the way. The journey home took me via LAX. It wasn’t nearly as confusing as I thought it would be. I had plenty of time there to people watch as they went through the usual airport rituals. Hellos, goodbyes and thinking that somehow they deserve to be at the front of queues more than others. For my part I tried to get upgraded or at least secure a seat with leg room. I played the “I just walked across your country” card with zero success. The grumpy lady in San Francisco had already assigned me a seat despite claiming I didn’t get one until LA, and I was glad to exchange it to one by the aisle.
The plane was packed and the large Samoan next to me was taking more than his share of seats. I settled in for several movies but with the schedule of the last week it wasn’t long until I dozed off, almost dropping a cup of water in my lap in the process. Landing in Auckland I went through the duty free shops and I swear the lady behind the counter was having trouble keeping a straight face as she served me. It didn’t bother me. I did look quite a sight with messy long hair and my terrible beard. Passport control, customs, bio-security (who cleaned my tent for me :-) ) and then the walk of fame. I stepped through the gate and into the arms of my awaiting family.
Everything seemed normal. It was normal. Auckland hasn’t changed since I left. My car still steers just as it did before. The house is the same. My little brothers and sister are probably taller but it’s hard to judge. I don’t know what I expected but I was almost let down by everything being the same. Maybe I wanted my view of things to be different. It still could be. Next time I go walking here I’ll be doing the same sums I have been doing along the trail. I met up with friends on Friday night, they all had a good laugh at my mountain man appearance and I got to hear the stories of the last six months.

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Home

The highlight of my return, and the reason I really feel at home, was the party on Saturday night. It was the usual crowd, the usual faces, the people I missed. Tania turned up with a surprise. Roast vegetables just as I had dreamed about back in Oregon. Then more people came. Rachel and Dave (who came up with this idea) brought wiener schnitzel and kumara chips, others brought slushies (actually popsicles run through the blender), big bars of chocolate, bananas and chocolate to dip them in, Memphis Meltdowns and more. A few people were disappointed they hadn’t gotten to see the beard, but I’ve put together a time-lapse of my trip as seen below (it’s a large file so you’ll have a bit of a wait before it loads).


Also available on YouTube

We hit the town, and I was careful not to over do it. My lesson from the night out with Christian is too fresh in my memory to make that mistake again. The sky was getting light when I finally curled up on the couch at my old flat. The same as it ever was.

I did what I set out to and I’m not modest enough to say that I’m not super proud of it. I pushed really hard some times to get it done in the only manner I knew how and I’m glad I did. Reading the blogs of people behind me, and even getting an email from one friend I met at the Kick Off as she bailed out in the last few hundred miles because of avalanches, I’m not sure if I could have finished it at a slower pace. Scout and Frodo are probably out now, their journal is coming through slowly and reporting the snow conditions that most feared. Despite that I almost wish I had experienced that with them. Team Snowplow are bound to have great stories and be a very tight group after facing such adversities. I say almost because I did finish with the people I wanted to and I did finish. Right from the beginning I was worried about snow and that I’d have to give up in the last week of the hike.

So that was my summer. What should I do next? Answers on a postcard to AfterIveHadABurger@stanton.co.nz

P.S. My brother left for England last night. At the airport I saw the cashier that was smirking at my unkempt appearance when I arrived. I went over to introduce myself and to say that I know I looked silly but I’ve smartened myself up a bit. It didn’t go so well. She denied it was her and then said they “they” (the staff) would never laugh at customers. I think she thought she was being rude but I was trying to laugh along with her. Oh well, you can’t charm them all.

The unreal world

Monday, October 1st, 2007

San Francisco has been a blast. I’ve seen a lot of interesting things and had a lot of fun but it’s time to go home. I’ll be starting my journey home less than 12 hours from now, but it will be 36 before I’m there.

I found a hat
I found a hat

I’ve had a few days to adjust to the big city and I’ve really needed it. On Thursday I met up with Christian and he showed me the inside of a few good bars in his district. A great night followed by a terrible day. That’ll teach me a lesson I don’t need repeated. That was a shock to the body and Friday was a shock to the mind. I dropped in on Tyler and Ayumi and it happened to be brother Rowan’s birthday. The traditional American celebration ensued with beer kegs, beer pong, and loud music. I was totally out of my element. I didn’t know anyone, I wasn’t going anywhere near the alcohol and the crowd was getting raucous. I ended up sheltering in the kitchen. eating cornflakes and drinking water. I found it much easier to talk to people in that environment, and even if I wasn’t talking being in the mosh pit of the lounge just made me nervous. I think the best moment of the night was Lesley dancing to an imagined song in the kitchen. So carefree and relaxed it made me feel much more at home.

Oh bugger!
“Oh bugger!”

San Francisco is in the middle of a few festivals at the moment. Saturday was Lovefest (some photos) and it was an eye opener for sure. The parade of floats featuring the beautiful people in various revealing costumes all dancing to trance/electro/club/drum-and-bass. I couldn’t have reached of world more separate from the

dancing to her own tune
Dancing to her own tune

cold snowy mountain where I woke up a week before. In the sun of San Francisco, and the weather has been great, the fluffy, glittery, jiggly costumes were a (mostly welcome) shock to the eye. In the square outside the Civic Centre I lay on the grass and closed my eyes. I thought of that snowy mountain and of the woody hills and the sandy desert. I couldn’t quite zone out the rave music coming from the now-parked floats but I was getting close.


Apologies for the poor sound quality. My little camera couldn’t compete with the massive sound systems there

Before the run
Before the run

On Sunday Tyler and his brothers Dylan and Rowan were heading for the Bridge-to-Bridge and invited me along. I suppose if you count five months of walking I should be in pretty good shape and I did manage to knock it out pretty quickly but the pain in my knees and calves during the last few miles was enough to teach me not to do this again for a while. I’d never seen the Golden Gate Bridge like that before, we ran right up to the southern support, and I’ll be forever grateful for the chance.

Ayumi and I try on glasses
Ayumi and I try on glasses

By now you’d probably expect me to have re-entered society pretty well, and I am getting closer to it but there are still things that surprise me. But to be fair The Folsom Street Fair is bound to surprise most people. There was plenty on display there and it was mostly one sided. I was walked around with Ayumi and it was clearly more than she expected so we were both ready to leave before the others that were coming to meet us were even there. “A once in a lifetime experience” she said. That’s for sure. They’re a cool couple and if you’re reading this I want to return the favour so come visit Auckland. Maybe during the Hero parade :-)

Sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge
The sun sets on my adventure

My couch surfing continued and I moved across to Berkeley to visit Rick, a Kiwi studying here. Yet another different slice of American life as we cafe hopped, I think we hit five including dinner and dessert. The campus here is amazing. The big important looking buildings and huge underground library, purportedly the largest on the west coast. We had a Brit, an Israeli, a Peruvian and two Kiwis tonight. I am getting better at dealing with groups and though one of them tried their hardest, I wasn’t phased.
It’s now Monday evening and I’m still limping from that run. I can walk 26+ miles per day, but running 7.5 has torn me up. Hi to Blue Sky’s parents Kathy and Paul. They fed me this evening and even showed me some of her art work in the form of a commemorative Lilhammer plate :-)

2007-09-22 …and I’m done!

Saturday, September 22nd, 2007

So I’ve done it. I have actually walked all the way up the west coast of America. I’m obviously a little stunned by this all so it may take a little time for my brain to settle down and deal with it all.

The night was the worst I’ve experienced on the trail (except maybe the second night, when it snowed). The rain was going non-stop and the sudden wind gusts were really worrying. Several times I heard a dramatic flapping from the direction of Lucky Joe’s tarp. One of his poles had collapsed and he was having one hell of a night. A small river formed across his ground sheet, pooling around his shoulders and a frog had decided to join him for comfort.

It quietened down in the early hours and I got just a little bit of sleep. I awoke to a calmer world and set off up the hill after breaking the ice off my tent.

The last few days have been tough and it’s still kicking us in the arse. It was snowing and the clouds swirled up the slopes, over and beyond me. Lucky Joe wasn’t far behind and we were both shivering the whole time. I was dragging my poles with my fingers balled up in my fists just staving off complete numbness.

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When we could see far enough around us it was a beautiful scene with a light dusting of snow on the rocks, the bushes and the oh-so familiar trail. Woody Pass was nothing like you’d expect and only worth mentioning because that was the point the snow got even stronger. It did eventually abate, and there were even sunny moments. All the while I was doing the sums and counting down our miles. I wasn’t thinking about the end, how far we’d come, how this was not just a town stop. I was just measuring the miles I had to walk and the time I wanted to be done by. I’ll be relieved when that is just memory. Soon we overtook the Noodleheads and emerged into a clear-cut. Then I saw it.

The line running down the hill. 20ft wide and running west to east it was the border. In four short switchbacks I was there, whooping and hollering. I even broke out a little dance.
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We spent a while doing the usual. Taking photos, signing the book, reading who else had passed this way and finally getting around to lunch. A german couple came in from the Canadian side. They’d walked in the eight miles and were surprised to see people already there.
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Lucky Joe, Angelhair, Rigatoni and SunWalker/Heaps

With the festivities over we began the final walk. It was eight miles to the road and a 1,000ft climb made it feel just like home. Nothing had really changed yet. We were still in the woods, still marching and still getting rained on. It didn’t matter though. We were done, the real world waited for us at the road.

Easy, Lizard, Samurai Joe and Monty were at Manning Park and left not long after we arrived. We four got a room at the lodge and have begun our cleansing. That shower felt so good. The dirt left me and I shall not stink that much for a very long time. My feet have dried and I’ve called home. The adventure is over, now it’s re-entry.

Quote of the day: “Have you come far?” The german tourist


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2007-09-10 A faint odour of Waptus

Monday, September 10th, 2007

This morning’s hike was brought to you by the letters U and P, and the number 2,200. After that things got nicer. Great views across the valley and my fingers were coming back to life. The ridge didn’t last nearly long enough and soon we were switchbacking down to Waptus River.

The river was sparkling and clear and after 14 miles of steep up and down it was time for lunch. I was the first of five (The Noodleheads and the two Joes) to arrive and the last to leave. I think I need to do that more often. From there we faced more up hill, to make tomorrow easier. Not far from the bridge I met two section hikers with camp chairs attached to their packs. Scantily clad, we later gave them trail names of Boobalicious and Nut-Hammock. If I get a copy of the photo that Samurai Joe took I’ll send it home asap.

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Four brothers

Onward and upward until reaching Deep Lake. It was just what I’d been hoping for. Deep enough to dive into and rocks to dry on. We all arrived before 5 and didn’t have long before we lost the sun so our dips were swift and chilling. Sitting there afterwards starting to recover from the cold as the water evaporated made for one of the best moments on the trail. Lucky Joe, Samurai Joe and I all sitting on one sunny rock, we could have been at the beach not halfway up a mountain in Washington. The Noodleheads were discretely around the corner, they would have been at a different sort of beach.

I don’t know Samurai Joe very well but he certainly feels like one of our team now.

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Outlet of Deep Lake

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2007-09-05 Back to work

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

Today has been a mix of feelings. Listening to Timo Mass’ “It’s the first day (of the rest of your life)” I pictured myself waking up at Manning Park in Canada. It wouldn’t be a zero day, it would just be a day, like 1000s more to come where I no longer have to think about water, food, distance, pack weight etc. I’d get on a bus and start going home. I think I felt sad about it. The trail would be over and all those real-life things would start up again. But I’d mostly feel stunned at being there, and try to remember every day I’ve had on the adventure.

Much later in the day, when I’d been powering up towards the ridge to get out of the long green tunnel, I paused, took a sip of water, and carried on. It occurred to me how this is just what I do now. I walk, all day every day. I take it for granted. If I’m awake and not eating I’m probably on the move. We all are. Some like to relax more. I might not ever see Speedstick again because of it. It’s not like a job, it’s just part of me. It’s an automatic reaction to daylight and this morning when I saw the clear sky all I wanted to do was hike.



A-Train and I started together and soon found Samurai Joe then Robo Cop (an actual ex-cop, not to be confused with Rocket Cop who is actually part rocket).

Late this afternoon we came across Squatch, the guy who has made three PCT documentaries. He’s heading south meeting more people and getting footage. Funny guy, and another that I’ll never see again.

The final feeling for the afternoon was a little bit of fear. I found A-Train standing still on the trail. Holding his camera he was looking over the bushes to a rocky slope not 100m distant where moments before he had seen a bear. I’d mostly put them out of my mind since central California, but I shouldn’t forget they are out here too.

Lesson for the day: If you’re going to share a room with an old guy. Don’t. They snore loudly and get up to pee a lot. This is especially bad if he snagged the top bunk and insists on falling down each time rather than using the ladder.

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2007-09-02 The Knife Edge

Sunday, September 2nd, 2007

“We’re going to shake things up a bit” Angelhair announced. Instead of the standard 25 they were going for 29 which meant reaching the other side of ‘The Knife Edge’ in Goat Rocks Wilderness. Every day now involves a lot of climbing and a lot of descending so I figured now was ok to push it a bit. The morning was easy and I stumbled along as normal until I reached the climb when I got a strange rush and charged up to the ridge faster than I expected, passing a group of boy scouts on the way.

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After lunch with the Noodleheads we ran into two southbounders who had a tiny bottle of some strawberry cream liqueur which I am now carrying as my celebratory drink at the border, just three weeks away.
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Onwards and upwards we climbed. Leaving the forest behind we came into a new landscape of soaring jagged peaks and a formation that looked like the basalt columns of Devil’s Postpile and the Giants Causeway. These ones were well above the trail as we approached Cispus Pass and tilted so we could see the tops. I could feel vertigo setting in as I looked up at the tops of the rocks that usually I’d look down to.
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The Cispus basin was gorgeous. Green all around and streams turning to waterfalls as they crossed the trail. Time was ticking on and we didn’t reach the official high point for the day until 6pm. With clouds blowing in and the sun lost behind them we took the precarious path above the Packwood Glacier. The soft gravel was sliding away in places and no-one would ever be able to take their horses over this part.

The Knife Edge is a pretty good name for the crazy ridge that took us north through the evening. Just one mountain goat was grazing up there. On what I don’t know because all I saw was talus and snow (thankfully not on the trail). It was getting darker and I think Angelhair was worried about our location. We all were a bit, but we carried on, no-one complained and we made it to the flat on the other end for a cold but dry camp. A good day to have friends like the Noodleheads.
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More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Cascade Locks to White Pass

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2007-08-27 Ori-gone

Monday, August 27th, 2007

How quickly things can go wrong and ruin a day. One false move and it’s all shot. I made three bad moves this morning.

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The precarious trail down Eagle Creek

The Noodleheads and I walked most of the way down to Cascade Locks together. The Eagle Creek trail is through dense forest but has the interesting creek as scenery. The general setting reminded me of the Waitakere ranges west of Auckland, the creek bed especially. Casually flowing over mossy rocks and downed trees one moment, then plunging down deep chasms and waterfalls the next. At such times the trail was hewn straight into the cliff face. A metal rope was attached to the side for the agrophobic amongst us. The highlight of the this trail, and the reason I was prepared to divert form the official PCT was Tunnel Falls where the path goes into the cliff wall behind the waterfall. It was definitely worth the trip.
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Tunnel Falls

I went on ahead when the others needed a break and that’s when things went awry. I was supposed to find Gorge Trail 400 at the “far end of the parking lot”, but all I could see was a paved road going up hill (which was the right way apparently) so I carried on down towards the highway and found the start of the cycle path that intersects with GT400 later and went that way.

I rushed along there, still eager to reach town and get an ice-cream, until I saw the side trail to return to the PCT. Though Yogi’s book said the bike path was easier I thought I should approach town the official way so took the side trail. Mistake #2. It was up hill. A lot of it, and by the cobwebs I now know not many take this path. I raced along this stretch too, dreaming of milkshakes and cookies. A good 20 mins later I came to an intersection. Dirt road running perpendicular to the trail. On the opposite corner a sign pointed to the sky to “PCT South” and pointed left to “PCT North” From the angle of the sign I thought skyward meant up the dirt road so I took the path straight ahead of me. Mistake #3. I charged along it, now longing for just for a place to sit. I’m very glad I talked with the first day hikers I saw because they questioned my route and managed to convince me I was now south-bound. Grrrr. I ran back to the sign, nearly a mile I’d say, and stomped down the dirt road into Cascade Locks thus ending Oregon.

In town I picked up boxes and mail. One letter had been diverted from Echo Lake two months ago, so I can see what Bex was thinking waaaaay back then. The boxes brought me new shoes and socks. My current Montrail Continental Divides have done 1,000 miles. I’m quite impressed that they lasted so long and hope this new pair do too. I also got a new tent (and homemade chocolate brownies!) to borrow from Blue Sky. I got through Oregon only using mine once, but Washington is only going to be wetter.
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1000 miles of wear and tear

Now I’m at Riddle’s house though she isn’t. Stretch is her cousin and the Noodleheads passed on her phone number so I’m warm and comfortable and resting well for the final push. Just 500 miles and suddenly I’ll be going home for real. I dreamt of home last night. I was there and happy but then realised I hadn’t finished the trail. I panicked. How could I go home unfinished? I had to get back there, I needed to reach Canada. I do and I will. Just four weeks.

Quote of the day: “You look like you’ve been hiking for days” – a day hiker heading up to Tunnel Falls. If only she knew.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Little Crater Lake to Cascade Locks

Google Maps

2007-08-23 I can see WA from here

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

From today’s high point, a tough 2,700ft above last night’s camp, I could see Mount St. Helens in Washington. Also in view were Mount Adams, Mount Hood and behind us was Mount Jefferson.

The first thing we had to do was cross Milk Creek. The water itself was easy to get across but after a major washout last year the tricky bit is getting down to the edge. The bank now consists of a 15ft slope of loose grit and rock but taken slowly it was passable.

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Milk Creek

Before the final push to that viewful crest the trail crossed a plateau that reminded me of the high sierras with the little tarns, paths worn down through soft soil and granite lumps protruding.

At the top I took the time to make a snow-cone. I used a cut-up Gatorade bottle as the scoop and Emergen-C as the flavouring and it was good. So good Rigatoni even made one too, which was fair since he gave me the idea way back at the 1/3 mark.

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The snow cone and friends

The descent to Olallie Lake went pretty quickly as I wondered hard about what was in the mystery resupply box, courtesy of BlueSky’s mum, that awaited me there. I was not disappointed. The big pasta meals, complete with oil in a sealed packet, the bars and dried fruit selections. I’m thinking I might even gain weight on this section :-)

Lucky Joe wasn’t so lucky this time. I asked at the store and his package hadn’t arrived so I’ve left him Blue Sky’s portion of the food and hope that will see him through.
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This used to say PCT but someone thought that was too useful

For the second night running Angelhair has said how much those two enjoy hiking with me, and tonight she said it would be nice to reach the end together. They’re a cool couple and I’d like that but it’s still 600 miles away and all sorts of stuff can change our plans in that time.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Bend to Little Crater Lake

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2007-08-20 Cloudy times

Monday, August 20th, 2007

At 5:30 this morning it was still pitch black. Autumn is well underway and it makes me want to get north as soon as possible. Tradja drove us to the Elk Lake trail head and we began ascending into the clouds. The ground was damp which made for good walking but soon it began to drizzle and it hasn’t let up all day. When I stopped to put on my borrowed jacket Lucky Joe, Samurai Joe and Two Dogs caught up and for a while there we were in a convoy of seven hikers. After a little while those three, who have been on trail in the rain for the last few days, went on ahead. Moving fast to keep warm.

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Rumble, Tradja, Rigatoni, Angelhair and Heaps

At Rigatoni’s request I came up with a suitable word to convert WIRD to Weather Induced Extra Rest Day. A WIERD. I also came up with a team name. Heaps of Rumbling Noodles a.k.a. Team Horn.

The rain wasn’t as cold as it could have been. We passed some small snow patches but I didn’t put on my gloves until the afternoon.


We started crossing lava fields and with the constant grey mist, basalt rubble and green lichen it felt very much like the Tongariro Crossing. We spent a while debating one un-signed junction, even to the point of going the right way, going back and trying the wrong way, then setting off on the right way again. Not a great thing to do when poor Angelhair was getting dangerously cold. She only said it once but I could see her shivering and it getting worse. I admire her for not losing it and giving up. Anyone who has come this far has to be a pretty determined sort of person so I wasn’t surprised really.
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Great weather for ducks

Now I’m in my tent again. I haven’t put up the inside this time. Using the cord I prepared back home I set up the poles and dropped the outer cover over the top. It gives me more room to maneuver inside, though still not much and there is no proper floor. It’s a bit colder than the full set up, but I trust my sleeping bag.

We’ve all got our fingers crossed for sun tomorrow.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Bend to Little Crater Lake

Google Maps

2007-08-14 Great Scott!

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

Just before hitting the PCT’s highest point in Oregon and Washington I saw a guy walking towards me. In short shorts, a casual t-shirt and with a pack so small I couldn’t see it behind him I assumed he was a day hiker. As he got closer I recognised the tall lanky fellow as none other than Scott Williamson, the only guy ever to yo-yo the PCT (Mexico-Canada-Mexico in one year). He stopped and talked for a little while and I took a photo so I can document someone crazier than me :-)

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Scott Williamson

See Hiker Completes First Round-Trip of Pacific Crest Trail

The high point was an easy stroll compared to California’s 13,500ft Forester Pass but at 7,500ft there is still plenty of room for undulation between here and the border. Not much later I finally caught Angelhair and Rigatoni, last seen in South Lake Tahoe some 700+ miles ago. I was glad for the company and walked and talked with them for most of the day. I really wish I’d done the same with BlueSky, maybe she’d have stayed longer. They were both sporting the super-light hiking poles from Gossamer Gear. I had a go for a while and it felt like I was just swinging my arms, switching back to mine and I was lifting weights! It’s too late in the game to be worth $110 though.

At lunch I took another stab at making instant pudding, this time with fresh spring water and more milk powder. It worked wonderfully and I ate the lot.

Scott, Angelhair and Rigatoni do not treat or filter their water. I’d like to be that carefree and save the weight of the equipment, but two of those three have gotten sick and I don’t want a week off puking my guts out.

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Noodleheads, Rigatoni and Angelhair

We parted ways at Windigo Pass. The Noodleheads taking the alternate route that is 7 miles shorter, flatter and passes more lakes. I’d like to have done so too but since I’m logging the trail I feel I need to be on the official path as much as I can.

Quotes of the day:
“You know you’re a thru-hiker when someone writes “wash me” in the dirt on your legs” ~Angelhair
“I’ve got a king-sized Snickers in the queue” ~Rigatoni (actually talking about snacks, I thought he was meaning something else)

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Mt Thielsen to Bend

Google Maps