Month: August 2017

Cutting My Losses

(This blog entry is from my Patreon blog, where you can see my PCT blog entries before anywhere else, as well as support me financially on this grand adventure. Along with early blog posts, Patreon backers also receive access to trail comics, drawings, and videos.)

 


Things were a little wild for the last two weeks, and
in case you missed it, I got back on the PCT, if even for a brief period of time.
I was able to hike another 100 miles of the trail, spend time in the woods with my husband, and meet up with people I hadn’t seen since the desert portion. My return coincided with the PCTA Trail Days event in Cascade Locks, where many hikers decided to skip large areas in order to attend.

Here I saw old friends like fellow hikers Asiago, After Burners, and Giggs, meet the friends Evan had made in my absence: Totes, Optimistic Turtle, and Brown, and be reunited with the trail family I left behind in Medford: Boxes & Dory.
 
Look at all these weirdos.

I broke my own personal hiking record twice in this stretch; my previous being 23.5 miles in a day. I did a 25-mile day and a 28.5-mile day, then I did three 20-mile days, which were far more than my previous average. Towards the end of my stretch–although my muscles and joints ached–I had begun to feel very strong. I had reached a level of fitness where I could quickly hike up a steep hill for miles while wearing a heavy pack and not stop once for a break. Two evenings in a row I pulled 4 mph to get to camp by 6.

And yet, the powers that be decided it wasn’t my time to be there. Within a few days of being out there the rash that put me off trail in Medford reared its ugly head again. I’ve realized now that it has nothing to do with latex, adhesive, or anything like that. It’s a heat rash, it has to be. My feet get so stupidly hot when I hike I could probably cook eggs on them, and the backs of my ankles receive a lot of abuse when I walk. So it’s only logical that those pores would become blocked and create a blistered rash. I was very careful while tending them this time around and I avoided infection, but Evan and I made the decision when we reached Trout Lake that I should stop while I’m ahead and save the trail for another year.

Northern Oregon and Washington are SO PRETTY

It was, apparently, also Evan’s time to stop hiking as well. His reasons are his own, but it came to the point that he wasn’t enjoying himself anymore and even reaching Canada wasn’t worth it at this point.

Oh, and our bank account also demanded us to stop. So there’s that.

And there it is. The actual end to our hike has happened. We’re currently situated in the Seattle-area in the care of a friend, trying to figure out our next steps. I hope to start pulling in commissions, find a seasonal job, and maybe move to Portland this winter if an opportunity pans out for me.

I did manage to get some drawings done in that 100 miles, so patrons can expect those shortly!

Otherwise, expect comics, drawings, and my general presence in the future!

Anyone have any Seattle recommendations for a nature and comics nerd like me? That’s bus accessible please, losers like me don’t know how to drive.

To Continue Press Start

It’s time.

 

It’s time to finish what I’ve started.

Time to put my money where my mouth is

And time to put one foot in front of the other and make my way to Canada.

Two weeks ago I was under the impression my backpacking was over for the year, that the extent of my future hike were limited to day hikes in city parks. I set my gear aside, gave away my leftover food, and dedicated my time to my art to fill the hole that had been punched into my chest. When I felt like I was suffocating I buried myself in video games. When I felt restless, I distracted myself with movies. When I felt useless, I cleaned house. My rough plan for the near future was to be productive enough so I wouldn’t feel like I was wasting my time.

But here I am, 14 days later, on a shuttle to Mt. Hood with Evan, after scrambling to arrange resupply stops in Washington in just 24 hours. It’s time to continue this adventure. I will touch that monument on the border whether my body likes it or not. I can do this. I WILL do this.

And when I’m done, I’m going to Rose City Comic Con to get hella inspired by other cartoonists and creators, and start working on the Big Project. This has been one hell of a ride and I look forward to putting it down on paper.

My desire to create a comic about this experience is not so much so I can tell others it, but so that later down the line I can prove to myself that this did indeed happen. Looking back it feels like I crafted it all in a daydream and tricked my brain into thinking they’re memories. I want to hold onto these memories tightly and remember them fondly, because they deserve it.

This is a life changing experience, so I must ensure that it’s documented in a personal manner, and there’s no better way to do that than with a comic.

Here I go, returning to the Pacific Crest Trail, because starships were meant to fly, hands up and touch the sky; can’t stop cause we’re so high…

 

Let’s do this one last time.

 

(Credit to Nikki Minaj; Starships)

 

Coming to a Close + Where I’m Going From Here

(This blog entry is from my Patreon blog, where you can see my PCT blog entries before anywhere else, as well as support me financially on this grand adventure. Along with early blog posts, Patreon backers also receive access to trail comics, drawings, and videos.)

Seeing as most of you readers are actual human beings (I hope?), living the lives of actual human beings (I’m not so sure about that one), you have all faced failure at some point in your life (or are you a statistical anomaly?). Failed math test, failed date, or failed to meet someone’s expectations of you. Call it disappointment, defeat, or losing. Whatever. It sucks. What sucks more is when you planned your thing for a long time, anticipated grand results, only to be shut down halfway through.

I started planning this thru hike over a year ago. Those who know me personally probably remember me babbling non-stop about the trail, backpacking, and the wilderness in general. I knew it was going to be hard, and I thought I prepared myself well enough for the challenges I would face, but they were unlike anything I had experienced in my life, and they shook me to the core.

From heat exhaustion to elevation sickness, to the common cold threatening to fry my brain like an egg. All of my problems thus far were internal and could be fixed with TLC and some R&R. By the time I escaped the desert and ventured into the wilds of Northern California, I thought I was invincible. Everything that tried to kill me was back in the desert, and there was no way I’d have to deal with them again up here in the cool shade of giant sequoia trees, and lower elevation climbs.

But it turns out I’m not invincible. I have a fragile fleshy shell, and it needs delicate care to keep it in tip top condition. I truly am envious of people (like my husband) who *are* nearly invincible. It took him 700 miles to feel any real pain from hiking. It must be nice.

Sometime around Seiad Valley, my shoes started rubbing the backs of my ankles. I did what I always do and slapped some tape over the hot-spot to prevent blisters from forming, and kept hiking. No big deal. But it was a big deal. My hot, sweaty feet caused a reaction to the latex, and then specifically the adhesive on the tape. By the time we reached Ashland, in Oregon, the backs of my heels were covered in small, leaking blisters. I still hadn’t made the connection and assumed the tape didn’t work and my shoes rubbed me a blister anyway.

Resting up in Medford, OR.

Evan and I got a motel room for our wedding anniversary coming up, and I planned to wear sandals for the next few days to let my feet heal. I also did what I always did with painful blisters: I drained them. And I forgot to clean my tools beforehand.

What started as a simple allergic reaction burst into a raging infected rash that resulted in two trips to an urgent care facility, two types of antibiotics, heavy duty antibacterial cream reserved for burn victims, four boxes of gauze pads, and my feet being wrapped up like I had broken both ankles. Oh, and did I mention it was all super itchy? Although I was now allowed to use the motor carts at grocery stores (vroom vroom!), it also resulted in a decision. I probably have a long healing period in front of me before I can even put on socks and shoes. My antibiotics make me sensitive to the sun (read: rashes), and we only have so much money and so much time.

I’ve decided to get off the trail and stop my PCT thru hike.

But I’m not quitting. I am not a quitter. I hiked over 800 miles, something most people barely dream of. I know people whose goals are to hike *one* mile. What I’ve done is extraordinary, and what I experienced I will never forget. I may not have finished the PCT, or even half of it, but holy cow man. Eight. Hundred. Miles. That’s more than Texas is long. I walked across Texas, y’all. TEXAS IS A HUGE STATE.

I am reminding myself daily that I did not ‘fail’ my thru hike. I did not lose, and god forbid I did not disappoint anyone. I am putting my health before my ego and taking a break. The trail will still be there; the mountains aren’t going anywhere.

On the flip side, I’ll still be able to hike vicariously through my friends still on trial, and through Evan. Yes, my husband has decided to keep hiking. He deserves to make it to Canada. He worked so hard for this, and I don’t want to be the one who holds him back. This was all his idea anyway. I’ll be supporting and cheering him on from the sidelines, while also dealing with his resupply as he hikes through the most remote parts of the PCT.

======

So, I wrote that post shortly after deciding to get off the trail, and it feels like a lot has changed in the two weeks since.

I’m settling in well in a friend’s place near Seattle, soaking in as much affection as I can from my cats. My feet are healing nicely and as a side effect of my not walking 20-ish miles a day I have a layer of callous several millimeters thick peeling off my heels. Honestly I’ve become kind of a couch potato during my break. But I’m not complaining! I’ve been working on art and planning my next steps. Do I stay here for the next month or so while Evan continues to hike? Do I get a job?

Or do I get back out there as soon as I can and take advantage of this amazing opportunity I’ve afforded myself?

If you guessed the latter, you are correct.

As much as I missed having a ‘home’, my cats, my computer, and the ability to draw whatever I want whenever I want… I miss the trail so much. I miss my husband, my friends, and the clear sense of purpose every day provided me. You never know what you have until you’ve lost it… and I didn’t appreciate the freedom and clarity backpacking gave. Stepping back from the trail and observing it from afar I’ve had a moment to consider everything I loved about it.

Believe it or not, it’s actually difficult for me to write romantically about things I’m currently experiencing. This is probably why for the most part I’ve only written about my pain and frustrations on the trail. I haven’t had a lot of time or mental space to have romantic thoughts about the trail; pain tends to take that luxury away from you.

I wrote that just three weeks into my thru hike, when things were taking a downward turn for me. I was sick with who knows what, and I was honestly questioning why I was doing the PCT. Why was I making myself suffer so much? What kind of perspective could this adventure possibly supply me?

Honestly, it took me until I was three weeks off trail to realize the lessons I’ve learned so far.

I’ve learned to be more empathic; seeing and understanding situations from the perspective of those around me.

I’ve learned to limit how much I complain about things that the entire team is suffering from; just shut up.

But I’ve also learned that if I am suffering, it’s okay to sit down and take a break; but be reasonable and don’t be lazy.

I’ve learned that even the strongest people have their problems; which can take your understanding of a person to a whole new level.

I’ve learned that while I often yearn for a solitary life, I don’t know how to function without my husband; my partner-in-crime, my cheerleader, my best friend.

And finally, I’ve learned it hurts no-one to open up and talk about the demons that plague you, but it leaves deep wounds to keep them caged.

So, it’s been decided that I am definitely getting back on the PCT! When Evan reaches Portland in two weeks, I’ll bus down there and we’ll continue our grand adventure from there.

I can’t wait.

My adventure didn’t end, I just took a break.

Drawings and Doodles from June and July! Part II

Hello readers!

It’s time for the monthly art dump for you all to enjoy. These are drawings I did on trail/in town in June and July. Sorry for the delay in sharing these, things have been rough! I’ve separated this into two parts since it’s so image heavy.

You can see these sooner on my Patreon while also supporting me on my hike. Think of it as my gift to you for being so loving and generous. If you pledge $4 or more, you get a high-quality PDF of all my trail sketches– scanned and cleaned up!

 

 

Drawings and Doodles from June and July! Part I

Hello readers!

It’s time for the monthly art dump for you all to enjoy. These are drawings I did on trail/in town in June and July. Sorry for the delay in sharing these, things have been rough! I’ve separated this into two parts since it’s so image heavy.

You can see these sooner on my Patreon while also supporting me on my hike. Think of it as my gift to you for being so loving and generous. If you pledge $4 or more, you get a high-quality PDF of all my trail sketches– scanned and cleaned up!