Day 101: Goat rocks day

August 3
Mileage 27.5
Mile 2267.5 to mile 2295

I have a dream that I’m camping under a giant tarp and it’s raining, and the rain is coming in sideways, and I’m running back and forth looking for a dry place to sleep but every time I lay down rats come out of the ground and bite me. And I don’t have any clothes, just a towel.

Thru-hiking anxiety dreams- I’ve been having them a lot lately. I feel like these last few weeks I’ve been a nonstop ball of anxiety- anxiety and a sort of loneliness. I’ve been missing the intimacy of the trail last year, the bond I had with Spark and Insitgate. The way we looked out for each other, left notes for each other, planned our days together. How hard we could make each other laugh. I never made close friends on the trail this year, I’ve just been in a big group the whole time. And lately it’s been making me feel lonely, sort of gutted. Lately I’ve wanted someone to talk to on breaks, someone to wait for, someone who will wait for me. A friend. I feel adrift and alone. And anxious. I can’t shake this bad feeling- that I’ve done something wrong, that I’ve failed somehow. I feel disappointed and sad.

So that’s my morning. Sitting in my tent, rubbing the bad dream from my eyes. Here I am, on the PCT. Again. Only a few weeks left, for better or worse.

We all set out from camp within ten minutes of each other but there’s a long climb and I’m always the slowest on the climbs, so I fall behind. I keep getting to break spots right after everyone has left, and after awhile I just accept that I’ll be walking alone today over Goat Rocks, one of the most beautiful parts of the trail. Last year it was overcast when I was here and I hiked it with Instigate and Raho and we were laughing, happy. Weren’t we? I think we were.

The most epic climbing we’ve done in a while, up out of the forest into alpine meadows bright with wildflowers, so beautiful I want to cry. I see a big black bear- it runs away from me on the trail and then sits in the woods, watching me pass. I look at it and it looks at me. The day is hot, and muggy, and every so often there is a clap of thunder on the horizon. But the sky is clear, save for a haze of smoke from the wildfires, and Mt. Adams sits on the horizon like a god. I climb and climb and climb, feeling more exposed in the sun than I have in a long time. I pass dozens of day hikers, all happy and smiling in this bright, flower-filled paradise. At 1 pm I still haven’t caught the others so I stop to eat lunch, in a lush meadow that looks out at Mt. Adams. It’s peaceful here, and I think about how few times on this trip I’ve just sat like this, in a beautiful place, and enjoyed it. I’m always rushing, rushing, rushing, just trying to keep up. We’re all rushing, trying to keep up- with what?

This trail will be over so soon.

After lunch I’m ready to not be by myself anymore so I book it, hiking as fast as I can. I’m near the top when a man on a horse appears on the snow- he’s handsome and rail thin, with white hair and a gigham shirt, and he’s wearing a giant cowboy hat.

“Are you a thru-hiker?” He says.

“Yeah,” I say.

“I have a snickers for you,” says the man. He reaches into his saddlebag and tosses me a candy bar.

“Thank you!” I say.

I don’t see anyone at the top, I don’t see anyone on the long snow traverse. My heart sinks. I thought they’d all be taking a lunch break somewhere, enjoying the view? I tried as hard as I could to keep up today, but everyone apparently felt like booking it and I fucking failed failed failed. Just one friend, I think. I just wish I had one fucking friend who wanted to hike the way I do.

The trail is almost over.

I think about this as I traverse the knife edge, a narrow trail that goes along the spine of the mountain. Rainer rises up in the distance, looking hazy and magical. Part of me feels sad and tired and defeated, and that part of me is ready for the trail to be over. But another part of me thinks that Washington can be salvaged… somehow. I just don’t know how.

I can see the trail ahead for miles as I traverse the knife edge, and there’s no-one on it. What the fuck? Where are they? I’m dehydrated and I book it down the mountain, finally get to a stream tumbling out of a snowfield.

There’s a hiker there- he says he thru-hiked last year and came back again this year to cherry pick a few sections. I never met him, but he hiked around a bunch of people that I did. We walk down the mountain together- company at last!

We happen upon a group of day hikers taking a break. I ask them if they’ve seen any of my group.

“Haven’t seen them,” they say.

“How long have you been here?”

“Two hours.”

Then it hits me- somehow they’re behind me. Jesus christ, this shit gives me anxiety. My new hiker friend convinces me to stop and have a late lunch with him and I anxiously eat potato chips while he boils coffee and heats water for chicken curry. Even knowing that they’re behind me, it’s hard to sit still. What if they’re not? I wish I could turn off my brain.

We’re packing up to hike on when Woody comes clacking down the hill.

“What?” He says. “Where were you?”

It turns out that I didn’t take the PCT over the very top of the mountain, I accidentaly took the stock alternate.

Hence the man on the horse.

The three of us hike 3 more miles to an off-trail spring, where people had planned to camp for the night. It’s another long climb, and just before we get there it starts hailing- big pieces of hail. We book it down to the spring and set up our shelters in the rain. The rain peters out, and Guthrie appears- of course he has no idea where anyone else is.

Oh well. We’ll all be at White Pass in the morning.

Photos on instagram.

22 thoughts on “Day 101: Goat rocks day

  1. Hi Carrot, Hang in there! I am a solo sailor and learned a bit about community in my travels. We are all social beings and need companionship. However, as the community grows, the intimacy declines. That’s when it splinters to satisfying levels of intimacy again. Maybe time to splinter?

  2. Yes, hang in there Carrot. There is definitely a different tone to your PCT experience this year. As an observer to your adventure I would say the lessons are there as much as last year but they aren’t going to be the same. Marta gives some great advice. Know there are many out here pulling for you and pausing during the day to wonder how you’re doing. You’ve inspired my 9-year-old son who now wants to hike the trail when he’s a teenager. We currently have a tent set up in the backyard so he can “practice.” Take care!!!

  3. Hi Carrot – what a bummer. I can tell by the tone of your last few posts that something within the dynamic of the group has changed. I too really look forward to your posts. I read them to my husband every night. It’s become our ritual! We want nothing but the best for you,which includes you enjoying the rest of your time on the trail this year. I hope you can work it out and find happiness and enjoyment in the rest of your journey.

  4. I often feel most alone in a group. Always on the outside looking in. Singular, even after 33 years of being happily married and raising 3 kids. For me I think the condition is just who I am. It is my perspective, my feeling and maybe not even the full truth. A good friend I have, who is a writer, says it is an artist’s temperament. I never think of myself as an artist though. You however, really seem like one. Your writing resonates like ripples on a pool; the longer I linger over them the bigger the ripples get. I say, embrace your aloneness! You are singular. You are amazing. You have worth and it is enough. Tj

  5. I hope it gets better for you! Maybe say something to the people you are closer to? Your blogs are amazing! On the bright side you in a group instead of being alone the entire time. Maybe others feel the same as you…

  6. Hello young lady, my name is Chuck, and I have been following your blog since the beginning! You are an amazing young woman who is completing a feat that only a handful of people on the planet do each year…there are 325k people in this country and you are part of an elite group that is almost done with their second attempt on this trail! You are Superwoman in our eyes! You have so much to be proud of! I have read through your other blogs and stories, you are an amazing writer! I am retired from my career job and teach at a local college, and I have shared your blog with countless students about the famous Carrot Quinn and trail adventures…you have inspired my students to live their dreams…and you didn’t even know that!! I am telling you this to encourage you because you have been in a slight funk lately…keep on Keeping On…you’re are Hero! Regards Chuck

  7. Carrot, there are so many things I want to say to you with respect to this post, but I came across something today that I think embodies at least some of what I want to get across to you and it is this:

    Why rush through paradise?

  8. Hi Carrot. All this has really touched me. It reminds me that life is wonderful and joyous and lonely and sad. All beautiful. All human. Thank you for writing about it…

  9. Hey, Carrot, I’m a fellow female hiker who is planning on doing the PCT solo next year.

    I, too, have noticed how quickly you’ve been taking the trail this year, in an attempt to keep up with your group. I wanted to give you my encouragement to take your time– the PCT isn’t a goddamn race, dude. If your friends want to push their limits to finish as quickly as possible, wish them luck. I bet you anything, there are people traveling closer to your desired pace just a day or so behind you. Don’t rush it! Take your time. Enjoy it. You should be soul searching, not fighting to keep up. I’m living vicariously through you, lady, and extending all my love!

  10. HYOH! Hike your own hike. Words to live by. The trail is ultimately just a path within The path we all walk. Does it really have a beginning and an end? It is when we start to bend to others and to ourselves that we lose our own path and our hike gets distorted and stressful. If we are running after a friend or friends or to get here or there before this or then, following this agenda or that fear, where is the Hike?

    It is so easy for our minds to come up with shortcuts. “I wish I was on the Trail anywhere but here at home/work/wherever”. But when we are on the Trail we wish we were back home with our comforts. You touched upon this the other day. This is just our mind trying to make us happy. The mind is both a very powerful and profound tool but it is also very simple at times. So many ideas and agendas and instincts and cravings and fears and hopes and emotions and thoughts and so on and on and on and on going on at the same time. It is when we learn to disentangle and disengage from the workings of the restless mind that we learn to be truly present and can really be one with our hike whereever we are.

    A Zen master (Thich Nhat Hahn) put it this way: “Our true home is the present moment. If we really live in the moment, our worries and hardships will disappear and we will discover life with all its miracles”

    That is the true hike, the miraculous path of our lives, and isn’t the PCT both a beautiful example and metaphor of this hike? Hike your own hike. Both in life and on the trail. If one is out of balance, meaning you are not truly present in one of them, then both quickly can become a struggle.

    “Yesterday is already gone. Tomorrow is not yet here. Today is the only day available to us; it is the most important day of our lives.” (Thich Nhat Hahn) (I am quoting him because he can put it succinctly, I tend to be longwinded >_<)

  11. Dearest Carrot,

    I hope you don’t mind my responding to your posts. It makes me sad that you are feeling lonely, that what should be joyous for you is fraught with a sense of failure and anxiety. I’ve been following your hike, and have formed some thoughts around why you are feeling the way you are. Please forgive me, but I feel compelled to share what I think.

    I watched you set yourself up to feel the way you are feeling. There were over 1,000 hikers on the trail this year, hiking all kinds of speeds. But you immediately latched onto the most badass group that is doing miles for the sake of doing miles, pushing hard past some of the most wondrous places on earth. That was an interesting choice. It’s no wonder that now, with the finish in sight, you are asking yourself, “what is the hurry?” From here in the bleachers, it has seemed like such hard work to try to keep up with this group, and your posts reflect ongoing anxiety about where you are in relation to them. Your race to keep up with others made me sad for you, because you have missed experiencing enjoyment in hanging out with the most interesting person on the trail this year: YOU. As I see it, YOU were the person to keep up with this year. Because you didn’t see that or feel that way, and began to affirm your journey as lonely within yourself, the Law of Attraction guaranteed that you would find yourself alone and lonely out there.

    You are such a wonderful, exquisitely beautiful soul. But you seem to measure yourself by some other yardstick. You keep looking for what you’re after in an identity with other people, when the only place you will find it is within yourself. When you feel at ease with yourself, you can let go of the compulsion to keep up with someone else’s journey. There is no need for you to seek validation in the company of others. Content within yourself, you can let go of the need to identify with a group or individuals. This opens the door to truly experience the beauty around you, and the serendipitous happenings of a long adventure. It becomes your special journey, at your own pace with your own set of encounters. I speak from my own experience that it is entirely possible to be alone and not feel lonely, to be comfortable within your own skin.

    No matter who you’re hiking with, the trail provides a most unique opportunity to be inside your own head for long periods of time. Your writing reflected that you rarely allowed yourself gratitude for the moments in the here and now, and seemed to concentrate on some goal you had to race to, that catching up with others was the goal. Only in their company did you find moments of joy. Until you make friends with the person inside of Carrot’s head, you will never find contentment anywhere. Look yourself in the mirror and tell yourself how wonderful you are. Tell yourself about all of the good qualities you have, how much you have accomplished in so many ways (such as your writing, two thru-hikes, and the amazing life you’ve led). I’m serious that you need to do this, and keep doing it.

    A long hike is a journey, a journey into YOU. Life itself is a long journey toward understanding yourself and your place in the universe. The long journey is a lot more pleasant if you love and enjoy your Self. It allows you to feel joy and gratitude for each moment and place you find yourself in.

    And now that I’ve said all this, I must add that you are exactly where you are supposed to be. This is your time to learn this lesson. Have no regrets for yesterday’s choices, for they are what led you to be where you are. And where you are (no matter where that is) is all that really matters. Savor the bitter-sweetness of life, and rejoice on the mountaintops.

    Much love. Namaste


  12. There are a lot of us drafting behind you and feeling everything that you write. That alone says you are an excellent writer. I wanted to share an excerpt from Glitter’s blog who is in Northern California as he feels similar to you. “Like the others, they walk out of camp to hike a few more miles. I sit in my tent thinking about what just happened. Do I really like being alone as much as I made it sound? No. Maybe part of the reason that going home is so attractive is that I feel like I’m lacking real community out here. I’ve met lots of wonderful people, but I still feel very alone.”

  13. Beautiful observations, thoughts, reflections, offerings posted here. Carrot Quinn, I have SO enjoyed reading your words and spending time with you on the trail through your words and photos. Thank you for sharing your feelings, your pics, your stories. Sometimes I struggle with feelings because I want them to be more straightforward but what I find to be both true and also confusing is that we can feel so many seemingly contradictory and clashing feelings all at once – and that seems to be where you are now. We want to be alone and slow down at the same time that we want to feel connected (or to have the ‘idea’ of connectedness ) and to ‘keep pace’… you are doing it your own way, and the way you choose to do it THIS time will be THIS experience … I see your journey (potentially) continuing with you hiking after this year and re-visiting some of your favorite sections again, going very slowly and writing about your experiences at that ‘other’ pace / approach…. thanks again ! You are not alone on the trail!!!!!!!

    • I think blast away. Why the hell not? There are other times and other trails and it seems like they’ve all been mostly having a good time being young and fast.

  14. Carrot,
    You are so loved and admired by so many, including me! I’m way behind you (ha I did pass you at deep creek hot springs!) now as I had to stop and recover from an injury. What you are feeling, and dreaming is normal. I had dreams like that for years after the CDT. And feelings if doubt and fatigue. They will pass. You are so very blessed with youth and strength, please think for a moment and realize that we are all “alone” in our life’s journey, but we are never really apart. You belong to a very special tribe, those who love the trails. There is so much love for you out here, and when you start valuing and loving yourself, that perfect “someone who hikes like I do” will indeed appear.

  15. I’m pretty sure the cowboy on the horse is my backpacking friend’s brother, Mike. Knowing he was southbound on horseback, I have been watching to see if you might encounter him!

    Stay strong, trust God.

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