A Car Called Trail Magic

My good little Subaru Outback has now made the trip from Leavenworth to Skykomish and back four times, as I play the part of Trail Angel for my friends coming through Steven’s Pass right now.

Trail Magic is the gift that just keeps on giving. 

I’m fairly certain I need to replace the spark plugs, and driving up the steeply graded road to Steven’s Pass leads to some misfires if I don’t keep my RPMs in the exact right place, but I think I’ve mastered the drive at this point: no misfires at all on the last run. 
“Shoutout to you for having a car McGuyver!”

So said my friend Trail Quail yesterday afternoon. She got super lucky because I’d just driven our friend LOL from Leavenworth back up to Steven’s Pass and happened to be at the trailhead right when she rolled off trail. She had a package to pickup down in Skykomish (as did I), so we drove down there, and after looking around the town briefly she realized that really she’d rather be in Leavenworth, so off we rolled on an impromptu road trip.

Above: Trail Quail and McGuyver (me) at some live music at the Yodelin in Leavenworth, Washington

I didn’t expect to sleep in Leavenworth last night, (or the night before) but I have to admit I’ve enjoyed sharing hotel rooms with my friends. Last night with Quail felt just like a good ole fashioned sleepover, complete with laying in bed talking far too late into the night.

Keep the Magic Flowing

Here’s where I give a shoutout to all my patrons! Right now my car Trail Magic is the roof over my head and my way of paying forward all the amazing acts of kindness that kept me on the trail as long as I was. I consider my $80/month insurance payment to be my rent for now, and it’s thanks to everyone supporting me at Patreon.com/Gracetopher that I know for sure that is paid.

Thank you so much to every single person who’s helped me make it this far.

On to Canada

I’m not getting to Manning Park, British Columbia in the same way that I pictured, but I’m getting there nonetheless. And that is only thanks to Trail Magic, the kindness and generosity of many, and a good deal of luck. I’m so grateful to everyone and everything that’s helped me make it here.


Root Canal Day

I write you from the chair at the endodontist’s office where I will shortly be on the receiving end of a drill to the face. My mouth is already half numb. Once upon a time I still thought I’d be getting back on trail quickly enough, I was distraught to find I had not only my ankle but also a tooth to wait on. Now I know the ankle isn’t going to be ready to hike this year, so I guess I’m glad I’m getting the dental procedure taken care of before my insurance runs out.

Once I’m recovered from this, I’m taking off in a car I acquired this morning and heading to Washington to do trail magic.

English Teaching: the Logistics

So how does one go about teaching English in a foreign country? Well, like any job one would do in a foreign country, I will have to fill out some paperwork, get a visa etc. My German is not, and likely will not be good enough to easily figure that out on my own, but luckily I’ll have Enterprise to help me out.

English Teaching Specifics

There’s a certification to get called TEFL – Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Not every position strictly requires a TEFL. The one job I’ve looked closest at so far does not require the certification for example, though I’m sure my application would be a bit stronger if I do go through the official motions. The downside? Well first of all, there’s no one official recognized accreditation for those who teach TEFL certification classes, so I have to make sure I pick the right one. Other downside? The cost. A quick google search shows me many courses I could take if I had a thousand dollars or more to spend, which I don’t right this second.

Honestly I’m kind of tempted to skip the TEFL for now. I did study language pedagogy in college after all, and if I can get a job teaching English online here and now then I can brush up my skills and strengthen my CV without spending a bunch of money upfront that I might not necessarily even have to be spending.

I’ve  sent an email to the professor I studied applied linguistics with back in college, and I hope to sit down and talk through these plans with him. He was my advisor for all my language teaching internships back in college, so I trust his advice, plus I’m hoping he’ll be a reference for me. Bonus: he’s a German professor in addition to applied linguistics, so if a German company does contact him, he’ll be the one and only one of my references who can communicate with them in the German language.

New Challenges

The most difficult thing I’ve had to do all summer was to turn around and hike south to Tuolomne Meadows. It was painful of course, but that’s not what made it hard. Knowing when to turn back, that’s the challenge.

Knowing when to stay off trail has also proved a challenge. Once my ankle stopped hurting in town I thought I could handle the trail and hitched out of South Lake Tahoe, but it didn’t take long to realize that continuing to hike would not have been a smart choice. And so here we are over a month later and I’m still off trail and finally certain that I will not in fact make it to Canada this year. Time to pick some new challenges for myself.

I will finish the PCT next year, and after that I will move to Germany (tell you more about that one later). To accomplish both will require some hustle, but I know I can do it. At the moment I’m at my mom’s house and have started picking up freelancing work again. I know my grand overarching plans obviously, but I’m not yet clear on every single step that needs to be taken.

While I work on breaking down PCT and Germany goals into smaller bite-sized pieces, here’s one final important bite-sized goal: I am challenging myself to write here every day. I’m not promising fine artistic work, nor am I promising something as long as this post every day, but I’m going to write something. Maybe that’ll even end up helping with the other goals, who knows. If nothing else, there’s a certain sense of accountability that comes from being honest about what I’ve done to work towards Germany and towards finishing the PCT.

Dental “Emergencies”

If it’s not one thing it’s the other. My ankle’s finally more or less hikable (not 100% still, but I like to think I’d be able to hike on it…. geeze how long does a stupid sprained ankle take to heal???), but now apparently I need a root canal, and I need it Now. So at this point, I’ve been off trail all of July, and between the still recovering ankle, the dental procedure itself, the recovery time, PCT Days, and my family reunion, I’m afraid I won’t be getting much hiking done in August either. Which leads me to worry… am I going to even have the slightest shot of finishing this trail this year?

And if I don’t finish the PCT this year… what then? Try again next year I suppose, but will I feel like a thru-hiker if I just start from where I tripped and hike north? Or will I feel the need to start completely over? And what does that mean for my post-trail moving-to-Germany plans. (PS, have I mentioned? No, I haven’t, not here at least, but I’m moving to Germany once I’m done with this trail. More on that later).

My life feels so up in the air right now. I know I want to walk to Canada, and I know I’m going to Germany after that. Don’t know much else though. I guess I’ll figure it out.

The Luck Dragons: Luckle and Falcor the Dragon

“Any chance you guys are going north from here?” I asked as many people around the Lassen National Park Visitor’s Center as I could. The only people who seemed to be going the right way didn’t have room to give me a ride, so I made my way back to the road itself to stick out my thumb for a little while longer on my quest to get up to Mt. Shasta.

“You’re welcome to camp with us tonight, and we’ve got food and beer to share,” Chris told me from the window of his Subaru Station wagon. “We’re going to coast down to Chester tomorrow, but tonight we’re camping up here at site 19. You’re welcome to join us if it gets too late and you don’t get a ride, just look for the bright green tent.” Chris and Nikki had been among the many who couldn’t give me a ride because they were going the wrong way. In their case they were in fact so low on gas that trying to drive me farther north would have just stranded us all.

I thanked Chris for his offer and told myself I’d stay out there by the road for another hour and then head over to site 19 if I hadn’t found anything by then. Twenty minutes later I came to the conclusion that there was no chance of getting north and out of the park that night, and if I was going to camp in Lassen anyways I might as well stay with some cool peeps in an actual campsite where I could drink beer and eat hot food and have access to flush toilets (still a huge luxury even though I haven’t had to dig a cat-hole in 2 weeks now).

I felt so lucky to have met these cool new friends, and though the gas concerns seemed to indicate bad luck on their part, they’d already brought good luck to others that same day and been called the Luck Dragons. After eating enough of their food and drinking their beer, I officially bestowed upon them the title of trail angels and gave these luck dragons their own trail names – Nikki is now Falcor the Dragon (named after the Luck dragon from Neverending Story) and Chris is Luckle – taken from the saying “Luck’ll do.”

Back when Falcor was Nikki she studied Environmental Science in San Diego, while Luckle (known then as Chris) repaired air conditioners. Now that she has her Bachelors Degree they’re spending some time road tripping through National Parks as they decide next steps in life, and I’m so glad they happened to be in Lassen National Park yesterday.

Later yesterday evening we were all invited over to the Wilcox’s campsite, where there was a campfire and even more beer (super delicious beer that I’ll have to find again). This morning Todd and Terri Wilcox, who were driving farther north in the park anyways, took me as far as Manzanita Lake, giving me the grand tour of Lassen National Park along the way. The sprained ankle is a bump in the road, but the world is full of Trail Angels and new friends, and I’m so incredibly grateful to all who have helped make this trip possible for me.

Ankles and Other Inconveniences

A week ago today I tripped on a tree root and sprained an ankle.

“When do you get your trail-runners back?” Enterprise asked me as we hiked down from Mather Pass in mid-June.

“Mammoth, why?”

“Promise me you’ll be more careful then, those ankles will be unprotected.”

I’d just tripped on the steep rocky downhill and scraped up my knee, so my friend’s caution and concern were entirely justified. I’ve never been great at the whole sustained attention thing, so even at the best of times I’m a bit of a klutz. Out here I’ve tripped so many times that I suppose I’m lucky it took 947.5 miles before one of the times I went down resulted in an actual injury.

Lucky for me, I have an amazing friend named Enterprise who hiked 11 miles he didn’t have to hike just to make sure me and my pack made it safely back to Tuolumne Meadows.

As Saturday, June 30 began, I found that the most remarkable part of the day was merely the number of hikers we ran into who weren’t thru-hikers. We were in Yosemite after all, and it was essentially a holiday weekend, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise to run into so many people with “normal” lives, but it was weird not running into any PCT hikers aside from Enterprise.

We got to Tuolumne Meadows in the late morning and, hungry hikers that we were, made a beeline for the food in the General Store, gorging ourselves on bagel, avocado, cheese, and bologna sandwiches (cheaper than the burgers next door). Then once our hiker hunger had been momentarily sated it was safe to shop for the resupply. Between this all-important food business and some socializing with other thru-hikers, it was afternoon by the time we hit the trail again. We planned to hike a little over 8 miles to put us at 15 total for that day. There were some rocky bits, but overall the terrain was the flattest, easiest, and safest we’ve walked in hundreds of miles.

I’d promised to be more careful, but with such easy terrain, it was easy to let my attention wander a bit. I took a step, and then next thing I knew I was down, having felt a crack and sharp sudden pain as I fell.

“No! It can’t end right here, right now, like this!” I was terrified.

Luckily Enterprise was right there, and he helped me off the trail and out of my pack. My ankle hurt, and it hurt bad. I was crying because of the pain and because of the fear, but luckily when we checked we found that nothing was broken. I was in too much pain to hike any further, so Enterprise found the closest possible campsite and then came back to walk me to it, even giving me a piggy-back ride up the hill from the trail to the spot he’d chosen and then going back for my pack.

I felt so useless as I watched him set up camp for both of us, but I was in too much pain to try and do anything but watch. That night it was bad enough Enterprise wondered aloud if he’d have to carry me the 5.5 miles back to Tuolumne Meadows.

Luckily with the help of some ibuprofen, I was able to hike out the following morning. It was slow going at first, even with Enterprise carrying my pack for me, but by the time we got back to the road I was hiking faster than some of the non-thru-hiking backpackers. I hiked 5.5 miles in 6 hours, which is one of my slowest days yet, but I suppose it’s not too bad considering the circumstances.

Oh and don’t worry, I’ve made sure to stay off of the ankle since Sunday. It’s healing, and I hope to be back on trail sometime in the coming week.