Start mile: 2622.0, 7/19/2018
I woke up in a budget hotel in Wenatchee, WA – steeped into culture shock from where I was just 24 hours earlier. I then went to work planning out the meals for the remaining three sections, divvying out food in a massive array. It took a surprisingly long time and my father’s patience and curiosity were both immensely appreciated.
After a Denny’s breakfast load up (I totally forgot that “skillets” were a thing), we hit the long 3 hour roundabout over country roads to Hart’s Pass.
Foremost task entities was to drop off the resupply package for White’s Pass – where, all fingers crossed, I would be in about 12 days. Visiting the rural 1950’s era post office brought memories of my Broad Run youth – and got an extra kick to see Dwight D Eisenhower’s name on the plaque outside the post office. It brought home the biography I had been reading of him as an exemplar for character.
We then took a brief stop in the curiously named town of Twisp. Turns out the name is a Native American word for yellowjacket. We also checked out a strangely upscale boutique hotel located in town that did not match the rest of the town’s dusty cowboy demeanor.
My dad and I traded stories on the ride back up to the PCT, to my great enjoyment. It is always amazing to hear the level of responsibility entrusted in a 15 year old kid back in the 50’s in a western town. Today, kids are hardly allowed to walk around the block without adult accompaniment. It’s laughable to think of a 15 year old today being in charge of a whole mule resupply team and sent up solo into the trailless mountains to resupply forest fire fighters or survey crews in an unknown location.
My dad also shared stories of my (great great great) Uncle Herbert Brees – another impressive name we are blessed to have in our lineage. Evidently he was quite close to many of the big names in the World War 1 and 2 army rosters – including Eisenhower.
My father was particularly a trooper for putting up with the final long leg of the dirt road to Hart’s Pass – rocky and washboarded that it was. We talked about the washboards and realized that were apt analogies for the road some people travel in their lives. Washboards on dirt roads are formed from a sudden breaking, and the with repeated ruts, the repetitive synchronicity of many cars shock absorbers created a resonance that forms washboards. Well similarly, some people are going along smooth in life then hit a bump or hit the brakes, and then proceed into a strong oscillations, causing them to bounce quickly in lows and highs and otherwise be left as a driver with a feeling of pain from the lack of control. Even basic science is ready with many apt analogies to apply to life if you are open to poetic tendencies.
Eventually we made it to the famed Hart’s Pass ranger station that is frequently shown on PCT hiker blogs and journals. You see, this ranger station is the farthest north on the trail that is accessible by a car. As such, the ranger station serves as a dropping off point for southbounders who are beginning their journey. Some just begin south right here – but the true to heart PCT hikers make the trip north to the border to truly start from mile 0 before backtracking this section back down and on to Mexico. For me, I’m finishing off my final leg so that I can uphold my commitment to meet my wife in Canada in three days.
My father and I looked briefly at a small dirt road that continued up and paralleled the trail that would cheat and allow me to start a few miles up But we opted to pass on this cheat – partially for the fact that it is a cheat, partially because we weren’t sure we’d find a way to turn around the truck if we did take it.
I hit the trail on 5:45 pm and waved my last goodbye to my dad. This was the last time I’d see him during my trail days. I owe him immense amount of appreciation. He did more than anyone else in helping with the logistics of the trail – from shuttling all across the state, to sending resupply boxes to getting replacements for those things lost on the trail to being the Emerson to my Thoreau in providing hot meals when I did come off the trail. Thanks dad!
I headed out on the trail and was immediately reminded of the difference between walking (which currently consists of hobbling) and hiking (which consists of full force hiking). You see, the soft souled trail runners I have been using have been causing havoc on my feet – they feel like a knot of bruises. Thus whenever I walk around normally I am hobbling embarrassingly, each step feeling like a barefoot step across sharp edged rocks. (This feeling persisted for weeks after completing my journey). But strap a heavy pack on my back and give me two poles, and I was off to the races – pain gone. It shows you the power of the mind and its ability to apply pain to only contexts in the mind. Thus next time I experience pain, I think I will spend my energy imagining myself in a different context.
The trail here was dominated with early summer wildflowers with some of the usual characters like Indian Paintbrush, but also some that were de-emphasized earlier, like Larkspur, …
… and some Jacob’s Ladder (Western Polemonium):
After a few miles climb, I discovered a parking lot of cars enjoying the view I had just climbed and worked to get. Evidently that small dirt road was indeed passable. The moment reminded me of a conversation I had with my naturalist daughter during our big hike in Norway. We decided that vistas hiked to and earned were inherently not just more enriching – but just were more spectacular than vistas simply driven to. The exertion improved not just the enjoyment of the reward, but the reward itself. With that, I laughed snugly at the folks sitting on their hoods to see the view.
Continuing on the trail up and northward, I traversed across large fields of pika prairie dogs. I had fun whistling back their warning whistles and chirps of my arrival into their territory. My interfering whistles made them much more chatty, as I attempted to perfect my parroting of their language. And language by the way it is – studies have shown that prairie dog whistles are amazingly descriptive (“warning – human with red jacket approaching from 300 yards to the south”). Anyone who believes that animals are without intelligence or that language is the strict domain of humans should read this article.
Five miles went by in no time. Between a level trail and a half day of rest, my body went into hiking mode quickly and soon it felt like I could go for miles despite the full pack. All that work the past few weeks was beginning to pay off – at least on even graded trails.
With the height and occasional turns eastward allowing me to see north into Canada, a whole series of new peaks opened up to me. First, looking eastwards, I discovered more snow covered mountains to explore – from The Needles to Reynolds Peak and Silver Star Mountain, Gardner Mountain and Storey Peak.
At another viewpoint, I discovered the full spread of prominent peaks along the eastern edge of the northernmost North Cascades – and they definitely were not going out with a whimper as they hit the Canadian Border. The views include Azurite Peak, Mount Ballard, the dominating Jack Mountain, a glimpse of Mount Spickard just south of the border, Eldorado Peak (which has the largest non-volcanic ice sheet in the lower 48), and the funnily named Paul Bunyans Stump (which previously had an even funnier name, “What’s the Matterhorn”).
I’ve been including snippets of my reasons for being on the trail interspersed in my blog posts to date. I’ll do so again – and again intersperse it with views from the trail from today.
Today I pondered (warning – it’s a bit extensively) on one of the reasons for being on the trail. I took to the trail so that I could be more like what I wish to be. That pondering immediately begs the question: Where do I focus my energies when it comes to changing who I wish to be?
It’s a strange concept to think that someone can be what they do not wish to be, when you think about it purely with reason.
Should not who you are be within your control? Or even more so, if you submit to the idea that consciousness consists of bubbles of thought that pop up semi-randomly and without control to the surface of your mind’s highest levels of self awareness, their translation into action should conceivably be entirely within the control of your consciousness, no? So even if we may not think as we wish to think, or perhaps better said, have our inner dialogue dwell on topics we wish to not dwell so long on – then at the very least, should we not have the ability to act as we wish to act when it comes time to be in this world?
This is making the claim that to be – which is normally consider passive mode – should really be defined by not our passive thoughts, but rather should be defined by their translation into action. This redefining of being from passive mode into active mode is an enticing thought – but perhaps just because it allows me to get off the hook for not working on adjusting my thoughts but rather now I can simply focus on how to adjust actions. I can place my energies on the point where thought is translated into action, because being is not passive but active.
So let’s do some rooting around with reason and (gasp) not emotion, similar to Augustine’s internal confrontation that eventually lead to his epiphany.
If I stay with the idea that we are defined by our actions and our thoughts are given free reign until they are translated into action, then the desire to change who we are moves from the controlling of thoughts to the controlling of actions. That center of the brain that controls action, that translates thought to action, is a curious center. Do we even have a name for it? Will? Self control? In texts, it clearly but not exclusively lives in the Freudian Ego. The concept is similar but not exactly (similarly not exclusively) in the Buddhist Skandha of Sankhara. The entity is also more than Reason or Decision Making, because actions are not necessarily logical, consistent or conscious – but still there is some part of the mind that translates the data points of belief and thought into action void of these three. If any readers know of a good pre-existing bucket for this center in science or philosophy, I’d love to hear it in the comments section below.
I think I’d prefer to give it a name and title – because by definition it is all about action. Its name must be about action. It doesn’t exist – reflexively it takes existing bubbling and uncontrolled thoughts and translates them into action. So let’s give it our own name – a title, like The Director. By naming that control center, we can deal exclusively with just that entity within your identity that translates thought to action to redefine being from being a passive state to an active state.
The Director is not just an entity in your being: if you submit to the idea that we are defined by our actions and not our thoughts or beliefs, then arguably this Director may even be the core of being – more so than beliefs, body, or thought. So strange that this part of being and identity is left without recognition in common vernacular.
So then the question then falls out, when does the Director translate thought into action in a manner that we do not desire? So my question for the trail in this light moves from “how do I be more like I wish to be” to “how do I act more like I wish to act”. Or even further, “how do I empower my Director to translate my thoughts in action more deliberately, more accurately, more in congruence with who I wish to be.” These rephrasing of the questions (even the first less wordy one) ironically feel much more tractable to me, and thus attractive to focus on. I do not believe it to be a cop out or a shortcut – it has the feel of the Gordian knot being sliced. If you wish to be happy, as the maxim says, start smiling (action) and soon happiness follows (being).
The Director is driven by a set of values to guide thought into action. These beliefs, memories, context and thoughts are all like points on a Cartesian graph and the act of taking an action is to plot a vector amongst these points from the origin (the core of being) to a spot that balances between all the values that guide the action. A vector is both magnitude and direction, an action similarly has both components. And mathematically, the Director performs vector addition to result in a course of action. And perhaps it is a weighted (Bayesian) addition, allowing me to fiddle with the knobs a bit.
And with this perspective Dualism (in this context, dualism in the ability to hold contradictory beliefs) is embraced fully. You can have the Walt Whitman “I contradict myself, I am large and contain multitudes!” set of beliefs. They are all just points to be added via vector addition to result in a single course of action by The Director.
Looking at it not mathematically, but with the eye of a businessman – the Director is the VP of Operations of the soul. He is in charge of action, of operation. He is not the CEO – reserve that for the self, one’s identity, and a figurehead to be put up externally to represent the business when on stage. But The Director is in charge of translation the vision and beliefs of the CEO into action.
Ok, so again, when does the Director not have the ability to take actions not in accordance with beliefs, morals, or desires? I am afraid I’ll have to ponder this tomorrow, for I have long since passed the tolerance of any reader to reach this point. So suffice it to say, The Director has now been introduced.
Back on the trail, the sun went behind the mountain and things got windy and cold real fast. I was reminded starkly that I was above 6,000 ft and fairly close to timberline. Without the sun, I had to hike with a parka – something I haven’t had to do except maybe up in Indian Heaven at the start of the hike.
The hike was also quickly feeling more and more remote. The last gasp of humanity I saw was a yurt built into the opposing hillside. As the unseasonably cold wind crept in, I longed to know who own that yurt…
I eventually made it to windy pass (yeah, doesn’t bode well) as the wind and cold increased further while the sun furthered decreased. I found an awesome tent site with a fairly large tree blind and dugout to provide wind protection (although no where near what many would call sufficient) and then set up my tent.
While setting up my tent, I somehow had lost the crossbar to my tent along the way. With a bit of creativity, I used my hiking pole and also reinforced the sides with some additional rope. Of all nights to not have the crossbar – the wind was picking up fiercely, determined not to let the namesake of the pass down!
- Beginning mileage: 2622.0
- Ending mileage: 2627.2
- Trail Miles completed: 5.2
- FitBit Steps: 18,673
- FitBit Miles: 8.81
- FitBit Flights of Stairs: 129
- FitBit Calories Burned: 3,832
- Weather: Chilly, Windy but Clear
- iPhone Battery: 79%
- InReach Battery: 90%
- People Parties Met: 5
- Confirmed PCT hikers: 0
- Wakeup: N/A (off trail)
- Camp Departure: 5:45 pm
- Camp Arrival: 8:30 pm
- Sleep Attempted: 10:00 pm
- Camp Co-Inhabitors: 0
- Sorest Body Part: My bones!
- Highlight of the Day: The view from above Hart’s Pass
- What did I shed from civilization: I gained the feeling that my home is on my back
- Realization of the day: A view earned is a view more deeply appreciated.
- Trail tidbit I learned today: Double, triple check your campsite before leaving.
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