Start mile: 2641.6, 7/21/2018
I began the last northward day of the long trail of motion in a state of frozen anti-motion. It was another frigidly chilly night last night, and like last night, it seemed to double down further from the previous night. Tonight I put on every layer of clothing I had and put the sleeping bag into full mummy mode. Not a hint of the sweaty overheating battle at 3:00 am – instead I found myself questioning whether or not the bag’s 10 degree rating was the demarcation for comfort or last frozen gasp of survival. Either way, the chill in the air made for a fitful restless night.
The beautiful stage that became an active performer in the grand play of last nights’ sunset was revealed in long morning shadows. What a beautiful view – and now I could clearly distinguish Mount Shuksan, Mount Spickard, and Mount Custer; Hozomeen Mountain, Joker Mountain, and Mount Triumph. I stood among giants, and all were unmoved by the beauty of last nights sunset.
When I finally decided to compensate for the lack of molecular motion in the air with the motion of my legs on the trail, I discovered there was a strong coating of frost over anything. The beauty of this frost seemed to melt away both the memories – and continued realities – of my shivering body.
The frost designs were intricate and delicate – crystalline and sparkling.
Thinking of the void of motion that is heat, the frost was like seeing time gone still. It was water, when taking to the edge of the Heisenberg principle is naturally frost like, and when captured with a camera in one suspended nanosecond, revealing its inherent crystalline natural beauty.
And that crystalline beauty mirrored the macro scale of the wildflower leaves, like a reflecting pool. Accentuating and reflecting – like an artist had gone through with an accent brush to pull out the details in the petals and leaves, and stiffen up the edges of an otherwise pastoral painting.
The frost continued well into the morning and was a welcomed but unneeded reminder that I was walking below freezing. Skirting the crests below the aptly named Blizzard Peak and Three Fools Peak on the western side of the crest, the trail remained hidden from the morning sun. My only exposed skin was my face and fingertips, and even then I swapped crotch and armpit warm-ups for my fingers.
The moment the sun peaked over the crest to light up my pathway, the frost trembled into liquid and coated everything with the soft liquid of heat, and seemingly life. So much credit is given to water for life – but what of that ambient but arguably more vital need for heat?
And I did have company – a friendly hoary marmot came up to share a conversation with me. It was like meeting an old guy at the corner coffee shop on a weekday morning.
The chill this morning was as much caused by the altitude as by weather and my most northerly point on the trail thus far (and thus reestablished with each foot fall). With the chill, my body moved quickly as I raced forward to reach the northerly pinnacle of my trip. My mind was still fresh in trying to make something of the concept of The Director, a concept that I’ve been exploring for two days.
So, let’s delve into it one more time in the hopes we can find some conclusions to match the closure of my northward journey. And yes, I’m running out of trail and time. I’ll intersperse the discussion, as always, with views from the morning – all stunning indeed. So let’s head down the path once more…
Correcting the Director:
To review, in earlier posts we postulated the existence of a Director who was in charge of the Operations Center of your being. And then we supposed this Director isn’t doing the best job and needs to be put on a CAP (Corrective Action Plan). We supposed that it really only deserves a CAP if it is clear that the fault is due to something internal to yourself, and is controllable in the first place. For this, we narrowed it down to a number of causes that can be considered as having “just cause” for a CAP. This means that the Director’s behavior/actions really only can be altered when the reason for failing to act as I wish to act is for these reasons:
- Fear and Irrationality
- Indecision and Inertia
- Shortsighted or Emotion
Acknowledging what belongs in that list and what doesn’t is also a key point. No need wasting your time trying to fix things inside yourself if they truly aren’t inside yourself or controllable. That’s an important point.
Also translating these reasons to “red flags”, it means that I need to be aggressive in making sure that I always take actions:
- Rationally and without fear,
- Well thought out and without whim,
- Not based on inertia,
- Not by avoiding action unnecessarily,
- As smartly as possible,
- And with the long view dispassionately presented.
So that’s all good and dandy – nothing shocking here. And yeah, it’s a rather Spock like existence – but strangely – if we limit these Vulcan tendencies to The Director, just think – we free ourselves as represented by our thoughts, emotions and stream of consciousness to go hog wild wherever they want. Sure – explore those emotions, be as passionate and shortsighted in your thoughts, be indecisive and flabby with your thoughts if you so desire – just when you translate them into action, then kick out the kids and let the parents in. When it comes to action, you must engage the rational brain.
Good ideas – but it is not yet really helping me understand how to solve my original question: when does the Director take actions that are not our desires? And this is asked in light of if we can’t control our thoughts, can we control our actions that stem from them?
So looking back on that list, we are looking for ways to stop the Director from reacting to thoughts that are negative. Unless you have a compulsive nature, then caprice is not one such instance. Nor is indecision and inertia states that are reactive to stimuli – these are also clearly solved by the Director issuing good considered judgment.
So I am really just down to fear and irrationality being the biggest weakness of the Director when it comes to taking action in response to external stimuli when still granted the time to be fully considered.
Thus my efforts must really be on disconnecting emotions from thoughts before they are channeled into action by the Director. And as mentioned above, free your thoughts and heart to be reckless, fickle and illogical. That’s ok – they are just stimuli to the soul alongside what your visual cortex is feeding you and the memories and instincts that flood your decision making ability. Where the emotions and fickle thoughts need to be checked in like a heavy coat to a fancy dinner is when the Director then transforms all these stimuli into action.
Sadly, this day’s conclusion to the three day thought experiment on the Director is sorely lacking an further “Aha!” that can set it off and wrap it up with a nice bow. I think in part it is also because I haven’t really rooted out the learnings from this changed perspective. That’s for a future day.
In addition, my brain has really started to congeal around the idea that thoughts and the mental stream of consciousness really need to be treated as external stimuli to the identity – they are just like input from the visual cortex or memories of past events – they are stimuli to the identity, not the source of identity. Instead, that Director who translates these thoughts as inputs, is the identity.
Just alone from an AI or Code Poetry perspective, I think a model in which thoughts are inputs not outputs is the right model – and contrary to most models right now for consciousness.
With that, I bid this topic closed for now. It definitely needs to be revisited in the future – but alas I have a trail to finish.
The chill of the morning still could not quite be shaken off. I was walking between 6,500 and 7,000 ft until topping out around 7,100 ft before making a steep decline to Hopkins Pass. This point at 7,100 feet is the highest point of the trail in all of the State of Washington – and thus of my time on the trail thus summer. It seemed fitting to combine my most northerly day with the highest altitude day.
The remoteness of the trail was ever present, emphasized by the panoramas. This next panorama captures just how mountainous the North Cascades are. In the foreground is Three Fools Peak, named after three prospectors who were convinced by scurrulous “claim jumpers” to give up their good claims for “rumors of a new strike” here. As a guide relates, “Their ill fated venture is reflected in the names of local landmarks: Blizzard Peak, Freezeout Creek and Nightmare Camp”.
In this remote final stretch of wilderness, I met only a few people on the trail. Interestingly, the trail here intersects with the young Pacific Northwest National Trail (aka the PNT). The intersection lasts for several miles as the trail share their journey before separating on their crisscrossing axes of the compass that define their purpose. The PNT travels from Glacier National Park in Montana to the Olympics National Park and Pacific coast in Washington. As mentioned on a previous post, this is where the trailgod known as “Legend” veers eastward to do the second of four legs of the great loop.
While on the shared PCT-PNT trail, I did meet one fellow hiker with the great trail name of “Sinatra”. He educated me on the differences between the two trails. Foremost, he said, the sheer volume of trampling feet on the PCT makes the trail so well defined that you didn’t struggle for long to stay on it. Begrudgingly giving up a point for having it easier on the PCT, I couldn’t argue with the point. Thinking of the Loowit trail, this was well defined despite my “Where’s the trail?” series of pictures. We trade best wishes for the remaining journeys ahead, as we both were nearing our final destinations and bid adieu.
Also on the trail I met up with a 70 year old man out doing 5 day consumable chunks of the trail. He’s been working his way hopscotch over several years to build of his patchwork of completing the trail in Washington.
From this viewpoint, the tips of mountains were jutting into the sky from all directions, completely careless to that line that separates the United States from Canada that runs through it with regard for geography. When looking up the stories behind the mountains, their designation of nationality was confusing, like trying to fit a round globe on a flat map. Castle Peak and Frosty Mountain, Mount Outram and Mount Winthrop, Blizzard Peak and Welch Peak – they cared not about countries.
As I headed to the border, I passed by the beautiful turqouise Hopkins Lake beneath the Devils Stairway tucked between Blizzard Peak and Three Fools Peak.
What a sight this lake is, nestled in a near 300 degree round bowl. So clear were its waters that I could make out the boulders buried in its depth, despite the lake being some 750 feet below me.
It’s funny, but my descriptions of the trail thus far have not really mentioned the big points of the day to come – reaching the northernmost terminus of the National Trail, crossing the border into Canada, finishing my hike into Manning Park, BC and calling closure to my Northward journey. Like on the trail, you get a trail trance of the steps in front of you at the expense of the broader context. But such is life at all times, whether in cubicles, dinner kitchens, ballet lessons for the kids or on the trail. It’s always a struggle to remember the mountain while you are walking on it.
I learned from a local on the trail – one of only two that I met heading southbound that they were replacing the northernmost terminus of trail today. Oh boy, what a treat! This monument has been in countless photos over the decades – and to be able to say I was the first person to have their picture taken with the new terminus would be a real treat, if a bit unearned given my Washington State only path.
I also learned that the new monument was heavy enough that they were shipping it in by helicopter sometime today.
I was dreaming of my glory and the stories I would tell my grandchildren (“did you know I was the first person…”) when a trail runner / hiker flew by me, and left my dreams scattered like fall leaves in a stiff wind. I would not be the first to get there.
When I eventually arrived at the U.S. – Canadian Border, I found a large work crew already well along into putting the new monument into place. The trail runner was still there and snapped a photo or two of the still unfinished monument and then headed back south. Evidently he was attempting to set a speed record for the state of Washington.
I hung out with the work crew for a couple of hours. We chatted about the different PCT trail volunteer groups, and the PCTA non profit that did much of the work caring for the trail. I declined an interview with a podcaster that came along to document the installation – and not to mention a blogger also in attendance to capture the event. And I even did some barely defensible “help” in getting the monument in place, and served as official photographer of their crew.
It was a blast to see a photo I took appear on the main PCTA website and newsletter soon afterwards.
Also while waiting I read through the journal notes of the hikers who have come before me this season in the terminus logbook. It was great to see so many of the southbounders I’ve met the past four weeks leaving their “fresh to the trail” comments as they began their journeys south.
I duly filled in my own entry. It wasn’t exactly my best writing – but I did my best while trying to come up with something on the spot that utilized my trail name.
Also fascinating was a second monument that signified the official U.S. – Canadian Border – with a long straight line of treeless meadow stretching as far as you could see east and west around it.
It was bizarre to be out in the middle of nowhere with this purely arbitrary line extending for 1,000s of miles out from where I stood. It felt so humorous and arbitrary – and yet mystical that man would even create such a long pathway for really no purpose. But despite its arbitrary nature, at least it can hold the title of being the longest unguarded border in the world.
Another funny story I learned about the border was about the actual monument. This border monument is the legal foundation for the border. If you were to move the monument, then technically, you have just moved the border of the United States. Really, it’s a little bit dumbfounding just how much impact you can have on all sorts of things if you were to come out at night with a shovel and just move it four feet over. It was even tempting just to cause chaos for all the bookkeepers.
The funny story is that the marker itself was a hinged piece of metal – and for decades the PCT hikers were storing the hiker registration book *inside* the border monument. Word of this eventually made it to a bookkeeper – and the thought of the border varying by millimeters every day based on how tightly the marker was being closed was enough to warrant for a crew to be sent and immediately weld the marker shut. Ah.. where’s that shovel I was talking about?
Finally the monument was finished and I got my official first hiker with the new monument photo. What a blast. And truly, I feel like I am a blessed soul to always be present for something special. (Addendum note – soon after I was here the PCT was closed down from Hart’s Pass to the Northern Terminus – meaning I was also one of the only PCT’ers to reach the northern terminus from the south this year. That’s a type of “closure” I’m glad to avoid.)
The day was well advanced and I still had some hiking to do. When crossing into the Canadian stretch of the trail … yikes, the quality of the trail went down considerably.
Here was a bridge I had to cross – it was terrifying. The main support beam was on the verge of collapse. Zoom in and you’ll see that it is cracked through and through – and a hastily added wire for support is doing nothing to help.
After that, I spent more time going through blowdown than I did making forward progress it seemed.
At least there were still a few surprises along the trail to lift my spirits. Golfball mushrooms!
Between the trail adversity and the hubbub of the new monument and the race to it, I realized I had hardly given any reflection to the fact that I had achieved reaching the border and soon my final terminus in Manning Park.
But no matter – there would be time for reflection soon enough. And after all, I was not done with this trail by a long shot – I still had one more section to fill southbound before hanging up my trail shoes.
I arrived at Manning Park, BC, Canada pretty well spent. I had a solo dinner consisting of pretty abysmal steak – but gladly consumed.
I also had arrived back to civilization, with all of its funny viewpoints of life:
I walked around after dinner a bit to stretch the legs and admittedly ensure I had my second 50K step day.
My wife arrive near midnight after I was fast asleep and so began my life off the trail – at least for a week.
And with this, my journey ends – or rather pauses. I’ll pick up on the next post with my return segment to cover a patch I missed due to snowfall. And a teaser – it is known to be one of the most amazing patches of trail in the entire PCT length – AND it didn’t disappoint!
- Beginning mileage: 2641.6
- Ending mileage: 2652.6 (USA) + 8.4 (Canada!) = 2661.0 THE END!
- Trail Miles completed: 19.4
- FitBit Steps: 50,564
- FitBit Miles: 23.85
- FitBit Flights of Stairs: 145
- FitBit Calories Burned: 6,198
- Weather: FREEEEZING, quite literally
- iPhone Battery: 20%
- InReach Battery: 10%
- People Parties Met: 3 (plus 2 more work parties on the monument and CA trail)
- Confirmed PCT hikers: 3
- Conversations about PCT: 4
- Wakeup: 6:15 am
- Camp Departure: 8:00 am
- Camp Arrival: 7:50 pm
- Sleep Attempted: 11:00 pm
- Camp Co-Inhabitors: hundreds!
- Sorest Body Part: My legs were stiff as stiff could be
- Highlight of the Day: Being the first person to have their photo with the fully installed new monument
- What did I shed from civilization: More a matter of was I ready to return to civilization.
- Realization of the day: I really live a lucky life. Really. Luck just seems to always favor me.
- Trail tidbit I learned today: Talking to the bloggers at the monument reminded me that there is a pecking order to the uber trail bloggers out there.