Walking thousands of miles for ‘Just a drop’ – Day 1

Alex Mason

Alex has left the 360 office (London) to head on what can only be decribed as a life changing adventure; to walk from Canada to Mexico along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). This is a snap shot of her walk as she raises money for the charity Just a Drop.

Bellingham – Harts Pass – tent site. 11miles. 1910ft up. 2152ft down.

A 7am start put us on the road to Harts pass. It’s quite a long way, but it’s a beautifully scenic drive. We drove through Rainy Pass, where I crossed the road last year and that’s when it really hit me – I’ve been here before and I walked a bloody long way to get here!! And I’m doing this again because?!

We stopped at Mazama where we planned to meet Catwater, her husband Dan and her friend Jackie. I had a giant pastry and a hot chocolate while we waited. May as well continue the carb loading. Then she arrived!! Reunited at last!

Mazama is a really cool little place with some delicious looking food, if your heading north you could hitch from Rainy Pass and you could certainly resupply there to get to the border. There is also a great little gear store called Goatsbeard. It stocks everything you could need.

Then we were on our way to Harts Pass (the closest road access to the border 30 miles away). There was a lot of drama on Facebook about the road to Harts. Earlier in the season there was a landslide and they closed the road. Well, it’s not really a road, it’s a dirt, gravel track. The rumour was it wasn’t going to be open again until September. Not the end of the world but a bit of a pain in the ass.

A few people made alternative routes, some walked the road, but luckily for us the road reopened a couple of weeks ago. The road is pretty sketchy, steep drops to one side – one slip means certain death – and most of it is single track. Of course there are passing places but the road is so windy that you are never certain who is going to come around the corner.

It took over an hour to go 20 miles and we got there safely and in one piece, finally at Harts Pass, and the start of my hike. And, I guess rather unsurprisingly, it was much the same as when I was last here – cold and wet. I was actually a bit surprised at the temperature and very pleased I am continuing with my double puff set up.

We could put it off no longer and at 12:30 there was nothing left to do but hike. Marvin was kicking himself for not thinking about coming with us, he and Sue continued up the road and appeared like the paparazzi from behind a bush to take pictures!

They are such nice people. Marvin really reminds me of my Grandad. I think I’ll adopt him as an honorary one. Eventually they had to leave and we said our goodbyes. We had some group shots before we left and I had to stand on my tip toes so I didn’t look like a midget among the giant people. (I look like a right fatty next to Catwater!)

Within about a minute we came across our first blowdown (a fallen tree), which was a sign of things to come. The weather was nice for hiking and once we got going we soon warmed up. It looks very different from last year, everything is lush and green and the wildflowers are in bloom, but everything is still strangely familiar.

I saw 6 people coming south, all southbounders having tagged the monument. Will, Zach, a guy with an impressive moustache called Mocking Mantis I think, Ian who had incredible teeth and his father (who introduced himself as ‘Ian’s father’ and a boy who was not interested in stopping to chat.

It rained a lot and the waterproofs were soon on. Catwater hung back to wait for Dan and Jackie but I carried on because I didn’t want to get cold.

My body was in shock for the first few miles. Everything hurt, my toes, feet, tight calves, bum, shoulders, neck. Eventually it started to settle down as it realised what I was making it do again.

It got colder and I left it too long to put on my gloves. My hands were painful and numb and getting anything out of my pack was very difficult.

More comfortable and fuelled by a bit of sugar I carried on. It was slow going, averaging about 2 miles and hour. My pack was so heavy and it was hurting me where the hip belt rests on your back, I could feel it with every step.

The trail had more blowdowns. Over or under. Sometimes a difficult call.

One good thing is that Washington is abundant with water. It’s falling from the sky, flowing down the trails, gushing down waterfalls. I was carrying 2 litres of water. Stupid. There is water everywhere. So I dumped a litre. That helped a little.

I realised as I was walking how much I missed the pure air. I felt like I was drinking it in. There is always a smell of something in the city. Smoke, food, perfumes etc. Here the air just smells and tastes clean. I also relished the silence.

I carried on an did the 11 mile target without stopping. I don’t think I would have got going again if I had stopped. The last half a mile was a real struggle. I was hurting, I suddenly felt starving and I felt a bit sick.

I crawled into the tent site and realised it’s where Bonus Miles, Farmer and I stopped for lunch last year. I didn’t want to put my tent up yet in case the others wanted to push on, I really didn’t think I would make it any further today. Carrying that bag has been a shock to the system. Plus I’ve been sat in an office for the last 6 months and doing absolutely nothing for the last 5 days!! I only waited 20 minutes before Catwater turned up and we agreed to make camp here. She hadn’t seen the others since she waited for them.

I set up my tent and I felt like I have never been away! My routine came straight back without me even thinking about it. I was really cold now I had stopped and I was keen to lie down. So I quickly got organised, while fending off some pretty lazy mosquitos. The vicious little bastards are outside the tent at least. I ate in my tent. Chilli con carne with string cheese and crushed up Fritos. I was tempted to eat through a bunch of food in my pack just to get rid of some weight. But if I can only manage 11 miles I need to ration it. I was tucked up in my bag trying to keep warm by 6:30. Still loads of light left for hiking but unfortunately zero inclination or energy to continue.

As I’m typing away I hear a noise. A deer is pretty close to my tent and me shouting ‘go away’ didn’t have any effect. Jackie got up and shoo’ed them away. Well done Jackie, I think I’m going to like you. Probably not the last we will see of them though.

It’s so early and I know I should get up and have a wee before settling down. But I don’t want to remove any parts of me from under my sleeping bag. It’s really not warm out. No doubt I will regret it in the middle of the night!

I am absolutely dreading putting my pack on tomorrow. Just a light prod of my love handles is agony. And it’s going to be cold in the morning. I just know it.


I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water. Donate now.

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