03-Alaska and Vernonia 415The next day I was sore in my hips, feet, legs… pretty much my entire body from the waist down. Caleb was patient with my hobbling pace and the fact that I turned down every detour he wanted to go on. Scenic overlook 1/4 mile off the path? Heck no! That’d be another half mile of walking altogether, and I was not about to walk a step further than I had to at that point. Fortunately there was a campground 5 miles down the trail, where we heaved our packs off and both collapsed on a picnic table. “I guess we could go find a spot to stay tonight,” Caleb mumbled. “Mm-hm,” I mumble-consented back. And we proceeded to lie there unmoving for 15 or 20 minutes.

When we did manage to get up we hobbled through the campground (I was the one crawling, Caleb was also sore but not as much) and found a worker that gave us advice about which campsite to choose. When he told us to pick hike-in site 10 he emphasized that it was very private… when Caleb and I walked away we realized he probably didn’t know we were brother and sister. We got a good laugh out of that. 🙂

Stretching after we reach our campsite

Stretching after we reach our campsite

By the time we reached the campsite it was about 3 in the afternoon – pretty early to be stopping for the day, but sometimes those are the best hiking days. When you stop moving and soak in the sunshine.

For the next several hours we foraged through the woods until we had a very large pile of dry sticks. No one came to the campsites around us so like the ranger promised, it was very private and we had the fire all to ourselves. 05-Alaska and Vernonia 431 We ended up burning our entire, massive pile of sticks as we roasted bagels, cheese, and jerky over the coals and by the light of our headlamps read Peter Pan aloud. I had put it on my Kindle since it was free, and we had started reading it at Steve and Sarah’s house. Such a good book. I am of the firm mind that it should not be read alone, but aloud between two or more people. 🙂 But maybe I’m just saying that because the first time I read it, it was my friend Anna and me taking turns as we sat beside a lake looking at the Tetons. Ah, such memories…

The next day we had about ten miles to walk until Vernonia, the end of the trail. I felt all right for the first half (we again helplessly laughed at many things that were not that funny as weird feelings of soreness/pain ran from our muscles to our brain) and then I started to drag, as my soreness increased and my body whined, more walking??’. Caleb walked ahead of me, always just in sight, listening to a good audiobook on his mp3. We had kinda run out of things to say, and didn’t have energy to carry a conversation anyway… I turned on my own ipod and listened to my favorite part of “Through Painted Deserts” by Donald Miller, the part where he hiked with a friend to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back out. He wasn’t in great shape, either! It put my situation in perspective – at least our trail was pretty much flat.

The Banks-Vernonia trail generously provided a sign for every 1/2 mile… I’m not sure if that made the miles seem faster or slower.

And it began to rain. Thus far it had been mostly sunny, lightly sprinkling sometimes, and in my mind I had gleefully noted that we were hiking through Oregon and had been drenched. Whoops, jinxed it… Caleb and I were definitely moving beyond ‘damp’ to… ‘a bit soggy’.

As we drew closer to Vernonia my mind turned to the thoughts it usually does at these points during hikes… thoughts like “Why aren’t there benches out here? Or hammock chairs hanging from these trees? Why doesn’t that passing biker just stop and give me his bike? I wonder if that truck passing on that nearby road would give us a ride…”
Thoughts like that, thoughts straight from my feet to my brain telling me ‘Pain, Pain, Pain’ and to ‘SIT DOWN’.

But I survived, and eventually we did reach Vernonia. Yippee!

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We found a nice coffee shop where we ordered some drinks and sat right next to their blazing stove to dry off. A perfect time to read Peter Pan.

 

 

 

 

 

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Vernonia

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We also determined Caleb is…. not photogenic.

We visited the library to look up local churches and find a service to attend the next morning. And then, since we had nothing else to do until it got dark, we went to the local “American Legion” building and had our first taste of gambling Bingo!

Hot dogs were available for the buying but we just ate out of our backpacks as we played. After watching us consume cheese strings, oranges, trail mix, bagels, granola bars, and pretty much whatever else was still left in our packs, a tactful local asked us if we ever stopped eating. 😉

Fortunately we had a limit of cash on us so we couldn’t go bankrupt.We did play every round, though, and during the last round, Blackout, we pooled the rest of our cash and bought 3 cards each, with each card having 3 boards of Bingo on it. We figured that gave us a pretty good chance at winning! We marked numbers like crazy and came so close to winning over 200 dollars… instead we got $15. Which slightly paid back what we had spent. =P

We spent the night in the local city park, underneath their playground structure. Well, Caleb did…the temperature dropped and it rained heavily that night and the way I had set up my sleeping bag and tarp, water dripped from the structure straight onto the tarp and slid into my sleeping bag… so several hours later the water had soaked through my down bag and into my clothes. I picked up my backpack, my sleeping bag.. and carried it all into the nearby public bathroom. There was a small shower room so I hung everything up to dry, changed into dry clothes, and used my emergency blanket for the first time.  After listening to the rest of Miller’s book I was able to fall asleep and got a few hours of sleep before the church service.

After the church service the pastor kindly invited us over for lunch along with the rest of the congregation (it wasn’t a very big church…). Then he gave us a ride all the way back along the way we had walked, to Highway 26, where a fellow Ecola student picked us up. (Thanks Holmes!:))

And that was it. One of the adventures in my life I got to share with my brother. 30 miles of walking, lots of pain and laughter, the entire story of Peter Pan, damp and cold and warmth (and gambling) and Portland and woods and wilderness and a campfire… it was a perfect finish to spring break. 🙂

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