• Tenley Lozano

Pacific Crest Trail, Washington (Day 2, August 2016)

Updated: Mar 27, 2019

The second day of an 80 mile section hike, from near the Oregon border to White Pass, Washington, August 2016.

Day 2: Beginning at PCT MP 2221 in Gifford Pinchot National Forest, lands of the Yakama people.

A thin stripe of dirt single-track trail passing through a small grassy meadow and into a pine forest in Southern Washington.
Sunrise single-track is the best way to start the day.

A couple miles into our hike and my head was throbbing. It felt like my brain was too big for my skull, and a stabbing pain pulsed behind my right eye in time with my heartbeat. I could only guess that the strenuous uphill climb in the forest with a full pack triggered this migraine. But it had quickly reached full strength, I knew nothing would make me feel better except my heavy-duty prescription meds and rest. I’d only have about 30 minutes of clear thoughts and coordination after I took my meds, so I was trying to cover as much ground as possible before giving up for the day. The pain consumed my thoughts and I kept slogging uphill, Elu pulling at the leash, helping to keep me moving.

Looking up at the treetops of tall and thin pine trees, with patches of blue sky visible.
Lodgepole pines above our campsite.

We hiked just a few miles and set up camp before noon. I took my prescription migraine meds and became groggy and unbalanced within the hour. Elu and I napped in the tent under the shade of the trees to the comforting sound of the creek just below us. When we woke, the sun was still high overhead. It shifted through the branches of the trees as I read.

A pale hand holds a book flat so the spine is visible, Out of focus in the background is a sleeping dog and a tent.
A book in the wild - Christian Kiefer's novella One Day Soon Time Will Have No Place Left to Hide

Mid-day we left the tent to take a walk, leaving behind our packs and campsite. Elu sprinted down the trail, full of energy and bouncing like a puppy, despite being 3 years old. I don't usually let her off-leash on the trail outside of our campsite, but she'd been working overtime as my service dog for the past week and a half as I completed my creative writing MFA program at Sierra Nevada College on Lake Tahoe and on the drive north to Washington. She had earned some time to let loose and sprint along the mossy ground, but I made sure she kept to the single-track within sight of me. My body felt achy but Elu’s happiness at running down the forest trail gave me joy. My worries slipped away and we enjoyed the sight of the Washington greenery without the heavy distraction of packs. Elu romped, frolicked, and leapt over downed trees and I laughed at her antics.

A young woman with short light brown hair looks at the camera with her head next to the face of a blond dog.
A sleepy tent selfie with Elu.

In the evening, we ate dinner in the tent and mosquitos buzzed the screens in swirling patterns, sensing the CO2 from our exhalations yet unable to reach us. Night descended with a welcome coolness and we curled up inside the tent, soothed to sleep by the rhythm of the creek nearby. We both slept better than we had in weeks. Elu leaned on me during the night, and the smell of her fur and the warmth of her back pressing against my legs covered by the sleeping bag were lovely. She smelled like pine sap, freshly washed dog, and her unique canine smell. Her scent combined with the sound of running water to make a peaceful lullaby.

Day 2: Hiked 5.1 miles to PCT MP 2226

Total up 1406 ft/ down 889 ft.

Camped at elevation 3,835 ft.