Saturday, January 14, 2012

The morning after...

Hello followers,

Thanks for all the love support and interest in our crazy adventure! We thought that we should probably follow up with an update. We owe it to you all. "What happened to those two?" you might be asking yourself. "Is there life after hiking the trail?"

Well, yes my friends, life does go on. Ville and I finished the trail on the 29th of Sept, five months to the day of beginning such a life changing adventure. And it was weird. Every day. Walking. You have a plan and a goal. Walking. Wake and walk. Walk till dark. Sleep. And repeat. And then one day we woke up and we knew this was the day we had been waiting for. The end. Canada. The border. This is what we had set out to reach five months ago. In what felt like another life. We walked, we rounded a bend, and there it was. The swath. What we had only seen in pictures. Canada and the end of the trail. Hard to describe the feelings. I cried with the biggest smile on my face and we could not stop hugging each other and reminiscing of all the things we had seen. All the hurdles we had challenged to get here. The snow, the rivers, the tiredness, the exhaustion, the boredom, the rain, the soaking rain, the views and places that so many will never see before they die. We did it. We saw it. We got to be there. We experienced what one cannot explain in words. And now what?

Well, we had celebratory shots with Topsy Turvy and DataMuffin and we had a great 9 mile stumble out to civilization. To Manning Park, Canada. To a hot shower, a soak in the hot tub, clean clothes and my parents picking us up to drive us back to Oregon. How weird it was for me, Kristen, to drive a ginormous suburban with 6 hikers and 2 parents at 60 miles an hour what took us a million years to walk. Slower than a snail can crawl. And we celebrated with food and beers, dropped off the other hikers and made our way "home." And then we were home. And celebrities! Everyone read The Bulletin article that was written about us (thanks to my dad being so dang proud and telling everyone, we made it to the papers) and then everyone wanted to know about it. But how does one sum up that hike in a few words?

We got to speak about our hike to some amazing kids. Troubled youth, the teen parents program, and a few high school classes. Thank you so much for all being so excited about our hike. Ville and I can't wait to hear about the trails you will all challenge and successes you will reach! Funny though, we didn't think we were cool enough to lecture. I mean, we just walked. That's all. But if we can help inspire someone to reach higher, know there are no limitations in life, just hurdles to conquer, well, then we can talk in front of some classes. And I hope it inspired. At least just one. And I hope we can be trail angels for one of them someday.

As for Ville and I, well, we are back in Helsinki Finland. We were here working and saving to do this hike and after we came back to Oregon, Ville's visa limitations brought us back here. We had a great month in Bend. We had a big party to thank many of those that helped and supported us on the hike. We owed it to them. To celebrate with us. In the accomplishment. We showed a short video of our favorite pics from the hike and put it to music. It was a hit. And every morning we got up when we wanted, walked a 4 mile loop with my parent's dogs because we can't just stop walking, and did whatever the heck we wanted in the day. Usually we went for another walk before dark and then we sat our lazy butts on a couch and watched some t.v. because we can. It was great. And now when it rains, snows, blows the coldest Finnish wind, I am just happy that I have a warm apartment to go into with a hot shower, a warm bed, and food in the fridge. Life is good :)

Ville flew back to Helsinki after about a month and I stayed to help destroy my parent's bathroom and then rebuild it. Hope you are enjoying your own hot shower Mom. And then I packed my bags yet again (can do it in my sleep with a blindfold on by this point) and caught my plane on Dec. 5th to meet my companjera, my hiking soul-mate, waiting for me in Finland. It has taken us a while to quit following each other all over the apartment. Old habits die hard. Or to be without each other more than 5 min without a panic attack setting in. But then again, it's amazing how fast you do go right back to the norms of every day life, as if nothing even happened. As if it was all a dream.

I am back in my job working with kids. They keep me happy. Every day is an adventure. Minerva is 3 now and has a new brother, Titus, who keep me on my toes and love every minute of it. Ville has gone back to Toyota Finance and is not quite as thrilled to go back to cubicle world, but is managing. Hard to look at sunsets and mountain ranges and go back to staring at piles of paper. For all those wondering "what now?" Well, who knows? We are enjoying the small things we did not have on the trail and enjoying life. During every traveling adventure, we are always planning the next. During this hike, we were imagining all the small things we missed about home. Now we are reveling in them. But of course, there is always something up our sleeve. So your just going to have to stay tuned to find out what's next!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Manning Park, Canada !!!! 2655 miles

Buenos dias,

Kristen and I just came from a 4 mile walk with the dogs at her parent's place. Yes we still seem to be o.k. with walking to places, although we originally said to ourselves that after the hike we take either the car or our helicopter to get to places. We are not fed up with walking but if someone tells me that something is " within a walking distance", I might ask him or her to specify.

So, on September 29th 2011 we finished our Pacific Crest Trail thru hike, 2655 miles (4272 km)
of hiking is behind us. We started from the border of Mexico on April 29th and walked to Canada without skipping a mile of it. It took us 5 months to do it, I wish I could find the right words to describe how it was to walk those miles. I can only say, it is a lot of walking. When we humans have something on our mind that needs some digesting we usually go for a walk to clear our thoughts, well imagine how much you can digest and think about when you're walking for 5 months. Enough of that, let's go back in time to when we were getting back to trail after resting for a couple of days in Kristen's hometown Bend, Oregon.

Kristen's dad, Gary a.k.a Mango a.k.a Mr Magoo, gave us a ride back to the trail and we stopped at Sister's Bakery to do some more calories. We got a full bag of pastries that we ate before starting to hike again. It was weird getting back on the trail after 3 days of not hiking. We spent those 3 days eating and eating some more.

By that time we had only about 650 miles to go, It's a lot of miles but it feels like a walk in the park after walking for 2000 miles. Well it wasn't quite that. The day we got back on the trail was nasty, cold and small amount of rain. The rain wasn't too bad but the clouds prevented us from seeing Mt Jefferson. We decided to set us some small goals along the way, the first goal was to get to the Timberline Lodge's famous breakfast buffet. We had 100 miles to go to get there and we made it in 3 days and camped close to the lodge to hit the buffet in the morning. Oh boy did we do some damage there, there we met a lot of hikers we knew. Everyone timed their hiking pace to make it there for buffet, 10 hikers in a buffet equals to 200 rugby players. We can eat.

After stuffing ourselves with amazing food we started heading towards Cascade Locks to make it to annual PCT Trail Days in there. On our way there we camped on top of a small mountain and that night a lot of ash landed on our tent and we could smell smoke really bad. We slept bad and both of us were really nervous. We knew that there was a forest fire burning nearby but far enough from us, but the strong wind that night changed the situation. The next day we learned that we were the last ones to go through and that they had to close that section of the trail and the hikers behind us had to road walk that or figure out a different route. We got lucky. The Trail Days were a lot of fun, we got to see hikers that we've seen 4 months ago. It was really nice to run into Chris a.k.a Roadrunner a.k.a Robert Goulet. We also met our friend Cat Dog who's a trail angel from Bend, the 3 of us had dinner and we told her about our adventures.

After the Trail Days we got back on the trail and crossed The Bridge of the Gods to enter a new state, Washington! The last 500 miles had begun. We met our hiking friends Debra a.k.a TopsyTurvy and Colin a.k.a Datamuffin. I'm thinking about changing my name to Colin Stryker because he keeps bragging that he is the only one with that name in States, well not for long!
The 4 of us get along well because we all shared a retarded sense of humor. We made a plan to hike Washington together, and we did. I'm sure they wanted to push me off a cliff hundred times but they stuck with me. Maybe it's because of my beautiful legs and divine facial hair that made it all worth it. The first 4 days of Washington were a lot of up and down and not so rewarding with the views, the weather was hot and it made us think that we'll never get rained on in Washington. We were idiots to think so, idiots I tell you! That section ended in gorgeous Goat Rocks area before getting to White Pass. There was a lot of day and weekend hikers in that area, there we noticed the difference between us and them. Uphills didn't seem to bother or make us go slower, even the steepest ones. Our fellow hiker named Happymeal was created in a lab, he is half mountain goat half marathon runner on steroids. When he was hiking an uphill it was almost like he was on an escalator that has jet engine motor on it. Happy Meal is coming to Helsinki in end of October so if you see someone flying up the hill of Linnanmaki don't disturb him.

At White Pass we got our resupply boxes at a Chevron station, we ended up spending 5 hours there. You can imagine what it's like hanging out in gas station for 5 hours snacking on gas station food. Kristen and I picked up 4 cans of hard lemonade/beer for TopsyTurvy's on coming birthday. We each carried 2 cans for the next 3 days, that doesn't sound much but I can tell you we notice the difference in weight. The 3rd day 2 hours before camping and starting Topsy's birthday celebration my can of Guinness exploded into my backpack soaking our sleeping quilt and my cloth bag with Guinness, a lot of not so beautiful finnish words came out of my mouth. I was not a happy camper. 2 freaking hours before making it! We both were really happy to carry those cans for our friend's birthday but I also would have wanted to enjoy that beer by drinking it, not by smelling it for the next few days. I have to say though that I felt extremely manly smelling like Guinness on the trail. The views on the trail were getting beautiful going north towards Snoqualmie, the day before getting there it rained on us and soaked us so were happy to get to a motel in Snoqualmie and dry our gear and reluctantly I washed the smell of Guinness out of our sleeping quilt.

The next section from Snoqualmie to Skykomish was about 4 days of hiking and 2 of them it rained on us. The first days were filled with spectacular views, we also ran into mountain goats on the trail. I added a video on this post of a mountain goat family we met. The speed they were running up that hill after seeing me made me consider about starting to carry a deodorant from there on. I decided not to, it kept the bears in a distance. On this section we started learning how bad Washington rains can be, it rains all day and at the end of the day you don't get to go a warm shower at home. You pitch the tent in rain and you wake up the next day to the rain. After 2 days everything you have with you is soaked. By the time we got to Skykomish the weather was getting nicer and we were able to hitchhike there in sunshine. After getting a ride we were hanging out at the local deli eating burritos and milkshake like the world was ending in an hour. Then Jerry Dinsmore, a local trail angel picked us up and took us home where we were able to dry our gear and enjoy watching movies with fellow hikers. Thank you so much Dinsmores!

The next section from Skykomish to Stehekin we got to enjoy a beautiful weather and the views were magnificent! A lot of climbing but we got rewarded with stunning mountain vistas and the wild flowers were blooming creating a "Sound of Music" kind of setting to the mountain tops.
Getting closer to Stehekin we came up to Suiattle river, the river was running strong and looked extremely dangerous to cross. Luckily there was a log that went over the river, we ate snack and I crossed the log first while Kristen was taking pictures and filming me crossing it. After getting to the other side I turned around to yell Kristen that it was ok to cross I saw a big black bear 30 feet ( 10 meters) behind her walking towards her! I started yelling stuff in finnish again and she had hard time hearing me because of the roaring river. Finally I calmed down and yelled " Bear! There's a bear behind you, get on that log!!" She replied " Ville Jokinen! That is not funny!" I told her that I wasn't kidding and she got on that log like it was made out of chocolate. By that time the bear had heard me yelling and dancing like a monkey on crack and had turned back and was slowly running back to the woods. Crikey! Later we figured out that the bear hadn't seen her because she had dropped down already from the river bank and was almost at the log. Looking back at it we laugh but at that moment I almost pooped my pants, almost.

Stehekin was awesome! There's only 80 residents living there year round. You can't get there by car, only by boat, float plane or by ... hiking there. The bakery was all that we had heard, we spent $ 40 in 5 minutes on pastries. The day we got there was so beautiful that we spent a lot of time swimming and sunbathing on the lake. We all were in a good mood because we knew that we had only 80 miles to go, the only thing concerning us was the weather. The day we left it was pouring rain on us the whole day and soaked us completely. 5 minutes before camping we saw another bear on the trail that ran away fast after seeing us, it made us worry about our food. We set our food bags close to tent that night to hear if the bear was getting closer to them. Banging the pot usually gets them go away. That night our problem was a mouse that kept us up all night, I hit the tent wall every time I heard it walking near food bags. That worked well until I finally fell a sleep and in the morning I found out that it had chewed a hole on my food bag. The weather was rainy and snowed on us for the first 2 days and the last 2 days were nice but cold. In the mornings we had to put frozen socks and shoes on walk them warm. The last day we woke up with butterflies in our stomachs, we knew we had to do only 14 miles and then we'd be done! Those 14 miles we were basically running and on the last mile we were constantly thinking is moment going to be behind that corner or maybe behind that corner or... and finally there it was! Getting there was a very emotional moment, after walking 2655 miles and... then you're done. I spent some time with Kristen at the monument and then our friends Topsy and Data got there and we all celebrated with creative drinks and took about 200 photos of the monument and us just to make sure that we can prove that we actually got there. After partying like animals we still had to hike 9 miles to Manning Park, Canada. We spent the night there in a hotel and the next day Kristen's mom and dad came to pick us up. It was really nice of them to do that 12 hour drive to collect some bums out of British Columbia, we drove from there straight to Seattle and only one of us in the car got hassled by the border agents. I won't say names but that person is from a Scandinavian country with a facial hair of a homeless Santa Claus. In Seattle we ate dinner and waited for the traffic to get better until driving to Portland and spending a night there.

The next day we got to Bend, and that's where we are right now. We might go back to the trail to see one of our friends who is hiking in Oregon right now but we won't be doing any 35 mile days anymore. Those crazy days are over! We were young and dumb back then.

The trail is over and in the books but stay tuned because we are going to tell a little about the gear that we used because a lot of people have asked about them. Keep on keeping on!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Stehekin, Chelan County, Washington. Total mileage 2574.

Hooowdy Ho!

It's Ville's half-Viking brother here. Just received the following update:

Ville and Kristen are currently in Stehekin, Chelan County, WA, with only 81 miles to go. They will hike out on Monday and are bound to reach Manning Park, British Columbia, Canada, on Thursday!

Kristen and Ville told that they have had a very close encounter with a black bear, even closer than the earlier ones, but again Ville's scary looks have (obviously) saved them. More information about that encounter and a big bunch of jaw-dropping photos & videos are to be expected when they are back to civilization. Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Northern California + Oregon, Sierra City to Bend, total mileage 2007 miles

After watching Robin leave us to our own demise, we hiked on north, next big stop would be Bend, Oregon and we had a ways to go. Psyched on the thoughts of possibly hiking dry trail, we were quickly bummed to realize every north face was still endless snow fields. Oh boy! We had planned to finally start pushing some decent miles to make up for the Sierras, but still were unable to break more than 25 mile days fully wiped out. Not sure where exactly the last bit of snow was, but just north of Belden was my last memory of huge patches. Once we started getting more trail than snow, we got excited to see dirt again and our miles went up. Just outside Sierra City (which we skipped because we just resupplied in Truckee), we ran into a couple, Data Muffin and Topsy Turvy, who we began hiking on and off with and sharing lots of good trial miles with in Northern California and again through Washington.

There was a good climb out of Sierra City and then the terrain was pretty mellow with mesa views and not quite as much water. As we were walking along and in “the zone” we heard a crashing noise and looked up to see a small black bear running across the hill right in front of us. It was amazing to see it just demolish the bushes in it’s path and I realized there would be no way to out run a bear. Even with the lightest shoes and Jackie Jointer finger nails. Next stop, Belden. And for the record, yes, Belden IS creepy. We heard great gossip of a rave, lots of drugs, glowsticks, and even breast milk pina coladas! But, we rolled in in the middle of the week and the place was pretty empty. We dropped down hoards of switchbacks and made it to the “resort/haunted house” which was still open and were able to get some burgers. I wish I were joking, but seriously, this place is wacky. There are odd knick-knacks everywhere, the waitress spilled the entire tray of drinks while bringing them to us twice, the post office is a one room house with skulls, and the locals were interesting. Very interesting. But no breast milk pina coladas, so on we trekked after staying with local trail angels in their spare house.

The climb out of Belden was my least favorite climb of the trail. All the other climbs are just hype. The trial was burned-over with no trees, underbrush way over-grown, over 14 miles of climbing on the surface of the sun. Water went in the mouth and just came right out. Once we got to the top, we were back in snow and heading on through Lassen National Park. The trail went right around a boiling lake of acid, that Ville took a swim in (not), and camped a night at Drakesbad Guest Ranch. This place is run by a couple from Germany who are the coolest. They set a table and loaded it with great food for us hikers. And good beer. There was a hot spring swimming pool which made for a great soak and they even washed our dirty clothes! Rockstar treatment. We left our little hiker buddy, Slate, and headed on.

Hiking through Hat Creek Rim was a scenic part of trail that reminded me so much of Bend with the sage brush and lava rock. Ville and I hiked to a cave to get water and camp and lost each other in the dark when he went to get water and I pitched the tent. I tried really hard not to panic, but we spend so much time together out here relying on each other that these moments you feel so very alone and lost. After back-tracking, we finally found each other and were very relieved. Alarms set for 3:30 a.m. because the next stretch was 30 miles in heat with no water. It was a beautiful sunrise where Mt. Shasta finally came into view, and would be in our view for a couple weeks. We had a siesta under a tree and finished hiking to a fish hatchery into the night. A walk by Old Station, food stop, and onto the next town, Burney Falls, where we had a quick meal, a lecture from the local market clerk for making it this far on the hike without cash!, resupplied, and headed northwest on the trail in very thick brush with not many views. Now that we were on solid trail, this is when we realized that we needed to start hiking at least 30 miles per day to get to Canada in our weather window. Bummer. Feet were not use to the open trail and that many miles and pain killers were used to push on. This was definitely a low point on the trail for all of us, even other hikers we leapfrogged. Periodic swims in rivers were the highlights of this section. And down into Shasta City was really exciting, cell phone reception, new shoes, new Super Feet, the hopes of a new backpack (at this point my crappy Osprey pack has fallen apart enough to rub sores into my back from the metal frame), a shower, laundry, real food, and connecting with my family who were sure we were dead. With so many tiny towns, there was no cell reception or computers to call or write home. My fantastic parents followed our whole journey with maps and sat by the phone just waiting to hear we were all right, so this last section almost got the search party out looking for us. Oh boy. Thank you mom and dad for keeping track of us and always worrying about us. We love you for being parents.

The hike out of Shasta City was beautiful and one of our favorite sections of trail. Into Castle Crags Wilderness were views of the crags, Shasta, and a full moon. We ran into our hiking buddy JBro and camped. This whole section of trail was really gentle meandering along the hills with views of lakes and mountains the whole way. Many trail heads, day hikers, and swims in lakes to be had. I was then bandaged all day to try and make it to Ashland where I was hoping to ditch the Osprey pack for good. Next town stop was Etna, where my childhood friend, Anna, picked us up on trail and took us to the brewery in Etna and took us back to the trail the next day. Thanks so much Anna for the ride, catching up, and making time for us. I hope all is well with your new baby and can’t wait to see the yert on the next trip down. Pencil us in.

Next stretch was through the Marble Mountains and Russian Wilderness. Stark contrasts between black and white rock and the trail finally heading north. In a few days we dropped down into Seiad Valley and the State of Jefferson. No we did not partake in the pancake challenge (5 giant pancakes in an hour), and opted for omelets and milkshakes instead. The climb out was a 7,000 ft climb in 6 miles, but easier than everyone talked it up to. As we walked on the crest the sun was setting and the full moon was rising directly across from it. Can’t describe how beautiful and pictures can’t capture it. This is why you hike it. To experience it. Only a short stretch and we hit the Oregon/California border! Hooray! FINALLY, a new state and heading home!

In Ashland we had beers with my friend Chris (thanks a million for the ride and hanging with us, sorry it was a quick visit, we will make it down again very soon) and stayed with my Aunt Sharon, Uncle John, and my Dad surprised us! It was so awesome to get to see Dad after so many miles. And we pushed out 42 miles in 24 hours to get to our friend’s cabin at Lake of the Woods to have some fun in the sun and relaxation on trail. Thanks so much Maestro, Diane, and your family for having us at the lake. It was REALLY needed! And Maestro, you need to be on Top Chef :) Next stop, Crater Lake, where my Aunt Red, Kel, Kim, and Rudy met us to eat at the buffet, bring us resupply boxes, and give us much needed hugs. Thanks a million all of you, especially Redster and Kel for all the hard work on shipping all our resupply boxes to us!!

So great to be back in my home state, we hiked around the rim of Crater Lake and watched an incredible lightning storm over the water where 3 rainbows appeared. After camping on the rim, we pushed a 37 mile day towards Mt Thielsen. Hit up some very unexpected trail magic that was from a former hiker and stocked up on real food. Around Diamond Peak and down to Odell Lake we got more family love on the trail from my Dad and Maestro again who brought us a big picnic lunch and drove us up to some hot springs to hang for the day before dropping us back at the trail. Best sandwiches on trail and fruit is always gold, thanks Dad!

Leaving Odell Lake, we were on a mission. We have been averaging 34 miles a day through all of Oregon, easy trail, beautiful mountain views, lakes galore, vulture-sized mosquitoes (worst on the trail was through Oregon by far), and thoughts of getting into Bend and taking a whole whopping 3 days off trail to see the fam, resupply, and replace gear. The wilderness was pretty heading north to Willamette Pass, lots of lakes, chatty day hikers, and even a run-in with trail heart-throb, Billy Goat. When we dropped out of the thick forest with views of South Sister looming in front of us, we finally felt like we have made miles and are so close to home! Totally biased, we both agreed that the Sisters Wilderness part of the trail is one of our favorites. So close to the 3 mountains, meandering through beautiful meadows of flowers, easy trail, volcanic rock fields, and views of the Cascade Mountain Range in the distance. The trail between Willamette Pass and Santiam Pass was the fastest trail Ville and I hiked. Through our hike we maintained, once in shape, about 3 miles an hour up or down, but this section was at about 4.6 miles an hour. We couldn’t wait to see my family and eat some good food. It had also been over 1,150 miles since our last day off! And boy did we need a day off our feet!

Once we hit Santiam, now at 2,007 miles on the PCT, we got some great trail magic from Cat Dog (thanks!) and hitched a ride to Bend. There, my Dad and Maestro had a “welcome home” bar-b-que for us, which my sister and brother made the trip to Bend to be there. Thanks so much you both for all your love and support! The next three days were jam packed with my Mom’s famous crepe fest, REI runs, packing more yucky granola baggies, catching up, trying to relax and drinking of some good Bend beers. We were so sad we had such little time to spend with everyone, but our big PCT 2011 ending party is coming up, so stay tuned cause we plan to see you all there and spend some quality time catching up! Thanks everyone for all the love and support on the trail, you all made it possible to do this hike this year, we just walked. :)