Pacific Crest Trail Week 4: Beware the Grouse

Photo by Suzanne Hessler
Perfect moment: blue sky, snowy mountains, and a clear trail.

Miles of snow and solitude have left me grateful for breaks in the hardship and perfect moments in between.

The first section of the Pacific Crest Trail was a crawl through the trail-less miles of steep terrain and snow. Twelve to sixteen hours of hiking only to note 11 miles of trail. Self doubt led me in circles and caused me to access treacherous paths. But somehow each day I made progress. The trail has been brutally beautiful. Amongst the aerobic, frustrating, butt-kicking snow traverses are magical vistas of breath-taking solid wilderness that few get to experience.

Ice-axe and microspikes on hand, I stumbled through the 200 miles of snow. Each day got easier as I learned the ins and outs of navigation. I learned from the wilds to take a step back, plan, and prepare. The snow eventually cleared and the hiking began. Every once and a while I was stopped in my tracks by the up-close wildlife or shear magic of the gorgeous mountains. I felt like I was flying past the wildflowers, hummingbirds, and sharp, dramatic landscapes.

Photo by Ben Amstutz
What is this grouse thinking?

The wildlife wasn’t always friendly and I was attacked by a grouse my first week. This normally docile and harmless chicken-like bird did not like me taking its picture. It started charging me and not letting me pass it on or below the trail. Soon it started flying and swooping at me. I fell over and it amped up its attack. Soon I was running backwards on the trail and ran way below the trail till I was far away.

Other moments were kind and comforting. Warm July days, occasional mosquito-less camps, waterfalls in full tilt, warm lakes, pink sunsets, birds of all colors and songs, and clearings in weather at the perfect moments. I saw elk in happy green meadows and felt the snow melt on my swollen feet.

Being at the mercy of nature has given me even more respect for it. Outside of a magical house (city) bubble one gets to experience a more natural and in-tune way of life. Feeling the dirt on my skin, I feel like everything is bolder, more intense, and somehow more real. I feel more attached to the world we live in which humans have manipulated. I am being taught life lessons through the struggles and my place in the natural world.

And beware of the grouse!

Read the rest of Suzanne’s adventures:

Week 1: Approaching the Adventure
Week 2: Falling Down, Climbing Up
Week 3: The Pulse of Humanity
Week 5: Being Zen (or Not)
Week 6: Crouching Bobcat, Hidden Mosquitoes
Week 7: Appreciation
Week 8: The End?

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About the Author

Suzanne Hessler is a connoisseur of odd jobs and misspent adventures. She can often be found wandering the countryside or hiding from everything in her tiny mid-city apartment. She is currently attempting a long-distance backpacking trip starting at the Canadian Border of the Pacific Crest Trail and heading South. You can find her on Google + and Facebook.