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Saturday, October 9, 2021

Day 11: Sisters Oregon!

 Day 11: 16.5 miles

    There was an excitement in the air this morning because for the first time since starting the trip we were going into a town! We could've easily hitched to Bend from Elk Lake a few days back but decided against it since we'd both been there many times before. Instead, we opted to go check out the small town of Sisters! I had never been there before but was excited to scope out a new part of Oregon. The tiny town stops are my favourite! 

    We walked 1.5 miles to highway 20 and prepped for a morning of hitchhiking. This would be our first hitch of the trip! It wasn't but a mere 15 minutes later that we were jumping into a pick up truck with a nice fellow from Redmond. He had to go through Sisters on his way home and was happy to give us a lift. He was a retired correctional facilities counsellor and judging by the raft he was towing behind his truck, was quite the outdoor enthusiast. For some reason knowing he also enjoyed spending his spare time in nature made me feel safer. 


    We got dropped off outside this very trendy coffee shop and found our place on one of the outdoor picnic tables. Peter took advantage of the wifi while I went in and ordered us some breakfast frittatas and coffee. We spent the next couple of hours here, eating pastries, drinking coffee, and charging our devices.  It was obvious that Sisters is an active community and there were lot's of bike commuters dressed up in office attire coming and going from the coffee shop. I was very enamoured with the town and wanted to live here immediately. 

    We had a little issue we had to problem solve while we were in Sisters and that was getting around a 23 mile trail closure. Getting around it was proving to be quite complicated. Our goal was to miss the least amount of trail as possible which meant getting off at Pamelia Lake and getting back on at Ollalie Lake. This option was also the most difficult logistically because neither of these trail heads were off main roads/highways which would make hitching near impossible. Most hikers were opting for easier drop off points but this also meant missing significant sections of trail. Peter put a post up on the Central Oregon Trail Angels Facebook page asking for help to get around the closure. Luckily. a trail angel and avid thru-hiker Devilfish offered to take us to exactly where we wanted to go and he was available to do so the next day at 1pm. This meant we had to hitch back to the trail head this afternoon, hike as many miles as possible (ideally 17 miles) before nightfall and hike another 15 or so the next day before 1pm. Cool cool cool...

    As with every town stop our next goal after eating was to find the laundromat. Luckily the town is quite small and it was only a few blocks away. We quickly discovered they were all out of soap and Peter sent me to get some. However, all the places I went to were either closed or had closed down permanently and I had no choice but to go ask a friendly neighbour. The first door I knocked on went unanswered so I walked down to the next block and found a really nice older man who was in the midst of setting up his home veggie stand. As he went to gather some soap I looked over the veggies and picked out a beautiful field cucumber to buy. I figured that would be a nice trade off for his kindness and a bonus for us considering we hadn't been eating many vegetables!


    While Peter watched over the laundry I went to the local campground to have a shower. One of the funny things about doing laundry is you need something to wear while you're washing your clothes. This typically meant wearing your rain pants and jacket or sometimes I went Survivor styles and wore my buff as a shirt. It was a beautiful sunny hot day and here I was walking through the streets of Sisters, Oregon in a long sleeve merino shirt and rain pants that were rolled up to my knees. I was desperate for some shampoo and conditioner but couldn't find any little bottles to buy anywhere. I almost started asking campers in the campground but that felt like too much. I think I paid $1 for 2 minutes and judging by the way the water pressure nearly knocked me off my feet, it was all I needed. By the time I came back to the Laundromat Peter had made a ton of new friends, including some hard working Forest Fire Fighters. He also managed to tear open the crotch of his rain pants! The pants were now useless so he did some cutting and sewing and magically turned them into a skirt that had quite the slit down the middle (pictures to come on next rainy day).

    We packed up our bags with all our clean clothes and headed to the local outdoor store Hike-N-Peaks. Peter needed a new bandana which he used to clean himself off with at the end of most days. While we were in there we met another couple who were PCT hikers. They said they were about to go do laundry and asked where they could buy soap. The gentleman from earlier had given us enough for 3 loads and we were happy to unload our remaining supply and pay it forward. At the same time, one of the employees said "Well, it's 12 o'clock, who wants a beer?", to which we replied "We do!". I later read in the gut hook app comments that this store was very hiker friendly and often offered free beer to hikers. At this point we had already received three acts of kindness and my heart was bursting with gratitude. 

    The final task of the day before having lunch was to find a grocery store and do our re-supply shopping. The store was quite large but it was lacking in some of the staples that we were looking for (i.e wraps) but we're alive today so it couldn't have been that bad. We went outside with our new goodies and started to pack our food into our backpacks. As we finished packing, the sky opened up and it began to rain. Conveniently, a restaurant called Takoda's was within arms reach and it so happened to be recommended to us by one of the forest firefighters that Peter had made friends with at the Laundromat. From the outside, as well as the inside, Takoda's didn't look all that inspiring. Whenever I go into a town I want to try the local hot spots and this just didn't seem like one of them. I'm a bit embarrassed about the tiny tantrum I had but I was hungry and wanted something boujee! At this point, the rain had turned into thunder showers and I begrudgingly ran into Takoda's. Peter ordered a chicken burger and a beer and I ordered a BL'A'T with fries and a beer. Our server so generously gave us free access to the salad bar because we were PCT hikers. The servers were super friendly and were very interested in hearing about our hike, In the end, they comped our beers, gave us free salad bar, and even gave us a PCT discount. By the end of the visit, I was screaming "Takoda's for the win!". Just another reminder not to judge a book by its' cover.

    By the time we had left the restaurant the sky had cleared and we set off down the street to find a good  hitch spot. Within 20 minutes a blue minivan had pulled over and we eagerly ran over to it hoping it was for us! As we approached we saw she was frantically clearing away items and making space for us in her car. She apologized for the mess and I reassured her it was the last thing on our minds and we were just grateful for the lift. The ride was eventful and I couldn't help but be a little concerned that the speed odometer was just spastically moving back and forth. Luckily, we made it in one piece and thanked her for her generosity. I think in total we had 5 acts of kindness in the short time we were in Sisters. A short visit to remember! 



    It was roughly 3 o'clock by the time we got back on trail. Our full bellies carried us until the darkness of night where we found a place to camp around 9pm. We quickly set up our tent and tried to clean off in the lake before getting all cozy into our sleeping bags. 

    The following day we would be picked up by Devilfish and would start the big adventure around the closure! Stay tuned...

Marathon and Hot Ballz (he just got given a new trail name c/o Mark Grist)

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Day 10: Trail Magic!

 Day 10: 27 miles

    Something that I really valued was getting to wake up with the light of day which typically was around 5am (ish). No alarm required! As the days went on, the light would slowly arrive a bit later and later.  What once was a 6am start time moved to 630am, which was the case today. Typically the process from waking to walking took roughly 45 minutes and we would eat breakfast as we walked. We both just munched on bars (healthy & chocolate varieties) until lunch time. Sounds yum right 😐. Actually a breakfast payday is pretty amazing 😀.

    We bumped into our friends Happy and Lucky at what would be the last water source for the next 14 miles. It was a scorcher of a day and the terrain was very exposed. Conserving my water for the next 5 hours would be a challenge. 


    The terrain today was unlike anything we had hiked thus far. We weaved and meandered our way through rocky lava flows and I couldn't help but think about how much work went into building a trail through this type of rock. 


    Around lunch time we decided to stop in a shady spot just before we crossed a paved road. Happy and lucky hiked passed us about 2 minutes later and decided to push forward. As they reached the road a car pulled up and asked if they were PCT hikers and said they had trail magic! This was music to my ears and I swiftly gathered my things, threw my pack on and b-lined it to the road. These 2 angels had hiked many sections of the trail in years past and were here to help feed and hydrate hikers. They had so many snacks for us as well as fruit, Gatorade, cider/beer and pop. We sat there chatting with them for over an hour. Another hiker named Neo joined us. He came all the way from Isreal to hike the trail! It was really hard to leave the comforts of all the delicious snacks and drinks but we had to press on. 


    The terrain ahead looked exciting and very challenging. It was basically miles and miles of lava rock. The footing was very hard on the feet and slow going but so stunning! It couldn't have been more than 5 minutes after leaving the road that we ran into a SOBO (south bound) hiker and told them of the upcoming trail magic. She laughed and said she just came from trail magic a mile back! After having spent over and hour at the last spot it wasn't ideal to be stopping again but these are the types of opportunities you just don't pass up. A mile later we see an older couple sitting in camp chairs by the trail head. They had a cooler full of water and Corona and little bags of chips. Lucky and I opted for water and Peter and happy guzzled down another refreshing beer. The gentleman must have been in his mid/late 70's and hiked the trail in the 80's! It was so cool to hear about his experience and the challenges he faced hiking the trail before it was even fully developed. It's crazy to think about how we navigate with  an app on our phones while he would have had to rely on paper maps, a compass and figuring things out as they came up. 


    This was a much quicker trail magic stop but one I am happy not to have missed. Meeting people and hearing their stories is one of my favourite things in life. The four of us hiked on and got to know each other a bit better. Although we had been leap frogging with Happy and Lucky for days this was the first time we hiked with them and got to know a little bit about what life is like in the Czech Republic. 


Love the way Mt. Washington was framed by this tree

    Eventually we went ahead and parted ways and made our way to the Youth Camp, which was the next place to get water. In non-covid times the camp was very hiker friendly and you could even purchase a meal here. But, due to covid, they had limited hiker access to just the water spigot. We filled up our bottles and cold soaked some noodles to eat at camp. As I went digging in my food bag I discovered the Trader Joe packaged olives that I found in the hiker box at Elk Lake. These were just what the doctor ordered on a hot day and I ate both packets. Highly recommend for a salty hit of goodness! 


One of the many stops to empty out sand from our shoes!

    We hiked a few more miles eventually reaching the last camp for the evening which happened to be at a lake. The lake wasn't quite big enough for swimming but it was perfect for rinsing off after such a dusty and sweaty day. The best camp spot was taken by the "Thruple", but luckily there were two other spots that would suffice. We had leap frogged a few times with the "Thrupple", who I so named because they always hiked together as a threesome. The Thrupple consisted of two men and a woman and we never did find out their trail names but I did learn that the woman was from Saskatchewan!

    The next day our plan was to hitchhike into the town of Sisters where we could re-supply and potentially organize a ride around the upcoming trail closure. To be continued....

Marathon and Pole Vault

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

PCT day 8 & 9: Elk Lake Resort and Sisters Wilderness

 Day 8: 30 miles

    Up until this point we had been extremely lucky with the mosquitos! The unrelenting heat waves that have affected our planet this year have also caused a bit of a drought which in turn have affected the breeding ground for mosquitos. I typically wrote notes at the end of each day which is how I remember what we did everyday. This day, I didn’t write very much. I was probably in a mosquito fog and blocked out all other things in order to survive. Here is all I got down:

“Mosquitos and lakes! We swam at dumbbell lake. Camped with Boston Mule. We got out before 6am. Took many breaks. Peters achilles flared up a bit.”



Day 9: 26 miles

    Today we walked 6 miles into Elk Lake Resort! We just kept timing our civilization stops at breakfast time which was fine by me! Elk Lake resort was bustling because a huge road running relay race was happening at the same time. The race is called Cascade Lakes Relay and is a 216 mile relay that happens over 2 days. Today was the dress up day and everyone was walking around the resort in costume. The energy was electric but it also meant there was an abnormally long line for breakfast. Luckily, it didn't take too long to get a table - We settled in for a magnificent feast while staring out at Elk Lake. There were many people sleeping in the grass and on blow up mattresses strewn all over the resort. It was hard to tell who were tired relay runners and who were PCT hikers. 



    It was this day that we finally met Little Foot and her parents. Little foot is a 5 year old who is hiking the entire trail with her parents. She dressed like your classic hiker: long sleeve button up shirt,  khaki hiking pants, a bandana wrapped around her neck, hiking hat, and little Altra shoes. She definitely dressed the part. Other than 300 miles (due to snow) through the sierras, she had hiked every step from Mexico. I couldn’t help but be inspired by this family and the incredible bond and memories they were making together. I’m so curious if she even comprehends that what she is doing is different than how most other kids spend their summer. 

    I had my eye on some ice cream they were serving but I was already so full and I knew we had an entire afternoon of hiking ahead of us. As tempting as it is to eat all the things, I have paid the overeating price before and didn't want to feel sick the rest of the day. Ice cream would have to wait for another day! 



I found this tree quite beautiful :)



    Not long after leaving Elk Lake we saw a hiker talking on his phone on the top of this hill and figured there must be service there. Our shoes were beginning to break down and Peter needed some more chafing lube and insoles, amongst other things. We had the idea to call his Sister Kathleen and ask is she would be able to ship us some items. She had zero heads up that this might happen but she snapped into action at the drop of a hat and got us everything we needed. I believe this entailed driving all over town to collect these said items. To say she is a God sent is an understatement. The bond that Peter has with his family is quite admirable. They truly would do anything for each other and often go well out of their way to help each other out. 





    We entered the Sisters Wilderness and hiked another 20 miles that afternoon. Peter and I had attempted a 50 mile hike through the sisters wilderness many years ago but we had to turn back early due to snowfall. Needless to say it was exciting to be back! We had met another hiker who had warned us that there was a forest ranger ahead and he was checking PCT permits. Luckily we had nothing to worry about because we had a permit. We saw him up ahead and we stopped to pull out our permits. He checked them and then gave us a speal about camping in the area and a little history about the park. It was quite educational…at the time. I asked if he had caught anyone hiking without a permit and he said yes. Moral of his story, make sure you have your permit or you will be escorted out of the park! 






    Our camp spot for the night was near this beautiful waterfall and it couldn’t have been more picturesque. There was only one tentsite here and I was quite shocked it hadn’t been scooped up! Having this space all to ourselves felt quite special. 

Until next time, 

Marathon and Pole Vault


Sunday, September 26, 2021

PCT DAY 7: Shelter Cove Resort

Day 7: 21.5 miles

    This morning we were really excited to get to Shelter Cove Resort. Whenever we knew we would get somewhere for breakfast we walked with a little extra pep in our step. We just ate various bars for breakfast everyday so the thought of a real food was very motivating :) 



    We arrived just before 9am and were rewarded with beautiful views of Odell Lake. The resort is a mixture of RV camping and cabins and there's a marina for boats. Its a very popular fishing spot. Of course I b-lined it straight to the food hut (Hook and Talon) which was conveniently attached to the general store where we would be re-supplying from. Because we didn't carry a stove I haven't been drinking coffee which is something I have daily in my regular life. Crater lake didn't have any coffee when we got in there that morning so the coffee I got here was my first cup in 7 days. It was so heavenly! The breakfast options were limited and all the comments on the Guthook App talked about how good the deep dish pizza is here so I held out for that. 

    The entire resort shares 2 washer and dryers and 2 coin operated showers. The coin operated showering is always quite hysterical. The machines typically only take quarters and its like $3 for 2 minutes so if you want a "long" shower you need a sack to carry all the quarters. It's always a frantic mad dash to see how fast you can clean yourself. At this point, the dust was so caked onto our feet that it took the friction of a towel to really clean it off.  Luckily, they provided towels. Unluckily, someone had to handle those towels afterwards. 

    Town stops were always a fun place to be as they were bustling with hikers. You'd chat with people in the laundromat, in line for the showers, and at the cafe. Some of the small resorts had areas for PCT hikers to congregate or camp for free. Here you could often find charging stations and hiker boxes. These boxes were made up of all the re-supply discards and were sometimes a gold mine. One hikers trash is another hikers treasure! One of my favourite finds were these peanut butter filled ritz crackers. I'm salivating thinking about it. If the town is really awesome, it's easy to get stuck in the vortex. Pulling yourself away from the luxury of real food and drinks can be a challenge.  

   But I digress...

    I finally ordered my pizza and it was massive! Peter and I were sharing it and I think I only managed 2 slices which meant I had enough for dinner this night on trail.  It was hard peeling ourselves from the comforts of the resort that afternoon but we managed to get back on trail around 2pm. After about an hour we met a lovely older gentleman named Hipshot. He was so named because he had a recent hip replacement. He had also hiked the AT some years prior and I found his story to be quite inspiring. I don't remember how it came up but we were talking about how some people think a lot while they hike (I fall into this category). He then said, "hipshot doesn't like to thinky thinky, he likes to hikey hikey". The way he said that in the 3rd person just had me in fits! He decided to sit down for a break and we never saw him again. 



    We passed by a lot of lakes this afternoon and settled on camping at one named Bobby Lake. The Boston Mule was there when we arrived and we walked in every which direction trying to find a secluded tentsite so as to give him some privacy. We had no luck so he had to put up with us for another night ;) After setting up our tent we went to find a nice place to swim. We ended up finding the most amazing swim spot off this rock slab which just so happened to be located next to the most immaculate tent site. Our friends Happy and Lucky rolled into camp a bit late and we enthusiastically directed them towards it. 

Hot tip: Make sure you check the expiry dates of the food from the Shelter Cove general store :/  Also, if you have a sensitive stomach, skip the pizza (says Pete). 

Until next time, 

Marathon and Pole Vault




Friday, September 24, 2021

PCT Day 6: White Fish Horse Camp

 Day 6: 26 miles

    Last night we went to sleep without being able to see the view from our tentsite but this morning the clouds had parted and we could see all the beautiful surrounding mountain peaks! What a way to wake up :) I wish I took a picture...

    We had 10 miles to walk to get to the next water source. Luckily, the early morning miles were  in cool temps and I didn't need to drink much water. When we reached the side trail down to the spring I realized we were in for a bit of a detour and sadly it was all downhill. Because we usually have so many miles to complete on any given day, detouring off trail for water isn't my favourite. The trail down to the spring went on and on and I had a bit of a tantrum realizing I had to hike all the way back up. I probably just needed a snack. When we got back up to our packs there were a couple of other hikers there that we had never met before. Turns out The Boston Mule and Rotisserie were also LASH's (long ass section hikers) and had hiked long sections of the trail in years past just like us. We also saw Happy and Lucky (who had travelled all the way from the Czech Republic to do the PCT). We had been leap frogging with them for a couple days now. 

    The day was really heating up and we were pretty excited to see a full water cache 6 miles later. All of our new trail friends were stopping for lunch here too. As Peter and I packed up to leave, Happy and Lucky asked us if we were going to the White Fish horse camp. We said we had never heard of it and then they told us there was trail magic there. The words "trail magic" really piqued our interest and we quickly got the beta on this camp. Turns out the camp hosts Jim and Gerri are amazing and offer PCT hikers soda, sometimes food, a charging station, and a free place to camp. I think it also cut off 2 miles of trail which would get us into Shelter Cove a bit earlier the next day! Needless to say, we were sold! 



Happy, Lucky, Rotisserie, & The Boston Mule

    The 11 mile hike to camp was pretty hot and exposed and the trail was very sandy. We had to stop every hour to dump the sand out of our shoes. But, let me tell you, every sandy step was worth this detour! As we walked into the camp Jim and Gerri greeted us from their golf cart. They asked if we were PCT hikers and got us settled at the picnic table by their RV. They offered us a soda and an apple and gave us the run down on the camp ground. They also informed us of a lake that was a short 7 minute walk from camp. They said they were making burgers for dinner and asked if we wanted to join. We of course didn't hesitate and said YES!! It was so nice to sit down and get to know everyone a little bit better. Jim and Gerri have been the hosts at this camp for many years now and had so many PCT hiker stories. This truly was a magical day and one of the most memorable of the trip. After dinner, Peter and I went down to the lake for a swim. Can't think of a better way to cap off an amazing day. 






Marathon and Pole Vault

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Day 5: Highest point in OR/WA!

 Day 5: 26.5 miles

    It rained on and off all night but luckily took a pause while we packed up our packs for the morning. The skies were moody over Crater Lake and it was an amazing sight to behold. 


    I think the lack of water sources has become a bit of a theme in Oregon. The picture below shows one of the 2 water caches we came across this day. The caches are maintained by trail angels who so generously volunteer their time and energy and make hiking the PCT possible or at least more comfortable. 

    Just before we reached the water cache Peter was feeling a bit off and so we sat down on a log. He then proceeded to vomit. Now, if I were vomiting, I would be keeled over with tears streaming down my eyes, unable to focus on much else other than my current state. Peter, on the other hand, was able to casually engage me in conversation, while intermittently barfing, and continuing the conversation as if nothing had happened at all. 


    After barf gate, we saw two groups of all female Forest Service workers who were doing trail maintenance. Trail maintenance looks a lot different in the US than in Canada. For starters, I don't believe they're allowed to run chainsaws in National Forests. Instead, they carry massive 2 person cross cut saws. Secondly, there are no motorized vehicles allowed on the trail and each person we saw was carrying very heavy tools. I couldn't help but think about how much easier it would be to load up an ATV and motor on in there. One person was even carrying a 20L jug of water in her hands. The amount of effort that goes into clearing these trails is insane and we made sure to thank them for all their hard work as we passed by. 

    The trail had been quite flat all morning but this afternoon we began to climb up and up and up. It also began to rain and we put on our rain gear. 


    After having walked most of the day in the forest it was a nice change to hike to the shoulder of Mt. Theilsen. Here we were rewarded with exquisite views as the clouds parted exposing the summit of Mt. Theilsen. 



  We reached the last water source today around 3pm and it was roughly 25km to the next one. We knew we weren't about to hike all the way there this night so we had to carry a shit ton of water to make it to camp and then have some left over for the next morning. I remember my pack feeling very heavy as we hiked uphill for the next 5 miles to camp. 


    Not long after we reached the highest point of the PCT in both Oregon and Washington at 7560 feet. 


    The tentsite we chose for the night we had all to ourselves! We could tell there was a stunning view waiting to happen but it was covered by clouds. It would be a different story in the morning :) We hung our stuff to dry, filled our bellies with cold ramen noodles and tucked ourselves in our sleeping bags and enjoyed an episode of criminal minds. 



Marathon and Pole Vault



  

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Day 4: Crater Lake!

    Day 4: 22.5 miles

    We woke up to the sound of rain around 3:30am! This came as quite a surprise to us since it was super clear the night before. So clear in fact, we slept without the fly on our tent! Peter had hung our food/packs high up a tree and there was no quick way to solve our issue so we decided to pack up and start our 12 mile walk to Crater Lake.


Morning light!

    The rain led to a short lived thunder storm and we were greeted by a beautiful sunrise. Peter was having a hard time eating this morning and I think we were both excited to get to the amenities that existed at Crater Lake. I had read the comments in the Guthook PCT app about the amazing breakfast at the Crater Lake Lodge and so I hiked and fantasized. 



    We reached the road to Crater Lake and had about 3km to walk to get to the visitor Center. My right knee began to bother me as we walked down the road, right about where my ITBand inserts on my tibia. That was a bit worrisome. I stopped and stretched and focused on firing my glutes and luckily it didn't bother me again. At 9am we reached our destination and dropped our bags behind the general store. We were able to poach some wifi and were able to FaceTime our family for the first time! 



    

I was sad to learn that the lodge with the breakfast I was fantasizing about was a couple hour hike up the trail. The restaurant where we were had mixed reviews but it would have to do. The restaurant wouldn't open for another hour or so which was fine because we had some re-supply shopping to do! 



    We had planned to re-supply out of the general store and this would be our first winging it re-supply of the trip. I walked into the store and quickly realized that this would be an interesting shop. The store didn't really have the things that I was expecting to find and so I bought a drumstick ice cream cone and walked back outside and contemplated my food choices. Upon further review there was actually some pretty good stuff in there. One of the best things we bought were bagels and cream cheese. It was the only time we had that on trail but we talked about it often later in the trip. I also picked up a bunch of chocolate/granola bars, nuts, gummies, and chips. Trail food isn't glamorous but it sure is tasty! We re-packed our bags with all our new goodies and walked over for lunch at Annie's restaurant. I had a buffalo chicken wrap and Peter had a beyond meat burger and we both really enjoyed it! 

    We walked out of there with full bellies and began our hike up to the Rim of Crater Lake. This trail was steep and it was probably the hardest climb we had done in our 4 days of hiking. This just made it all that much sweeter once we got our first view of the lake! It is a thing of beauty! 

    Peter had mentioned that he thought the Rim trail would be pretty flat but it turned out to be quite the opposite. We were again in a stretch with very few water sources. We were starting to get tired and knew we would have to dry camp tonight. We didn't have enough water to make it all the way to the water cache tomorrow but luckily we came across a parking lot and found a nice couple who so generously gave us some water! 



Our dinner spot. A PCT hiker had made that and hung it in the tree. 

    Not long after we found an amazing flat spot just outside the park boundary and set up camp for the night. The clouds were starting to roll in and we got the tent up just as it started to rain. I love listening to the pitter patter of rain on the fly once I'm all cozy in my sleeping bag. This was a day to remember. 

Marathon and Pole Vault