All along the Stevens to Rainy Pass stretch worried me the most. This was the longest stretch with the longest climbs on our journey. We started late on the first day, putting us behind from the start, but the first couple of miles was on an old railroad grade and Cindy hiked along at a good pace.
On the second day I could tell something was not quite right. Cindy hiked slowly for the conditions, in part because any type of trail obstacle like rocks gave her pause. Either she was catching the cold that Charissa and I had or my worst fears were occurring.
Before we started this journey there was the hope that Cindy would improve, similar to the improvement that occurred while we walked across the country. Over the first two months I did not notice much improvement in cognitive function but I did see some improvement in agility and, of course, stamina. I also did not notice any further deterioration in cognitive function and I took that as consolation enough for what we were doing.
Part of this consolation came when we visited our old hiking friend Albee in Ashland. While hiking with us for a day he noted that at his house Cindy’s affliction was noticeable, yet while out hiking on the trail she seemed like the same old Cindy to him. I try to keep in mind, for those times when the journey has been hard for us, that the alternatives for Cindy before this journey were worse.
However, on the second day out from Stevens Pass physical deterioration was evident, necessitating finding an escape route from the PCT. If this was due to an oncoming cold than no worries, she would get some rest and we would return to the trail when prudent. If she was deteriorating before my eyes we would still hike in some form, but the sadness of this journey for me would escalate.
The second night out I tried the best I could to find out if Cindy was catching a cold and how we could best proceed with the hike. Communication with Alzheimer’s can be elusive. Cindy can express some things but she can’t prioritize. Of course she wants to hike the PCT. Of course she wants hiking to be easy. How do you balance the two?
I teased out an answer this time! We had been doing 15-21 miles in a day while full packing. By dong something close to twenty questions I ascertain we should hike 10-15 miles per day.
Our third day out was shortened to about ten miles, with our escape route planned. We continued to hike slow. Cindy was getting frustrated with stumbling. This alone would not be alarming; I watched Charissa stumble twice in a mile when she was with us on our second day. Yet Cindy said she wanted out now and I was ready to oblige with a new escape route. Then she corrected herself and requested we keep hiking, only her pride was injured.
We stuck to the original escape route, though we failed to make even the ten miles that day. The cause was another rainstorm. This one was benign in comparison to the bitter cold rain in the Three Sisters, or the flash flooding rain by Mt. Hood. Still, I stopped short with Cindy, while Mike hiked on to the original destination, in order to get her dry quicker.
Then came some hopeful news. Despite stopping short in the rainstorm Cindy spent enough time in wet clothes to send her over the edge and catch my cold. Yeah, I know, that sounds bad, but the alternative to a cold is worse. Our escape route already planned, we would hike a fourth day towards the beautiful Glacier Peak and then get Cindy some rest by the fifth.
That’s another change I plan to make, a rest day every 5-7 days. Our original goals have changed, but not our resolve. We hold out to Cindy the hope that we finish the trail next year. She might not be able to by then, but she doesn’t think like that; she does not even know she has Alzheimer’s now. Yet we continue with hiking because, as our good friend Albee observed, that is when Cindy is most herself.