From Cascade Locks to Gilette Lake
Thunder Island is bright and windy, festooned with little colored peaks and domes, populated with a tribe of hairy, smelly hikers. It’s morning!
I stayed up way past hiker midnight last night, and I’m tired this morning. J and I wander around Cascade Locks for a bit while PCT Days gets started. The Bridge of the Gods is closed to cars for 45 minutes this morning to allow pedestrians to enjoy the bridge, and it feels like a goodwill border relations gig up here, the Oregonians mingling with the Washingtonians, people snapping pictures and playing bagpipes. We stand up on the bridge and watch the mad rush of the Columbia through the metal grating below our feet, but we save our first steps into Washington for later.
When we walk back to Thunder Island the vendors are all set up. I walk around to all of them but don’t engage. The gear and products are shiny, new, ultralight, neon, titanium… but I’m not interested. I like the gear I have right now just fine. It’s strange to feel so disconnected. Am I not a properly trained consumer? Shouldn’t I want things?
But I don’t want anything. I already have everything I need.
By noon I’m pestering J to leave. The trail is right there, as soon as I walk back onto the Bridge of the Gods. He’s happy to hang out still, and tells me to go to the Gossamer Gear booth like I said I would. “Ok, ok.”
I take my pack with me – all my gear and five days of food. The Gossamer Gear folks let me take the model Mariposa G5 pack they have hanging up and load it up. It’s a beautiful pack – all silver and gray with royal blue accents – and the shoulder straps and hipbelt have been completely revamped. The new model looks like it might even be comfortable this time. Other than swapping out the pack fabric and pack harness, it looks essentially unchanged. I am skeptical.
I put it on – and it feels so good. It’s so much better than I remember the G4 model that I am astonished. In fact, it might even be better than my ULA Ohm 2.0. By a hair. But still… I put it on and walk around, the padding on the hipbelt riding so comfortably at the base of my spine, the shoulder straps fitting so nicely across my shoulders. The CEO asks me: “So?”
“It’s good. I’m surprised. This feels really great.”
“Good! We put a lot of work into the re-design.”
“Yeah, this is great. In fact, I almost don’t want to give it back.”
He gives me a long, appraising look. “You keep a blog, right?”
“Here’s the deal. You give me a blog post, you can take it.”
“Yeah. You’re sort of a type, you know, a female hiker type that we wanted to make sure the pack worked for.”
(That makes sense. There are a fair number of us out on the trail – the sort of skinny, medium-tall, not-shaped-like-a-dude ladies.)
So, I take the pack. This is officially the first time that this blog has resulted in any sort of material gain for me, and I feel surprisingly conflicted. But I’m still thrilled about my new pack. I thought I didn’t want anything, but this pack was just too damn shiny after all. I succumbed.
(For a review of the new Mariposa G5, and a comparison with the G4, check out my Gear Review Page)
I head back to the tarp, where J is hanging out with Guy on a Buffalo. “You have a new pack!”
“Yeah! I couldn’t help myself.”
“Better than the Ohm after all?”
“Yeah! I was shocked. But can we go now?”
We pack up our stuff and start working our way out of the morass of hikers. Thru-hikers have this very sticky quality to them. When there are a bunch of them together, it becomes difficult to extricate yourself. We’re almost out when we run into Kimchi and Rock Ocean. I haven’t seen Kimchi since Chester and the bicycles. “Gizmo! Dirtnap!” she yells, and we hug each other like it’s the end of the world and we just discovered we’re not the last person alive after all. “Dude!” she tells me. “I can’t believe you’re here! I think about you guys all the time.”
“Yeah, I think about you every time I poop.”
“Ever since that giant lecture you gave me at Sierra City about packing out your TP. I pack it out every time, man, and every time I do it I think about you.”
“Ha! Shucks. I’m honored!”
“I’ve even been telling other people.”
“I’m so glad to hear I’ve made a difference.” We both laugh.
We hang out for a while, but reunion or no reunion, I would really like to go. It’s time to go. Can we please just go? It’s time to be back on the PCT.
We walk out of town, buy one last ice cream bar, and run into Lapis. Lapis! We’ve been running into Lapis since the beginning, back in the desert, back when we were all limping, back before we knew anything. Our paths have been intersecting ever since – she was even there in Chester when we got on the bicycles. It is fitting that she is here again. We really are back on the PCT.
We catch up, then finally (finally?) are on our way. The Bridge of the Gods is open to cars again, so we get in line for the tollbooth. J has a dollar out to pay the toll, but the toll-lady laughs at us. “Oh, hikers don’t need to pay the toll!”
“Consider it a donation to the bridge fund,” J replies as he hands it over anyway.
“Oh, thank you sweetheart. Now, when you cross, stay in the left-hand lane so you can see the oncoming traffic. Good luck!”
Off we go. Across the bridge. Into the woods. Back on the PCT.
We hike five miles in to Gilette Lake then stop for the night, as it is already late. The forest is green, quiet. I can’t hear any cars, and there’s no pavement in sight. I’m so excited for this last chapter of the PCT.