From Junction Lake to town of Trout Lake
The bottom of our tarp is damp with partially frozen condensation. Brrr. I shiver through pack-up, and leave my windshirt and rainpants on for a little while. Headphones are back in today.
We’re still in the land of little lakes and trees. In the motionless morning air it is a land of mirrors, trees and above and trees below. Trees, trees, trees. Hills. The trail here in Washington must’ve been designed by different people than the trail in Southern California. In SoCal the trail went around hills. Here it goes over, stiff uphills to steep downhills, no messing around. We’d like to get into the town of Trout Lake tonight, and it’s a seven mile hitch, so we need to finish the 21 miles well before dark. Even after all this time town stops are a carrot that can keep me on a hustle.
The days whips past in the fast/slow pleasant/tough time vortex of a hustle. I can change my walking auto-pilot speed , but to go really fast I have to pay attention. Instead of letting my wand wander through the flotsam and jetsam that washes onto my brain’s shore, I think about walking.
We’re getting close to the highway when we cross a smaller Forest Service road. “Holy smokes!” I yell. “Look at that volcano!” Mt Adams looms huge across the road, filling the view. “Too bad all these trees keep getting in the way of the view, hey Dirtnap?”
“Wow,” J replies. “There it is! We’ve gotta climb that thing.”
Three miles to the hitch. It’s almost 5, maybe we can get there before 6.
We pop out at the road and wait.
Cheeseburger comes in right behind us. Watching Cheeseburger hike is one of my favorite things to do – I think he’s taken approximately 50% fewer steps on the PCT. I like to joke that his boots – old-school, heavy-duty leather laceups – are seven league boots. With each giant swing of his legs he covers twice as much ground as the rest of us. He joins us in putting thumbs out to the non-existent passing cars. We’re making small talk, and then he says, “So, I checked the miles, and if we do 21 miles a day for rest of the hike and only take two days off we can get to Canada by October 1st.”
I’ve been having this conversation since the start of the Sierras. All the way through California. A vacation on the bicycles, than drowning in a sea of “so, if we hike XX miles a day and take XX zeroes, we can make it to Canada by October 1st.” October 1st! What, are we going to turn into pumpkins??? As guilty of it as anyone else in California, I was only cured by the bicycle. I still feel it’s siren lure – hurry hurry hurry hurry. Winter is coming. J is impervious to this – I think it’s his superpower.
Well, we’re having no luck hitching a ride from a car on a highway, but here comes a car from the dirt road behind us. We flag it down and the guy reluctantly rolls down his window. It’s an old car, and the driver has a spotty, picked at face – he eyes us nervously, but he agrees to give us a ride to town. Turns out he’s a professional mushroom collector, and he tells us a little about his world of king boletes and matsutakes and morels and more. $5 a pound, $10 a pound, $50 a pound, he dazzles us with dreams of money found hiding in the forest floor. (Judging by his car, it’s not as easy as he makes it sound.) When we hop out at Trout Lake, Cheeseburger has a new life plan.
The tiny general store has a few rooms for rent on the top floor, but we are a few hours behind at least ten other hikers. The other option is a campground down the road, or the more mysterious option of the monastery. The possibility of a bed and a shower is too tempting to pass up, so we start asking around about the Buddhist monastery we’ve been hearing rumors of. We hit paydirt at the gas station. “The monastery? It’s great!” the gas station owner replies to our queries. “They let hikers stay there, but you’ll need to hurry. Kozen goes to bed before 8. Come on, I’ll give you a ride!”
We hop in his truck and he drives us the mile to the monastery, a beautiful wood building on a spread of emerald grass, Mt Adams rising huge behind it. Kozen, the head of the order, opens the door for us. Already in his bathrobe for the night, tall, round, and shaved, ambiguously ethnic, and smiling, he shows us in. He gives us the run-down of options, and we choose to stay in the hostel bunks for $40 a piece, unless we can’t pay that much, then we just pay what we can. No one else is here tonight, so it’s essentially a private room. The monastery is beautiful – passive solar heating, sustainably sourced building materials, green construction. Laundry and tea and breakfast tomorrow are all included. Before Kozen shows up upstairs he pauses then says, “Before I show you to the room, can I ask please for a favor? Could you please commit to keeping all your gear on newspaper? I hate to ask, but we’ve had to have the carpet cleaned after other hikers…” He looks as embarrassed as a Buddhist monk possibly can. We commit to keeping our stuff from touching anything, filthy PCT hikers as we are, and follow Kozen upstairs, shoes in hand. (I’m pretty sure having me take my shoes off in an enclosed space is a lose-lose proposition for everyone involved, but if you ask me too…)
Beautiful shower, a Japanese style toilet , and the most comfortable mattresses I’ve ever slept on. The windows look out to Mt Adams. There is a continual stream of giggles emanating from the bathroom. My first bidet!!
Home for the night. Definitely worth forty bucks.