From Trout Lake to campsite on old lava flow
The monastery hostel has big picture windows and no shades, facing northeast to Mt Adams. I ditched J in the middle of the night for my own twin mattress, but as day creeps up on us he sneaks back in beside me, and we watch the great face of the mountain turn towards the sun.
We have hot tea and sausage, eggs, toast, fruit, hash browns, and conversation for breakfast. Kozen sits down and eats with us. (I wonder if he considers this breakfast? He’s been up in prayers since 3am.) He chats with us about the trail, life, religion, and then completely floors us asking: “Does this journey have a spiritual component for you two?”
Spiritual? I thought we were just out here to like, walk around, and see some mountains, and like, have a real cool time? “Well, uh, we’ve certainly been exploring the limits of our bodies, and how we, uh, connect with them and the earth…” Maybe I should give this some more thought.
Kozen gives us a ride back to the general store, where we purchase our resupply in the somewhat thinly stocked general store. (A fuel canister in the hiker box and extra candy bars make up the difference.) We’re still talking about summitting Mt Adams, seeing as we walk right across the west flank, so we buy a topo map. A closer look at the map and the summit idea is looking less promising. We will entirely bypass the south side with the gradual ascent, and every other route to the top looks more technical than we’re ready for. However, there is a one mile trail that comes off the PCT that leads to place marked High Camp on the map. High Camp sounds good. It’s fourteen miles from the highway to the High Camp trail and it’s only noon – we could make it there tonight and spend the night above timberline! We hustle out to the road and put our thumbs out, trying to get a hitch for the twelve miles back to the trail.
We stand there with our thumbs out as car after car after car drives right past us. Two old guys drinking coffee outside at the espresso shop across the street begin to jokingly heckle us as our bad luck continues. A giant blue RV accelerates as it passes us just to emphasize that it’s not picking us up – “he had plenty of room!” cackle the two old men. We shout a conversation across the street for a while, and they tell us the deadline to finish isn’t October 1st, it’s October 11th – the beginning of hunting season. That or buy orange hats.
We’re still standing there when another guy walks up to us and starts a conversation. He’s an engineer, just in town for a project, and he asks us about our trip. Then he says: “You look like a real outdoors person,” pointing to J. “But YOU look like someone who is trying to look like an outdoors person.”
Gee, thanks. Engineers, man. Masters of tact. Oh well, there’s no help for us. And if I don’t look like a real outdoors person by now, after four months out, I suppose there’s no help for that either. The engineer leaves, and does not give us a ride.
After more fruitless waiting, we cave in and call the numbers of some trail angels that had been posted by the trailhead. Trail Angel Doug is already going to shuttle a few other hikers back to the trail in a bit, so we go back to the diner across the street and wait with Switch and our old friend (and very first trail angel) Glide On. (Cheers to reunions!)
We don’t get to the trail until 2:30, but we get to reunite with Seahawk and Bumblebee, about to go into town. We’re exchanging stories when Dimples walks up! Reunions everywhere!
Three o’clock, and fifteen miles to make before dark… High Camp is not looking promising, but we switch out of walking auto-pilot and into top walking speed and give it a go. By five I know it’s not going to happen. We’re making the miles we need to, but I can’t maintain this pace for three more hours without a break. Oh well. Could be worse – it’s utterly lovely here. Mt Adams hulks to the east, we can see Mt Hood to the south, Mt St Helens to the west, and Mt Rainier to the north. We’re entering alpine country, delicate moss, cascading streams. The first are draped in hanging moss that, backlit by the sun, turns to flaming golden strands. As the sun gets lower, the temperature plummets. “Oh man, you can feel the rivers of cold air just pouring off that glacier,” I shiver to J.
“No kidding. Let’s make sure we don’t camp in one.”
A wide, flat sandy spot in the middle of an old lava flow gives us a place to pitch the tarp and watch the sunset turn Mt Adams magenta. Switch catches up with us and sets up her little tent next to ours. Not High Camp, but it’ll do.