From Pipe Lake to Dewey Lake
In the middle of the night I get up to pee, trying not to trip on the tarp guylines (I always trip on the tarp guylines) and look up. Even with my eyes blurred over with sleep, I am staggered. The stars! I have one of those rare glimpses into eternity, a split-second flash where I really understand how big infinity is, and then I’ve lost it again. I walk to the shore of the lake and sit on a rock for a few minutes and look at the sky, cold and tired. Amazed at the universe. Amazed I exist. Humbled to be here.
(Perhaps one of my biggest misconceptions about the trail was the amount of time I would spend looking at the night sky. I assumed I was going to see soooo many stars, being the in the backcountry all summer. I’ve actually seen the stars in full glory maybe a handful of times. Few enough to count on my fingers. It turns out that if you want to see the stars, you have to stay up long enough for it to become completely dark. I can’t stay up till ten, I’m asleep by eight! And there are not that many stars out by 8pm. I don’t usually need to pee in the middle of the night, and I prefer to sleep under my tarp, so that takes care of that.)
In the morning Pipe Lake is as breathlessly still as the day before, full of the sky. J seems to be feeling better this morning, we’ll see how it goes.
We wind our way through more meadows and sloughs before an uphill we can see switchbacking up the mountainside. It feels good to push it, but J is losing steam quick, and his cold sweats are back. “You look terrible,” I say, concerned.
“I feel terrible,” he replies. Too bad there’s no sick days on the PCT.
At lunch we both catch a chill. Every day farther north we see more reds and yellows from plants heralding the fall, and the summer warmth is quickly leaving the north-country. We start hiking again to get warm, turning a corner around a ridge, and I am stopped dead in my tracks. “Holy smokes!” I yell, surprised. “Mt Rainier! It’s like, right there!” I had no idea we were so close already. Where did the miles go? And what a mountain! It’s hazy today, like it wants to be overcast, and the mountain is dim, but still looms large. The volcanoes exude a palpable sense of power. That wicked, blue ice and black rock, over a belly of fire…
The trail teases us, and takes us on the other side of the ridge, where we can no longer see Mt Rainier. Denied. It takes us instead into the best bonanza patch of blueberries yet, and we stuff ourselves. J has rallied, just like yesterday, and we make the last push to Dewey Lake. It’s a hard last push. I’m tired. J fishes but doesn’t catch tonight. The water is choppy with wind, and the fish aren’t biting. We see Seahawk and Bumblebee pass by on the trail and yell out to them across the water, but the either don’t here us or don’t want to stop. Looks like we have the place to ourselves tonight.