From Dewey Lake to small creek
The lake is quivering but still this morning, the sky grayer than yesterday. We can still hear the elk calling to each other like they did last night, an eerie serenade. Having not seen an elk in the act of bugling (or, any elk at all), I still have a hard time believing that these alien cries come from a furry earth-bound herbivore.
The low skies of the morning just remind us of the weather forecast we looked at back at White Pass. Forecast: rain’s a’comin. In the Northwest, once the rain starts… that might be it for our blue skies until spring. Or it might not. We talk about it with our fellow hikers when we cross paths on the trail, optimistically framed – “Well, wouldn’t want to have carried this damn umbrella for 2000 miles for nothing!” we tell each other.
In the much shorter term, there is a highway crossing just a few miles from where we are. Highway crossings mean one of two things: 1. Trail Magic!!! 2. Deep, unreasonable disappointment that a random stranger did not decide to take time out of their life to show up at a random highway pullout no-where near civilization to give other dirty, stinking, random strangers food.
“A sign! A sign!” I yell back to J, just behind me. “Trail magic!”
“Remember back in Trout Lake, and the trail magic sign there?” J replies.
“Yeah,” I reply sadly, thinking about the 5 foot wide sign proclaiming ‘Trail Magic’, that LIED TO US. We pause a moment, contemplating the disappointment that possibly awaits us. Then we go sprinting down the trail in hot pursuit of cookies.
We’re almost to the highway crossing when we come around a corner and THERE is Mt Rainier. Looming. The clouds lie in heavy shreds around the peak, the massive glaciers a broken tumble of ancient ice. I really want cookies, but I stop for a moment and pay my homage to my mother, the mountain. Then cookies!
There is trail magic. It’s really there! Trail Angels Tutu and Bear have set up their RV up at the little parking lot and feed us cookies, hot coffee, fruit, and good cheer. 3D and Crackerjack are already there! Switch comes in right behind us. Spirits lifted, we all continue on. Then promptly stop a half mile later at a little pond for water. I’d sort of thought that in the Cascades the water situation would be more like the Sierras, where a long dry stretch was five miles. It’s been a bit drier here, a combination of staying high in the mountains and coming through at the very end of melt season. This is the last water for a bit, so pond-water it is.
“3D, I like your shorts,” I tell her, while we’re sitting around squeezing our old sawyer squeezes.
“Thanks, figure if I’ve got hiker legs, might as well rock short shorts.”
“Right?? I’d really like to keep them when I get home, I’m just not sure how I’ll fit 9 hours of walking in around a day job,” I pan.
“Running every day. And kale. I’m eating nothing but kale.” We both laugh. I figure my plans of becoming a fitness/running freak when I get home are about as realistic as my pre-hike plan to do pushups every day. Ha! But I’m still planning on it, cuz you never know.
Leaving the little lake we cross a ridge into another valley. A group of four retired ladies out for a day hike is taking a break, and we stop and talk again, because it’s that time of day. They tell us stories from the day Mt St Helens blew up while we look at the peak of Mt Rainier and think about it’s fiery belly.
Socializing time finally over, we take a side trail to see one last big view of Rainier. THEN, it’s time to hike. The trail has exploded almost overnight into fall colors, and it slides across the side of one ridge to the next to the next. Crackerjack is ahead of us, but he leaves us a note in the dirt: GOATS –>. Another herd of mountain goats!
The walking is tough this afternoon, mostly because we did not walk all morning and it will be getting dark soon. The afternoon fades into a stiff hustle. Walk fast walk fast walk fast walk fast. J’s afternoon cold sweats are back. We don’t take any breaks for the last nine miles of the day, stumbling into camp in a haze of exhaustion. It’s starting to mist. No rain today, but things aren’t looking good for tomorrow. I spend at least ten minutes walking around the camping sites next to the little creek to figure out which dished out camping spot looks least likely to flood, then give up and pick the one that which will be easiest for pitching the tarp. I’m exhausted.