From small creek to mirror lake
At first glance the morning looks as miserable as the day before, thick with heavy fog, the underside of our tarp drenched with condensation. And then a brilliant beam of light bursts into our little blue silnylon bedroom. The sun!
It doesn’t last long – as soon as the sun rises above the ceiling of clouds it’s back to gray – but it’s not raining. I’ll take it. We get up and start packing up our soggy camp, put on damp clothes and wet shoes. Crackerjack, 3D, Tintin, and Smokey all made camp with us at the same like creek-side and it’s a cheerful morning. Crackerjack has his music playing, and despite being from Germany, his playlist is an exact replica of my favorite radio station as a freshman in high school.
The good cheer doesn’t last for long. I didn’t realize how much work I’d been putting in to keeping a good face on things yesterday, in the rain, until I didn’t have to do it. J calls me out on being a crank today when I was so upbeat yesterday. Ok, ok.
Morning clouds eventually burn off and we walk through the dripping woods in sunshine. This is an area that gets logged, which means I must always remember that other people have been here, that this is not a truly wild place. There are bushes full of blueberries, but they’re sort of sour. I’m still tired.
Coming up to a forest service road I see two big boxes of soda and a sign: trail magic!
The boxes are full of empty soda cans and a note asking hikers to pack out the trash because the person who left them there because they won’t be coming back to clean up. Now all that’s left are soggy boxes full of trash and disappointment. This is NOT trail magic. It’s also the reason why many advocates are trying to end the practice of trail magic – and who could blame them after seeing this?? I pick up one of the soggy boxes and about half the cans and shove them in my pack. I have packed out other people’s trash on nearly every single section of this trail, but this is more than normal. I didn’t even get a damn soda.
I turn the corner into the parking area by the dirt road and walk straight into a hiker yardsale. The rest of the morning crew is already here, and taking advantage of the open space and sunshine to dry out their gear.
J and I join them. I find an unopened can of root beer in the bushes – looks like I get a soda after all! A car pulls in and an old man gets out, starts quizzing me about things in the area I know nothing about and going on and on about climate change. He’s about to leave when I stop him, “before you go, could you do me a favor?” He looks instantly unhappy as I press a parcel of soggy cardboard and sticky cans into his possession. “Would you mind helping us pack this out?”
He can’t figure out how to say no, although I can tell he’s mad about it as he drives away. I don’t care. Caring about the environment is more than just talk, buddy. My load lightened, I go back and pick up the rest of the trash to pack out. LNT, baby.
I go back to eating my lunch, and 3D and I watch in horrified fascination as Tintin, who is French, prepares her own meal. She takes a giant tortilla, puts it on her lap. She pulls out a can of cheese whiz and methodically covers the tortilla, from the outside in. The cheese whiz goes back, a bottle of thousand island dressing comes out, and the process is repeated. A tuna packet is unceremoniously dumped in the middle, and another tortilla slapped on top. She rolls it up and starts eating. “Tintin!” 3D gasps. “Do your friends at home have any idea what you’re eating?!”
Tintin looks up, horrified. “Oh no!” she exclaims. “Please, you can’t tell them!” which send us into fits of laughter.
We stay a long time at the decidedly un-scenic lunch stop. It feels so good to sit in the sun, to NOT walk for just a minute.
I never recover from our lunch break. My feet hurt, and I’ve got my first blister in thousands of miles. J catches up with me at a water stop. “Did you talk to the Ukrainians?” he asks.
“The mushroom foragers.”
“I saw them but I didn’t talk to them.” I had passed the family full of blond children with buckets but just walked by. J stopped and got the scoop on some of the other mushrooms we’d been seeing. We’ve been eating the King Boletes for days now, but we’ve also been seeing another mushroom that looks very similar, but not quite the same. “She called those red-hats,” J explains from his conversation with the matriarch. “And the King Boletes are brown-hats. Red-hats are good, but brown-hats are best.”
“Good to know. How much do you trust the Ukrainians?”
“They seemed pretty confident.”
It’s getting late and we just haven’t done the miles we planned on. The more miles we do today, the less we have to do tomorrow to get to Snoqualmie Pass, where we’ll be taking our first full zero since we started Washington. J feels bad again, and we’ve been making long stops for trips into the bushes. We catch up with 3D and Crackerjack sitting on a log, looking exactly like we feel. Crackerjack gives me a blister bandage. I hadn’t even realized I was out of them until today.
The day ends at mirror lake, the prettiest place we’ve seen all day. We’ve got ten miles left to Snoqualmie Pass and two larabars left for breakfast. We put a red-hat mushroom into our dinner, just so we can sit around and be paranoid about developing symptoms of gastrointestinal distress. (Just to pass the time.) I’m ready for a day off.