From Hemlock Camp to Stehekin
I wake up not to sun, but to the possibility of it. I was hoping to wake up feeling magically cured, not like a wrung out dish-rag, but dish-rag is still better than yesterday. J once again lures me out of my sleeping bag with steaming hot tea, and I take my titanium mug over to where Switch and Biscuit are camping, and we discuss our various (ineffective) strategies for keeping mice out of our tents and sleeping bags. “I put out wrappers with just a few crumbs on them,” Biscuit explains. “As a decoy.”
“Does that work?” I ask. “Wouldn’t that just attract more?”
“You can’t have too many crumbs,” she explains. “Just enough to distract them.”
“I ran into Solar Sam yesterday,” Switch chimes in, “and he told me that he killed three of them in his tent that morning. He was all, ‘You can call me SLAYER Sam!’, then he laughed sort of maniacally.”
“Ha! I don’t blame him! We hang our food and still have mice running across my face all night.” I complain back. “It’s the damn scritchy-scratch noise of their little feet on my NeoAir. I really thought I was going to lose it.”
It’s a good morning for tea and stories – only twelve miles to the shuttle that runs to Stehekin. There’s no way we’re making the noon shuttle, but I’m pretty sure we can catch the 3pm. J and I pack up, but he takes almost everything, and I’m left with my sleeping bag, a few items of clothes, and my water. “This is actually pretty great,” I tell him. “How come you don’t carry all the heavy stuff, all the time? All the other PCT boyfriends do.”
“You should probably date them then, cuz if you think I’m going to start carrying your s— all the time we should just break up now.” I laugh. It’s true that many other couples have the dude carrying way more stuff, but I’m not interested in that setup any more than J is. Except for today. I’m wobbly as a newborn foal.
Luckily, it’s mostly downhill, alongside Agnes Creek. I would like to go look at the gorge but I’m doing a terrible job of walking in a straight line today. “Don’t even think about getting close to that edge, Gizmo,” J warns me, seeing me look over.
“I know, I know. Go take some pictures of it for me so I can look at it later.”
It takes a long time to do those twelve miles, but we make it. The water running under High Bridge is a brilliant blue, and we can see the spawning Kokanee salmon brilliant red in the shallows. Switch and Biscuit come in behind us and we wait for the shuttle. “The shuttle is going to stop at the bakery, right?” asks Switch.
“That’s what I’ve heard.”
“I’m going to buy a cinnamon bun the size of my face.”
“Ohhh, cinnamon buns,” moans Biscuit.
“Do you think they have ice cream?” adds Switch.
The bakery does, in fact, have both cinnamon buns and ice cream, and we get back on the shuttle after the ten minute stop there with arms overflowing with baked goods. Switch is the happiest person I’ve ever seen. I haven’t eaten anything of note in two days now, so I figure it’s a great idea to go straight for the giant cinnamon bun. I’m going to regret this, but oh, it is so good.
I do regret it, almost instantaneously – especially because the shuttle makes me carsick. We find Stehekin brimful of thru-hikers, and there are fifteen of us at the table that night at the only restaurant in town. I’m the only one who doesn’t finish my dinner. (At this point in the trip, it’s sort of embarrassing.) J and I shell out for an expensive room instead of camping, and discuss our plans. I’m fighting thoughts of ending early. I know we are only 100 miles from the end, but I am so exhausted. “If it’s just going to rain the entire time, I don’t really see the point,” I tell J.
“Let’s just wait till tomorrow, check out the weather report, talk about it then.”
“Yeah, I’m just sayin’ too.”
The room has no TV, the town has no internet, so J reads me stories about Spanish explorers – not Cortez, the ones who managed to get themselves enslaved by Indians and who had to live on nothing but roots and crickets for years at a time. So it could be worse.
all photos by J today