Day 154: the grumps

Day 154
Miles: 19
From Stehekin to Highway 20

Well, I’m still tired, but I guess I may as well see this thing through to the end. Partly cloudy today, cool, with an iffy weather forecast. Could go either way.

Switch and Biscuit stayed in Stehekin yesterday as well, and we all take the shuttle back to the trailhead together. We load up on pastries at the quick bakery stop. Yeah, I know they cost an arm and a leg. Don’t care. Money was invented for the buying of blueberry scones.
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Day 152: Downhill to Stehekin

Day 152
Miles: 12
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.”
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Day 149: making ground

Day 149
Miles: 22
From Indian Creek Trailhead

Even with the sun, even with a “ventilated” tarp, it is always a soggy morning here in the North Cascades. I hear Biscuit stirring next to us and know it’s time to get up. It’s cold enough this morning that for the first time I leave on my thick polyester leggings when we start to hike. I’m too thick through the thighs but with not enough meat on my backside, and they have tendency to slowly slide down. J makes fun of me and my saggy butt as I hitch them up again, the not-stretchy-enough fabric straining against my well-developed hiker thighs. As soon as I decide to stop being cranky about cold fingers, I am again blown away.

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Day 147: 4000 kilometers

Day 147
Miles: 14
From the Dinsmores’ to Grizzly Peak

The rain is back, I slept badly in the Dinsmore dormitory, and we have no food. I can’t do anything about the first two, but I’ll need to fix the last one. We tried to forward one of the boxes we never picked up in Oregon, and it didn’t make it. (I’ll be darned if J throwing away the package tracking numbers two months ago isn’t still biting us in the ass. Don’t throw away your tracking numbers.) There isn’t even a real convenience store in this “town”, so it looks like this is going to be our first complete resupply out of the Hiker Box.
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Day 144: cascades of gray

Day 144
Miles: 20
From ridge above Spectacle Lake to Waptus River

At each of my three morning alarms I wake up, look outside the tarp at the exquisite morning light across the peaks, then go back to sleep. I’m feeling a bit off. Or possibly just lazy. Hard to say.

The golden dawn is gray and dull already by the time we are up. Downhill from here, I suppose, although only in the metaphorical sense. Plenty of hills to climb.
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Day 142: recovery

Day 142:
Miles: 0

In the basement bedroom where we’ve been put up by Barry and Jean, the sunlight bursts in, brilliant and warm. We stay in bed, watch the sun wheel an arc from one side to the other. Barry and Jean check in with us to make sure we don’t need to do anything? No – we’re going to stay here today, if that’s alright, stay in bed and watch a perfect Indian summer day slip through our fingers.

We know the rain is coming. We know that days like today are almost gone for the year. The forecast says – rain. Rain. Rain! And today is impeccably blue, impossibly perfect, and I am going to stay indoors.
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Day 139: nothin’ to see here folks, move it along

Day 139
Miles: 25
Small creek to more of the same

As soon as my exhaustion has abated, I wake up. I feel tired and dirty and sticky. My crotch feels dirty and sticky. Unwashed. Itchy. I’m unbearably uncomfortable, and I toss and rearrange myself until J wakes up to. “What’s going on?” he murmurs.
  “It’s two in the morning, but all I can think about is washing my crotch,” I whisper.
  “Maybe washing your crotch at two in the morning is what you need to do then,” he mumbles back, turning over.
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Day 136: fish for supper

Day 136
Miles: 10
From Ginette Lake to Pipe Lake

Town, town, town, town, town! Many possibilities, only two miles to get to White Pass. We pass by Pigpen and Kentucky on our way out – they had come in late last night and camped nearby.

We arrive at the small convenience store and motel that is about all there is to White Pass and find the place chock-full of hikers. It’s all the hikers that had left Trout Lake the same day as us. Apparently they then hiked huge miles and blasted through Goat Rocks, then been exhausted and gotten rooms at the motel and stayed the night. I don’t really understand the philosophy of hiking big miles through really beautiful, amazing places, and then taking time off in town to recover, but it’s a classic thru-hiker move. Strange. Done it myself. Can’t tell you why.

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Day 131: Over the hills and through the woods

Day 131
Miles: 21.5
From Junction Lake to town of Trout Lake

The bottom of our tarp is damp with partially frozen condensation. Brrr. I shiver through pack-up, and leave my windshirt and rainpants on for a little while. Headphones are back in today.

We’re still in the land of little lakes and trees. In the motionless morning air it is a land of mirrors, trees and above and trees below. Trees, trees, trees. Hills. The trail here in Washington must’ve been designed by different people than the trail in Southern California. In SoCal the trail went around hills. Here it goes over, stiff uphills to steep downhills, no messing around. We’d like to get into the town of Trout Lake tonight, and it’s a seven mile hitch, so we need to finish the 21 miles well before dark. Even after all this time town stops are a carrot that can keep me on a hustle.
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Day 120: the end of a road

Day 120
Miles: 20*
From Clay Myers state park to Cape Meares

Despite all the gray and the clouds and the gloom of the coast, it hasn’t actually rained on us – until last night. Nick must be our bad luck charm. Or perhaps he’s just his own bad luck charm, seeing as he forgot to pack his rain fly for what is turning out to be a very rainy weekend trip. Ol’ Big Blue, our trusty tarp, kept him dry last night, but it’s not going to be any help for any of us this morning.

We pack our things into plastic bags and get ready for a chilly morning. I zip my frogg toggs jacket on over my pack and the four of us ride out.

Riding uphills in pouring rain, downhills in pouring rain, and I think about how this bicycle trip is almost over. Nick is riding with us all the way back to Portland, and this will be over in the length of a long weekend. I feel like we’ve been riding bicycles forever. The Pacific Crest Trail seems like a long ways away, although technically, I’m closer to it than I’ve been in weeks. I’m glad to be getting off the bikes, but I’ve also sort of hit a stride. Maybe not today. This rain is cramping my style.

Nick is much faster than us, and he takes the front with J while they buddy it up. Pacman and I bring up the rear today, stopping first to fix Pacman’s flat tire, then to fix mine. Looks like we both ran over the metal staples in the road.

It’s lunchtime, I’m wet, I’m hungry, I’m cold, and we’re riding into the little town of Netarts. We find an espresso shop and set up camp at a table by the window to warm up. It’s a good thing the staff is friendly, because we stay there for hours. The evening is going to creep up on us quick, though, so we head back out to find a place for the night. The clouds have rolled back to let in the sun and the steep uphill to Cape Meares reminds us that we probably didn’t bring enough water. (Where’s the PCT water report when you need it.)

Cape Meares has a road that wraps up and around the headland before coming back down to run alongside Tillamook Bay. A series of landslides has destabilized the road, so it is closed to cars. But it is open to bicyclists. This sounds like a bicyclist booby trap, but’s it’s actually a bicyclist’s dream – a windy, scenic road that is totally closed to cars? We walk our bicycles in past the gate and start a dreamy ride down the winding road pasted with wet leaves, silent except for wind in the trees.
“This is pretty post-apocalyptic,” Nick observes. The black, nice pavement looks both new and abandoned. We look for a place to camp, but the trees are too thick. We keep riding with our eyes peeled for a temporary home and we finally find it where the road meets the landslide.

The landslide turns out to be below the road, not above it as I had imagined. Instead of sliding onto the road and covering it with debris, the slide is pulling the road out from under itself and the landmass slumps. The road itself is crevassed with tension cracks, all backfilled with gravel. On the downhill side we see the original curve of the road, with old pavement curving out until the pavement disappears in huge blocks slumping far down the cliff. The old road section is bermed off, but just on the other side of the berms are long stretches of pavement that used to connect. Plenty of room to pitch some tents! We just need to remember to stay away from the cliff side when we get up to pee in the middle of the night.

Like always, the free campsites are the best ones. Quiet, spacious, with a view – we watch the clouds turn gold, then pink, we make pot of soup to share, we watch the ocean go from blue to silver to gold to purple. “Well,” says Pacman, “looks like a good time to get a little squirrely.”

Last night by the sea.

The end of the road

Looking out over Tillamook Bay