Day 2 of the rest of my life…
In the morning we head back to the greyhound station and buy tickets to Seattle. We stop at a pharmacy on the way and buy some motion sickness pills – hopefully things will go better today. Tailor ends up being on the same bus as us, and we re-enter the US. Tailor, a German, gets grilled at customs by a confused agent who eventually only lets him through when he sees that everyone else is already back on the bus and waiting for him. My customs agent asks me what my trail name is and waves me through.
From Hopkins Lake to Manning Park. The end of the trail.
It’s morning, we’re 6 miles from the monument, and I’m stoked! Any questions about my ability to make it – all the way – to the very end – are finally gone. I’ve got this. All six of us camped here get up and hang out in the beautiful morning by the lake. My resentment of the dude-bros arrival last night has evaporated, and I spend the morning enthusiastically discussing gear and the trail and just generally dude-bro-ing it up myself. (We all have a little dude-bro in us.) J, like always, just rolls his eyes as I get into the nitty-gritty of tarp camping with Snake Charmer. I don’t care that we’re basically done. I really do just like to talk about gear.
From below Tamarack Peak to Hopkins Lake
It was cold last night – it’s chilly this morning, with the sharp bite of fall that has been with us for the last few weeks. I crawl out of the tarp to get some water from the frigid stream nearby, and emerge into an incandescent morning. I’m so full of happiness I might just burst open.
Seahawk and Bumblebee took off at first light. They are meeting a friend of Bee’s on the other side of the border, and want to get to the monument by early tomorrow. I hope we see them there, but I doubt it. For ourselves, we pack up leisurely, Dirtnap, Biscuit, and me. This is the last whole day on the PCT.
I am unbelievably exhausted.
The majority of the other hikers here are heading out today, last push to the border. The weather report for the next week could go either way, but it is absolutely perfect today. I watch the perfect blue sky wheel across the mountains and the lake from inside the little hotel. J goes out to explore or do whatever, I do the laundry and call my mother from the payphone. (A payphone! When was the last time I used one of these??) Then I sit on a couch and read a book from the shelf in the lounge – some YA novel about kids with cancer – from start to finish. I don’t love it that much but I cry anyway.
From Mica Lake to Miners’ Creek
The blue beaten steel of mica lake last night is transformed – just for a moment – into a bowl of molten gold. The weather forecast had said rain for today, but instead it is this golden morning. V, Thinkfast, and Goosebumps came in to Mica Lake a little bit after us last night, and it’s a companionable morning. The light shines across the deep valley and through Thinkfast and Goosebump’s tent, making the little gray envelope of silnylon look like the castle of a queen. We share the coffee and the view. I think this might be as good as it ever gets, and I don’t even like mornings.
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.
From Grizzly Peak to Indian Creek Trailhead
The inside of our tarp is sopping wet, I mean, possibly wetter inside than outside. I peek outside – nope. Everything is sopping wet. I turn over and go back to sleep.
When I wake back up, a brilliant ray of sun is shining in. The sky is completely blue. The inside of the tarp is still sopping wet, everything else is damp at best, it’s cold, I still don’t want to get up… I’m still tired from my bad night’s sleep at the Dinsmores and this will be our sixth day of hiking straight. But I know when I get up things will be ok.
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.
From saddle on ridge to Junction Lake
Dawn breaks; my body creaks as I stretch myself awake. The trail is back with me again, inside all my muscles. A yawn that extends all the way through me toes sends my leg muscles into spasms. Oof. It might be a long day.
Either way, it’s nice to wake up to a new world, and a quiet one. We finish the uphill we started last night, and then we hit the lava. An old lava flow has turned this place into a strange plateau of wicked black rock where stunted trees stand up from its inhospitable surface and the ground rolls and gapes hazardously. The trail follows the western boundary of the flow, and it stands like a wall beside us, keeping us on track.
This is the part of the day I think of as “morning happiness”. Tired, aching, regardless – the simplicity of the trail sits with me and each step is a testament to the act of living. I’m not in a box of drywall and carpeting, I’m not stuck in a chair, I’m walking – just walking – going on walking. Even on my worst days here, there is always this moment. Some days the shelf life is about 5 minutes, but the next day, it is always here again.
From Cascade Locks to Gilette Lake
Thunder Island is bright and windy, festooned with little colored peaks and domes, populated with a tribe of hairy, smelly hikers. It’s morning!
I stayed up way past hiker midnight last night, and I’m tired this morning. J and I wander around Cascade Locks for a bit while PCT Days gets started. The Bridge of the Gods is closed to cars for 45 minutes this morning to allow pedestrians to enjoy the bridge, and it feels like a goodwill border relations gig up here, the Oregonians mingling with the Washingtonians, people snapping pictures and playing bagpipes. We stand up on the bridge and watch the mad rush of the Columbia through the metal grating below our feet, but we save our first steps into Washington for later.