I have strange dreams for the third night in a row – that’s what I get for bragging about not dreaming. Oh well. I don’t feel not-rested when I finally wake up, which is good enough, I guess. I rustle about not-loudly, because it seems like no one else is moving, but when I make a noise that should be particularly loud it seems… muted. And then I notice that my earplugs are still in. Oops.
Everyone is actually rustling about, except for the person who came in late last night. I’m not making an effort to be loud, but I’m not making an effort to be quiet, either. Sorry not sorry. At least I don’t have a headlamp pointed at your tent. I’m out by 6:15.
My pack is so light – it’s always light on town days, but I’ve done a really good job of eating most of my food this time. It makes for a decent morning, one of those mediocre mornings that’s not too fast, not too slow.
As I climb the first up, I know I never would’ve made it even this far last night, let alone to Paynes lake two miles further on – Pineapple and I made the right call The views are pretty lovely this early, though.
Just when I need it, a wild dirt road appears! I make my way down the clearly-unused track the requisite distance, then make my way off into the brush to dig a nice beautiful hole for the morning’s business. Thusly sated, it’s onwards, ever onwards.
It’s not stupid hot yet this morning, and I’m enjoying the landscape, even if it feels a bit muted after the grandeur of yesterday.
More up and up and up – the views are making it worth it. The area is dotted with a number of ponds/lakes/I don’t know how one vs. the other is determined as we traverse a lot of uppy-downy. I’m struggling over cobblestone stairs on both the up and the down; my brain’s muttering quietly – sure, it’s like the Sierra, if you count Pinchot Pass. Its grumping isn’t enough to ruin the day, though.
Finally, FINALLY, it’s down towards the road.
A down, down, downity-down I said a down down downity– oh hey there’s the road! I spy it from a bit off, and after some meandering where I feel like there should be less meandering, I finally find myself in the trailhead parking lot at Etna Summit. Food, here I come!
There’s a thruhiker pileup as I wait for a ride; about five of us, Pineapple included, are all waiting for someone to take pity on us. A car goes by without stopping; a semi hauling trees drops a bunch of hikers off. That must’ve been a fun ride. Someone goes over to the thrus getting back on trail to investigate; turns out getting rides from semis is not abnormal in these parts. So I guess I’ll keep my thumb out for them, too.
It takes about a half an hour for the second vehicle to come around, but it’s a truck and it stops, loads us all up in the back. I feel secure enough, all squished in with hikers and gear, but I’m facing backwards, and as we wind our way down the sketchy-enough-already hill, I try not to freak out about how fast the driver’s going or how little shoulder this road has. I’m doing breathing exercises to calm my beleaguered stomach, too, since all the twists and turns are tying it in a knot. The ride takes forrrreeeeeverrrrr, but the driver was super nice to pick us up in the first place.
He drops us off at Alderbrook Manor, a bed and breakfast that also runs the Hiker Hut, a chill dorm-like hostel with wifi and electricity to charge things and showers and laundry and bikes to go into town with. It’s $10 for day use of all the amenities – I’m pretty sure that’s the best deal we’ve had on trail, particularly considering the bikes, and I quickly fork over the money. Pineapple does, too – she’s feeling better after yesterday, though she’s not sure she’s gonna hike out this evening. We change into loaner clothes and bike to Dotty’s, which, we’ve heard, serves one of the best burgers on trail and huge milkshakes, to boot.
The bike threatens to kill me a couple of times before I get the hang of it – how much faster bike travel is than foot travel! It feels good to go fast, to feel the wind on my face, to be here, in this place at this time. I feel particularly grateful today.
I feel a little ingrateful as I wait on my food, but goddamn is it worth every minute:
I hork down every single bit of my meal like a straight up champion. I AM THRUHIKER. HEAR ME EAT. Or something.
There’s a Dollar General right next door, so I go there to resupply while Pineapple chats on the phone with her boyfriend; she had a package come to the Hiker Hut, so she doesn’t need anything from there. I grab her once I’m done and we both head to Ray’s Food Place for a bit more shopping, and of course it’s not until I check out and I’m attempting to bike all of it back to the Hiker Hut without dying that I maybe might have too much food.
Hikerboxing some would be the smart thing to do, but I possess more stubbornness than I do smarts sometimes. Besides, I just spent all this money on food; I’m not gonna waste that cash by putting it in the hiker box. Maybe this’ll teach me a valuable lesson about food shopping. Or maybe I’ll just wanna cry about my packweight for the next three-or-so days. WHO KNOWS.
I say goodbye to my bike and hello to my nice clean clothes – the shoulder of my shirt is developing holes where my pack strap sits, but the rest of my gear seems to be holding up strong. My skirt is about to fall off my gaunt hips, though – it’s pretty much held up solely by my gentle movements when not hiking and my hipbelt when hiking. I’ll probably have to do something about that. Since a shower’s included with my day pass, I go ahead and indulge, and it feels so, so good. Clean Zuul + clean clothes = happy Zuul. I’m sure I’ll sweat right out of that feeling when I hike out, but it’s nice for now.
From there, it’s sorting my resupply into ziplocs and chatting with the other hikers over the Olympics until a shuttle comes by to take a few of us back up. Pineapple’s agreed to come along – good. Gooooooood. We all load up into the cab of a truck this time, and the ride back up is much more pleasant for it.
At the top, it’s the usual dallying around for a bit, making sure everything’s good to go and nothing’s forgotten, before we set out into the evening.
It’s always up coming out of town, and this time, it feels like someone’s played a prank on me by putting a rock in my pack after I bitched about having too much food. But the only person that’s played me is me – this is what having too much food is like, and hiking uphill with all that weight right now is my penance.
We level out for a moment, and a trail register appears on the side of the trail. I take a gander at it – Fuck It was here this morning! I haven’t seen that guy in ages, even if I’ve been keeping up with him on the book of many faces. And hey, Six and Meer were here yesterday! Maybe we’ll catch up to them in a few days, or see them in Ashland. That would be rad.
And then, just four short tenths later, 1600!
Only 1,050 miles to go. Dang. Makes me tired just thinking about it.
Thinking about it apparently also upsets my stomach, as I pull over for an emergency poop shortly after. Apparently, my stomach is incapable of handling town food. I might be doomed to a lifetime of Snickers and Pop Tarts and rice and beans. DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMED.
1600.9 rolls around, and there’s a nice campsite there – given that Pineapple wants to watch the Perseids, and there’s a deer track out of camp to a nice place to do that, and the next few miles are a ton of side hilling and it’s getting dark, here seems like a good place to stop. Pineapple rolls in not too long after I do, decides to cowboy camp for a better chance at seeing the stars falling.
We have a heart to heart as we each set up. She wants to take it easy from here to Ashland, even if it means not hiking with me. I understand completely, but it gives me a lot of existential-type thinking to do. Why am I hiking? Is it about people – meeting rad folks, rediscovering the good in humanity, learning that it’s okay not to be alone? Is it about me – challenging myself to do something crazy, something I’d never dreamed I’d do, and making sure I accomplish my goals? If it turns out that she only wants to do x number of miles and I want to do y number of miles, will I stay, or will I go? The only decision I make is that it’s not a decision for tonight.
For dinner, I make it a point to try to eat some of the heavy things out of my pack, and in doing so, I’m able to take note of exactly where I fucked up: I packed out a dozen donuts, two packs of goldfish, two large packs of M&Ms, and over a pound of salami. For an estimated five day resupply. I manage to decrease the number of donuts to 9 before my already-irritated stomach taps out.
I’m still discomfited from our conversation, and decide more nature will set me a little more right – I’ll go to sleep for a bit, set an alarm to get up and go out and stargaze. I make an attempt to be a responsible adult and write before I sleep, but sleep takes me before I can get much out.
Date: August 11 • Start: 1588.3 • End: 1600.9 • Day: 12.6
Notable Accomplishments: Etna and the Hiker Hut! • Dotty’s and resupply • Made it out of town with all this stupid food