We wake and we laze – it’s a town day today, five miles to town, and six from town to where we’re sleeping. One of the few things Spesh didn’t get to do on his two hikes of the PCT was stay in any huts, and since the Maiden Ski Hut is (A) one of the few shelters on the PCT and (B) on our way, I’ve agreed to stay in the hut tonight. It does mean I need to make 25 miles a day from here on out, but to enjoy this day with the gentleman friend, I’m alright with that. Gentle days mean late outs, so we’re not walking until 8.
It’s a nice, gentle hoof to Willamette (dammit1), down quite a bit and up only two ticks to the pass and the roadway itself. It’s so strange that it’s now, after two days, that the weirdness of having someone I’m hiking-with hiking-with dawns on me. I mean, sure, I’ve been hiking with folks – Pineapple or the Wolfpack or or or – for over a thousand miles now, but I’ve never done any extended hiking with someone else all day long, side-by-side, so to speak. I don’t necessarily need to be alone, I don’t think – and I’m happy Spesh is here – but it leaves me wondering anew about my introversion and how that manifests itself not only in my day-to-day life on trail, but also my day-to-day life in general. Think of the Pineapple and she shall appear – I get a text from her telling me not to camp at Willamette; apparently there were people that pulled up and were tromping around near her tent last night. Creepy.
Five miles is nothing these days, and we pull into Willamette Pass just before 10, find a safe place to hitch from with a convenient pull-out so the cars flying by have a place to stop. We wait for about 20 minutes, before I hear someone hollering about hikertrash from behind me. It’s Butterscotch! And his dad and his pup – they’ve come down to meet him, to bond. The trio has met up a couple of times on trail, and Butterscotch likes to do trail magic since his dad has a car, so it’s off we go, down the hill to Crescent Lake.
To call Crescent Lake a town is to do so with a healthy knowledge of towns in the West. It’s a grand total of about six buildings, storage sheds included, but there’s an Inn and a General Store and a restaurant, all a thruhiker really needs. I pick up my package from the Inn and, even though it’s free, feel bad about not staying the night. Walking across the street to the store, we gorge ourselves on chicken fingers and potato wedges before asking if it’s cool to sort my box in the store. They’re super welcoming of hikers there, and so we’re also more than welcome to charge our stuff while we do so. Turns out I don’t really need anything from the store, and the weather’s great and there are outlets outside, so Spesh offers me sips of his coffee while I let my external battery charge and write like a madwoman.
Butterscotch and his dad come over and hang out, and I learn that they were the ones tromping around outside of Pineapple’s tent; I text her, tell her she was in good hands last night – though not without a bit of teasing. When I’m satisfied with the work I’ve done, the lovely father-son duo gives us a ride back up the hill to the PCT, on the opposite side of the road from where we stopped. Because I’m that guy – trying to do a continuous footpath – I go back, pack on, and tag the other side of the road.
While I’m tagging, Nine Toes comes up – yay! I was hoping I’d see her again. She says Roswell is just ahead, and that I’ll definitely catch them. Sweet. I stop back by to pick up Spesh, and then it’s the long goodbye with Butterscotch and his dad – though I’m sure I’ll see Butterscotch again, it’s been nice to have the company.
We run across Roswell and Nine Toes not a quarter mile up the trail, and I introduce Spesh – Rosewell told me about a podcast where it was claimed that no one had thruhiked the 14ers in Colorado, and my gentleman friend has done just that. They chat for a while about it, and Roswell talks about maybe attempting it – I hope he does! That would be super rad.
Then it’s onward and upward, to the Rosary Lakes.
Lower Rosary Lake is gorgeous, and there are a few section hikers as well as a thru sitting lakeside – though smoking, so we don’t really spend a lot of time there2. Still, the path curves around the lake, and I coo over it before we leave it to climb to Middle Rosary Lake.
The middle sister is the most gorgeous of the three – and we decide to take a break here, so I go and sit on the shore, dip my feet, wax pensive. There are only tiny waves here, stirred up by the breeze to lap gently onto the shore, but it feels like a wave’s about to come crashing down on me. Not in an ominous way, really, but it is something I prepare myself for. And between having Spesh around and hanging out with Butterscotch’s dad, it’s probably something I should have been expecting.
I fill the climb to today’s summit with intense conversation about opportunity, hiking, the blog, Backpacker – about deservingness, about weakness, about emotion and feeling crushed under the weight of certain interactions I’ve had on trail2. About the doctrine of continual self-improvement, about trying to be worthy of the opportunities I’ve been granted. It’s a lot, a conversation meant for more than the startlingly few miles we have to the hut, but it’s a conversation that’s apparently been building for a while now. I come out of it feeling distantly concerned – and I say so – that Spesh’s visit will make me want to quit. He expresses that concern, too. But now that the central wave’s crashed, I can move forward productively – I hope. At any rate, there will always be echoes of it in the shifting shore of my mind.
The top of the hill’s a forested view, then it’s down, down, a little under a mile and a half to Maiden Ski Hut.
Gladiator is already there, and he shows us around; Butterscotch, Popeye and Peru wander in a bit later, and Hamburglar and Starburst show as night falls and the chill starts to settle in. In the hut’s loft, the atmosphere is merry, animated and warm, right up until it’s lights out and we sleep.
Date: August 25 • Start: 1900.8 • End: 1911.9 • Day: 11.1
Notable Accomplishments: Crescent Lake and resupply • Confronted my fears in a healthy(?) way • Got some rest before the miles to come
 How I was told to remember the pronunciation. They rhyme.
 I’m not really into hanging around cigarette smoke, certainly not after a long time of breathing fresh air. Nothing against it, really – Hike Your Own Hike, and all that – but I’m really impressed at the number of thruhikers who do what they do while smoking several cigarettes a day. I have a hard enough time making my stupid lungs cooperate without making it any more difficult.
 This is more a topic for a book, I think. And that after a little more distance, a little more time.