I sleep better than I have in days, and when my alarm goes off at 5:50, I feel refreshed, even before my morning coffee. I enjoy this feeling for a while, even though I’m ready to face the day, see what it’s got in store for me. 30 miles, I hope. I hope.
I’m trying to be out by 7:15, but it slips through my fingers, and I make it out by 7:30. Washington, y u make this so hard.
It’s only a couple of miles to the Steamboat Lake Outlet, but that’s as long as it takes for Chukar Bird to pass me; McG rolls up a minute later, and we chat about movement and the morning.
Over paved Forest Service Road 88, down and up up up – there are a lot of people in my bubble today, a lot of folks I don’t know headed up towards Mount Adams. I let most of them pass me, except for one gentleman who refuses to do so, riding my ass instead. I finally step off trail to “use the facilities”, and then I’m alone again.
Then it’s down-ish to Forest Service Road 23, the main Trout Lake access point. There’s a trail magic trash can where a lot of people have placed their trash; I dig through it for the register, scan it, talk for a while with the people waiting for hitches before I want to be alone again. I go and take a proper break near the White Salmon River, eat, soak my feet. Mozart, Sterling, and Todd are coming back from Trout Lake – they took a zero there. I spend a few wistful moments wishing I was as fast as they are so I could do things like that, or take side trips, or or or. But I’m not them, and there’s nothing to be done about it.
I catch them, pass them fleetingly as they take their individual breaks on the way up the hill. There are a bunch of water sources, but I think two liters is enough for the five miles I’ll be going.
And then I get into a burn area, and I’m not so sure. But hey, there’s Mount Adams.
It is hot, and it is up, and I’m drinking more water than is tenable for the five mile dry stretch, but hey, better in than on.
I feel like I’m getting my ass kicked, so I take a lot of breaks in shady spots, drink more water. Eventually, between the sweating and the breaking and the drinking, I run out of water. Well then. At least it’s pretty.
I make it to the top of the climb and just breathe for a second. Look around. Enjoy. I’m parched, but I know I’ll live. It’s not that hot out, and if it gets that way I can always wait until evening.
It’s flattish until I finally get to the next water source – at which there is a flow, but it’s not great. But beggars can’t be choosers, and it’s hard to wait for the Aqua Mira to do its thing before I gulp down half a liter in one sitting.
There are more enthusiastic creeks later, with better flow and better water
The views don’t quit on this side of the mountain, and while I’m staring at the mountain, I hear a loud CRACK that I can’t determine the source of. I don’t think you’re supposed to hunt in wilderness areas? Maybe? I know nothing about hunting, but it seems like it could be the glacier calving, too. It was certainly loud enough. That would be pretty cool.
I get to Killen Creek, the last place to camp for five miles, around 6pm, and I’m not ready to stop – 7 was a bit too early yesterday, and 6 is way too early now. I think I can make it all the way to the Muddy Fork before nightfall – and so I scurry down the hill, jogging here and there to make it the whole way there. I end up pushing a little farther when that site’s empty, though, in hopes of camping with other people at Lava Spring.
I hear people talking as I’m rounding the last bend to Lava Spring, see the Spring and a couple of nearby basically-on-trail campsites before I spot a sidetrail. This winds up past the spring to a nice-sized flat spot – which is where the talkers are. They perk up when I walk up, but they seem dismayed that I’m me. They’re saving a particular spot for their friend – thus their disappointment, I’m not that person – so as long as I don’t camp there, they don’t care what I do. Ooookay.
I find another good spot, and settle in; I ask them if I can join them around the fire they’ve made, but either they misunderstand me or they don’t hear me1 and every single one of them bids me goodnight. …Well then. I guess I’ll eat tomorrow morning. I get into my tent and hear them talking animatedly among themselves about the bear in the area as I organize my things for another evening alone with people.
And I’m lying in my bag and all I want is to be eating to chat with friends at the end of a long day. To talk about whether folks heard the glacier calving, if that’s what that was. To get excited about the Knife’s Edge, which I, even after researching, still know nothing about, save that it’s a ridgewalk and I’ll set up for it tomorrow. I want people to be wistful with, now that the end – one way or another – is almost in sight. Instead, I’m purposely going hungry and lying in my bag, wondering where my friends are and whether or not I’ll ever see them again.
It’s just such a strange proposition, thinking I won’t have friends the rest of the trip. That it might just be me at the terminus. “I walked 2,660 miles and all I got was this awkward timer photo with the help of a tree” kind of thing. I realize, lying there, that I’m not ready to be done, not really. There’s so much more to learn, and I feel like I’m on the cusp of something – but I throw up my hands mentally. Who knows. Maybe I’ll be on the cusp of it forever.
My muscles screech at me, pulling me out of my head, reminding me to stretch before I slip off into sleep.
Start: 2216.2 • End: 2246.9 • Day: 30.7
Notable Accomplishments: Got (last?) 30 in • Pushed 5 extra miles • Was all in my feelings
 Or they are just 0% interested in talking to me, to the point of blowing me off. That’s an ungenerous option, but still an option.