The whisper-yelling wakes me again in the morning, but my alarm’s already sounded, been silenced, and sounded again – that’s what I get for trying to be a bum. Waking up and not having to cook is a nice change of pace, though. Mama Lion and Boone are out so quick for having to get the both of them moving, but I’m not so far behind them. We leave a hiker enjoying the morning and another enjoying their snoozing behind.
There’s frost on the ground this morning, and it’s fully forested in these parts, so we’re walking in the shade, occasionally breaking out into meadows that aren’t quite seeing sun yet. I’m walking in my puffy and wool buff and gloves and and and. It’s not all my layers, but it’s pretty close. I learned from pinching that nerve a few hundred miles back that I need to be warm in the mornings, despite not wanting to get my puffy dirty. I can wash it in a few hundred miles.
I catch Mama Lion and Boone a couple miles in, and we talk all the way to 2300.
At 2300, I run into CAT again, too! I haven’t seen him since Kennedy Meadows, where he encouraged me to take a selfie with him and Toggle. I think about Toggle, wonder where she is – I heard from Muffin Man the other day that she flipped up to Canada with him, but he lost track of her after that. I hope she’s doing well.
CAT’s on a schedule and doesn’t stay long; Mama Lion and Boone head on out after I shoo them off – something’s a-percolating in my bowels, and I wander around for quite some time trying to find a good spot to dig a hole. There are a bunch of trail junctions and little streams in the area, and things percolate to critical mass before I have to do the best I can with the landscape I’m working with.
I wander back to the PCT and immediately come face to face with a hunter, clad head to toe in camo, carrying a crapload of gear on his back. Right. It’s Elk season now. Well, at least there’s orange on my pack. I’m not being loud or anything, but I’m not being quiet, either, and he glares at me as I make my way down the trail. I excuse myself, go around him. Public trails, sir, and you’re on the PCT in the thick of the herd in the year with the highest thru count, which doesn’t even count sections or weekenders or or or. You might need to rethink your location if you actually want to take something home.
The grade is nice and easy and generally down, so I start writing again, vaguely aware that I should probably be paying more attention to my surroundings, to be able to spot and wave to more hunters. Then I think, well, if they’re doing a good job at camoflaging themselves, I won’t be able to spot them. So writing it is. I catch Mama Lion and Boone again, and we chat all the way down the hill, where they’re planning on having lunch. I’m enjoying the company and stop with them, getting some calories in before the long climb of the afternoon.
The climb itself is beautiful, open meadows and alpine lakes:
Mama Lion and Boone shoo me ahead of them – climbing takes them a little longer than going downhill. I’d like to push through sooner rather than later – the afternoon is winding on, and I haven’t made many miles today – but I think about the two of them while I climb. What a badass youngling, to have walked 2300 miles! What patience on the part of Mama Lion, to have walked for five months with a youngling at the youngling’s pace! What devotion, what strength of character! I honestly don’t know that I’m that person, or that I could ever be that person, but I admire the hell out of both of them.
The last part of the up is the hardest, but being able to sit, look out over everything, chat with a couple of thrus up at the top, is delicious. I sit for a while, soak it in, write my feelings away. Mama Lion and Boone are almost at the top when I finish, so I wait for them, and we walk the first part of the downhill into Mt. Rainier National Park together.
We talk the time away on our way down the hill, get a grand view of Rainier on a sharp corner of trail:
And make our way a bit further together, until I realize I want to go nine more miles and it’s 4pm. It’s hard to say goodbye – I’ve had a good time hiknig with them the last 24-odd hours, and it’s been nice to see a woman kicking ass and taking names on her terms. I wish them nothing but the best, and then I haul down the down and back up trying to make it as far as I can before sundown.
I catch Gladiator on the last up before Dewey Lakes, chat with him briefly – we’re all tired, so tired, but there are only 350 miles to go – can’t stop won’t stop. It would feel good to rest, but the frost on the ground this morning is making us all nervous. Eventually, I hike on, glance back at him walking steadily up the hill – I hope he makes it.
Then it’s the crest of the hill and down, down to Dewey Lakes.
There’s lots of camping here, but it’s only 6, and I want to see how far I can make it. The climb out of the lake valley kicks my ass harder than it should – 700 feet in a little over a mile takes too long, too long. I’m not going to make it to Sheep Lake before dark tonight. As I make my way down towards the Chinook Pass trailhead, I come to terms with the fact that I’m probably going to have to sleep at the trailhead, as it’s the last time the profile looks open enough to sleep; if I went there, I’d be camping on a road, potentially alone, potentially without cover. Womp womp. It’s not optimal, but we do what we have to.
I’m nearly there when I come across a nice little pond with an already-impacted site nearby. Much better than sleeping next to a road. I set up to find I must be closer to the road than I thought – a teenaged couple wanders up from that direction and meanders around the pond, eyes me curiously, both of them blushing furiously when I say hello. Well then. Sorry to spoil your fun.
There’s time to cook and eat before it gets too dark; no one comes by to join me in my comfy spot. After a day full of lovely company, I feel my alone-ness keenly, and it takes a while to grow used to the feeling before I can drift off to sleep.
Date: September 12 • Start: 2295.2 • End: 2320.2 • Day: 25.0
Notable Accomplishments: Made 2300! • Hung out with Mama Lion and Boone • Took my last five miles at a gallop