In the morning, everything is kind of damp – sleeping bag, tent, clothes left outside of sleeping bag. That’s what I get for camping in the open instead of in the trees. I paw through my food bag for food for the morning, but nothing seems particularly appetizing. Nothing does on a town day. I’ve got 16 miles to go to Snoqualmie Pass, where a hotel room is waiting for me; snacks will be acceptable for that distance. So many snacks, but snacks.
I’m not five minutes out of camp when Boy Pockets and Tenure catch up to me, pass me. I’m able to keep up, although I’m pushing it, I know. It helps that we’re on a downhill. I turn around, and Cookie Scrambler’s right behind me; so nice to be in the company of people again! We leapfrog all the way down to Yakima Pass.
Everyone chills out for a while at the pass; Cookie Scrambler makes coffee, and her luxurious enjoyment of her coffee/the morning/life on the trail is contagious. We’ve only got 16 miles. I stop and eat with her for a while, while Boy Pockets pushes on and Tenure, shrugging, sits for a bit before he makes his way off up the hill behind her.
Then it’s Cookie Scrambler’s and my turn, up up up we go, up the big up before the small up before Snoqualmie. It’ll only be 10 miles from here, but a helluva 10 miles it’ll be.
About halfway up the up, I run across a southbounder, who stops me to warn me about the Summit Inn down at Snoqualmie Pass. There were bedbugs in his room, and he’s telling everyone along the trail so they know not to stay there. Also the night lady is mean, so I’m not missing much. I pretty much stop listening after the word “bedbugs”, sinking into an utter despair and horror despite the beauty of the day. I spent a lot of money a few days back on a room I can’t sleep in, won’t sleep in, won’t be able to sleep in1.
The rest of my walk is basically me trying to calm myself the fuck down: making contingency plans, trying to figure something out – maybe I’ll just grab my package and go, give my room to someone else – I’ll just have to see when I get there. It doesn’t help that the trail is tough, the ups unforgiving, the downs bringing me closer, step by step, to bedbug doom.
The last up is the hardest – who the hell put this talus here – but eventually I’m in the valley:
And it’s around and down a bit to the ski lifts, where I catch Tenure. He’s over the day’s walk – so for him it’s straight down the hill to the Summit Inn – but I take the PCT, trying to stretch the time between me and facing my fears. I wind across the hill and around a bend and past some dogs and their people and families until I’m dumped out in a parking lot, and have no recourse left but to make my way down the road to Snoqualmie Pass.
I hit the Chevron Station first, before I even sit down to food – package-getting business first, then pleasure, then decisions. I busy myself sorting through the maze of boxes that probably shouldn’t actually fit into this tiny warm freezer, watch someone else come through, find and grab their box pretty quickly – but mine doesn’t seem to be here. Um. The people at the counter are clearly tired of hikers asking the questions I’m asking; has the mail been here today, are you sure all the boxes are in the back – they have, and yes they are. It’s had plenty of time to get here, why isn’t it here?! Now I have to stay, stay where there are bedbugs, and I’m so distraught I feel like I’m melting or the world is imploding or both.
I know it’s partly about hanger, so I head across the parking lot to the Aardvark Express, where I’m instructed to go sit with the menu while Dan, the owner, brings all of us thruhikers beers. I like this guy already, and I like him even more when his food knocks my socks off. After one more failed attempt in the room of many packages, I’m despondent, and Dan offers to take me to the post office – where it probably is – in the morning.
Another hiker calls to confirm that his package is at the post office; I snag the number from him, and a very nice lady there manages to find my package. Apparently, I’d anticipated being here on the 19th, not the 15th, and wrote such on my package; because the room at the Chevron is so small, they try to keep the packages at the PO until a day before the ETA date. She says they usually get there in the morning to make deliveries, so I can either come now – it’s 4:30 and they close at 5, and they’re about 20 minutes away – or have it delivered in the morning. After much internal hemming and hawing, I decide to wait, have it delivered, not inconvenience Dan. I thank him for his kindness, though, and he hands me another beer as if to prove my point.
After some worrying aloud about bedbugs, I learn that everyone’s heard the rumor – that hiker was spreading it up and down the trail, to whoever would listen. To make it worse, some people confirm that there are, some people say derisively that there aren’t. I decide my best recourse is to check the room first – I heard you could legally do that in Washington. After some questing amongst the hikers gathered around the caboose-shaped food “truck”, Devin – who I met back in the desert, and who is now Socks – agrees to split the room with me, even if there are bedbugs, which he doesn’t particularly believe.
The two of us and another hiker go in, ask to see the rooms. We don’t reveal exactly why we want to see them, but the woman at the counter side-eyes us like we’re up to no good. Her key won’t unlock our door, but the other hiker does a preliminary check of his room before ‘fessing up that he’d heard the hotel had bedbugs. Her eyeroll is so enormous it involves her entire head. Apparently, she tells us, as we walk back towards the counter to finalize things, the hiker that told us that found a single bug in his bed – which was not confirmed as a bedbug – and then stayed three days anyway, getting drunk and disturbing the people in the halls at night. Well then. I’m still gonna make sure our room has the all clear. I say I’ll call if I find anything.
I scour that fucking room. Scour. Top to bottom. Behind the headboards. All over the mattress, in the divots and under the corners. On the rails of the bed. Under the box springs. Under the dresser. Under the dresser drawers. In the chairs. S. C. O. U. R. The whole process probably takes me about 10 minutes before I’m satisfied that there’s neither bedbug nor bedbug sign.
For the first time today, it feels like, I relax.
The rest of the evening is actually pretty chill; I chat with Socks, charge things, download and listen to podcasts, take a bath and then a shower. Socks manages to snag us a laundry cycle, so now I have clean clothes. I wander out briefly for snack food, stumble across really good pizza at the cell phone store next to the Inn around 9:45p. I get a large pepperoni and feta pizza, take it back to my room, wistfully trade a piece off to Socks for a beer. I munch and internet until 10:30, when finally, sleep calls loudly enough that I can’t ignore it.
Date: September 15 • Start: 2374.5 • End: 2390.6 • Day: 16.1
Notable Accomplishments: Dealt with first fun taste of talus while freaking out • Made it to Snoqualmie Pass • Survived sucky day
 I had bedbugs when I lived in Brooklyn, and the three months of living out of bags and feeling like I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything combined with the intense desire not to stay at home and get eaten alive by the tiny vampires was… crushing, to say the least. I can’t say I have a phobia of them – it’s not uncontrollable screaming/crying/running away – but what I feel when I hear mention of them is probably the closest I’ll ever get to the feeling. Also, I got itchy and generally uncomfortable just writing this. So there’s that.