The first words out of my mouth this morning are curses – it’s raining. Again. UGH. I loiter around because I don’t want to deal with it, but there are pressing things to think about, like how I’ll only have a Snickers and a pack of Idahoan potatoes left after this day of hiking. I gotta get into town today.
I eat mac and cheese for breakfast, drink some hot chocolate – I’m of the start warm, stay warm school of thought, and while that does mean that A-Game and Undercover are out well before I am, Cookie Scrambler and I end up pulling out at the same time. I’m glad to have her company – there’s safety in numbers, in this weather.
I walk almost mechanically, like I’ve been training for this for 2400-odd miles; up the ups and down the downs. When my gloves get wet – it’s never “if” in these situations, but “when”, even though I’m not using my trekking poles – it’s about wringing them out, putting them back in my rain jacket pockets. I leapfrog with Cookie, and when my hands start to get cold, she passes me a rapidly-cooling hand warmer. It’s better than nothing, though, and we pass it back and forth as we walk.
We stop in slightly drier spots, protected by stands of trees, take a minute to check the time, check the maps, check our mileage. The time and maps and mileage are always disheartening – too little time has passed, or too few miles, or the maps tell us of more hard trail to come. The rain makes everything seem longer. We don’t stop long – we’ve learned our lesson about the gradual onset of hypothermia – and we push on despite the begging of our muscles for respite.
The day turns into a sort of beautiful purgatory, ethereal, other-worldly, but all too real for the cold that lurks on the outer edges of my body, threatening to seep in. I feel like I have a better handle on the balance now, though, and while I don’t really take pictures – I keep my phone in my sportsbra, to protect it from the wet, and I’m not going to lose precious heat by unzipping my jackets – I do take time to appreciate the views, when they exist. One view I’m not so appreciative of is that of the hiker taking a shit literally 10 feet off trail. Is this the PCT? he asks. Um, yes. And there are plenty of people on it, in case you’ve come here looking for privacy.
A minute? half hour? hour? later, hiking with Cookie Scrambler, we come across G String, in rough shape. The sun peeked through the clouds for just a moment, and, from what we can gather, he sat down to enjoy the sunshine – now he can’t move his hands, his words are slurred, and he’s not making much sense. Cookie Scrambler immediately hands him her hand warmer and helps him get his pack off; I start boiling water for him to drink, and the only flat place to do so is the center of the trail. The hiker who was taking a dump just off trail passes us in quite a huff, but we ignore him, get G String the hot water, make sure he’s actually drinking it and not just holding it. He slowly starts to make sense, and thanks us for stopping. I only hope someone would have done the same for me.
It’s not long before he feels warm enough to get moving again, which is good – I’m starting to get cold, and it’d do no good to get him warmed up just to have Cookie and I in the same shape he’s in. We put him in front of us, make no bones about keeping an eye on him, just in case his condition worsens again. But he’s talkative, and while he starts out slow, the more he hikes, the more he speeds up and the more coherent he becomes. I think he’s going to be just fine.
The weather starts to pull back a little, enough that we can see cool stuff, but it’s still raining. No escape until town, for us. But soon enough, we climb the last ski hill:
And then, the top, where a pika is standing like a ruler overlooking its domain – and where it’s not raining anymore. The pika’s stance in the rocks and its generally majestic appearance at the triumph of our day prompts me to A. try to take a picture and B. when it runs away before I can take a picture, belt Circle of Life while G String and Cookie Scrambler cackle.
There’s service up here – there is a Ski Resort close by, after all – and I check the weather for the next few days on every site I can remember. It doesn’t look good, and as I’m commiserating with the others, we pass a couple of day hikers without rain gear. I think about saying something – given the way we’ve had, it seems unwise – but don’t want to come off as preachy. Besides, they’re clearly day hikers – no packs, only water bottles – so they’ve probably got a car at the foot of the hill to get warm in if things get too miserable.
Coppertone is also at the foot of the hill, it seems – but he’s in the parking lot, and I’m aiming for the resort down the hiker-not-stock trail, where there is no trail magic, but there is an inside to go to. I seem to have learned my priorities.
In said lodge, I lose G String but find A-Game and Undercover, who are going into Leavenworth, and want me to come. Cookie Scrambler wants to see the German town-inspired ski town, but my package is in Skykomish, and given that I’d have to hitch to Leavenworth and then hitch to the opposite side of Stevens Pass to Skykomish before hitching back to the trail – it just seems like a huge feat, and I definitely don’t want to zero here given the lateness of the season and the weather we’ve already gone through. It’s a hard goodbye, but I feel like it’s one I have to say. I wish them the absolute best weather for the rest of their trek.
I’m wondering how long it’s going to take me to get a hitch in this weather – it’s starting to look forboding again – when the worker closing down the lodge asks us if anyone needs a ride down to Skykomish. Yes. Rad. Anya is rad, Shane, the other hiker who accepted the lift, is rad, and we chat merrily all the way down the hill. It’s 6p at this point, and the Skykomish Post Office is closed – and it doesn’t open until 11:30 tomorrow morning – but Shane offers to split a room with me at the Cascadia Inn, which is warm and bright and bustling with hikers.
I have dinner with Tenure and Boy Pockets, and spend the rest of the evening drying my things numbing my mind with TV and internet alongside the two of them as well as Todd and Mozart, who occasionally poke their heads into the common area in the basement. I go to bed entirely too late, with a new appreciation for what it means to be effortlessly warm, effortlessly dry, effortlessly happy.
Date: September 19 • Start: 2439.3 • End: 2461.6 • Day: 22.3
Notable Accomplishments: Another rainy day • Made Stevens Pass • Warm and Inside at last