I’m up early this morning, but there’s literally no rush; the bus to Stehekin isn’t supposed to arrive until 9:15, from what I can tell, although it leaves Stehekin Landing at 8:15. So I get comfy on my sleeping pad, look at maps, plan out the next four days. Even with the lower mileage of the past section, it looks like it’s only going to be four more days on trail. Wow. All this time, and I’m down to four more days. Better make the best of it.
So I’m out by 8, and I grab a couple of pictures with the park marker…
…before making my way on the
three tenths of a mile egregiously long really flat crazy uppy downy trail. After what seems like ten minutes forever, I make my destination by 8:11.
I’m settling in to wait at the picnic table when Ping Pong comes around the corner, sees me sitting there, laments the fact that I missed the bus. Nah, it leaves the Landing at 8:15, not here. It comes here at 9:15. Oh. Well then. He goes for the privy, when Shane comes flying around the corner, sees me sitting there, all but drops to his knees and yells his displeasure to the heavens. Nope, still coming, 9:15. Oh. Well then. He’s early, though, and last night I said if he was early enough, I’d share my last Via, make us coffee while we wait. I break out my cook set, get to boiling water.
The water’s just starting to bubble when Ping Pong says goodbye – he’s resupplying in Mazama, and we’re not likely to see him again. We wish him luck on his way down the trail. Our wee little group isn’t bereft a person for long, though; the ranger comes out of the house at High Bridge, wishing us good morning, not quite sitting down with us. On duty already, I guess. We drink our coffee as he not-so-subtly probes about where we slept last night; we say outside the park, because we saw the Guthook notes. Turns out, he’s the author of said Guthook notes, and he’s glad to see they’re working. We get into a conversation about post-trail life; he talks about how he got his job with the Forest Service – interning, then taking whatever position came open.
But then the bus comes, and we can’t hear much of anything else.
A swarm of hikers exits the bus – among them Cap, Spike, Tenure, Boy Pockets, a bunch of other folks I haven’t seen in hundreds of miles – and descends upon the picnic table. I’m swooping my stuff up and trying to pack to get on the bus and getting hugs, so many hugs. This is what I wanted last night – the excitement, the utter chaos – and I’m sad to have missed it. They tell me to go to the bakery, tell me that it’s a rad town to take a rest in, tell me all the things they can think to tell me. I stuff my stove and such into my pack, get on the bus only when hollered at by the driver, and settle in for the 11-mile ride.
The only thing in my stomach right now is coffee, and the jostling of the bus is threatening to make me reject even that, so I’m happy when the bus makes its first stop at the Stehekin Pastry Company. This is the bakery people have been talking about since the desert, since before I even started hiking. I stumble off the bus, am overwhelmed by the options, but eventually settle on spinach, bacon, and cheese quiche + a puff pastry the size of my face stuffed with a half-pound of bacon and swiss + peppermint tea, for my stomach. My tab comes out to $15.75 – holy shit, I think this is the most expensive bakery I’ve ever been to1, but I trust those who have come before me, pay up without putting anything back.
The tea isn’t doing its work fast enough, so I start eating my quiche – and all the expenses of the bakery are forgiven because I’m pretty sure this is what manna tastes like. The egg is fluffy and magical, not too dense but not too light, either; the crust is that perfect balance between crisp and chewy; the filling and spices are flavorful. It is everything I could want a quiche to be and more. My only regret is that I didn’t get more.
And then, we hit the Landing, where the hotel, the dock, the post office, and the visitor’s center are. And that’s it. That’s the town. It’s also my final stop for the day, since it’s Sunday, and I have three packages I need-need waiting on me – my resupply box for the last 80 miles, my passport + dinosaur costume2, and a box from my mom. So, given that I’m stuck for the rest of the day, it makes sense that today is the first day in quite a number of days that has the perfect hiking weather. It’s cool out, but warm in the sun, and there doesn’t seem to be a sketchy-looking cloud in sight. I am, suffice to say, displeased, but there’s nothing to be done about it. I head over to the visitor center to sort my in-park campsites, get the weather – at least the latter’s supposed to hold for the rest of my hike.
Then it’s into the gift shop to browse for a bit.
I settle out on the porch in the sunshine, fall into conversation with some nice folks from Bellingham waiting on the ferry – they can tell that I’m a hiker, and they pepper me with questions that I’m happy to answer. It’s really nice, after a rough last stretch, to see what I’m doing through different eyes, see how cool this thing that I’m doing actually is, see how lucky I am to be on this trail, in this place. I talk to them for hours, and I actually get as excited as I was for the first days of my hike for the last days of my hike.
We’re interrupted by both the ferry’s arrival and the bus dropping another load of hikers, among which are Suds, who started in the same carpool from Scout and Frodo’s as I did, and WHAT THE HELL STEFFEN, who I last saw at Hiker Heaven 2100 miles ago. The trail is funny like that. I hug them both, and know I’m gonna have a good night.
So I hang out, set up camp, wash my socks discreetly in the basement bathroom. I sit for a while in the Visitor’s Center to charge things and find myself on their sofa, enjoying the strange sensation of soft things under my butt. I write for Backpacker in between bites of my savory pastry on the porch in the fading light. I’m frustrated to learn I can’t send anything out, though, “thanks” to the abuse of the internet privilege by hikers that came before; the internet here is now for hotel patrons only – well, for them and the at-least-a-few hikers who yogi the code off the more respectable folks sleeping inside tonight.
The dark, for once, does not chase us to bed – we all carouse for a bit before we become somber, talk about what we’ve learned on the trek, talk about the future that’s almost in sight. We chase it away with stories of our highs and lows, until I can’t keep my eyes open anymore and I say my goodnights.
I wander back to camp by myself in the dark, settle into my sleeping bag knowing that there are only 80 miles to go. There are so many emotions that come with that thought; it’s a revelation and a shock, a celebration and a sadness. This is how it ends, I guess. But I’m gonna make sure it ends with good stuff. I’m going to enjoy the next four days of hiking, squeeze everything I can out of these last few miles – and then, at the monument, I’mma dance.
Date: September 25 • Start: 2569.1 • End: 2569.4 • Day: 0.3
Notable Accomplishments: Most ridiculous nero ever • Got everything arranged for the last section • Amazing views and folk
 Which makes sense – Stehekin is accessible only by ferry or plane, so all their supplies have to be brought in. There’s gonna be a little bit of a premium tacked on for that.
 People do crazy things at the border: take naked pictures, dress up in suits or wedding dresses, stand on their heads. I have always loved the videos where people do ridiculous things in inflatable T-Rex costumes. I have been planning to dance at the monument in an inflatable T-Rex costume for literally 2000 miles. It weighs a pound and a half and I don’t even care. Being able to do shit like this is why I went lighter in the first place.