In the middle of the night, the boys all come home, chuckling cackling howling whooping. I’m affectionately annoyed; “Thus, though we cannot make our sun / Stand still, yet we will make him run”1 and all that, but also I was trying to sleep. I knew it was coming, it was one of the reasons I stayed up as late as I already did, but alas. Here I am. Awake, with a loud sleeping pad2. The next thing I know, though, my alarm’s going off and it’s around 5:50. Well then. Good morning, I suppose.My plan is to take the 8:15 bus to the bakery, enjoy a nice cup of tea, maybe read a little, just sit in the sun and enjoy life. I’ll be back on the same bus and darting around to the post office hiker box visitor’s center before the second bus goes out with me on it. From High Bridge, I’m looking at about 15 miles to Fireweed Camp, where my permit is for the evening. I lounge for a while, write, then pack up, leaving myself about a cup of coffee’s worth of time at the dock where the bus comes to whisk me away to tasty treats.
I sit in the gravel below the porch, make my coffee. It’s quiet – no one’s really out and about except a couple of dayhikers getting an early start, a couple of workers prepping for the day. As my water heats up, I watch the sunlight begin to pool in the valley.
The water’s almost boiling before I hear my fuel can start to sputter; the water’s not quite boiled but the can’s totally out. PERFECT TIMING. I’ve been carrying a tiny fuel can since White Pass because I didn’t know when my big one would run out. I dig through my food bag, but it isn’t there. Guess it just fell into the bottom of my pack.
Narrator: It did not fall into the bottom of her pack.
I feel around; it isn’t there. I clean out my entire pack, shake out the empty thing like a half-pound fuel can would’ve just gotten hidden in a fold. I don’t have it. It doesn’t exist. I remember putting it on the picnic table at High Bridge yesterday; in my haste to greet everyone as they came off the bus, I bet I accidentally left it there. Where folks had left trail magic. Which means that a hiker thought my full fuel can was trail magic. Which means it’s gone. Gone forever.
Before the bus comes, I run up to the store – do you have any canister fuel? Some heet, but that’s it. I understand myself well enough to know that I will burn down the forest if forced to use an alcohol stove, so no, absolutely not, no thank you. The woman at the counter tells me to check the hikerbox – she’s been encouraging guests leaving the area to leave their half-empty canisters behind for us, so that we’ll have something. I appreciate it, but I’ve gotta go catch the bus.
I’m just a tiny bit early, so I chat with the driver while I wait – howzit, how’s it feel to have the season winding down. He’s a hiker himself; he hiked the Arizona Trail and the Lake Superior Trall all before he wound up in Stehekin for the summer. Holy shit, that’s rad. We make the bus late with our conversation – whoops.
I talk with the others on the bus as he drives – there’s a couple taking the plane out who need the bus to be on time, and a couple headed out to do some hiking. The latter ask me how the hike’s going, if everything’s okay, and I start to respond in the affirmative, but they saw me freak out and scurry up to the store. No, it’s not okay – I need a canister; I’ve gotta eat. If I don’t eat, I don’t hike. I’m upset about it, but I manage to have a nice conversation with them anyway.
They’re going to High Bridge, but the Plane couple is headed to the bakery, and they’re ahead of me in line, so I get to drool as I watch their sticky bun, a pastry the size of my face, come out of the case. I can’t help myself, so I start a tab. YOVSO3, and all that.
Round one is a kuchen, apparently pronounced kook-hen, made of berries and magic, and another piece of quiche because I have no self control.
I don’t really do any reading. It’s more sitting, people watching, listening to the conversations of folks around me. There’s a Search and Rescue team doing protocol review at the table next to me, and a couple of generations of local-enough family playing scrabble just across the way. It feels like home here, even more so when I move outside and there are puppies frolicking about.
I go to get another bacon swiss puff pastry, throw in a day-old pizza slice for good measure, cash out just before the bus arrives. The newly arrived hikers swarm the bakery – and among them are Cookie Scrambler, A Game, and Undercover! YESSSSSSSSSSSS. It’s super exciting to see them again. I even spot Donger when he gets back on the bus. I chuckle to myself; these are the folks who paced it right.
It’s the same driver on the bus – they each do runs from the Landing to High Bridge and back – and he tells me he grabbed what fuel canisters he saw on the table for me, in hopes that one of them had enough fuel to get me to Canada. I’m awed and terribly humbled4, and I tell him so. It means so, so much.
Through bites of pastry on the ride to the Landing, Undercover and A Game say they’re gonna roll in and roll out; they want to make it to Canada on Thursday. What a coincidence, so do I, I say, and I would love to hike with them. Would just love that. They agree, and I’m newly stoked to start walking again.
So it’s back and a dash for the post office, where there’s already a line – I send stuff home, pick up my packages, and sort my resupply under a terribly enormous time crunch.
I’m literally tossing stuff without looking into the hiker box, scurrying back and forth between the trash can and my pack to try to make sure I’ve got everything I need and nothing I don’t. By the end of it, I know my battery pack is charged, I’m fully resupplied for the next four days, I have a fuel can which will probably last – I think that’s everything I need. I leap onto the bus with only a few moments to spare.
To avoid temptation on this trip, I stay on when the bus stops at the bakery, talk to the new-to-me bus driver. He’s lived and worked in Stehekin for 17 years, and he tells me about how much is hasn’t changed in that time. It’s pretty cool to hear about the history of the area, how the feds wanted to use eminent domain in the 60s when the national park was being formed, about how the locals fought being kicked out, about how they ended up coming to an agreement. He talks about the occasional tension between the park and the town – yesterday, the ranger mentioned something similar, and now I’m hearing the other side of the argument. All in all, it’s a fascinating picture into this super-isolated community.
As folks board the bus again, though, the conversation changes; it swings political, and I end up talking about the Black Lives Matter movement while acutely aware of the racial “diversity” of Stehekin. I’m trying to break down the movement and someone puts in their headphones to avoid having to listen. I want to laugh hysterically, but whatcha gonna do.
We get to High Bridge and everyone scatters; A Game and Undercover still have some stuff to dry, so we decide to stick around until 1 or so. By the time 1 rolls around, they’re still not quite ready, but I’m making those miles tonight, and if I’m gonna, I gotta go.
Say one thing for Stehekin, it’s that the presence of people does not deter the wilderness – the North Cascades get wild really quickly, just uphill from High Bridge. It’s going to be a lovely walk5.
I’m not alone this afternoon – first, I run into a ranger out by herself doing trail work, which looks like heaven, and then all of a sudden, there are tens of tiny frogs hopping away from every footfall. At home, one of Spesh’s pet projects is raising frogs, so frogs have a special place in my heart; the trail becomes a minefield of amphibians that I do not want to step on. Constantly avoiding them is exhausting; I’m on edge, brain constantly processing, feet constantly dodging. It’s a high-stakes video game that’s more stressful than fun.
It’s half an hour of aaaaaa nuuuuu please don’t jump under my feet, before my live version of Frogger comes to an end. Thank goodness. There’s no way I would’ve made the miles under those conditions. There’s a water source, though, so I sit for a bit before moving on.
I’m listening to the podcast Low Player Count when I get swallowed up in the difference between creating and consuming, thinking about the value society places on creating vs. consuming, what value I place on those concepts. My friend, who is one of the hosts of this particular podcast, is talking in my ear, and I have a bit of a revelation about how valuable creation is – as I hear his voice, I ask myself: do you want to create, or do you want to consume? Which is more important to you? The answer is both, but I feel like I haven’t been doing a lot of creation lately, or even being in the moment. And everything we do – including consumption and creation – needs to be in moderation. So I put the podcast on hold, start taking voice notes about my day so far6.
I’m climbing a hill and it’s beautiful out, even if I’m already hot sticky sweaty, pack heavy with food and promises of dinosaur hilarity. That’s even knowing I’m gonna be going uphill for the next 25 miles – there’s really nowhere I’d rather be. Still, I’m excited, excited to finish, even if I’m not excited to be finished. Those feel like two totally different sensations 75-odd miles from the terminus.
There’s water all over the trail at Maple Creek – it’s fun to solve the puzzle of how to cross without getting my feet wet. The water I grab is enough to make it just about to Fireweed Camp; there’s supposed to be water at Hideaway, about a mile before Fireweed. I hope that’s actually the case.
The water at Hideaway is downhill from the trail, kind of inconvenient – I keep walking and walking and just when I’m starting to wonder whether or not this was a mistake, there’s Birch Creek. Then it’s back to the trail and over the last mile to Fireweed.
Galactic’s right behind me, and he’s headed there, too; he passed Undercover and A Game a while back, they’re on their way. We wander down the side trail, and it turns out we have to cross Birch Creek to get to Fireweed anyway. I could’ve saved myself a trip. Womp womp.
There’s a small campsite that could fit the four of us, but the stock camp is right behind the hiker camp, and it’s enormous and beautiful. It’s already 7, and I’m pretty sure horses don’t like walking in the dark, so we decide to just head back there. I hear some yelling from far off, and I’m pretty sure it’s Undercover’s voice – sure enough, it’s them. I lead them to and across the bridge, and we all get settled in.
It’s so nice to camp with other people, and I settle in contentedly, eat my bacon and swiss puff pastry, make myself finish the slice of pizza. There’s a brief moment where I think I’m gonna vomit, but it goes down and stays down. Apparently, I’m a bottomless pit.
I don’t have my leggings on, so it gets really cold really quickly; maybe the cold has something to do with it, but it’s only 8:30, and I’m zonked. In three days, I’ll be doing this in a bed, I think. I barely remember to send a spot off before I’m asleep.
Date: • Start: 2569.4 • End: 2583.7 • Day: 14.3
Notable Accomplishments: Got out of Stehekin without going bankrupt at the bakery. • Hopefully squished as few frogs as possible • 65 miles to go
 Wait how is this so loud? How am I just now noticing this? Has it always been this way? I thought the NeoAirs were the worst offenders, but dang.
 You Only Visit Stehekin Once. Hopefully, that’s not true, but we’ll see.
 I know I gave you the blog, so if you’re reading this (you know who you are) I REALLY APPRECIATE YOU. You’re the man. Also I really enjoyed talking to you, so thanks for the conversation, too!
 Crankster, if you’re reading this, go to NCNP, go to Stehekin, go to the bakery, it will change your life. Also it’s really pretty I guess. Rad hiking. But that bakery tho.