We are all filled with a longing for the wild. No matter where we are, the shadow that trots behind us is definitely four-footed. – Clarissa Pinkola Estes
I wake early, but the bed feels so cozy and cuddly, I sleep a few more hours. When I finally do emerge, I hesitate with trepidation opening the curtains.
Much to my surprise – and delight – it’s cloudy and misty, but there’s no rain. I busy myself organizing my clean clothes and dry gear – glory hallelujah – and have a really good chat with Richard. He’s well, visiting his family in Houston to celebrate his mom’s 80th birthday. Most important, he’s happy I’m here doing this walk, and supports me whether I go fast, go slow, go to the end or stop in the middle.
It’s the best way to be, really, to just take this thing as it comes and as it feels right. He also likes that I’m beginning to (slowly) manage my grief and pain and move towards creative ideas for the future. I definitely married the right guy.
I finally leave the hotel – had I mentioned that last night I took a thirty minute sauna? Absolute bliss. I’m rested enough with a mini-stop and venture out to start the ‘Washington Section I’ and immediately get lost trying to find the trail. I look a bit forlorn in the mist with a full resupply, and finally spy a figure in red walking along a switchback high up. I don’t ever find the actual trail out of the pass, but a dirt road suffices and finally delivers me there.
It’s cold on the grassy ski slope, the chairlift moving like a ghost machine with no riders, taunting me that this is the easy way to the top. I enter a dark, drippy forest on a watery and rocky trail that crosses waterfall after waterfall. Many people come down the trail, dressed head to toe in rain gear, anxious, shaky, desperate to get to town. I can tell you I am so glad I didn’t spend last night in a tent in that cold, lashing rain.
The trail stays in the forest with Interstate 90 a loud companion for a few miles. Coming out of a beautiful forest, I see the figure in red ahead, stopped and pointing a camera at the trail. It’s Juicy Fruit, the Portuguese man I shared laundry with yesterday.
He thanks me for folding his clothes and I tell him he has the tiniest underwear I have seen for a grown man. Just another of the barriers broken down when thru-hiking. Since we have so few clothes with us, most people partner up to save money – and of course we see just about everything, like the young man who used the machine after us washing all his clothes, and arriving in just a towel.
Juicy and I hike for a bit and speak of music and our love of bossa nova. There is nothing like that lovely language in song. We split up as Juicy pushes ahead and I feel all alone. I know others are on the trail, but even just a few miles ahead or behind, and we may not meet all day.
I think about my pace as I walk. This section is far different than what we have walked so far. It’s mostly in the woods and the ascents and descents are much tamer than the North Cascades. It’s gentler, even if some of the short uphill is straight up. Gentle with the views too, soft mountains of fir, ponds reflecting tree and sky, mushrooms, rocks, flowers.
My pace is faster than it has been in my life, but there is a tension between wanting to enjoy where my feet are taking me and be in the now vs. wanting to get somewhere. I sometimes have to remind myself that speeding up will get me ‘there’ a bit sooner, but I’ll be more tired. It’s all a balancing act.
A man comes down a steep rocky section in a skirt – really a kind of rain kilt. He asks if I’m headed to California. I say, “First, Mirror Lake.” The trail dips in and out of streams bubbling down mini-ravines where I use my poles to carefully guide myself over rock bridges. The goddess does not give me anything I can’t handle.
That suddenly popped in my mind and surprises me because I have felt like I’ve had far too much to handle these last few months. Just as I think that, realizing I in fact did handle it, a flock of birds leap up from the ground in front of me, singing. They leapfrog in waves of bird as I approach, seeming less frightened and more playful. A moment later, a deer stands in the trail studying me.
So yes, I am challenged and tested, but I am given what I can handle. And it’s making me stronger. I come to a big descent and suddenly the sun comes out bright and warm. I sing the entire way down, where I find Juicy just emerging from a swim. He happily jumps in every lake he comes to, but here he is shivering. He puts on his down coat and shares lupini beans with me, a kind of Portuguese snack usually served with drinks in a bar.
I thank him and press on into the forest of dappled light, huge healthy white bulbous flowers grow here in the shade. I pass little Twilight Lake where signs warn of no trespassing since this water supplies the needs of Seattle. I can’t imagine how I’d trespass into the thick, impenetrable brush.
I pass a woman tending a horse and donkey in the trail, her partner fetching water from a beautiful falls on rock. She warns me there is very little water ahead, so I plan to make an early dinner at the next stream.
Things do begin to dry up as I walk a few miles to the spot she suggests. Just as I begin cooking, several hikers show up including Katherine and G-Punk. Some are a bit incredulous about the water and I protest I’m just the messenger. But most fill up, as I do, just in case. It’s a lovely spot to eat with mountain views and fallen logs as benches.
Within a mile, I do see one more water source, but it is dry after that for many miles. The walking is easy today, my feet here on Washington state cruising along as I sing loudly songs from ‘Godspell,’ ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ and ‘Scrooge.’ I pass a woman named ‘Sweet Blood’ talking on the phone to her mom.
Many stop at a campsite deep in the woods, but I move on with a big climb at the end of the day. Nothing as grand here as the past weeks, but it’s steep as I breathe heavy but even and strong, the way I like it, up and over.
There was a sight I had my eyes on, but one shows up sooner and it feels right, so I take it. The gal talking to mom stops too as do two other young women. Sweet Blood is chatty, but well informed. She lives in Spokane and walked this part last year as practice, so knows what’s up ahead. She has a good plan to hike to a little cabin tomorrow. There’s a stove in case we’re damp.
I crawl in early and just as I do, it begins to rain. My timing couldn’t have been better! ‘Til tomorrow.