It is better to be looked over than overlooked. – Mae West
Of course Zach is camping below. I saw him on my way to the privy. Life does improve when there’s no need to dig a cat hole. It’s a bit deep-in-the-bigfoot-woods here, but the sky looks crystal clear.
It’s windy and cold, but my $1 Oxford’s got me covered. I come out onto a ridge and see all three peaks in Washington scrunched close. There is a bit of mist making them appear even further in my past.
What a privilege to be here in this beautiful moment. I feel strong and my pack is much lighter without warm clothes and, of course, I have very little food as Richard sent a resupply to Timberline Lodge which I should reach tomorrow morning.
It does amaze me how fast I heal sent out on this long walk. At the outset, I was still a confused mess, but now I’m starting to feel if they don’t want me, I can’t possibly want them. I’m still intact – even as a reject – so there’s really not much to feel sad about anymore.
I forgot to mention yesterday that I walked right through thick poison oak at the start of the trail. I don’t have any skin exposed and see no sign of a rash, but that could be a major trail delay.
Also, I heard from Sweet Blood who seemed carefree about Cheerio and the trail, as it turns out. She’s taking an extended ‘zero’ for a week in Hawaii. I have a feeling we won’t walk any more of the PCT together – though she is very, very fast so I might be surprised.
The trail is level for a long time and I fly along in magical forests on soft pine needles. Eventually, it’s back up and I wonder if I can make these back-to-back days of long miles work. I pull off the gas and tell myself it’s only 7:45 in the morning.
Views come in and out of Hood, closer and closer. I can see huge waves of forest below his flanks, all of which I’ll have to cross. It will be a long day, for sure.
I come to a saddle which brings me to another ridge and see an older, white bearded man with a young woman. I say hello and he asks if I’m a n’er do well – “what have you stolen lately?” I reach into the young woman’s side pocket and help myself to a tent stake exclaiming this looks good.
At first it seems flirtatious, but then he gets long winded. “You’re so clean! We’ve gone seven days without showers.” Of course, then I just have to shove my stinky armpit towards the poor young woman’s nose.
“We’re thru-hikers!” I see. Well, I am too. “But you just started!” Thirty days ago, I point out.
He then wants to know if I stopped. Yes, to camp. “In any towns? What’re they like?”
“Well, Cascade Locks…”
“I already know about that! I’m from here!”
It goes on and on like this, the asking of questions for which he already has an answer, then finally, “Washington is much better in August then July.”
And that’s my cue to shove off. I loved Washington and I don’t need an old buffoon telling me he’s about to have a better time. Although he does seem to have a way with young German hikers. I know this because she got one word out – “goodbye!”
Maybe he hopes that first shower will be shared. Funny how people still love to have their pictures taken when you are trying to escape them.
The trail begins to descend and I find a shady spot with a view right at the mountain to eat my lunch. The meadows are clear now; I can see detail in the glacier. Zach comes by and we share our plan for the day. He moves much faster than me, so I ask if he’ll save me a spot to camp. He says no. The reason is he feels it’s not right to deprive someone else of a spot to save one for a friend. Fair enough.
This area is filled with rhododendrons. They’re just beautiful waxy leaves and to be honest, I can’t tell if the flowers are in the past or still to come. There are little baggy seed pods and dried brown flower-like bits, but it also looks like possible buds. I’d love to see them in bloom.
I cross under sizzling and popping power lines and meet a road with day hikers setting off. I ask if they’d sell me a beer, but they have none, though she had actually contemplated buying some. We laugh and I move on, seeing a few hikers eating bananas on the side of the trail. I’d sure love one right now, I’m thinking when the woman in the group asks if I’d like to sit down – and would I like a beer?
Hot diggity dog, it’s trail magic and they brought the absolute best stuff – beer, soft drinks and some hard liquor too, fruit, cake, candy, they thought of everything. Our hosts are Angie and Ryan with their chihuahua/Jack Russell mix, Ginger. They’re walking the trail in 2020 and organizing good karma now before they look for magic on the trail themselves.
‘Runner’ and ‘Mustang’ are already here, leaning on their packs and relaxed. Mustang is a mail-order minister, does not use a tent and addresses me as ‘ma’am.’ He has a fantastic smile and we’re all laughing soon as ‘Hot Lips,’ ‘Weatherman,’ ‘Critter,’ ‘Reedy,’ and ‘Juke Box’ arrive all saying they heard us many switchbacks back.
I adore this moment. It’s not just the treats, the mid-day booze, the generosity – it’s the people not taking themselves so seriously, not bragging, not in a hurry, just enjoying each other Sadly, they’re all NOBO’s and I probably won’t ever see them again. I sign Angie and Ryan’s book, thank them for such a wonderful break and then head up the hill.
It’s a hefty hill and I feel a tad tipsy. Golden raspberries fill the ridge and I meet some friendly day hikers at the intersection – spoken with rolled ‘r’s’ who point me onto the correct trail which heads right back down. At the bottom, I cross a river on a log with a rope attached for security. I then head up with loads of day walkers to Ramona Falls.
This forest is enchanted. Ferns cling to huge rock outcroppings, seen through trees that filter the sunlight onto a sparkling stream, tumbling over rocks like a staircase. The ground is soft; fairies are near.
Up and up I go in this beautiful place until I reach a huge falls – more like drapes of water – over black basalt. A man takes my photo and several hikers ask me the way. I move on knowing an enormous climb awaits.
But first, it’s down through brushy overgrowth to the Sandy ‘wild and scenic’ River. I cross boulders in her wide bed, reminding me of New Zealand, and cairns lead me to a few logs over rushing glacier-gray rapids. Two women go before me and seem to be just fine. They applaud after I limp across, slowly, carefully planting my poles.
There are gorgeous campsites at a spring feeding the Sandy, but I head on up, regulating my breath and feeling strong for a 4+ mile pull and 2,500+ vertical feet. A couple of men nearly plow into me heading down, somehow not clueing into yielding to the uphill hiker.
I think about a friend who found me recently. She’s actually my brother’s former girlfriend, but I met her when I was 15, and she became like a sister to me. My dad never approved of the match. He was jealous, competitive, and had some power over my brother, so he made things difficult. I can’t fathom why he didn’t support them, because she really loved my brother. Years later, when I moved in with a guy, I wondered if my dad would make things difficult. But he wasn’t so possessive of me. Meeting that man on the trail who had a comeback for every word out of my mouth reminded me a bit of my dad. He’s not that obvious, but he always left me feeling the same way, like my walk through Washington wasn’t as good in July as his will be in August. I don’t feel hurt anymore, just sad for him because he missed out on having a wonderful relationship with a sort of ‘second daughter’ in my friend and one with his only daughter, too. Me.
Everyone I’ve met coming north says Oregon is flat, but getting to Timberline Lodge is sort of the last gasp of Washington. I am always surprised how the hills go on and on and on. I come to a view of an enormous landslip. A few sandy switchbacks higher is a view of Hood, and another massively eroded area, a waterfall spitting out into the abyss.
I finally reach a junction and loads of springs, so begin to look for a campsite. The trail traces a horseshoe on rocky terrain. A lone hiker’s footfall echoes next to the sound of a waterfall. I find my site on an island surrounded by crashing streams. The alicoop goes up fast and my bed is made. I eat dinner and suddenly Bat comes marching in with a perfunctory hello and sets up her tent. She is one pushy broad. Of course she can share, but it feels so much better to be asked rather than just grabbing.
I seethe a little and wonder if she’s serious about quitting the trail, but to her credit, she’s absolutely quiet in her little tent out of sight from mine. I’d prefer to be alone – or to be with people I enjoy talking to – but it’s getting dark now and there will be more uphill tomorrow, so it’s time to be grateful for such an extraordinary day – for strong legs, good food, trail magic, no rain or bugs, gorgeous views, mystical forests and plenty of water. For all the rest, it’s just part of the fabric of life.