Cherish forever what makes you unique, cuz you’re really a yawn if it goes. – Bette Midler
I slept poorly, even with beautiful, singing creeks in stereo; even with a flat tent site. It was likely the hot chocolate that popped me up in the pitch dark with all the recent nastiness crashing around me.
I tried to talk myself off the ledge, but only reading my book about Grandma Gatewood’s walk of the Appalachian Trail finally had me dozing. Then a crashing sound wakes me before dawn. I sit right up and make my loud, aggressive anti-bear sounds, but I realize it’s just Bat, racing out of here. Big buffet awaits us after a big climb at the historic Timberline Lodge, but I’m not sure why she’s rushing.
I guess I am in a bit of a twist over her brusque nature, and it fuels me to pack, skip breakfast and skip up and out of here, sadly leaving what was a precious spot. The trail goes up first on long switchbacks and I pound out how powerless I feel when disrespected. I’m not sure why it takes me so far down, I lose sense of myself and my boundaries. I sense this is what stirred the pot of my sorrow.
But the cure is making Alison climb. It’s totally genetic. I’m built this way to go up – steady, even, strong and usually always smiling. I know it sounds completely bonkers, but walking up pushes away the dark clouds and I emerge again in a better space.
What goes up, simply must go down – way down to the Zig Zag stream, pouring out of glacier via waterfall and causing an enormously deep chasm of glacial silt. I climbed one of Hood’s solid arms and after I cross the stream, I go straight back up on another.
The ground is a sandy gravel, hard to get purchase. I come to an overlook and can’t believe my eyes – another perfect triangle of a snowy mountain. Jefferson looks like a child’s rendition of a peak. Behind him are the three sisters, all beckoning me through Oregon.
I traverse under a chairlift taking people up the mountain. The wildflowers are at peak. I swear I smell pancakes. The Timberline buffets are PCT legend, some of the best food, reasonably priced and truly all-you-can-eat, no cut off for hungry hikers.
The lodge is a smaller version of Yosemite’s famous Ahwahnee (now called The Majestic.) Indian themes mix with rough hewn logs and a huge stone fireplace. The restaurant offers views of both Hood and Jefferson. I see Trooper and Rook, but their table is full, so I go solo by the window and try to get caught up with posting to Blissful and answering comments.
The food is superb, especially a thick quiche with cheese and vegetables, pastries, sausages and a huckleberry shake. I do not act like a lady and go back for thirds and fourths, maybe more after that, too.
The hostess asks if she can seat a hiker with me, and considering how jumbled I was last night, I almost protest. I’m glad generosity got the better of me. ‘Gandalf’ sits down and we have a really nice conversation. She tells me how much she enjoyed Bill Bryson’s book on hiking the AT. I wish I had his keen eye and sharp wit.
When she says she’d follow Blissful, I tell her I might be complaining too much – about people. She comments that Bryson seems to complain a bit too much too, and her thought is if you have a problem with everyone, maybe you are the problem.
Oh, yeah, she’s got a point.
I resolve right there to lighten up and try to accentuate the humor rather than my utter exasperation – unless of course it’s an old guy bragging he’s a thru-hiker, pronouncing it in such a way as if I’d never heard the term before.
Oddly enough, as we talk, Bat pops over and sits with us. She’s full of apology for waking me up – though can’t help but blame my placement of tent for her bumbling around. I change the subject and share that Gandalf tackled that murderous hill this morning. Bat confesses it nearly killed her – and she is carrying seven days food rather than resupply at Tumberline.
All of a sudden, everything makes sense. She’s tired and was at the end of her rope last night. Yeah, she kinda just crashes in, looking out for ‘number one,’ but she needed kindness from me, not criticism. I guess when I see fit thirty-somethings, I assume they have it all pulled together. But that last climb was a doozy.
So, mea culpa, Bat, for my being such a judgy pain-in-the-butt. The three of us commiserate on uphills and downhills – hard on all of us – and staying the course. They’re my hiking friends, and I probably get on their nerves too.
We drink more coffee and hang out while I pick up my emails and one comes in from Cheerio. She puts so much joy and lightheartedness into an email that informs me she developed a stress fracture in her femur and is already home in England! I can hardly believe it, and certainly can’t imagine how she limped out thirteen miles to the highway.
I notify all her friends and share her email address. We’re mostly relieved to know she’s safe. It breaks my heart recalling her crying not wanting to leave the trail. But she will heal and return, maybe with some of us walking sections with her.
I also receive a note from one of my Saint Paul friends to tell me it was not Katie Couric but Grace Hopper who said, “A boat is always safe in the harbor, but that’s not what boats were built for.”
My boat sails soon, so I pick up the resupply intended for me to share with Cheerio. One the way, I pass men in flip flops and helmets carrying their snowboards to the lift. That’s who’s headed up! There is still skiable snow on Hood.
I simply can’t carry eleven pounds of food so I casually ask Zach if he can eat it – including a package of my famous bars. He’s ecstatic because it’s enough – plus hiker box finds – to keep him from having to hitch into town. I am so happy the food is going to my friend and he can just keep walking.
I get started on gravelly sand, low-to-the-ground flower bunches springing up in an oasis of color. It’s dry and sunny with a cool breeze. The land looks like a massive construction site, heaved up by earth movers. As I approach the forest, grasses appear like those on dunes.
I’m grateful for the cool of the forest, and going down, but the weight jars my legs as I pound. I cross a highway and a bicyclist points me towards a trail “dotty people are taking.” A dog leads his masters wearing jingly bear bells to “give critters a head start.”
Yes, Oregon is flattening out – the ups, less up; the downs, less down. A particularly beautiful balcony walk has Hood framed perfectly, white frosting dripping down his sides. I now know intimately what those gullies are – and the consistency of the gray, sandy gravel.
This section conjures the final act trio from Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier, which I attempt to sing with this view. I wonder if a movie production company used this mountain with circling stars as its logo, this mountain with a cloud hat, now a cape, now nothing.
I feel absolutely overwhelmed with the distance I’ve walked. It causes a tiny knot of anxiety rather than pride, perhaps because every step is still so close.
In just another mile, I find my little camp spot by a fairy spring, the kind that Snow White looked into and saw her beautiful face staring back. Two women are thru-hiking north and two men, section hiking. I joke with the woman after I make a big belch, claiming it was a bull frog. The men, I offer the use of my pot to scoop the water into our Sawyer squeeze bags.
I’m zipped in the alicoop as Bat arrives – again, all her energy focused on a tent site. I look out and banter with her first – and introduce her around. I feel oh, so much better now.
Til tomorrow and the surprises to come.