PCT Day 129: Trail Magic and Sawtooth Sunset

August 25, 2022

Campsite at mile 2191.4 to campsite just past the Sawtooth Mountain Trail junction at mile 2214.5

23.1 miles

I can immediately feel yesterday in my feet when I start moving. I’d thought that my new insoles from Portland were really working some magic because my foot pain has decreased since the zeroes, but it turns out that rocketing up an 8-mile hill after a full day of hiking and at the tail end of a 2,653 mile hike is, in fact, hard on your body.

It takes me forever to warm up this morning. I trudge behind Tribute and Jumbo until we finally reach the end of that horrible hill. Then I feel better once we start going down.

We walk together for the first part of the day. We haven’t done this in a while, and it makes the time fly. All of a sudden five miles are gone and we’re at a spring. We stop to collect water, then a bit further down the trail we find a flat spot to make coffee and have a snack. For some reason, I take this moment to get really involved in rearranging my apps on my phone. When I realize Tribute and Jumbo are already packed up, I laugh at my idiocy and spring up.

We’d heard yesterday that there might be trail magic at this parking lot by a dirt road coming up, but rule number one of potential trail magic is “Act as though there will be no trail magic.” Otherwise, you’ll just be disappointed. So when we roll up and see multiple portable awnings and smell people cooking, it’s a delightful surprise. It turns out to be a group of people from Vancouver, Washington who do this every year.

They have a hand-washing station, which they shepherd us to first, then there are eggs cooked on the griddle and pancakes. Pancakes! It’s divine. The three of us sit there eating and talking to another hiker called Scorpion Queen, who, like Andy, is originally from the UK but lives in New Zealand. We also drink another cup of coffee, then we’re offered some fresh homemade applesauce.

Once we’re full of calories, we keep moving. It’s an uphill for a while, but it’s not super steep so we stay together. On the way up we pass the 2200 mile marker. This would be pretty arbitrary except that this number is the distance of the AT and the Approach Trail combined. So, give or take a few fire miles, this is now technically the longest hike I’ve been on.

We find a little patch of shade and take a break. Jumbo is back to wearing his merino hoodie because his 100% cotton Oregon t-shirt is, predictably, disgusting. Both he and I are burning up, covered in sweat, so we use every break to take the soaked hoodies off and hang them to dry for a minute. The process starts all over again once we get moving, but at least we’re dry for a minute.

The break is necessary and lovely, but we have to start moving again. We stand and pack up, Jumbo singing “Kepler-22b” by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard under his breath. It immediately gets stuck in my head. We both decide to listen to the album individually as we make our way up the extremely hot hill at exactly the same pace.

It’s not too bad, and at the top, we start getting these amazing views of Mt. Adams and Mt. Saint Helens. Turning down the hill, we get into an interesting conversation about religion and whether it will survive. Then we find ourselves on the shore of Blue Lake. Despite the huge trail magic, we’re pretty hungry. I cook another Poshport, this time biscuits and gravy, then lie down for a nap when I see Jumbo and Tribute doing the same. I wake up when Feather Blue appears. It’s so cool that we’re hiking around her again now! We chat for a while, then take off when we realize how late it is.

Out of nowhere, I find some cheese and absolutely cruise to the next water source, then realize that I’ve missed the actual trail down to the water, so I have to backtrack. Then I keep going as long as I can in cruise mode. I decide I haven’t really given Wolf Alice a fair shot, so I start playing songs from a playlist I downloaded ages ago when Jumbo first mentioned them. I actually really enjoy it. It sort of defies genre? Like it’s kind of punk at times, poppy at others, mopey and slow, then kind of orchestral and sexy. I’m into it. But my cheese runs out pretty fast, and I’m hungry. Again. Why am I always so ravenous? I chomp down the only snack I can find, part of a chocolate brownie clif bar, and eat a few caramels. It seems to help.

I stop and wait at the Sawtooth Mountain Junction until Tribute comes around the corner, looking like he’s been sprinting. “If I had to shit every day I’d never catch up with you guys!” he exclaims, thinking that Jumbo is with me and that we’ve left him in the dust after he had to dig a rare cathole.

“Where’s James?” he asks then, looking around.

“I don’t know. Not with me. I think he’s pretty far behind you.”

“Great! I worked really hard for nothing!”

But he doesn’t seem that mad. Not as mad as I would be, anyway. He takes a seat next to me and we eat a snack while we wait for Jumbo. A normal amount of time goes by, then a longer amount, and we start to talk about what could have happened. He’s had really bad chafing the past few days, so that could be a thing.

Finally he comes up to us. “Sorry,” he says, drawing up his dramatic eyebrows in apology as if admitting having done something he wasn’t supposed to do. “I was talking to some other English people.”

We have decided to take the Sawtooth alternate instead of the PCT here because it apparently has much better views. It also used to be the actual PCT. It’s a bit of a climb, but the huckleberries and spectacular views of glacier-flanked Adams are so worth it. So, too, is the rocky spot we perch on while eating dinner and watching the sunset.

We night hike for another mile or so with our head lamps attracting all the bugs. Tribute spots a few absolute units of toads and picks them up gently, saying hello. We wind up finding a small campsite not far past the junction, setting up sardines, and reveling in the sweet joy of being horizontal.

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