PCT Day 131: Pin the Tail on the Passport

August 27, 2022

Campsite at mile 2235.6 to campsite at mile 2256.7

21.1 miles

We’d decided last night that today was going to be a sleeping in day. I’m glad to see that everyone is still adhering to this when I eventually become conscious. Jumbo isn’t rustling around yet, Tribute’s tarp is still up, Feather doesn’t even seem awake yet, and it’s still a gray, cozy morning. I pull out my stove and fuel canister and make myself a hot tea. I don’t have words for how cozy and warm it makes me feel.

Jumbo’s packed-out burrito breakfast

Once we get moving, it’s cool enough to keep my puffy and beanie on. Jumbo is happy about this, and while he doesn’t say “This feels like England” every five minutes, I know he’s thinking it.

The four of us stay more or less together for much of the morning, sometimes getting ahead or behind at a water source or when we have to stop for something. It’s still a burn zone, and the wind whips through the bare trees sounding like the ghosts of so many creatures, like an eerie scream. It’s a little creepy, especially with the cloudy weather, but it’s also kind of cool. The clouds obscure some of the mountains in the distance, but we can see Mt. Hood still poking up from a puffy bank, and, to our left, the snow-socked flanks of Mt. Adams seem so close we could touch them.

We cling to the skirt of Adams all day. It is a stunning mountain. There’s a massive glacier on one side that gets progressively clearer as we make our way around it. While the last few days have been completely in the forest, today we have small conifers followed by lush green meadows that tumble down the mountain, sprayed with wildflowers. It is incredible. It’s one of those days when I feel so alive, so happy to be doing this, so content. That, plus the cozy weather and the fact that it’s not hot for once, make me absolutely in love with this day.

We stop for our mid-morning break after about six miles. We all make hot drinks today because it’s actually cold out, so it’s enjoyable to have them. Then we walk together until I have to break off for the inevitable morning cathole, after which I realize that I left my hand sanitizer up there and have to go back up the hill and back down to the trail. I realize not long after this that I am desperately hungry, almost lightheaded, and so I shove a bar in my face. I really can’t figure out a pattern with my hunger.

I’m crossing over a water source that’s crystal clear and smooth at the bridge and cascading down a waterfall into a meadow when I catch sight of Jumbo’s purple jacket in the valley below. He tries to signal something to me that looks like “loop around this way and come over,” so I do so and wind up on the wrong side of an island with a campsite where the three of them are hanging out and having lunch. I figure out how to cross the stream and then join them next to the waterfall. We’re all cooking hot meals, which actually seems more necessity than luxury right now because it’s so cold. My spicy Indian potatoes and vegetables that Tribute donated to me taste divine with Parmesan couscous. I follow that up with yet another cup of tea.

Waterfall next to our lunch spot

After lunch, the trail enters thick, fragrant forest for a while. I’m walking behind Jumbo when I realize that I need to go for cathole round two. So annoying. That burrito, man. A little while after that, I come upon the group again, but I’m not ready for a break yet. I power over a small hill, listening to Polygondwanaland and picking so many huckleberries that my hands are stained purple. These hucks are thick and juicy, the Platonic ideal of a huckleberry. We’re gonna get there! Polygondwanaland!

I’ve used up my cheese by the time I get to the next water source, so I sit and eat what ends up becoming my dinner. Then, one by one, Tribute, Feather, and Jumbo join me. We have a conversation about what makes the most sense to do in terms of mileage for Goat Rocks. It’s an extremely scenic section that everyone raves about, and we want to make sure we don’t hit the Knife’s Edge in the evening and have to rush. We decide to split it up so that we do 18 tomorrow and the next day, then dip into White Pass quickly the following morning, instead of trying to get there in the evening. These logistical conversations are Tribute’s strong suit. He is great at looking at all the upcoming landmarks and suggesting an itinerary that maximizes our enjoyment of the trail. So if that’s what he thinks is the best idea, I’ll roll with it.

Tribute and Feather head out first, and I walk with Jumbo for the last few miles. We’re having a conversation about something or another when, at the same time, we both have to dive into the woods. Again. Neither of us seem to be able to process the Trout Lake burrito quite right, apparently.

When I come back to the trail, Jumbo is waiting for me. I put my pack on and start walking, but I feel something brushing up against my legs. I try to swat it away, but it seems to be hanging on.

“Ah!” I let out a frustrated cry. “James! Help! Is there something on the back of my pack?” I turn around.

Jumbo laughs. “Yep. You’ve got a branch.” He plucks off the not insignificantly sized branch and holds it so I can see. “It’s like pin the tail on the Passport!”

Oof. What a struggle.

Jumbo asking for snacks through his tent mesh… normal trail things.

Our planned campsite is still two and a half miles away, but after we pass another pond and come around a corner, we see Tribute and Feather set up already. This will make tomorrow 20, which is doable, assuming the terrain doesn’t get too crazy.

“Hooray! We’re done!” Jumbo says, and we squeeze our Duplexes together into one tent site so that all four of us are in a little clump. It’s well before 8:00, we’ve already eaten dinner, and it’s nice and cold again. Cozy. I make a cup of tea and settle in for the night, loving every moment of being in my quilt early for once.

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