PCT Day 138: Snoqualmie and the Bad News Bears

September 3, 2022

Mirror Lake at mile 2385.6 to campsite at mile 2397.8, with a stop in Snoqualmie Pass

12.2 miles 

Wait, I just realized that the title of this post sounds like a band name. A little clunky? Maybe. Maybe they play butt rock with plastic hardware store buckets. Maybe it’s experimental jazz, the kind Ishay would listen to. Have I lost my mind? Long ago, friend. Long ago. But today was especially mind-loss-inducing. We confirmed with the PCTA that the last fifteen miles of the Pacific Crest Trail are in fact closed due to the large Parks Fire burning across the Canada-US border very close to the trail. 

It’s a really weird feeling knowing that this thing you’ve been working towards for months might be out of reach when you get there. It’s a mirror image of the monument in the south, a place you hope and dream of in a (more or less) straight line all the way from the start. I don’t think I’ve been thinking about the monument as much as other hikers, and I definitely haven’t been thinking about it as much as I thought about Katahdin, but it’s still the legendary end of a legendary hike, and now it looks like I might not be able to touch it.

But my attitude is that I’m still out here. I’m still with my friends living life the way I love it best. I still wake up and love the woods, still go to sleep grateful, even with my feet yelling at me and my joints on fire. I’m going to walk until I can’t anymore, or until I’m not legally allowed to keep going, or until I feel like I’m done.

So that’s what I do this morning. I walk. It’s actually really beautiful today, with misty views across to craggy mountains. The rocks are annoying, and so is the fact that every single day hiker who passes us seems to feel the need to tell us that the last 15 miles of the PCT are closed, but the foggy coolness is so lovely. It feels like Maine. It feels like the kind of day where you want to stay home and read a book and put a fire on.

We get to the road that will take us to the little hamlet of Snoqualmie Pass just before lunch time. We’ve got pizza on the brain, so we go to the pizza joint first and get huge slices that we take across the street to the brewery, Dru Bru. We remain here for many hours throughout the day, charging up our devices, checking the details of the fire, contacting family, drinking. A couple of Tribute’s friends from nearby come to visit with him for a while, and Jumbo and I sit inside becoming one with our phones. 

Out of all of us, Jumbo is taking the news about the border the hardest. It’s understandable. He’s been planning this hike for three years, and it took him way more work than it did for us Americans. He had to get a permit and then a visa, get all the gear, quit his job, and commit to walking across another country for five to six months of his life. He’s had that northern terminus in his dreams since before I even knew I was going to do this trail. Now that it’s almost within reach, it’s being taken away. 

The terminus isn’t the most important thing to me, but in a way, it was the most important thing about this hike to Jumbo. Reaching that terminus would mean that he accomplished a goal he never thought he would even approach. It would mean that he walked the entire length of a country, border to border. I think I could walk away from this hike and eventually be satisfied after the initial sting of not reaching that monument, but not Jumbo. That’s not his hike. It’s so hard watching him process this, watching the completion of a dream effectively dissipate before his eyes. 

Jumbo, Tribute, and I resupply at the market across the street next, then we reorganize it all back at the brewery. I order another drink, and the bartender, Josh, says he’s been following this blog. That’s my third reader I’ve met! I can’t believe you guys actually exist out there in real life! It’s the coolest thing. Thanks for being with me in spirit on this wild journey.

I’m intending to go back out soon after that, but Feather and Tribute are still chilling hard inside the brewery, so I join them. Then Feather orders a chicken teriyaki bowl that looks amazing, so I follow suit. But it takes forever to come out, and I can almost feel Jumbo’s urgency to get back on trail, so I eat a few bites and then put the rest in a ziplock so I can have it for dinner at camp.

By now Feather and Tribute (mostly Tribute) are many beers deep and in great spirits, which contrasts with the general soggy mood bestowed by the news about the fire. We summon all the energy we can and head back onto the trail. It’s a climb for about six miles. I start without any audio, then switch to music before long. The views open up after a couple of miles to craggy, pointy mountains and clouds sifting between them. This is the kind of scenery we’ve been dreaming of. This is why we’re out here, still. There are so many pikas running around and beeping and being so cute. 

Tribute being one with the pikas

We get water from a small stream once it starts to get dark. Hippie Girl and Detour, the English couple hiking with Shaggy, are there as well. We commiserate about the climb before continuing upwards, wearing headlamps. Jumbo, Feather, and I wind up getting lost and then having to navigate back to the trail, but we eventually find it. Then we finally collapse at the first tent site we see. Jumbo and I pile into one Cowboy Sardines spot. Tribute isn’t there; we think he kept going to the next site. But we’re just done. Although our mileage wasn’t exactly huge today, it was still a tough day, and I’m just ready to be unconscious.

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