PCT Day 142: Leavenworth

September 7, 2022

Mig Lake at mile 2457.7 to Leavenworth via Stevens Pass 

7.5 miles 

Last night I fell asleep right at 9:00, and this morning I wake up at 5:00 on the dot. I lie there for a while, thinking about things, watching the stars blink out and the daylight switch on. It hits me then why my mom loves mornings, and why my friend Patches would always wake up an hour before us on the AT. There’s so much peace in knowing the day is about to begin, but not knowing what it will contain yet. I’m just awake, looking at the sleeping cocooned bodies of my friends, thinking about how much I love the simple moments on trail like this. 

What will life be like when I can’t take terrible photos of Jumbo right after he wakes up?

It’s 7.5 miles to Stevens Pass today, where we will pick up the boxes we sent to ourselves in Portland. I almost wrote “it’s an easy 7.5,” but that’s simply not true. There’s a steep, short climb that seems way harder than it should, but on the bright side, there are still blueberries everywhere, then the huckleberries pop up again. I collect a few handfuls and put them in a ziplock bag, à la Tribute. I munch on them as the morning goes on, which is convenient because I’m down to peanut butter and an Rx Bar that I really don’t want to eat.

I listen to more of No One is Talking About This, the book I started yesterday and didn’t really like at first, except now in the second half it’s really starting to get real and I’m actually finding myself liking it more. It’s kind of parodying internet culture but also talking about a family going through a really tough situation and how the protagonist deals with something in the real world versus online. It’s one of the stranger books I’ve read, but it also sort of fascinates me.

I find Jumbo and Ishay at the top of the last climb by a ski lift. The signal is surprisingly good here, better than it’s been any other time recently. I hop online and check the status of the Parks Fire. There’s no change, but it seems like it’s grown since the last time I looked at the map. It is not looking hopeful that we will be able to get to the terminus this year.

Down at the lodge, we pick up our resupply boxes and realize that there’s nothing else open, no restaurants or cold drinks or coffee. There is a really nice hiker box, though. I take a large mostly full MSR fuel can and suddenly feel invincible. Ha HA! I can have all the hot drinks I want! I take my box outside and reorganize it into my food bag, delighted with my past self for all these treats: two Poshport meals, coffee, snickers, tortillas. I did great. 

Tribute, Feather, and Ishay decide that they’re going into Leavenworth, and they get a hitch immediately. We weren’t originally planning this town stop, but I’m so hungry and I need to charge my stuff, and since we aren’t exactly trying to keep our original pace because of the fire, I see no real downside to going into town. Jumbo finishes his repackaging and then we go down to the road and stick out our thumbs. Whereas the other three got a ride instantly, it takes us the better part of an hour to get a ride. Finally we do, with a very chill guy from Belgium who started the trail but had to get off due to injury. No one really talks, so both Jumbo and I fall asleep on the way down to town. 

We’re dropped off, and then we make a beeline for McDonald’s. As we walk, we take in the town. It is very strange. It’s one of those kitschy towns America seems to love, the ones that are designed to look like a genuine town in another part of the world. In this case, the goal is Bavaria. The success rate of this goal is not super high. Every sign is written in a font that someone probably thinks looks vaguely German. There are little balconies and flower boxes and architecture involving wood beams on everything, even the gas station/Subway combination. It amuses me, and Jumbo merely expresses muted disappointment tinged with hunger for salt. 

Everything looks a little brighter after we’ve absolutely demolished lunch at McDonald’s. This is one of the many things I miss while not hiking: getting to absolutely obliterate food. It’s salty and fake and great and I will not listen to any human being who rails against McDiddyDoo. 

Today’s mood

I text my mom to let her know where we are, and she sends me a photo of her “tribute wall”: a bulletin board with all the postcards I’ve sent from the trail, along with a PCT map, the photo of me at Crater Lake, and my start photo with the southern terminus. And seeing this start photo and realizing I won’t be able to give her a photo at the matching northern terminus, I just start crying. It finally hits me how disappointing this whole situation is. I know Jumbo has been having a lot of emotions surrounding this already, but this is really the first time that it sinks in for me.  I don’t think I’ll be satisfied with this hike if I can’t at least make it to Canada, even if it’s not the northern terminus.

We pop into the ranger station after that just to get some updates about the fire. It’s not super helpful because this seems to be a different ranger district, but we get a couple of numbers we can call for more information. After that we walk to meet up with Feather and Tribute at the restaurant where they’re eating, and they tell us about the hotel they’re staying at, the FairBridge. We walk over there and book a room and are pleasantly surprised by (a) the substantial PCT hiker discount, (b) the fact that there is a functioning hot tub, and (c) the endless free juice, hot chocolate, coffee, and tea in the lobby. 

The hotel stay is enhanced by the fact that we didn’t plan this; originally, we were going to just keep pushing until Stehekin. So it’s an absolute treat to shower. Actually, I’ve been having dreams about showering. This particular shower almost makes me cry, it’s so good. Then I crawl into the fluffy, immaculate king size bed with several pillows and feel my creaky, sore legs let go and relax. I FaceTime my mom and do some writing, then Jumbo, Ishay and I put our laundry in. The three of us go visit with Tribute, Feather, and Smiley in the hot tub. I just put my feet in until the laundry is done, then change and go all the way in the water.

I’ve been dreaming of a hot tub this entire trail. I don’t know what it is about a pool of hot, bubbly water that makes me go weak at the knees, but it is blessedly relaxing to sit here and not hike. I put the arch of my foot against one of the jets for a massage. I lean back and close my eyes, one level below ecstasy. Jumbo chats with Smiley about our proposed alternate that he discovered around Ross Lake, and Smiley tells us about his idea to hike from Holman Pass to the same trail. There’s supposedly a boat you can take across the lake and then to the section just before the northern terminus. We’re fully aware that it could be on fire by the time we get there, but we’re going to try.

Tribute and Feather, meanwhile, have decided that they’re going to end their hike at Hart’s Pass, full stop. Tribute lives here, in Tacoma, so he can go back and do the missed parts whenever he wants. He never seemed as attached to getting to the terminus as either Jumbo or me, so I’m not surprised. But it is really depressing to think that the three of us won’t finish together after making it this far. 

After a long time soaking, Jumbo and I dry off and go in search of dinner. We end up at The Loft, a bar and grill type place. He gets another burger and I order a southwest chicken salad that is actually incredibly satisfying. Then, back at the hotel, we crawl into bed and fully revel in the fact that it is not a sleeping pad, and that we are clean and inside for a night. 

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