PCT Day 143: And Then There Were Two

September 8, 2022

Leavenworth to Stevens Pass to campsite at mile 2481.2

16 miles 

I do not want to leave this amazing bed. No, no, no. I’m more tired than I’ve ever been. I hobble when I start moving. I am one with this mattress, these pillows. Movement? No thanks. 

But then it’s 6:50, and it’s time to move. Jumbo goes to the lobby to get our breakfast bags while I take a second shower because the first one was so good and I don’t know when the next one will be. Then I go to join him, and we sit around drinking coffee and hot chocolate until we’re shaking. It’s so hard to leave town coffee, especially when it’s free. 

We return to our room and pack up, then walk up to the room where Feather, Tribute, Ishay, and Smiley are organizing their resupply. Since Tribute and Feather are ending their hike before we are, there’s a chance we won’t see them again until after the trail. So we begin the hard, tearful work of saying goodbye for now. I thought I was going to make it to that monument with both Jumbo and Tribute, but now no one can make it there, and it’s going to be just Jumbo and me at our new terminus. They tell us that we’ll see them in Seattle, then we take a photo of the trio, one last time along the PCT.

Jumbo and I walk across the street and stick our thumbs out, and almost immediately a car stops. The woman seems really excited to give us a ride; she says she’s never done this before but she knows we’re on the PCT and wants to hear about it. She takes us about halfway up the hill and then stops at a gas station where I go nuts and buy some last-minute treats. Then we stick our thumbs out again and get another quick ride in the back of a truck. The wind whips our hair and the trees zoom by, and I realize this might be one of my last hitches of the trail. I love this part of thru hiking, love how specific it is to long-distance trails and how locals know you just want to go into town for food or out of town to go back to the trail. 

Back at Stevens Pass again, we take advantage of civilization for a bit longer. While Jumbo is in the restroom, I get a news notification on my phone: the Queen has died. Wow. What a weird week. I was honestly starting to think that she was going to live forever. I tell Jumbo when he comes back out, and then, reading from the article, tell him that Liz Truss is the next Prime Minister. It’s a lot for him to take in, having been in the wilderness for months now without much news from home. I text my mom about the Queen too. She always enjoyed the Royal Family, and I got more interested after watching The Crown, which, as James likes to say, is how you know we’re American. But wow. The end of such a long era. 

I’m not sure how I’m going to feel once I start hiking again, but it turns out that I feel great. It’s not the level of cheese I had coming out of White Pass, but I have enough energy to propel me. Jumbo and I walk together for a few miles, then, near Valhalla Lake, I really start to cruise. I pass a woman who says, “I think we just gave you a ride!” It turns out to be the group who took us in their truck. I pass a ton more day hikers on my way up the hill, some of whom simply nod, and others who want to stop and have a whole conversation about the PCT. These interactions always leave me feeling like a minor deity. People love this trail and treat thru hikers with such awe. It’s a good reminder that I’m doing is Very Insane and that it’s amazing I’ve made it all this way.

The hill crests and then descends, and finally, I find a good break spot. My feet are already sore, so I lie down on my groundsheet and put my feet up against a tree. It takes Jumbo a while to catch up, and he almost walks past me until he registers what he’s seeing. “Oh! You’re upside down!” 

He joins me and we eat a late lunch. I’m so pleased with my decision to get Cheetos from the gas station. Tribute always packed them out, and every single time I saw him eating one, it made me upset that I’d forgotten yet again how amazing Cheetos taste on the trail. 

Jumbo and I hike a couple more miles together to the next water source, where we neck a liter and pack out some for the hill and our dry camp. (That’s one thing I still constantly miss about the AT: no dry camping there.) I die a little on the next hill. I start off by listening to my newest book, What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad. It’s the story of a Syrian boy who wound up on a boat from Egypt to an unnamed island, and is the sole survivor of the shipwreck. He’s taken in by a local girl. It’s good, if a little heavy, but I can’t really concentrate on it tonight. I have to switch to music to get me up this thing.

At the top of the rocky climb, I see Jumbo waiting. He’s looking out across the valley. Seeing me, he points to something in the distance. I look. A cluster of four or five fires is burning on the next ridge. No flames are visible, but smoke billows from them into the sky. It really doesn’t feel like a good sign. 

I walk across the ridge and down, then up the next climb with Jumbo. We get into a rollicking conversation about World War II stories, movies, and books and why that time in history is so interesting. Then I get on a roll explaining the amazingness that was playing with American Girl dolls as a child. After that, we wind up talking about the very specific memory of saying something you didn’t know was bad as a kid and the deep shame that came with being punished for it. That has to be a universal thing, right? How else do kids learn what they can and can’t say? It’s so interesting. 

The last few miles pass like a fever dream in this way. Not far from camp, we walk across a rock field and hear a loud whistle. We both gasp and look at each other. Marmot! Then we spot the whistler splatted on a rock, and a second near the first. I don’t think any human loves an animal like Jumbo loves marmots. He is so thrilled standing there watching them, listening to their whistles and the now-omnipresent pika beeping.

Soon after that, we arrive at our camp in a meadow. We roll out the Cowboy Sardines, except now it’s just a two-person Sard setup and I’m no longer the Middle Sard, which is very sad and makes me miss Tribute. We’re at camp fairly early for us, and I consciously and deeply enjoy the piping hot pasta primavera followed by tea and shots of Fireball. 

As we’re sitting there all bundled up in our quilts, Disaster rolls in. Like, the hiker. Not an actual disaster. He tells us he’s recovering from a bout of norovirus he had in Leavenworth and that he’s trying to catch up to Big Oil and Big Bear. This makes me nervous. I thought we’d managed to avoid the noro, but it sounds like some people are still dealing with it. But he seems fine now. He sets up near us. 

Later, as it starts to get dark, an owl swoops overhead, over and over. There are bats, too. I watch the winged creatures make art in the air over us. And is it getting smokier? It definitely is. As the night goes on, the air gets thicker and thicker with it. The moon is blood red. Are we going to have to get evacuated? Is the entire world on fire? Don’t know. Guess I’ll just try to sleep and then hike as far as I can tomorrow. 

2 thoughts on “PCT Day 143: And Then There Were Two

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