PCT Day 148: All Downhill to Stehekin

September 13, 2022

Campsite at mile 2558.1 to Stehekin

14.8 miles

It’s not as damp as I expect it to be when I wake up. It’s still cloudy, but I don’t think it rained last night. I hear Jumbo rummaging around and, although I’m not ready to actually move yet, I rouse myself enough to check Guthook to confirm the shuttle times to Stehekin today. There’s one at 2. If we really keep a consistent pace and don’t take too many breaks, we should make it. Armed with this knowledge, I start packing up as quickly as I can. I want those cinnamon rolls, baby! 

Once we get started, it’s so cruisey. Andy had messaged me a while back with beta about Washington, and he’d mentioned that the last 20 miles to Stehekin were “easygoing.” This turns out to be totally true. It’s pretty much downhill all the way, and despite a few minor inclines and a large river crossing on a downed log, we make really good time.

Jumbo falls behind me pretty quickly. I spend the day listening to the rest of What Strange Paradise, which I finish. I’m not thrilled about it? There was a really obvious villain and I was annoyed about how objectively hateable he was. Personally, I like a complicated villain, one with a story arc, one you almost start to feel bad for. But this one is just categorically evil. 

I start a new audiobook called Once There Were Wolves, and so far, I totally love this one. It’s about a woman who’s working on a project to restore wolves to Scotland, but she faces massive pushback from the local community. It’s really enjoyable so far, and it makes the miles fly.

Jumbo catches up to me after I bushwhack my way to and from a cathole. He says he’s not doing great. His chalk ankles are really giving him grief. We discuss taking a break soon since we’re moving at a good enough pace to get to the road before 2 for the shuttle.

Then, based on Skywalker’s advice yesterday, we stop at a promontory where you can look back up the gorge we’ve been following and see the churning water of the river tumbling down over a waterfall. We decide this is a great place for our break and immediately sit down. I have enough morsels left in my pack to have two tuna and sriracha wraps, which I inhale as we stare at the beautiful river. 

“I really don’t want to stop being a thru hiker,” I tell Jumbo.

“Me neither. I’ll miss the freedom.”

“Yeah. There’s awesome stuff in non-trail life, but nothing will ever be as free as this.”

We continue moving down the long descent to Stehekin, me blazing ahead with my audiobook, which is now growing very dark and murdery, but not in a bad way? I cross a bridge over the beautiful Agnes Creek, make a sharp uphill turn, and then follow the road down to the picnic spot where the shuttle will come and take us to town. Dilly Dally is already there, and I chat with her for a while until Jumbo walks up, which is also almost exactly when the bus pulls in. Tons of hikers we know spill out of it: Fits, Mash, Merlin, Marble. Fits gets us really hyped for the bakery and tells us that they’re going to try to do the Ross Lake alternate too. 

Jumbo, Dilly Dally, and I get onto the bus. It’s a school bus, which is apparently unique to the United States so Jumbo is very excited to be riding on one. It makes its way along a gravel road following the river and then approaching Lake Chelan. The driver stops at the bakery and announces that we’re here and that he’ll stop for 10 minutes, but Jumbo and I want more time to really enjoy this experience we’ve been dreaming about, so we decide to just stay here and walk back when we’re done.

This bakery is… phew. I need to take a deep breath. It is a religious experience. The infamous as-big-as-your-face cinnamon rolls are exactly as delicious as I’ve been expecting for years. So are the BBQ chicken pocket, the Thai noodles, and the bacon and cheese croissant that I annihilate. Heated up, the icing of the cinnamon roll melts through the cracks of the pastry. I eat it in strips, lost in another dimension, one of cinnamon and sweet dough and ecstasy. This place knows what it’s doing being here. My hiker hunger is at an all-time high and I am shocked by what I can consume. 

We sit around drinking coffee and talking for hours. It’s bottomless coffee, Jumbo’s favorite, so this is basically heaven for him. It is for me, too. We visit the adjoining gift shop and I purchase some cards with a beautiful map of the PCT on them, then we buy a huge load of bakery items to eat tomorrow and to pack out for the last stretch. 

We walk down the flat, tree-lined road to Stehekin, followed by mosquitoes. One of the shuttles pulls up and takes us the rest of the way to town, if you can call it a town. It’s more like a collection of buildings and a deck. There are so many people we know here: Spice, Mouse, Stinger, Gus, Dirt Magnet, Kevin, Frankie, and of course Dilly Dally. Jumbo and I walk up the hill and set up our tents, then we walk back down to the store, buy some boxed wine and a bottled margarita, and, since there is no wifi and no service, we settle in to drink. Eventually Kevin and Dilly Dally join us, and it’s such a nice time just sitting around a table talking to hikertrash. Have I even said it recently? I love this trail.

Dilly Dally getting ready to do her very loud and very impressive “YEEEEEHAW!”

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