Mile 2456 to mile 2476
I wake up way too early for when I went to sleep last night, lay in my sleeping bag for an hour. I’m going to be tired today. Oh well. Finally get up and everyone’s rushing to pack their things away- I get anxious that I don’t have time to eat breakfast but a mile later I’m fucking starving so I sit next to a stream and eat my oatmeal. A climb and I’m fast, a climb and I’m slow. It’s smoky and hot today and I’m sore, I can feel yesterday in my legs. Today I feel wore the fuck out. It’s been too long since I had a zero day. Stehekin, though. Soon. Just me and a blackberry pie, taking a zero. Sitting at a picnic table writing postards. Maybe taking a nap.
Goddam I’m tired today. I catch the others on a ridge, do a long descent and then slow down, sit in the smokey sun swatting blackflies and eating the last of my food. So. Tired. Must. Hike.
On the long, last, sweltering climb (I roasted last year and this year I roast again, I can feel my shoulders burning, chafe from the straps of my pack and along my back) I get reception and there’s a text from Egg- she’s in the parking lot, waiting for me! I hiked with Egg last year and I remember when we hung out at the Dinsmore’s in Skykomish, she wrapped her sleeping bag liner around her head like the virgin mary and in the morning when we hitch-hiked it was too early and we made too much noise and the neighbors came out and yelled at us.
Egg is at the ski lodge with three friends from the farm where she works on the Olympic Peninsula and they have the most incredible array of food- black beans and rice for tacos, cabbage slaw, salad, salsa, avocado, strawberries in sugar, raspberries, small tomatoes, coconut macaroons. Almost all of it from the farm where they work, perfectly ripe and falling apart, and we descend on it like salad-starved wolves, sit at the metal picnic tables eating until we can’t anymore. Afterward the others hitch to the Dinsmore’s and I ride the gondola with Egg and her friends up to the top of the mountain, clinging to the warm metal remembering when I was a kid and I wasn’t scared. We fly through the hazy smoke-filled air with the fireweed down below. (There’s a fire nearby, biggest wildfire in Washington history.) Egg and I talk about life, transience, sadness/excitement. She’s wearing the same dress she hiked in last year, only in a different color, and her hair is in pigtails and she has a Fish and Wildlife hat. Seeing her all tired and freckled from her farm job reminds me that the regular world is out there, it still exists, and it’s not that bad. At the top of the mountain we get back on the Gondola and ride down.
Egg and her friends drop me at the Dinsmores and I say goodbye (but I will visit her soon!!) and I rejoin the sunburnt, rangy crowd, everyone sitting in a circle on the grass drinking Rainier and smelling like old laundry. Twelve pizzas are ordered; I can’t eat pizza and the store is closed so I eat pecans from my resupply and catch up on my blog. Showering, laundry, the usual things that make me feel like a new person, like I’ve removed the skin of dust and clammy sweat I’ve grown over the last 100 miles. Bed is cowboy camping beneath the huge western redcedar in the yard, BNSF intermodals blowing past in the wee hours. Tomorrow we start to long stretch to Stehekin, aka the promised land. I sleep.
Photos on instagram.