Mile 2580 to mile 2609
I sleep bad my second night at the lodge, for some reason, and in the morning I wake early and go to the restaurant, order eggs and sausage and potatoes to go. Everything in Stehekin is expensive, and I’m definitely spending the last of my money, but I don’t care. I’ll make it work somehow, everything will work out somehow. It always does. I eat my breakfast on the wooden deck, watching the fog burn off the lake. Only three days to the border. What does it even mean.
Three days, 110 miles- 80 miles for everyone else but an extra 30 for me and Krispies, because we’re not going into Canada. My passport expired last winter, and I never got a new one. And Krispies is turning around for logistical purposes. The border crossing is in the middle of nowhere so if you turn around it means you have to hike back thirty miles on the PCT to Hart’s pass, where there’s a road. Last year I went into Canada, but this year I’m looking forward to doing it this way- I need time for introspection, I’m not ready to step off the trail just yet. And doing 30 extra miles will make me feel better about the 30 miles I skipped around the second fire closure in Oregon.
Everyone trickles onto the deck, sleepy, sodas in hand, attempting to caffeinate/get pumped. Notachance never appeared yesterday, like I’d hoped she would, and my heart sinks. Word is that her and Mac took a few days off to wait out the rain- which means that we likely won’t finish together. Still I hold out a little hope. Maybe they’ll catch us before the border?
The bus bumps down the dirt road to the bakery- last bakery stop before Canada! Inside everyone buys sticky buns, slices of cold pizza wrapped in cellophane, things to take to the border. I find a treasure on the day-old shelf- another blackberry pie! For only $10! I heft it in my hands. A whole pie- should I pack it out? How will I fit the box in my pack? Of course there is only one answer to this question. I pull some food out of my food bag to make room, leave behind tuna packets and trail mix. Who needs nutritious food when you can pack out an entire blackberry pie?!
We climb for the first 25 miles today, up through sun-dappled forest. The climb is mellow and gently graded and I cruise. 9 miles in I stop at a stream for water and some of my pie. The pie tastes incredible- flaky golden crust, blackberry juice running all over everything. I am certain, in this moment, that no-one has ever enjoyed blackberry pie as much as I am enjoying it, right now. Sitting next to this stream in the wilderness, hungry from hiking uphill all morning, attacking the pie with my titanium spork. I go into a trance, and before I know it half of the pie is gone. And I am deeply satisfied.
Except, of course, I have a bit of a stomachache now, and 16 miles of climbing left. Hiking heavy, is what they call it. I listen to my music and cruise, hipbelt unfastened, and by the time I catch the others three miles later at rainy pass I feel better. Then up, up, to the ridge with the subalpine larch, where we camped last year. Cutthroat pass! More epic views I missed last year in the rain- jagged peaks and bowl-shaped valleys filled with light. This morning I’d been apprehensive about 29 miles, starting at 9 a.m., and with all this climbing, but now I feel amazing. I’ve only taken the one half-hour break all day, and I don’t need any more.
I get to camp just before eight and find the others sitting on damp logs around a fire pit, wearing their puffy jackets and boiling little dinners. Bright tents are pitched in the meadow and the air is cooling, dew falling over everything. There’s a volunteer trail crew camped here as well, and they chat with us about this and that. Tiny is talking about doing 37 miles tomorrow, which sounds impossible, and then I realize that it’s not.
“I think today was the easiest 30 miles I’ve ever done,” I say.
“Yeah,” says Tiny.
“We’re so strong now,” I say. “But the trail is almost over. It’s so weird.”
Only two days left, I think. Better make it count.
Photos on instagram.