WA PCT, Days 6 + 7: Friends

July 22, 2016
Elk Pass to White Pass
PCT 2277.4 – 2292.4 (15.5 miles, including roadwalk to White Pass)

7:00 PM, White Pass Inn, 1 mile west of White Pass on US12 (Mile 2292.4)

I woke up in a cloud this morning, still warm and dry, but my tent and the outside of my quilt were soaked with condensation. And the rain was still running sideways.

Ugh.

So I packed up quickly, putting it all away wet, and began my windy way down to hopefully more sheltered trails beneath treeline.

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Maybe a mile down, someone had made an arrow out of sticks, pointing to a bare patch of ground next to the trail where someone—presumably my friend from last night—had scratched in the mud, “Hi Robin! :)” Funny how much it can mean for someone to know your name.

A few miles later, I’d managed to pass from being in a cloud to merely being under one, and took a short celebratory break for a Snickers and some planning. I’d been planning to camp at Ginnette Lake, a couple miles above White Pass, but everything I had with me was soaked—it still is—and the hotel at White Pass was sounding incredibly comfortable. So I decided to take the still short hike out and see about a room.

Just as I was putting away my map, my friend—Heather, it turns out—showed up. I guess she’d camped somewhere out of sight and slept in, and we hiked out together for a while. Buoyed by the company and the idea of a warm bed and shower, everything suddenly seemed considerably more pleasant. Funny how that happens, too.

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The woods down to White Pass were pleasant enough, but with my new plan and the gathering rain, I was impatient to get through them, and ended up doing the whole 15 miles down in just a few hours. Heather, who was trying to make it a couple miles past the pass, did it even faster.

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I got to the Kracker Barrel Store in the early afternoon and quickly ordered something for lunch—I have no idea what, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know at the time. There were a couple other guys there looking to wait out the weather, so we got a hotel together, just a little up the way. And it’s been the most wonderful afternoon: taking long showers, pooling our food for a big buffet dinner, and drinking beers in the warm room, staring at the storm outside.

And I just called Krista! I was trying to say a million things all at once, but all that came out was that I loved her, and that I missed her, and that I couldn’t wait to see her tomorrow, when we’ve arranged to spend a zero day around Packwood. Funny, one more time, how much a voice can feel like home.

July 23, 2016
Zero in White Pass, Packwood, and Randle

11:30 PM, Tall Tree Motel, Randle, WA

I slept so hard in the motel at White Pass, and was only vaguely aware of my buddies waking up early to hike on. They had a long day today—trying to get up south past Old Snowy—but I had an easy one of eating and doing nothing with Krista. Krista!

My alarm went off a couple minutes before eight, and I wandered sleepy-eyed down to the store to get a load of laundry going before the place got crowded. There was already a half dozen hikers there, drinking coffee and indiscriminately ordering off the indecipherable breakfast menu. I said my hellos, put my clothes in the store’s elderly washer, and rambled back to my hotel room for breakfast.

I spent the next couple hours eating extra food in the hotel room, meandering back and forth to the store to deal with laundry, and generally just loitering. After six days on the go, it’s felt really nice today to just to bumble around doing nothing.

I checked out around ten, spent a while saying goodbye to the wonderful woman who runs the place, and went to go meet Krista at the store. Krista! In real life, weeks always seem to go so fast. But the last week hiking felt like a month, and seeing her felt like years ago when I was in grad school living in Eugene, and we’d only get together on special weekends.

She pulled up in our little Honda, I jumped up and down like a nutcase, and we drove off together, to tourist around Rainier and eat around Packwood.

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And now we’re in a hotel room in Randle, at the unexpectedly fantastic Tall Timber Motel. It’s been the perfect night, watching an endless Twilight marathon on cable, ordering insanely satisfying pizza from the motel’s restaurant, and saying “hello” a thousand different times. Krista’s asleep beside me, snoring lightly and hanging on to my waist.

Maybe we can just stay here forever.

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