Across the Olympics, Day 6: “Less Gear, More Beer”

August 3, 2017
Lake Angeles to Port Angeles
Klahanne Ridge Trail, Mt. Angeles Road

1.

I wake up early, ready to go. Resupply day!

The walk down from Lake Angeles goes fast, the trail switchbacking through thin, second-growth forest and a few recent burns. This trail obviously gets used a lot. The surface is smooth, and as broad as a boulevard. But there’s no one here this morning, not yet, and so I feel almost like I’m walking through an abandoned city.

The trail crosses a couple forks of Ennis Creek, then enters a small wetland above Lake Dawn. Then roads. There’s a big group of runners at the trailhead, all clean neon, but it’s otherwise quiet.

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2.

Well, quiet except for cars.

I cross the Hurricane Ridge Highway in a rare lull between speeding sedans, then find the old Mt. Angeles Road, once the only way up here, but now decommissioned, after the National Park built the highway.

I follow it for a mile or two, as it grows from a crowded path to a one lane road, and finally to painted city street, lined with old farmhouses, trampolines in the yard. The city’s waking up, and cars speed by, almost all slow down to wave or give a thumbs up.

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The houses get thicker and the cars faster until I’m in the city proper, at the Wilderness Information Center, looking in a mirror for the first time in a week.

Oof.

3.

I find a shaded spot in the front lawn, and call Krista. So much news! I guess it’s been above 100 nearly the whole time I’ve been gone. That explains some things. And she tells me about the fires in Canada. They’re huge, and I guess the smoke’s made it all the way to Portland, and the whole place has been enveloped for days. Seattle’s apocalyptic.

Huh.

4.

Port Angeles proper is totally overwhelming. I walk into the first fast food place I see, and order a truly obscene amount of food. I eat it all way too fast, then the manager comes out to bring me a free desert—a massive chocolate thing with as many calories as I’ve been eating a day. He’s a big guy who looks like he’s seen some shit, but he smiles, guilelessly at my obvious joy. “You look like you could use it.”

Then to the Post Office. I’ve sent myself food for the next week, and Krista sent a surprise letter, and a picture of us from years ago. I send all my warm clothes home: it’s supposed to be above 90 for the rest of my trip.

Then to my motel: an ancient 50s thing, that seems not to have changed in the intervening decades. The air conditioning’s out, but there’s an industrial fan in the room, and a bathtub, which I fill with cold water and sit in until I’m shivering.

5.

The afternoon passes quickly. I wash my clothes in the bathtub. It takes twenty minutes for the water to run clear. Then I lay them out on the balcony to dry, and lie on the bed, marathoning The Trail Show and watching trashy TV. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World all the way through. Twice.

Eventually it’s dark and my clothes are (sort of) dry, and I wander out to find some dinner. There’s a Chinese takeout place down the way. I order way too much food, then walk across the street to a tiny bodega, and buy some shitty beer.

I am so excited for all this.

Back in the motel, I eat and drink for an hour, using an ice bucket for the beer, feeling preposterously regal, particularly for a dude eating spicy oyster sauce beef with a pilfered plastic spork.

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