August 12, 2017
Seven Stream to Lake Cushman
North Fork Skokomish Trail
There’s not much hiking left to do, and lots of time to do it in. Lake Cushman’s just five miles down the way, and Krista’s not scheduled to be there until five. So I lounge it up: slow breakfast, slow pack up, slow meander back to the main trail.
I haven’t seen anyone since the day-before-yesterday, but the North Fork Skokomish Trail is a total freeway. Groups stream by. They all look so clean! A young couple have lawn chairs strapped to their packs. Three Hiker Bros are all shirtless and… maybe baby oiled? An older couple help each other up a small step in the trail.
No reason to rush, so I stop at every stream and every spot that might even conceivably have a view. I eat two (two!) Snickers. I stop to make another cup of coffee for no reason other than there was a wide-ish spot in the trail.
The trail widens to an old road and the crowd changes: more families with kids, less baby oil. I start feeling like an anomaly—this dusty old thing from high up in the hills. But everyone smiles. “Well, where have you been?” Maybe I’m an anomaly, but I’m one that’s being welcomed back.
A dad and his boys stand on a riverside boulder, skipping rocks in the rapids and laughing.
The trailhead’s a flurry of activity: cars and campers all crowded in, all swerving in different directions. I get some water from the campground, then set up on a rocky piece of riverbank to eat the last of my food and kill a couple hours.
There’s a family wading in the slow shallow water across the way, two young parents and a preschool daughter. They’re pretending. The little girl’s a fish and mom’s a fisherman, casting an imaginary line. Every time she does, the daughter changes direction, laughing victoriously, too smart to be hooked by such an obvious ploy. I imagine her swimming all the way up the river, through rapids and deep shaded dells, all the way to the wild headwaters.
Krista comes two hours early with a car full of snacks—berries and cookies and OH MY GOD SODA!
We drive down the same road we came up two weeks ago, like a tape playing in reverse. I watch the trees go by as sunlight flickers through their leaves and onto the passenger side window. We talk about nothing and everything and I realize all at once that I’m absolutely exhausted. It’s been a long couple weeks. But as I’m drifting off, I hear Krista. “Hey!” She’s reaching out for my hand.