Day 136: Companions!

Day 136
September 1
mile 2329-2355.3
26.3 miles

I didn’t get up particularly early, even though I wished to get up and get out of that place! I ate my breakfast, and as I was changing into my hiking socks, talking to myself as I looked down at my feet, the ranger suddenly appeared right next to me! I coiled back out of shock. Why was he creeping around and why was he still carrying his pot with him? Couldn’t he just leave me alone? He asked me how this spot worked out for me. “Fine.”
Then, he apologized for making me move last night, but “you were rather blatant”.
“I’m sorry”.
He wished me a good hike and walked away. Man! I needed to get out of here!
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First, I needed to find a bathroom spot, however. Braveheart and Halfway passed by at that time. After I packed up, I headed up the hill and across a ridge, where I encountered a few hikers. It was a nice morning and the views were pretty.
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I knew there was an outhouse and a trashcan coming up just off the trail, and decided it was worth the extra distance to head down there. As I walked, I thought that it would be nice to hike for someone for a little while. I was thinking of someone like Truckin’, who I met on the AT, or Muk-Muk on this trail.
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I looked up and was surprised to see Braveheart and Halfway, sitting on a stonewall. I headed over to them and asked if they wanted some peanut butter M&Ms and/or beef jerky. My pack was too heavy! Braveheart is a vegetarian, so he took the candy. Then, I took my garbage to the trash can. Along the way, a man asked me how to drive to Mt. Rainier. I told him I didn’t know. I had just been walking. Again, he tried getting information on how to get to the mountain, which I didn’t even really understand. If you drive to the actual mountain (and there are many sides of it), you wouldn’t really see much of it from the base. Again, I told him that I didn’t know. I had walked here from Mexico. He didn’t even seem to hear me. I felt very perplexed.
I made my way back to the boys and we were soon joined by the other hiker who was eating with them at the Kracker Barrel Store at White Pass. “Dude! Wendy! You must have booked it to get here” he said. I smiled. I was just walking my normal pace. He was confused as to why were were gathered at this wall when the trail passed behind the outhouses. I thought I had to hike back up the road!
I started up the trail and was soon overtaken by the guys. So much for having some company!
I walked along the ridge and could see where I had just come from.
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In two miles, I reached another ‘Sheep Lake’ (!) and found the boys lounging and snacking. They joked that they hadn’t made it very far. Lots of day hikers and campers were also in the area. One advised that there was a better spot to collect water on the other side of the lake where it was actually running. I headed over there, followed by Halfway. I walked over a little foot bridge and then started to head off the trail in search of this running water as Halfway moved on. I decided that I didn’t want to expend too much effort searching for something that I wasn’t sure even existed and headed back to the bridge, where the water was at least dribbling. Was this what the guy meant?
Braveheart passed by as I sat there filtering it. I continued up the climb and after a little while, heard the other hiker coming up behind me. I stepped over so he could pass. A few steps later, I asked him, “What’s your name?”. He didn’t answer. I asked a second time and still, no answer. He had his headphones in and couldn’t hear me. Whatever. Then, he turned around. “Did you just ask me something?”.
“I said what is your name?”.
“Texas Poo”.
“Ohhh!! I’ve heard a lot about you!”. He half laughed and said that a lot of people had given him the exact same response.
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He headed on and soon, I caught up to the two men that passed by while I was filtering water. They asked if I was trying to catch up to Texas Poo. “Nope. I’m only trying to keep up with myself”. At the top of the steep climb, the trail changed directions and opened up to a completely new view. I thought it would be a nice place for a snack break.
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Ahead of me, I could see Texas Poo excitedly interacting with another hiker. It was an animated reunion. From the voice and the mannerisms of the other hiker, I could tell it was Craig, who I hadn’t seen since the time I tried hiking up Kearsarge Pass in the storm. He was headed towards me, so I assumed that he was also flipping. “Wendy!” he said when he approached. “It’s been a long time!”. He explained that he was still headed north, but that he had camped high up on the ridge and wanted to come back here to take a photo of this particular location. He and his father had hiked parts of the PCT when he was about 8 or 10 years old, and he wanted to recreate the photos that they had taken back then. A minute later, I saw Texas Poo climbing back up to us.
“Why are you coming back here?” I asked.
“Because, I’ve missed this guy!”.
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I listened to them banter and then we all headed down the trail in a line. My wish for company had come true after all! We stopped whenever we came to an old photo location and I was asked to recreate the image. “Here’s the reference photo.”
I told him he needed to bend the other knee and look a little more relaxed.
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As we walked on, I saw Texas Poo holding up his phone. “Are you taking video?”.
“Of me?”.
This was the first time someone had filmed me walking! At first, I felt embarrassed, but then it started to become a little fun. I found out that Craig was taking pictures of all of the signs he found along the trail and taking a lot of video, as well! I thought I took a lot of pictures, but not compared to him! We came across an older couple and stopped to chat. Texas Poo said he admired the woman’s ski poles. She told us she got them when she first started dating her husband and they still worked well! Mine, on the other hand, weren’t even making it through this hike! Texas Poo asked them if he could take their picture, which amused me. We later encountered a younger couple with a little dog and also stopped to chat and take pictures of each other. The scenery was incredible. At one point, I looked behind me and was stunned. I told the guys to look and they couldn’t believe the view, either!
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When we rounded a bend, we came across two families eating lunch. They were stunned to learn that we had been walking since April and one of the women immediately offered us some chips. Before we knew it, she was handing us vegetables and Craig got a turkey sandwich! Texas Poo loves telling stories and had everyone enthralled. I later asked him if that happened to him all of the time. He said it did! He loves to talk to people about the trail and they love to feed him in return! He said a lady gave him a nice chocolate bar at Dewey Lake.
We said our goodbyes and continued on. We all hoped to get to the Mike Urich shelter, but still had nearly 16 miles to go! I was beginning to doubt that I would make it.
We broke off into our own spaces as we hiked on. I took a lot of pictures, as I could still see Rainier, which was still pretty in the clouds.
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I found a nice spot for my ice coffee and snack break and even got reception! Craig walked by while I was sitting there.
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The next water source was from a pipe that I kept a lookout for. I could hear Craig and Texas Poo talking and laughing in the distance. After I collected water, I found them lounging under a tree. They asked how I was and I told them my stomach had been hurting. I thought that it had been starting to feel a tiny bit better, but today felt like I had taken several steps back. “Come sit down for awhile,” Texas Poo said.
“But I’ll never make it to the shelter if I do!”. He implored me to do so anyway, so I joined them for awhile. We had heard that there was trail magic at the shelter, but at this point, I wasn’t going to roll in before 9! The guys were lucky that they could hike faster!
I headed back to the trail before they did and was proud that they didn’t catch me in the six miles I hiked before I needed to sit down and take a break at an intersection. Just as I was finishing, they came along. Craig got excited when he saw the sign for “Airplane Meadows”.
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Apparently, the wreckage from an old plane crash was still in the field, and they headed down the path to see if they could find it. They invited me, but I didn’t feel like I had time to do that, especially not knowing how far away it was. I figured this would give me another head start. A couple minutes later, I heard some yelling which made me think they had quickly found it. But I was intent on scurrying out so I could stay ahead of them! I still had nearly eight miles to get there and I needed to move as quickly as possible!
A few miles later, I heard the noise of a large animal crashing into the forest. I saw what I think was an elk. The light was too weak to get a decent picture, however. My body began to fatigue and I struggled up a short, but steep climb. I needed to take off my heavy pack and eat a snack. There was still no sign of the guys. I kept looking at my watch and counting down the miles I had left.
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At 7:50, I finally made it to the shelter! It was nearly dark. I walked over to Braveheart and Halfway, who were sitting around a fire. No one welcomed me or offered me any food. I was hoping to make it in time for dinner so I didn’t have to cook my disgusting pasta again. Then, a woman said I could take a cold drink out of the cooler. I told her I was cold, myself, and didn’t want something cold. She said I could take it by the fire. I looked around for a place to set up my tent. I was going to sleep in the meadow, but was strongly advised not to do that because of the condensation. Braveheart and Halfway had set up in the woods, but said I was going to have a hard time finding a spot back there. With only minutes of light left, I needed to do something fast. I saw a flat spot next to the horses and decided that would be fine. It took me awhile to get the tent up, as usual. When everything was done, a man came over and asked if I was a light sleeper. I said I was. He informed me that this probably wasn’t a good place to try to sleep, as the horses stomped all night long. He even tied their feet together because of it! The loudest one was the one closest to me! I decided that I was used to not sleeping on the trail and would just stay there. It was too much work to break everything down and set it up again. I returned back to the canvas tent, hoping there would be something to eat. I met Beaker, who was hosting the trail magic. He offered me some cookies. He pointed out all the food they had for lunch and dinner (hot dogs, deli turkey, bread, etc), but it appeared that they were now offering only cookies and drinks. I almost asked for a piece of bread, but didn’t want to overstep my boundaries. Craig went to get his stove and cooked some noodles for dinner. I felt sad. We had pushed so hard to get here, hoping that we wouldn’t have to cook our same meals, but were now sitting in the dark, feeling very tired and very hungry, with food all around us, but nothing available. After staying up well past our bedtime, I headed back to my tent and hoped the horses weren’t going to keep me up all night long.


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