Day 143: Beginning the penultimate stretch

Day 143
September 8
mile 2476-2492
16 miles

I was dead tired in the morning. The lack of sunlight in the garage didn’t provide any incentive to wake up, and I did not sit up on my mattress until 8am! After asking if there was a bathroom at the store, I bypassed the outhouse outside the garage and headed across the train tracks. Inside the store, I found Ole, Trackmeat, and Veggie. They welcomed me to join them. When I returned from the bathroom, they had moved us to a bigger table, as Geared Up had also come over. Unfortunately, there was no cell service in this town, so I couldn’t send any e-mails out. “You guys, this is our second to last stop! Can you believe it?”. I thought about how far we had come, all of the obstacles that we had overcome, and all of the effort that we had put into this. “We’re amazing!”. I remembered Texas Poo telling me about all the people who had dropped out, who I had assumed were somewhere behind us. Each time I had mentioned someone’s name and asked if he knew them, he would tell me something I hadn’t known. “Whistler didn’t make it?!….Oh, no!… How come? Sexy Legs is off the trail?!… Tejas broke her leg?!”. After hearing about all of these people that didn’t finish, I realized that making it the entire way really was a big achievement.
There were Continental Divide banners hanging up in the store and the guys started talking about what was next. For now, the general consensus was that we all just wanted to sleep for awhile. “I just want to lie down for 10 days,” one of the guys said. It’s always good to hear that other people feel similarly to you!
The waitress was very nice, but seemed a bit overwhelmed with our second orders. She said it would be awhile before I could get some french toast. Veggie had ordered the circus waffles, which apparently created a problem because the cook didn’t have an open outlet for the waffle maker! “Meathook! You’re causing me problems!” the cook shouted over to him. Last night, he apparently ate a quadruple patty hamburger and was renamed Meathook by the staff. We thought his order had been forgotten, but finally the circus waffles arrived! The boys had had a great time in this restaurant in the time that they had been in town. Last night, they had turned on some music for them so they could dance. I felt like I was just quickly passing through and didn’t have a chance to get to know the place. Ole told us his embarrassing story from Shelter Cove. Apparently, a girl on the porch commented on how skinny he was and Ole assumed she must have known him from earlier in the hike. He wrapped his arms around her and asked how she was, while her boyfriend stood by, looking on warily. She had actually never met him before. I told him that reminded me of when a young guy came over to me after my yoga class at kick-off and I immediately reached out and hugged him!
The boys were already packed up and ready to go, so after we finished our food and paid, they headed out to hitch a ride back to the trail. The waitress wanted me to sign the guestbook, but halfway through, I decided I needed to run out and take a picture of the guys as this might be my last time seeing them! “I’ll be right back!”.
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I still needed to head back to the garage and do all of my sorting and packing for the next stretch! Besides repackaging the cookies and graham crackers that the girls had sent me into ziplocs, I needed to get rid of some extra weight in my pack for the next 100 miles. It was too heavy during the last stretch. Although it was Sunday, I hoped that if I gave someone money, they could mail out a box for me at the store. I dropped my extra cookies into the hiker box and then headed back to the store, where Andrea was. She wanted me to walk my box back to the house, but luckily, I was able to find a piece of paper for the address and she let me put it into her car.
Now it was time to hitch a ride back to the trail! Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait too long! A nice guy picked me up on his way to the start of his own hike. After he dropped me off at Stevens Pass, I took a few moments to myself in the parking lot. There was reception here, so I let Ham know that I got my box with the passport in it and watched UBs most recent dramatic video. Then, it was time to find the trail again. Once again, I had no idea where to go! I headed one way, then another, and was completely lost! Finally, I saw two women standing in front of an information board, and decided it must be over there!
The trail was flat at first and wove a path through very tall grass and weeds! It felt like a very different landscape from the rest of the PCT and the flatness caused me to keep checking my GPS. Was this really the PCT?
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Finally, it started to climb and I began to feel more at home.
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I found a nice little area to the side of the trail to take my first break. I made an ice coffee and enjoyed a couple of the Polish cookies from a woman in my lab and then had a few Junior Mints. They gave me such a burst of energy and I felt very happy. I wondered why I had never packed any of those before! My goal was to hike 17 miles today, with my noon start time. So far, I was making good progress.
I continued on my way and soon saw a familiar face. It was Seeking, taking a break on the side of the trail. He, too, was doing a flip-flop hike and expected to finish in late October or early November. He asked me if I still had giardia. I told him that I didn’t have that anymore, but that I had something else! He couldn’t believe I was still going, and more than that, he couldn’t believe that I was at the front of the pack! He had his tent drying on some bushes and told me about his scary experience in the lightning storm. As we chatted, the other hikers who were staying at the hostel all started passing by. Maverick and Lodgepole, Geared Up, Kiddo and Laura. I began to worry about my campsite being taken! Seeking wanted to keep chatting with me, though! He offered me some of the sardines that he was eating, which I declined, and told me about his stay in Stehekin. Finally, I offered to give him my e-mail in case he wanted to keep in touch after the trail. I had now lost at least a mile’s worth of time and knew I wouldn’t make my original goal.
One by one,I overtook the other hikers from the hostel and took the lead again. I was feeling strong, but pressed for time. At least it was not raining and I was able to see what was around me!
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At an intersection in the trail, two white dogs came running down the path in front of me, both of whom had bear bells on their collars. Their owner was running after them, trying to keep them under control. I could understand why the dogs had bear bells, but still thought it unnecessary for people! I headed on, descending through the woods, before beginning the next climb. Although it was not raining, the trail was still very wet, muddy, and slippery from the last stretch of bad weather and caused my pace to slow. I saw a man ahead of me, but before I could pass him, he had decided to head down to a campsite on the side of the trail. Further up the climb, I found a couple taking a break. The man was smoking. I wondered how far they planned on hiking tonight. Once I reached the top of the peak, the trail opened up along a ridge.
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The sun was now setting and I had to move quickly if I was going to make my modified goal of 16 miles.
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The trail descended and all I could see was wet looking meadows. Then, I saw a very narrow path into some bushes and followed that to a nice patch of dirt underneath some trees! I had made it! I had to re-stake my tent several times, which was difficult to do with the huckleberry bushes behind it. As the last remnants of the sun disappeared, I brought everything inside my tent, cooked my dinner, and went to sleep. My goal was to make the 6pm bus to Stehekin in four days.

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