Day 144: A note I regret following

Day 144
September 9
mile 2492-2516.7
24.7 miles

Actually, I didn’t even know if the shuttle into Stehekin was running. Andrea Dinsmore had said that it was not currently operating as there had been a huge rock slide in the village and the main road into town was shut down. I could only hope that by the time I got there in four days, that it would be running again. For that matter, I still had not been able to confirm whether there was a bus to Vancouver from Manning Park. Before I left for my hike, I heard that the hostel and lodge in Manning Park had closed and no one knew if the bus would be stopping there anymore. Not even Scout, the head of the PCTA, knew back in April. I figured Andrea would know, as she was the trail angel closest to the border, but she also had no idea. At least I wasn’t hearing that there was no bus. Some hope still existed!
I awoke to the sun rising between the trees in my little campsite. Everything was quiet. Surprisingly, I hadn’t noticed any other hikers passing by.
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I headed back to the muddy trail through the little berry bushes, descending to the bottom of the hill, where I originally planned to reach last night.
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Upon arriving there, I was very happy that I had camped where I did! I didn’t see the camp site here- only mud holes and a distinct lack of sunlight! I climbed back up into the granite boulders and came across a grouse running on the trail in front of me.
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Later on, I found myself blocked by a huge fallen tree across the trail. It was too thick to climb on top of, and I couldn’t see a way around it. What was I supposed to do? I ended up climbing up the steep hill to my right, making my own path above it, and then descending back to the trail. It took quite a bit of effort and I was surprised that I managed to do that all alone!
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In eight and a half miles, I reached a creek, where I stopped for my ice coffee break. The sun was shining brightly and I took the opportunity to spread out my wet items to give them a chance to dry. I hadn’t seen anyone else this morning so far, but kept expecting to see one of the other thru-hikers who I knew were close behind at any moment. I enjoyed some more of the Polish cookies and junior mints, filtered some fresh water, and then headed on my way. Soon, I found a note left in the middle of the trail. It was written by two thru-hikers that I had met in the desert and who I hadn’t seen since. I didn’t have the best energy with them. The note explained that there was a wasp nest right on the PCT about 25 yards ahead. They had made a little drawing, advising how to get around it. I stared at the little piece of paper for awhile, trying to figure out its orientation and what I was supposed to do. Part of me wanted to ignore it. I had not been stung at all the last time I passed by a nest. This time probably wouldn’t be any different. I figured out that they were advising to bypass the switchback up ahead and cut up the slope. Since I didn’t know how far ahead the nest was, I figured I might as well start the bypass here. The problem was, the hill was incredibly steep! And it was also very slippery! I had to dig my poles into the ground and bear my entire weight on them with each step. Once I made it a fair distance up, I needed to get over another fallen tree. With one foot over, the other one slipped and my leg scraped against the bark. The wood was slippery from all of the rain! I had no choice but to keep going. Blood was running down my leg and the cuts were stinging. I probably would have been better off risking being stung. I wished I hadn’t followed their advice after all.
The bruises underneath the cuts started to appear in the afternoon. I counted the number of days left until the wedding and hoped my wounds could heal in that amount of time.
As I continued to climb, a saw a slow-going man ahead of me. He seemed to be making snorting sounds as if he were a horse! I tried to make my presence known, but he did not hear me until I said hello when I was right behind him. Startled, he put his hand over his heart and mumbled something. I apologized.
I climbed to the open ridge and stopped when I saw a marmot playing in the rocks.
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After several minutes of talking to him, I continued on, down into a green, rocky valley, where I could see another hiker ahead.
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I had strapped my tent to the top of my pack since it was wet, and now that it was drying, it was coming loose and flapping about. I had to stop to tuck it back in. The hiker ahead turned back and started walking towards me. “Have you seen my brother?” he asked. I wanted to ask him if his brother thought he was a horse, but refrained. It was time for another break, but I wanted to find a place to my own. Along the ridge, I encountered another man sitting in the middle of the trail. As I scooted around him, he said, “I’m going to assume this doesn’t bother you.” These were some strange people on the trail today! When I reached a cascade of incredibly clear water, I decided this would be my stopping place. I climbed up on a rock and looked at my wounds and then dabbed some water on them.
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The man who had been sitting in the middle of the trail approached, looked at the water, and decided that he also wanted to collect some here, rather than waiting until the next pond. The brother also made his way past. I enjoyed some more treats, filtered more water, and headed on, quickly passing the brother, and making my way to Lake Sally Ann, where the other guy was taking another break.
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I walked along the shore and encountered two men headed south, one of whom chatted with me for a couple of minutes.
Several minutes later, I met a woman headed south. She said I was the first person she had seen today and told me that she was going to camp at the lake. She asked if I planned on getting over the pass tonight and told me that one of her favorite camping spots was on the other side.
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In the evening hours, I found myself on the final 1500 foot ascent of the day. I was tired. Before I reached the most exposed part of the climb, I came across signs warning that camping was not allowed along the ridge. If I went on, I was committing to walking at least 3 more miles. I looked at my watch and knew that I would need to keep moving as rapidly as I could. A man in overalls headed past me in the opposite direction. My shoulders ached and I needed to put my pack down and rest for a couple of minutes before making the final push.
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I could see layers of blue mountains in the distance and as I headed along the open ridge, I heard marmots whistling in the rocks. It sounded like the whistle of a train conductor and it felt like they were announcing my arrival. Here I was, passing through, on my last 150 miles of my thru-hike! It felt like I was being cheered on!
The trail turned as it ascended to the peak. Above me, I could see a woman doing some half sun salutations. I surprised her when I reached her camping area. She thought that no one else would be passing through at this time of evening and warned me not to trip on the tent guy lines. Her husband was sitting further back and remained quiet. She commented about the likelihood of the night being cold and windy. I didn’t think camping on top of the peak was even allowed. Clearly, they chose the most cold place to be! She asked if I was thru-hiking and congratulated me, and then said they had met several others earlier in the day. She wanted to know what made me want to do this, which ordinarily, I love answering, but right now, I needed to get moving!
Darkness was approaching and I still had to collect and filter water, hike a couple of miles, and set up my camp! We somehow got on the topic of yoga and she said, “I was just doing some!”. I told her that I saw. She said it was the best place to do it and asked if I did yoga every day on my hike. When I said I did not, she seemed shocked. I explained that when you are hiking 12-13 hours a day, there isn’t any time leftover! I excused myself and descended down the other side of the mountain.
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The setting sun was casting red shadows on the mountain tops in front of me and I stopped often to take pictures. It was unbelievably beautiful! It was also getting very cold! Once I reached a nice cascade of water, I stopped to fill up and sat for about 15-20 minutes filtering it. I still had a good mile to hike before I would reach a camp site and the sun was quickly disappearing.
I walked through a grassy area littered with big rocks and unsuitable for camping. Then, when I did not expect it, I saw a square piece of bare dirt just to the side of the trail. I guess this was my spot for the night!
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I struggled with my tent set-up once again, staking and re-staking the lines to try to fit within the barriers created by logs on either side of the patch of dirt. I felt exhausted.
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Once I lied down, I had to be careful which way I turned, as my bruises and cuts revolted with any amount of pressure on them.