Day 135: Mt. Rainier and an order to break down my tent and move!

Day 135
August 31
mile 2303-2329
26 miles

Of course, I didn’t get up very early… I thought it might be nice to eat breakfast on my little patio, but it was so cold out, that I ate my coffee and yogurt cup inside. I placed my insoles into my new and last pair of shoes, packed everything up, and headed out. Instead of taking the road back to the trail, I took the trail that started behind the motel and wrapped around the pond. As usual, I got a bit lost and headed towards the pond where I came upon some sleeping bags. I retreated back up the hill and took the other path. The sun was beaming brightly and made it hard to see the water.
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I made my way through the wooded path, which eventually intersected the PCT. At the same time, I was also trying to see if someone would be available to pick me up at the airport. I had thought for a long time about the possibilities of people who would do that for me, and came up with essentially no one! I still need to work on bringing more people into my life. I quickly lost reception and returned my focus to the 1,000 foot climb in front of me. The morning hours passed by with little excitement.
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Eight hours later, I reached a ridge top which gave me a nice view of the distant mountains. One of them stood out and I wondered if it was Mt. Rainier.
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Five minutes later, I rounded a bend in the trail and right in front of was the most incredible, unobstructed view of the actual Mt. Rainier.
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My jaw dropped. How could it be right in front of me like this and how had I not been able to see it at all before this? I was stunned. It was so big!
I headed down the ridge, still being able to see this mountain and before long, came across two teenage boys sitting on the side of the trail. One was examining his maps while the other snacked on his bag of trailmix. Neither one of them saw me until I was practically right in front of them. They must have been 15 years old. The one offered me some of his trailmix, which I thought was sweet, and the other asked me if I knew how far away the pond they had planned on camping at was. I did not. “Did you pass by any lakes?”. I had to think. I saw several of them, but none had been along the trail. I told them that they were going to come across a magnificent view of Mt. Rainier soon, though. I received a half, dis-interested smile and then realized they had probably already seen many views of it.
I walked on for a few minutes and suddenly, my hipbelt buckle snapped open. This had happened a few times before. I cinched it back together and continued walking. It popped open again after just a few seconds. What was going on? Was there a pebble or something it in that was preventing it from closing properly? No, it looked fine. Again, I walked, and again, it popped open. For the next 10 minutes, I was continually frustrated. If this thing was broken, there was no way I could hike the last 360 miles like this, and I had no clue how I could fix this problem. I continued to struggle with it for awhile, and then, for some reason, it stayed fastened for the remaining miles of the day.
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My goal was to make it to the tent site that my app had listed at Dewey lake. The sunlight had now diminished and I was very tired. I had already walked over 25 miles.
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When I reached the site, I found a tent already set up there. I was going to have to keep moving, not knowing what I would find. I began to hear the noise of children running around and soon came upon a large group of campers. It was Labor Day weekend and lots of people were out here! I continued on, searching both sides of the trail. I went up to investigate a possible place on a small hill, which didn’t turn out to be suitable and saw several llamas in the field below.
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I moved on, coming across a tent set up in a space that would have fit me, as well. I considered asking the person inside if I could camp there, too, but did not. Instead, I moved forward. Everywhere, I looked, people were occupying all of the possible places! Then, I noticed a flat spot near a pond. I decided it would work. I went about setting up my tent, hoping that if a ranger was checking on people, that he would have already made his rounds. I finally got everything spread out and set up inside my tent, and now the only thing I had to do was cook my dinner.
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I breathed a sigh of relief. I was exhausted. Just then, I heard footsteps approaching. Oh, no. “Hello? Are you a thru-hiker?”
“Yes.” My heart sank. Maybe, just maybe he would let this slide, since I had just put in a 26 mile day and would be up and out of here in the morning.
“You know you aren’t allowed to camp within 200 feet of the water.”
“So, I have to move?”.
This was the worst situation possible. I had just endured a huge amount of stress finding a place to camp before nightfall and had spent my last remnants of energy setting up my shelter. Now, I was being told that I had to break it all down, pack everything up again, and start hiking in the pitch black?
He said that he would be bathing just down from my tent.
I got out and started calmly taking each item out of my tent and placing it on the dirt. Then, I started talking to myself as I looked over at the ranger. I figured it wouldn’t be normal to not be upset so I started dropping things harder onto the ground. My voice got louder and the things that came out became more sarcastic. “This is great. This is just what I wanted to happen after I hiked 26 miles. I’m not tired at all. I love putting up my tent and having to move. I love hiking in the dark. I’ll just pretend I’m back in the desert!”. Finally, I hoisted my pack on my back and headed out into the night. I didn’t know how long I was going to have to hike for. I did know the trail was about to climb again. Part of me was relieved to get away from all of the people and the ranger. And then, before I knew it, I saw a semi-flat area to the side of the trail and decided I would just sleep there. There was no way I was going to set up my tent again, so I just spread out my groundcloth and sleeping bag, cooked my pasta for dinner, ate some chocolate for dessert, and looked at the headlamps in the distance. Just after 9:00, two hikers walked by me heading south. And then a bit later, two northbound guys who were talking to each other, started up the climb. They were saying something about Braveheart.