Today's miles: 21
Total miles: 2227
When I woke up today, the sun was shining in through the window. It took me a moment to realize where I was, and then I remembered that I was inside out of the storm, but the storm was over. It was such a relief that I was practically giddy about getting back on trail.
I remembered what Becky had told us about breakfast, so I got ready, packed up my gear, and went upstairs to the cafeteria to heat up some food. What I discovered instead was Becky, Jeff and two of their daughters busily clanking dishes and pans of food around in the kitchen, preparing us a hot meal of breakfast burritos. I couldn't believe it; it was supposed to be their first day off in months, and here they were up at the crack of dawn to make us breakfast!
The seven of us congregated upstairs, voicing our thanks and subtly slipping donations into the jar.
As we ate, a bus full of people showed up outside, and pretty soon the cafeteria was full of hikers: we were rejoined by Wocka, Giddyup, Sneaks, Mudd, Dingo, and the others, who shared with us stories of their wonderful hosts for the night. They had breakfast with us, and as we ate, more and more people showed up. Everyone was beside themselves for the generosity the Ministry was showing us. Jeff even brought up boxes and boxes of Mountain House dehydrated dinners that he had stored downstairs for their camping trips and offered them to us for free. It was very rarely that we indulged in Mountain House dinners; they were very expensive and bulky, but a free gift of them was an amazing change of pace in our dinner routine.
Jeff gathered us together and asked if he could say a prayer. We bowed our heads and he asked God to look out for us on our journey north, to make sure we stayed safe, and to thank Him for bringing us to his doorstep yesterday in a time of need. By the time he was done with his prayer, all of us were crying.
"Who needs a ride back up to the trailhead?" Jeff asked, and half of us raised our hands. He offered to give us a lift in his blue school bus, so we piled in after giving big hugs and thanks to Becky and her daughters.
We were all chatty and delighted in the bus, amazed at how wonderfully this night had turned out. As Jeff shuttled us back to the trail, he asked if any of us were coming back into Trout Lake tomorrow. Apparently there was another road which was closer to town, and hikers often used it to hitch in for supplies. Mudd, Dingo, Sneaks and Horny Toad needed to come back to town in order to pick up their resupply boxes which hadn't arrived in the mail, yet. They said they expected to cover the 30 mile distance to the next road by tomorrow at lunch.
"How about this," Jeff suggested. "I have a white van that we use to shuttle our camp kids around in the summer. What I can do is drive it up to the next road, hide the keys under the wheel, and leave it for you to find when you get there. Then you can drive the van back into town and resupply, stay with us for the night, or just stop by. How does that sound?"
We were all so awed by this selfless act he was performing for perfect strangers that we were stunned speechless. Jeff heard our silence and added carefully, "I'm afraid that's all I can do for you..."
Immediately we were all talking and clambering, "Oh, no, that's perfect..."
"It's so unexpected..."
"You've done more than enough..."
"Thank you so much!!"
He looked pleased to be of help once more.
When Jeff dropped us off, we gave him hugs and thanked him over and over for everything he had done for us. In turn, Jeff seemed excited by the prospect of being a trail angel each year as PCT hikers made their way into Trout Lake.
Left, front to back: Kitty, British John, Treekiller, Giddyup (and Wocka), Sneaks
Right, front to back: Hummingbird, Haggis, Running Commentary
The group of us began hiking up the trail: Haggis, Running Commentary, Lt. Dan, British John, Kitty, Horny Toad, Hummingbird, Wocka, Giddyup, Sneaks, Mudd, Dingo, Treekiller and I. I stuck with TK and the two of us made good time over easy terrain, thoroughly enjoying the beautiful weather. I couldn't believe how in love with the sun I was today. What an amazing difference it made! I wasn't stressing about the rain, or my gear, or trying to stay warm in unknown circumstances.
This storm had taught me an important lesson, however. I knew I would have to outfit myself more properly if I was to make it through the rest of Washington in one piece. No longer could I pretend that we would have "great weather" the whole trail. This unexpected storm had taught me otherwise. I sent a note to Tanner asking Sunshine to bring me rain pants, boots, and an umbrella when we met in White Pass in a few days. When next the weather broke, I would hopefully be more prepared to deal with it.
We saw few thru-hikers on the trail today, but it was a popular spot for day and weekend hikers. There were several beautiful lakes we passed beside, and everyone we talked to commented on how wonderful the weather was today. Treekiller and I stopped for lunch at Blue Lake and waited for the other thru-hikers to catch up, but no one did. I dug through my food bag for my usual tuna-cheese-and-tortilla lunch and realized that I had left half my supply of tuna packets on my table at home before I left Portland, and now I was out. Grumbling to myself, I realized I would have to spend the next four days cobbling together food for lunch and hopefully wouldn't run out. It was a blessing that I had picked up one of Jeff's Mountain House meals today.
Throughout the afternoon TK and I hiked mostly alone, though British John and Kitty caught up to us a few times. We arrived early to our destined campsite, a flat space near Mosquito Creek, at 6:30. While I was trying to decide if we should push further or camp here, I glanced over and saw that TK had already set up his tent. I laughed and said, "I guess we're staying!"
I set up my tent, too, and pretty soon we were joined by everyone we left with this morning: Wocka, Giddyup, Mudd, Dingo, Sneaks, John, Kitty, Running Commentary, Hops, Haggis, and Horny Toad, plus some new and old faces joined us: Two Bad Dogs, Alphabet Soup, Kudu, and a section hiker named Vince. By the time darkness shrouded us, there were seventeen people with tents crammed into a five-tent space! It was an impressive feat, and a very entertaining one. It had been quite some time since we had camped with so many people.
We made dinner together in the middle of the tent pile and laughed and talked about the weather and the trail. The section hiker, Vince, who had started a few days ago and planned to do all 518 miles of Washington, was a little surprised to be among so many people.
"I was told I'd be hiking alone through this stretch!" he said.
We laughed and told him that this was unusual for us, too. But as we reached the end of the trail and there were fewer and fewer thru-hikers left, we banded together in groups and stayed much more tight-knit than we ever did in the desert.
I discovered that Vince used to work with Katie and Tanner, and he was surprised to learn that Katie would be joining us in a few days, and that I was Tanner's fiancee.
We went to bed surrounded by good people, good memories, and good stories to tell.