Today's miles: 15
Total miles: 2112
Though our stay in Portland was all too short, Wocka, Giddyup, Sunshine and I were awake at 6:30 ready to get back to the PCT. We had a brilliant idea for today: slack packing. Rather than hike the eleven miles to Timberline Lodge beneath cumbersome, heavy packs, we would leave our overnight stuff with Tanner, take daypacks up the mountain, and meet him at the lodge just in time for a lunch buffet. That way we could cover the mileage in less time and I could still spend some more time this afternoon with Tanner.
Tanner dropped us at the highway trailhead where we left off yesterday and we began our hike around 9:00 am. (We stopped for donuts on our drive to the mountain, of course.) The slack pack was delightful. It had been a while since we had been hiking with so little weight, and we were practically flying down the trail. Since we were unburdened, the four of us had an easy time staying at the same pace, and so we kept up a steady stream of conversation. Wocka and Giddyup asked about my card business, so I told them the ins and outs of running a shop on Etsy. Sunshine played us his favorite podcasts on the speakers of his phone. We laughed and joked about how enjoyable it was to be on a "dayhike" for the first time in months. Of course, we were only posing as dayhikers, so we had to be mindful of the other hikers who were actually on short trips up the mountain. When we passed them, we quickly muted our podcasts and toned down our conversations a little. Most people go into the woods to escape the noise of society, and hearing a podcast might have disrupted their need for silence. We had been in the woods so long that podcasts were our escape from the silence, and loud, raucous conversation was a delightful way to pass the miles.
Still, we often forgot that we were slack packing. There were several occasions where we paused for a short snack break and came upon some locals hiking in from a nearby trailhead. We waited expectantly for the usual questions: are you thru-hiking? When did you start? How many miles have you done? When do you expect to finish? Have you read that book "Wild"?
(Side note: the two quickest ways to annoy a thru-hiker are to tell them, "oh, you're hiking the PCT! Like that woman from Wild!" While Wild has been a great book for gaining interest about the PCT, it is primarily a story about a woman coping with her own demons - most PCT hikers are not heroin addicts with tragic backstories - rather than a woman doing a thru-hike. By this time we've hiked twice the number of miles Cheryl Strayed did, and while it's a good read, by now we're understandably tired of hearing about it. The second way to annoy a thru-hiker is to call the PCT the "Pacific Coast Trail." Nice try.)
Anyway, when the questions didn't come, we were momentarily befuddled. It was hardly ever that our scrungy appearances and large packs didn't elicit some sort of reaction. But then it hit us: we didn't look like thru-hikers, we looked like day hikers! This made us laugh, because after four months we could pick out a thru-hiker from a lineup in under two seconds, but to everyone else, we were just locals on an afternoon jaunt.
Dayhikers, that is, except for our one super hero power.
If you take a heavy pack off a thru-hiker, you may take away the first instantly recognizable sign of a long distance hiker, but you also take away the one thing slowing us down. Without a thirty pound pack, we were unstoppable. The elevation profile to Timberline Lodge shot up in the final two miles, making it an exhausting and tiresome struggle for most hikers. But to us, it was a chance to show off. The four of us shot up the mountain like firecrackers, moving so quickly that we left stunned dayhikers in our wake.
"How are they moving so fast?!" I heard one girl murmur to another as we went by.
Food, of course, was a strong motivating factor. But strong legs and four months of motivation was another. We grinned happily as Timberline Lodge pulled into view and the buffet stood merely moments away. Sometimes it was good to be reminded of how this trail has changed us, in wonderful ways.
We covered the eleven miles in 3.5 hours, just in time to meet up with Tanner and get seated for lunch. Mudd, Dingo, Sneaks, Coincidence, Treekiller, Toots and Tears had camped close by last night and partook of the breakfast buffet this morning. Wocka, Giddyup, Sunshine and I were ravenous, and we filled our huge plates with the most colorful and delicious assortment of food I had seen all trip. It was amazing; we ate past our comfort levels and waddled out of the dining room completely sated.
Tanner had to leave shortly afterward, so I kissed him goodbye, glad that I would get to see him again in another three days.
We lay around the lodge for a while, finally deciding to get some more mileage under our belt tonight. Sunshine and Treekiller were still working on their resupply, so Wocka, Giddyup and I left the lodge at 4:30 on our own. We only made it a half mile before feeling too full to continue, so we took a nap break under a large tree for another hour (the important thing was that we left... often that is the hardest step!) When we felt rested, we continued down into the canyon, crossed ZigZag River, and climbed back out again. While we walked we had fun asking each other thought-provoking questions, like: what has been your favorite camp spot? Your least favorite? What was your most challenging day? What was a day you would do again?
Wocka and Giddyup used to work at a wilderness therapy camp and they were chock full of fun games like these that we played on trail and in camp, like naming "highlights" at the end of each day before bed.
After four miles we found a lovely campsite beside a clear river and waterfall to spend the night. Sunshine and Treekiller caught up to us at 8:30 and set up camp with us. Sunshine was still raving to Treekiller about my house - he had loved sleeping on the couch, had picked out a couple of movies he wanted to watch, and was excited to return in a few days to see them. He was also raving about the tower fan we had given him that night to help him sleep. He and Treekiller were discussing the "hierarchy" of fans, and Sunshine was adamant that the lineup top to bottom was: box fan, then ceiling fan, then tower fan. Treekiller was trying to argue that the box fan should be lower on the list, when suddenly I asked, "What about attic fan?"
This stopped their arguing with an all-encompassing, "Oooooooo!" and with that, the decision was final.
Tonight's shared highlights encompassed so many good moments: our twelve hour trip to Portland, a great slack pack, a delicious buffet, and beautiful views of the mountains we walked through to get here: Three Sisters, Jefferson, and Hood, and the ones to come: Adams, St. Helens, and Rainier.