Today's miles: 17
Total miles: 2155
We were up at 6 and hiking toward Eagle Creek trail; Wocka and Giddyup got a head start while Sunshine, Treekiller and I followed. The first part of the trail dropped a crazy amount of elevation in a very short amount of time, and because it wasn't "officially" the PCT, there were no limits to how steep the trail could be. As such, I felt like I was half skidding, half falling down the mountain for a few miles and it was both exhausting and slightly frightening.
When the trail finally leveled out, we came upon Giddyup, who was sitting beside the trail writing on small pieces of paper. It was very unlike him to stop so early in the day, and even more unlike him to be writing. Curious, we asked what he was doing, and he hesitated a moment before saying, "something for Wocka. Don't tell her, okay? I want it to be a surprise."
We agreed, and hurried on along the trail. Wocka was waiting at the trail junction for Eagle Creek and looked a little confused as to why we were there before Giddyup.
"Where is he?" she asked.
Quick, think of something!
"Uh.... pooping," I said.
"We saw his pack next to the trail," Sunshine added quickly.
"We can wait for him at good snack spot," Treekiller suggested.
Wocka was reluctant to leave without Giddyup, but we finally talked her into it, and a little way down the trail we found a nice campsite and sat to eat second breakfast and wait for Giddyup.
But he didn't come.
The longer we waited, the more nervous Wocka became, and the more our "pooping" story started to break down. Since we walked, ate, slept and breathed in close proximity to each other every day, we knew a lot of things about each other that we shouldn't. For example, it was common knowledge that Giddyup was a fast pooper. As such, the longer it took him to catch up, the less convincing our story became.
Wocka was just about to go back for him, when suddenly he was there, looking embarrassed.
"Where were you?" she asked.
"I got lost," he said, which at first I thought was a thin excuse, but discovered later that he was actually telling the truth, and had gotten turned around at the last trail junction.
Secrets behind us, we continued along the beautiful Eagle Creek trail, and it was wonderful sharing one of my favorite hikes with friends who had never been on it before. At every turn there was a gorgeous waterfall or lush green foliage to admire. We oooohed and ahhhhed appreciatively as we walked and took photos.
Wocka Wocka, Giddyup, Treekiller, and Sunshine
Unfortunately, the closer we walked to civilization, the more crowded the trail became. I realized it was Labor Day weekend and in Oregon, people love taking dayhikes on their days off. I had never seen it quite this busy before, though. The narrow trail was packed with people in shorts and flip flops, women in blouses and heels, kids swimming in the river, dogs charging up the trail. It was chaos. And since we were the uncommon group with giant packs on, every few steps we were stopped by a dayhiker, asking us over and over, "did you overnight up there?" Eagle Creek was a popular weekend backpacking trip, and almost everyone assumed we had just gone out for a couple days. When we told them we had "overnighted" on trail since Mexico, their jaws dropped in shock.
Pretty soon we were getting so many questions that we were barely making any distance. We eventually resorted to lying, since it was easier. "Did you overnight up top?" was answered with, "yep!"
But every now and again someone asked about our journey, and at one point we ran into a man hiking with his wife and kids who was extremely excited to hear that we were on the PCT.
"I know about the PCT!" he said, "my daughter just got back from a section hike... she did the Mt. Hood area last weekend. She said she met a lot of amazing people and wants to do the whole thing next year. She was telling me about these people called trail angels who helped her out when she ran out of water..."
We agreed, and told him stories of all the amazing things trail angels have done for us in the past.
"I think that's awesome," he said. "I told her that if I got the chance, I would try to repay some hikers for the kindness that other people showed to her on trail." Light seemed to strike his eyes as he realized that we were hikers.
"Oh!" he cried, giddily. "I have a tent site just a little ways back... I have food! And snacks! Are you hungry? Do you need anything? I have Clif Bars!"
He looked so excited that we didn't have the heart to tell him that we were a little sick of Clif Bars by now, and that we were only 15 miles from town, so we would be eating real food pretty soon anyway. We started to turn him down politely, but he kept saying that it was no trouble, that he would love to give us something, and it was impossible to say no.
"Thank you, that would be wonderful," Giddyup said.
Our new friend yelled to his wife that he was going back to the campsite for just a moment, and then he took off down the trail so quickly that we had to jog to keep up with him. It was a further distance than he let on, and the whole way he was excitedly spouting off questions, asking about what tents we carried, what water filtration we used, what sleeping pads we liked best, what kind of food we ate.
When we got to his tentsite, he ran to his stuff and came back with a handful of Clif Bars, which the five of us doled out between us.
"Can I take any trash for you?" he asked, "do you need first aid gear? I have tape! And lots of other little things too!"
We laughed and promised him we were okay, and thanked him profusely for his kindness. We sat talking for a little while longer and then our new friend waved goodbye and sprinted back up the trail to rejoin his wife.
Wocka, Giddyup, Sunshine, Treekiller and I sat in camp for a while longer, having another snack and taking a break from the chaos.
Sunshine said, "so remember me telling you about that rap I've been working on?"
For the past few days he had been composing a song in his head, but though we had asked to hear it, he didn't want to sing it until he had the whole thing memorized.
"I think I've got it down, now. Want to hear it?"
"Yes!" we said.
And so he sat, and not knowing what to expect, this is what he rapped for us:
I'm out here 'cause my head is clear
And the sounds of nature are like music to my ears
Man, bitch, you've heard that before, so let's try again
Hit the rewind button, TK click! now let's begin!
Started 2013 our continuing mission
Traverse across the entire US nation
Our crew of determined souls headed south to north
Magnetized to realize this boldly mapped out course
Now, listen up, Spock 'cause my emotion is strong
For my friends out here unto which I belong
Like an H and an H, together with an O
Once we were individual; together now we flow
It's our bond that makes us stronger, to realize our wildest dreams
Like water destined to the sea, our boots just keep on moving, moving, moving
Is a way of choosing
A life of proving
Our souls are booming
In an economy thriving
On the love of this bring
It's called investment banking
Now you know what I'm feeling?
When you look back
You'll know that
It was worth the fact
That you worked your ass
No matter if each week was hot, cold or wetter
You just took it day by day, and as a person you are better
Just got one more thing to say, and I know that you feel
And I want you to hear it, 'cause I know that it's real
Our friends and family, like water in the deep sea
And that's why I'm out here on the P-C-T!
We cheered and roared for him, completely blown away that he had been rolling this tune over and over in his head for the past few days. We took a video of him rapping so we could share it with the rest of our PCT family.
As we stood to keep hiking, Giddyup took off in front of us rather quickly. This was unsurprising, as he often lead the charge and liked hiking on his own rather than walking with a train of people behind him. But because of how many people were still on trail, we didn't catch up to him right away. Treekiller took off after Giddyup while Sunshine and I hung back with Wocka, lazily taking our time along the trail and stopping to talk to dayhikers we passed.
As the trail lowered slowly in elevation, we began crossing a series of bridges that spanned back and forth across the river. When we crossed the first one, Wocka discovered a small note placed carefully on the handrail that read To Wocka, and was held down by a small, heart-shaped rock.
Confused, she stopped to read it while Sunshine and I hovered nearby. I smiled because I knew this was the surprise that Giddyup had been working on this morning, and Sunshine did, too, because he began jumping up and down out of sight of Wocka and whispered to me in delighted glee, "It's happening!!"
"What does it say?" I asked.
"It's just... it's a love note, sort of," she said, perplexed. "I guess there are more of them?"
"Hmm... better keep walking, then!" I said.
At each bridge we passed, Wocka discovered a new note from Giddyup, each of them titled with her name and something special that he loved about their relationship, like Challenge, Balance, Friendship, Love.
And holding each note was another heart-shaped rock.
Wocka, so consumed by finding these notes, didn't notice that Giddyup was always just around the bend, leaving another note and quickly spiriting away. She didn't notice that Treekiller was just behind him, stopping to tell the dayhikers, please don't pick up the notes. She didn't notice that Sunshine and I were striking up conversations with everyone we passed so that we would have to stop to talk to them and let Giddyup get a little further ahead.
"Help me look for notes, Bramble," she said to me as we walked, and I agreed, though I was also keeping a close eye out for Treekiller and Giddyup.
We finally reached Punchbowl Falls, one of the most famous waterfall spots along the Eagle Creek trail. There was a small clearing beside the lookout, and when I came around the bend, Giddyup was sitting on a log by himself, looking expectantly up the trail.
Sunshine was hiding in the bushes off to the side, and Treekiller appeared to be corralling a large number of dayhikers to keep them from wandering into the clearing where Giddyup was.
Sunshine motioned to me, and I dove into the bushes beside him, watching happily as Wocka came around the corner and noticed Giddyup sitting by himself.
Sunshine was practically falling over with giddiness. He had to clamp a hand over his own mouth to keep from giggling aloud. He was clutching Giddyup's camera and kept running around in the bushes taking sneaky photos of Wocka and Giddyup while I laughed at his antics. We both watched excitedly from the trees as Giddyup took Wocka's hand, saying something quietly to her.
And then, after a moment, he kneeled and pulled out a ring.
Sunshine and I squealed almost as loud as Wocka, and when we heard her say, "of course!" we ran out of the bushes and cried, "YAAAAY!!"
Wocka and Giddyup were hugging and kissing, and Sunshine yelled to all the expectant dayhikers, "Can I get a round of applause? These two just got engaged!!"
There was a huge cheer from all the hikers, and then we swarmed them, giving hugs and pats on the back and delighted by today's turn of events.
"So how did he propose??" I asked Wocka when the commotion died down.
"I... don't even remember!" Wocka laughed. "I just couldn't believe what was going on! I do remember him telling me about the significance of the notes he wrote, and the heart-shaped rocks, and then he said, 'I have one more rock for you, and it means forever. And then he took out the ring."
"Awwww!" we cried.
"Wow, did you come up with that yourself?" Treekiller asked.
"I did, actually," said Giddyup, looking pleased with himself.
I noticed, then, that he had taken off his hiking shirt and was dressed, instead, in his black down jacket.
"Why are you wearing that?" I asked. "Aren't you hot??"
"Yes," he admitted, "but I didn't have a suit! And this is the cleanest, nicest thing I own right now."
The whole thing was so sweet.
Once the initial excitement was over, we were able to oooh and ahhh over Wocka's new ring, toast their engagement with small bottles of wine Giddyup had carried, and learned that he had picked out the ring in Bend and had been carrying it since then, waiting for the perfect moment to pop the question.
"And how long have you been carrying the heart-shaped rocks?" TK asked.
"I've been collecting them since Northern California," Giddyup admitted.
We were impressed by his dedication, especially since rocks are a heavy thing to carry as a thru-hiker.
We kept hiking down the trail, dancing and chatting happily about marriages and weddings and the rest of our hike. Giddyup said that though he and Wocka had been dating for three years, he initially wanted to wait until the end of their hike to propose. But eventually he decided he didn't want to wait that long, and joked that now "Wocka has 500 miles to decide if she still wants to marry me!" There was never any doubt, though. Any couple who can make it through the rigors, the emotional breakdowns, the challenges, the highs and the lows of the PCT together are destined to be together forever.
We walked the trail straight into the town of Cascade Locks and stopped in a small burger joint to eat lunch, where we met up with Sneaks, Mudd and Dingo, who had arrived earlier today. To our surprise, we learned that Mudd had proposed to Dingo just yesterday! And since Mudd and Giddyup had been best friends since they were in kindergarten, it seemed like the perfect conclusion to a perfect day.
I called my friend Elizabeth and she drove out to Cascade Locks to pick up Treekiller, Sunshine and I to bring us back to Portland to stay the night. Wocka and Giddyup decided they wanted to get a hotel room in town to celebrate their engagement with Mudd and Dingo. All of us were planning on taking a zero tomorrow, though, so we promised to meet up again in two days to begin our hike into Washington.
"So, Wocka," I joked as we bid them goodbye on our way to Portland, "what was your highlight for today?"