Today's miles: 21
Total miles: 2355
It was ridiculously windy last night, enough that the sound of my tent rattling kept waking me up. When I got up, it was an interesting chore trying to pack up my gear without it blowing away, particularly my tent, which turned into a kite and tried to lift me off the ground. Sunshine, who had packed up his stuff earlier, plopped himself in front of me and watched with rapt interest while he ate his oatmeal.
"Brambles, you're my TV," he informed me.
I laughed. "Well, I hope I'm being entertaining enough," I said, chasing down my tent once more.
Katie, Sunshine, Treekiller, Vince and I left camp before Wocka and Giddyup, and climbed out of Sheep Lake toward Sourdough Gap. It was a steep climb so early in the morning, but the fog rising up over the lake below was absolutely stunning.
We passed through the gap and to the other side of the mountain range, skirting ridgelines while we talked and watched the sun rise over the valley. It was another beautiful day. Sunshine and Treekiller couldn't resist stopping to throw rocks down the cliff, like boys are wont to do. We laughed about the fake names we had come up with last night and Sunshine and I tried to think of some more for our other friends. Our favorite was Boo Boo Kitty SoftPaws, who we affectionately renamed "Balls Balls Cock Sphincter Penis." Needless to say, she loved it.
Wocka and Giddyup soon caught us, and passed us, and when we stopped for our first break with Haggis, Running Commentary and Kitty, Rotisserie and Sansei caught us, too. Though we hadn't gone very far, no one was in the mood to hike today, so we took long, lazy breaks every four miles without shame. We stopped for an early lunch and then moved on in slow succession. We passed by Crystal Mountain ski resort, which was strange to see without snow since my last trip there looked like this. It also allowed us our last view of Rainier before it disappeared behind the mountains.
My feet were hurting more than usual today and I limped slowly down the trail. I tried to listen to podcasts to pass the time and discovered that the headphone adapter on my waterproof phone case was broken, so I regretfully walked in silence.
A common occurrence on ridge lines: "Look at that beautiful vie -- oh, hey! I have four bars!!"
Crystal Mountain ski resort, with Rainier behind
At 5:00 we reached the Mike Urich cabin, a shelter built for snowmobilers and snowshoers in the winter, but was often used by PCT hikers in the summer since it was directly on trail. Wocka and Giddyup had been there for an hour already when we arrived, since they didn't stop as often this afternoon. They had already eaten dinner and were packing up to do another five miles before nightfall.
Katie and I got to the cabin first, and while we waited for Sunshine, Treekiller and Vince to catch us, we debated whether or not we wanted to keep walking. There was plenty of time to do another five miles, but there was a big climb coming up and limited spots for camping and water, so it didn't seem too promising. Selfishly, I also wanted to stay because my feet were killing me and I had been looking forward to this cabin for half the day.
When the boys arrived, they were exhausted, too, and wanted to stay. We debated it for a short time but ultimately decided a night in this beautiful meadow was worth it. We sat on the stump logs making dinner, and when Rotisserie and Sansei caught up, Sansei built a large fire in the fire pit. The cabin was roomy inside, with a large first floor and a loft above, but we were worried about it being too stuffy and full of mice, so Katie, Sunshine, Vince and I lay out our ground tarps on the porch and planned to cowboy camp for the night. Rotisserie and Sansei found a spot in the trees behind the cabin and Treekiller parked himself at the foot of the porch.
Left to right: Sansei. Sunshine, Vince, Katie, Treekiller
Left to right: Vince, Sansei, Treekiller
We stayed up late enjoying the fire and talking together. Just as the sun set, we were surprised to have sudden visitors: three ATVers, an older man and a middle aged man and woman. They were just as surprised to see us there - I guess they were used to having the cabin to themselves most of the time. Either way, they had never heard of the PCT and were fascinated to see seven young people seemingly on their own in the woods. They were also completely smashed.
"We never drive dry!" the older man told us. This was an obvious invitation to do some first class hiker Yogi-ing, and Treekiller and Vince turned on the charm. Within minutes they had gone to the ATVs and brought back armloads of beers and whiskey to share.
It was loud chaos after that, a strange mix of garbled, drunken conversation from the two men, and ridiculous questions asked by the woman. She was completely beside herself that there were women hiking this really long trail. What were we thinking?!
"So... so how do you get food?" she wanted to know.
Katie was patient and answered her questions. "We go into town to resupply."
"Town!" the woman was shocked. "There are towns on trail?!"
"Sometimes on trail," Katie agreed, "and sometimes we have to hitch off trail to get there."
"Hitch... like hitchhike?" this was also beyond her scope of understanding. "Oh my God. And you're not scared doing that as a woman by yourself?"
"Well, we're never by ourselves," Katie said, "and we're always careful. But everyone who has picked us up has been really nice. They know about thru-hikers."
"And... and how do you know where town is?" the woman asked.
We were trying not to laugh, but Katie was still being patient. "We have maps," she said. "They tell us where the towns are."
"Maps! And they tell you all that? And you can read them?"
"Yep. It helps us know where the campsites are, and the water sources, and town..."
"And... and..." the woman's eyes got really wide, "and what about - you know - that time of the month? Oh, dear. I shouldn't ask about that." She turned bright red and began laughing hysterically.
"It's fine," Katie laughed, "it's just a part of life out here. Not a big deal."
Meanwhile, Treekiller and Vince were listening, wide-eyed, to a very animated and very drunk gentleman of about seventy years of age who kept stealing Vince's hat. He was blabbering on about hunting or ATVing or something like that while Vince kept surreptitiously stealing his hat back every five minutes. I caught only the tail end of his conversation, when the middle aged man snorted, "Aw, hell, Ed, you can't even remember your own wife's name!"
"Can too!" Ed spluttered. "Her name's Daisy!"
"That's the dog's name, Ed!"
After thirty straight minutes of loud conversation, thirteen beers and a bottle of Fireball, the three ATVers suddenly yelled out a drunken, "good night! Good luck!" and disappeared again into the woods.
The rest of us sat in silent shock for several moments before Vince squalled, "What the hell just happened?!"
"That was definitely the craziest trail magic I've ever had," Treekiller agreed, finishing his beer.
We stayed up a little later after that, waiting for the fire to die down. Katie, Sunshine, Vince and I crawled into our sleeping bag cuddle-pile on the porch and watched the stars wink on, one by one. It was a beautiful night and I fell asleep with the breeze against my face and an elk bugling in the distance.