Today's miles: 18
Total miles: 2313
Treekiller and I left camp at 7:00, before the hunters were awake. We were hoping that by getting on the trail early we could catch Wocka and Giddyup, who we thought had gone ahead of us last night and missed the turn-off for our Hidden Springs camp.
We climbed for a few miles to a beautiful overlook of Rainier and paused to soak in our final view of Goat Rocks before we dropped behind the mountain range. To our surprise, Wocka and Giddyup showed up right behind us, saying they had been too tired last night to make it more than a mile past their dinner spot and had camped on trail behind us. Together the four of us skirted the ridgeline until we dropped on the other side, descending toward White Pass. I lamented to Wocka that the one thing I was hoping to see in Goat Rocks was a mountain goat, but alas, they had eluded us yesterday.
Our downhill trail was destroyed in several places by some large washouts. By the look of it, they had happened recently, most likely in the heavy rainstorm when we got trapped in Trout Lake. The washouts were impressive to look at: the rock slides started at the top of the mountain and cut a heavy groove down the hill, completely obliterating chunks of trail as it rushed toward the valley floor. I had to climb over rocks and into ditches in order to catch up with the trail on the other side. As I was navigating one particular washout, I heard Wocka calling out behind me. I turned to look at her, but I was already deep into the ditch and she was hidden from sight. I crawled out again and saw her jumping up and down and pointing above me, yelling, "Bramble! Bramble, look!"
I turned to where she was pointing just in time to see a stark white mountain goat clinging gracefully to the peak of the mountain. He was balanced on a knife's edge without any trace of fear, his white coat cutting a striking image against the blue sky. It was a beautiful sight, and my breath caught happily. Mountain goats were some of my favorite animals, and I was glad to have finally seen one.
We continued hiking down, down, down through White Pass ski area, winding in and out of still ski lifts so frequently that I wished for some snow and a pair of skis so that I could get down the hill faster. We reached the bottom, eight miles from camp, at 10:30, and emerged on a highway. There was a Kracker Barrel convenience store down the road, which was pretty much the only notable thing about White Pass, but it held an important resupply for us, as well as two long-lost friends.
As we road walked to the store, I called Tanner and relayed to him my harrowing experience yesterday through Goat Rocks wilderness. I told him first how beautiful it was, and how much I wanted to visit again, but also how terrifying the PCT section was.
"The trail was so narrow and steep and the whole time I thought I was going to fall off the mountain!" I said. "And there were these big washouts that I had to jump over. I thought I was going to die."
"But you didn't," said Tanner, sounding nonplussed.
"But... but I almost did," I insisted. "It was really scary. It took me four hours to cover four miles! It was really high up. My knuckles were white the entire time!"
"But you made it; good job," he replied.
That was not the reaction I was expecting, so I blurted out loudly into the phone, "Tanner!! You are not showing the appropriate concern for this situation!!"
He laughed. "Babe, you've been battling the wilderness alone for four months, now. I know you're capable, and as long as you call me every so often, I'm okay with it."
I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. Leaving my fiancee for five months to hike in the remote, dangerous wilderness, I guess he had imagined worse scenarios than me walking a narrow and rocky ridgeline for four miles.
When we reached the store, Katie and Sunshine were already there waiting for us. We shared hugs and hellos and I've missed yous, and it was nice to have everyone together again, especially when Rotisserie and Sansei walked into town just after us and we got to have a reunion all over again.
Katie and Sunshine were both eager to get back on trail, Katie having spent two weeks off it to attend a wedding and visit home, and Sunshine having spent a week at my house letting his feet recover. But the rest of us had had a hell of a week, between rainstorms and crazy terrain and a long stretch of hiking with dwindling supplies, we were ready for a break. Usually getting into a resupply town meant a night in a hotel, a chance to kick up our feet and some time to plan our resupply. But White Pass was less of a "town" and more of a "single convenience store at an out-of-season ski resort." There wasn't much to do but buy a sandwich lunch and sit in the store charging our phones and going through our resupply boxes. Sunshine brought my resupply from Portland (it was such a relief to have a full bag of food again after eating scraps for days), along with my rainpants and the umbrella I requested. I opted to leave my waterproof boots behind, not wanting to risk hiking the last 350 miles in unbroken shoes. I thought it was a good choice at the time, though I would later come to regret my decision. (A note to anyone who is thinking about hiking the PCT in the future: I highly recommend switching from trail runners to waterproof hiking boots in Washington. I know it's difficult to go from a soft, comfortable, broken in shoe to a stiff boot after 2300 miles of hiking, but trust me, when the weather is bad, a boot will be 100% worth it. That is all.)
Though we were able to rest and relax in White Pass all afternoon, our biggest regret was not being able to take a shower. We had already been hiking for five days since Trout Lake, and eight days since our last true "day off" in Portland, so we were getting a bit fried (and stinky). We had covered over 150 miles in that time, after all! Fortunately, our next true town stop, Snoqualmie Pass, was only 77 miles from here, a distance we could cover in just over three days.
We stayed until 2:30 and then slowly made moves toward getting back on trail. We planned to go ten miles to a campsite on Snow Lake, which would make today a reasonable 18 mile day, not too bad for having a resupply in the middle. Wocka, Giddyup, Treekiller, Katie, Sunshine and I struck out into the woods, hiking through some beautiful forested areas again. It was nice having our full group to walk with again. Treekiller and I started out solo eight days ago and we had been slowly picking up group members as we went. We were just missing Rotisserie and Sansei again, who had stayed a little later at the store and planned on doing a few miles less than us tonight. They planned to catch up again tomorrow.
Our campsite was just off trail near Snow Lake, and it was lovely and spacious, which was fortunate because we were soon joined by Alphabet Soup, Kudu, Haggis, Running Commentary, and Kitty, making our total count eleven people and eight tents. Sunshine, still breaking in his new boots, hiked slowly at the back of the group and caught up a little after us.
"WE'RE OVER HERE, SUNSHINE!" Treekiller yelled to him across the meadow when we saw his blue hat bobbing down the trail.
"OK!" Sunshine yelled back. "I'M GOING TO POOP AND I'LL BE RIGHT THERE!"
We laughed. "HOPE EVERYTHING COMES OUT OKAY!" we yelled back.
We set up tents in a cozy little circle: mine beside Treekiller's, beside Katie's, beside Wocka and Giddyup's, beside Kudu and Alphabet Soup's, beside Kitty's, beside Haggis and Running Commentary's. We had made it into camp at the shockingly early hour of 6:30, which was a delight to everyone. Since we walked so many miles these days, and the days were getting shorter, it was common that we set up our tents in the dark. Getting in early meant we could eat dinner before the sun set and actually have time to chat with each other before going to bed. We had such fun chatting, too. I had forgotten Sunshine's knack of turning any mundane situation into a hilarious one, and soon we were all laughing at ridiculous jokes and stories as we ate.
We asked about Sunshine's feet, and he told us about his doctor's appointment last week. "The doctor had an intern in the room with him, so as he looked at my feet he was telling the intern what was going on. But he was talking so fast! He had me stand up, and balance on one foot, and do all these weird poses, and the whole time he's rattling off my diagnosis at a million miles an hour with words I didn't understand. I felt like I was at an auction!"
We laughed and I quipped with solemn seriousness, "'Well, my foot didn't get fixed, but now I own a timeshare in Miami...!'"
A little later in the evening, Katie was relaying stories about the wedding she went to, and how she had missed the bachelorette party because she was on the trail.
"But look what the bride gave me since I couldn't be there!" she whipped out of her pocket a small bag of colorful candy - colorful penis shaped candy.
Well, all hell broke loose after that. You can't show a bag of penis candy to a bunch of people who have been living in the woods for four months and not expect hours and hours of outright hilarity. We passed them around to share and it seemed there was no end to the number of jokes we were able to crack:
"Oooh, how cute, they're so small!"
"I want a raspberry flavored penis!"
"How many do you think I can fit in my mouth??"
"This one has blue balls...."
From one of the boys: "Well, I can honestly say this is the first time I've eaten dick."
From one of the lesbians: "Mine, too!"
"I wonder if they make these in a gusher version?!"
"Or cream filled?"
"Anyone want another penis?"
We were laughing so hard that we were practically rolling around in the dirt, clutching our sides to keep them from splitting. Though it was way past hiker bedtime, no one wanted to leave the circle yet. We were having entirely too much fun.
Eventually we wiped tears of laughter from our eyes and bid goodnight to each other, crawling into our tents and going through our usual bedtime routine: changing into sleep clothes, blowing up our sleeping pads, crawling into our sleeping bags, turning off our headlamps. As I closed my eyes, the last thing I heard was Sunshine calling out joyfully to us from his tent: "Tonight was my highlight!"