Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 40.9

Monday, July 23, 2019; Day 3

Today I decided to wear my pants, for fear of bugs. This did not last long, for it was hot.

That morning, misery drove me to ask for help from fellow hikers. One hiker offered a few sprays of bug repellant, another a hydrocortisone packet. I was thankful. I went back to my tent-site to pack up my things.

After breaking camp, I returned to the designated dining area to fetch my food bag, have breakfast, and prepare for departure. Two park employees who were stationed at that camp were enjoying breakfast as well.

I made small talk with them. One of them asked if I was hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail. “I am!” I exclaimed. Being recognized as a thru-hiker, to me, was of the highest of compliments. She told me that the trails I was about to connect through the park followed a historic route for the Native American Blackfeet Tribe. She then mentioned that the leaves of the abundant yarrow plant can be used as a natural mosquito repellant. I thanked her profusely, and gathered the yarrow leaves. She had given me a glimpse of hope.

I departed shortly thereafter.

Just after leaving the camp, I met a black bear. They heard me approach as I was wading through the brush. Startled, they ran off quickly.

The beauty was as powerful as the sound of rushing water cascading from icy peaks in the distance.

A man leading a pack of mules came up behind me as I stood, lost in the view.

I learned that the whimsical, magical, ethereal plant I had been seeing mountainside–with its tall green stalks and white bushy flowers–was called bear-grass; a member of the corn lily family. Bear-grass only blooms once every seven years. There were two cycles in the park. One of these cycles was a spectacular show. I happened to have front-row seats. This plant certainly has personality; adapting to its environment by growing tall or short, straight or curved, sometimes geometric or horizontal, often seeming to reach out towards the trail to say “hello”. Each plant was remarkably unique. I was in love.

Another flower charmed me; reminding me of the multiplicity in us all.

I continued my ascent toward Brown Pass.

A deep rumble sounded from the sky. I had begun my descent. It was 1819. I was still five miles from camp.

As I continued my descent, the foliage grew thick and tall, often reaching past my waist. It brushed against me as I walked. I enjoyed the feeling of wet leaves on my legs. It eased the burning of my bites.

There were many dead and wavering trees in the valley. As they are pushed and pulled by the wind, their wooden cries sound eerily like that of a lost baby in the night.

More rumbles sound. I prepare for the rain. The rain came gently, with healing encouragement. The plants rejoiced, their hues ever more vibrant. The mosquitos were thwarted. I was thankful.

I arrived to camp (the head of Bowman Lake) late. Night was falling quickly. I ate a hurried meal and packed up my food bag. I put on my headlamp and moved to the food hanging pole. I attempted to lob my carabeener-weighted rope over the top of the pole. No luck. Again. No luck. I continued. As the carabeener hit the supporting poles on the way down, the sound of metal on metal chimed in announcement of my repeated failure. What was it? Was this pole higher than the others (I swear it was.)? Was it the darkness? Was I just that tired? In the end, I could not manage to get my rope over the pole, so I tied my ursack to the base of the tree.

I found an open site and set up camp in the dark.

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