Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 637.4

Monday, September 9, 2019; day 51

I wake and turn within my sleeping bag. I am cold. It is hard to rise.

I sit on my wet socks to warm them. I am tempted to wear my relatively dry pair, but I know better. They would turn wet and cold the moment I put on my boots.

I plan to eat lightly today, and stop at the cabin in 10 miles.

A bird sings one simple, elongated note. It gives me comfort.

As I strap on my boots, I tell myself that being cold is not that bad. I tell myself that it makes being warm that much sweeter.

I was surprised at how emotional each glimpse of sun and blue sky made me. My gratefulness was like a sudden earthquake, shifting mountains deep within me.

To make these journeys successfully, I have to be both highly demanding and extremely nurturing towards myself. If I properly rationed, it was okay to take refuge for the night.

Mid-afternoon, I reached the cabins.

I explored them both. They were not maintained, but were still very suitable. The smaller cabin was preferable. I settled there.

There were two pieces of wood inside a metal bucket near the door.

I gathered scraps of paper and cardboard from inside the shelter, and old map and guidebook pages from my pack. I searched around for bits of sticks and wood for tinder. I placed my collection beneath the two pieces of firewood, within the wood-burning stove.

I lit the paper. I waited. I tried blowing life into the flame. I tried to create enough heat to catch the wood. I failed.

With a heightened sense of urgency, I moved about to collect more tinder. I pulled out the cardboard center from a roll of tin-foil. I ripped out the “recources” section of my guidebook, along with the back cover. I collected dry twigs from underneath the cabin. I told myself that there was absolutely no way that I should be unable to make a fire.

I poked and prodded and blew and rearranged.

Finally, the flames grew strong enough to consume the wood.

I changed out of my wet clothes and hung them fireside. I put my boots beneath the stove, and my sleeping bag on the floor beside it. I filled one of the pots on the cabin shelf with water and placed it on the stove top to boil. I wondered what I would have done if those two pieces of firewood had not been there. I have never chopped wood. I told myself I must learn how.

I stepped outside to relieve myself. A sound came from the distance. My first thought was cattle. Then I recognized two human formations approaching the cabin.

“Hi. How are you?” I asked.

“Happy to see these cabins” one replied.

I smiled. I felt awkward and antisocial. I had certainly not expected people.

I moved back inside. I shut and locked the door.

I positioned my things a bit more tidily in the corner, and peered through the peep hole.

One of them was taking a saw to a downed tree. It seemed they intended to build a fire in the other cabin.

Them going about their own business put me at ease. This allowed me to realize that warmth must be shared with all that are cold. I unlatched the door and stepped outside once more.

I initiated conversation and invited them in.

Doug and Devin were an uncle and nephew pair out for a few nights of backcountry bonding.

They were extremely kind, and were just as surprised to find me alone in the wilderness as I was to see them. They were the first hikers I had met on trail since Montana.

We all picked our wooden platforms for sleeping, and got comfortable.

I told them the story of my wet sleeping bag, and how I considered turning around; of how I still have 100 miles before I reached a point of resupply.

Devin gifted me his dry sack, Doug gave me a ration of food.

I was so grateful; not only for their amazing gifts–but for the warm conversation and genuine kindness, for kindred human company.

The cabin heated quickly. The fire crackled through the night. I fell to sleep safe and warm within a dry bag, a smile upon my face.

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