Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 730.1 (Winthrop)

Saturday, September 14, 2019; day 55

I am cold. It is so difficult to start early at over 6,000 ft. I need to get over it. I need to toughen up.

If I don’t make it to Ruby Creek in time for a hitch, at least I will be at under 2,000 ft. With warmth at that elevation being a relative non-issue, I am going to risk wearing my only wool layer. I was not fully prepared for the sudden change in weather. I have silk undergarments, which were cheaper, but no match for the cool mountains of the Pacific Northwest. I will get more gear in Winthrop.

As I descend towards Ross Lake, trees shake their little paper chimes.

“Why, hello to you, too!”, I say smiling.

It is so much cozier down here! The weather is perfect! Everything is wonderful.

I think of the long journey ahead; of the need to rush to beat the cold. I do not like to rush. I will not stop until my life is at risk, and even then I’ll find another way.

“You are so beautiful! I love you!”, I spout to the trail, to the woods, to nature. By the way they make me feel, I knew they loved me too.

A bird chirps, sending vibrations through the crisp air.

I cross a bridge. I had been there before. This was the alternate I took into Canada in 2016.

I moved quickly. I hoped to reach the road before nightfall.

Soon I came to the parking lot and East Bank trailhead.

I crossed the street to hitch east to Winthrop. I had roughly one hour before night fall.

Car after car sped by. I was becoming very discouraged. I started to eye where I might camp for the night. I thought of how I would have to head back down the trail to collect water.

I will try just a short while longer.

Then, a vehicle pulled over and into the parking lot.

At first I was not certain that they were stopping for me. After confirming their intentions to help, I ran over and told them that I was headed to Winthrop. They were headed to the closer town of Mazama. That would do! They made space for me in their vehicle and I hopped in. They introduced themselves as Ryan and Josh. They were out camping and cycling through the mountains. They were very familiar with the area and we exchanged many a story of outdoor adventure. They told me that I was free to camp with them tonight, as they were intending on heading to Winthrop in the morning. I very much enjoyed there company, and was flattered that they did not mind me tagging along.

Soon we came to Rainy Pass.

“We got another hitch-hiker”, Ryan announced, “we’ve got to make room!”

Their kindness made me giggle as we rearranged to make room for the PCT hiker.

Then, we were off once more. When we reached the little town of Mazama, we found their store to be closed. Commando, the PCT hiker, was also planning to go to Winthrop. So what did Ryan and Josh do? They changed their plans entirely and decided to travel the extra 20 miles to Winthrop that night! I was so thankful!

After arriving in Winthrop, everyone headed to a restaurant for drinks and a meal. I was working hard to budget, and had been falling behind on my writing, so my intentions were to go straight to the hostel. I found them so pleasant, however, that I decided to join, socializing over a hot cup of coffee (or three).

We spoke of hiking and the mountains and the cold. I told them how this was the longest stretch that I had ever been in the wilderness. I told them how I had been a bit frightened, and felt underprepared.

Then, Ryan retrieved some things from his car. He gifted me a pair of wool bottoms, and an old MSR Dragonfly stove that he said he had used for the past 20 years. I could not express my gratitude enough. Such amazing gifts of warmth and kindness. His generosity will never be forgotten!

Soon we parted ways. We all hugged goodbye, and Commando and I made our way up the hill towards the hostel.

I found my assigned bunk, and hungry but warm, fell asleep.

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