Pacific Northwest Trail; Cascade Trail Alternate

Thursday, September 26, 2019 (day 67)

I woke early, catching the tail end of the lightest knocking against the bedroom door.

I dressed and packed up quickly and Dave and I headed in to town for a morning coffee. I ordered  black drip with a shot of espresso, Dave a decaf Americano—he only drank the real-deal on race days.

We reached Baker Lake Dam before the sun. I connected my footpath and continued on my way to Concrete.

I stopped at the heated bathroom, not far from the dam. I had cellular service there. Earlier in the day I had noticed an e-mail confirmation from Lowa, concerning my replacement boots. They had mistakenly sent the boots to the address on file: my dad’s house in Northern California. Now I had to coordinate getting the boots to me. Satisfied that I had the ball rolling in the right direction, I ripped a compactor-bag up the side, draped it over my pack, and tied it around my neck. I stepped out of the bathroom and in to the rain.

About two miles in I realized that I had dropped a glove. I had no choice but to turn around. I scanned the ground with every step. It may be in the bathroom; this was likely. Upon arrival, I discovered no glove. I continued. I continued all the way back to the dam. There it was, wet and flat, sad and abandoned, in the middle of the road. I retrieved it with one swift downward motion and continued back again. I sighed deeply. At least I had found it.

Beautiful little mushrooms stood perky in a row; standing proudly in asphalt defiance, in embodiment of the Green Man. They uncovered a smile, causing me to kneel in awe and observation.

A fully-loaded logging truck slowed to a halt to offer me a ride. I was surprised at the unsolicited offer. I thanked the driver kindly, informing them that I wished to walk. 

I listened to the elongated bird cries from the misty woods; the crunching of gravel; the whispering brush of wind on leaf, leaf on ground.

Finally, I was in town.

I followed the Cascade Trail to the grocery store to meet Kay and purchase 26 miles of rations.

Back at their home, I picked fresh veggies from the garden as spaghetti squash baked in the oven. Dave and I snacked on raw beet as we all stood around the kitchen chatting.

Kay and I carried on in conversation and sipped tea into the night, long after dinner was over.

Pacific Northwest Trail; Upper Baker Lake Dam

Wednesday. September 25, 2019 (day 66)

I am exhausted and late to rise. I tell myself, that it’s alright. Yesterday’s ford and bushwhack was the most physically and mentally challenging traverse to-date. I reach in and pull from the accomplishment to fuel today– as the only ration I have is half a cup of cold soaking noodles. I am about 23 miles from the town of Concrete.

The trees and lush ferns– the spider-webbed, lichen covered beauty–takes me to a place away from hunger… however briefly.

Mid-day I was greeted by a miniature schnauzer with a writhing little body and a rather large bark. A man followed behind. I told him the story of the bushwhack and fording. He listened, smiling. I carried on. I was so full of energy and life. 

He offered me a ride to Concrete. I explained to him that I was pretty determined to walk there…but that it all depended on how hungry I got. He told me that he would be back to the road in about an hour, should I want a lift.  He released a shoulder strap and swung his tiny backpack around to his front. He unzipped the main compartment and pulled out a large apple and a bag of mixed nuts. He held them out in offering. The exact snacks I longed for! I thanked him profusely, and we both went on our way.

I ate the apple first. I could feel it strengthen me. As I continued towards the road, however, my body ached. I developed shin-splints. Though I had only hiked 15 miles the previous day, they were some of the most intense miles I have put my body through. I began to hike with a limp. I considered how I may benefit from a shorter day, and a lift in to town.

I did not wait at the dirt road for my new friend, but continued down it. I hoped to make it to Baker Lake Road. It would be easier to hitch back to than the forest service road I was on.  Soon my new friend pulled up beside me. I explained to him that I was hoping to hitch from a place that was more memorable, so that it would be easier to reconnect my path. He offered to drive up to Baker Lake Dam and wait for me. I smiled widely, and agreed.

As I continued walking towards the dam, Dave drove by in a Puget Sound Energy truck. He was surprised to see me. He asked if I had a ride in to town. He told me to message him after I arrived in Concrete, and I could come over for dinner. I agreed, and continued towards the dam.

I was very thankful for the lift in to town. I asked to be dropped at the grocery store. I ventured in, collected a handful of items, and sat storefront on the cold, green, metal bench. I proceeded to build peanut-butter tortilla wraps.

Suddenly I was feeling very tired, worn, anti-social. I did not have the spark to reach out in connection. Luckily, Dave found me.

“Hey. I thought I might find you here!” Dave said as he walked towards me. 

“Hi!” I said, smiling. Though a large part of me wished not to be seen by anyone.

He mentioned that his wife said that I could stay the night, and that he just needed to run in to the store to grab a couple of items for the chili. 

I waited on the bench for him to return, and we headed to his vehicle together. As soon as I strapped myself in to the passenger seat, I began to feel better. Dave was good people. His high energy lifted my spirits. I remembered their kindness, and was grateful to be joining him and his wife.

Soon we pulled up to a positively beautiful home with a front yard of lush green grass ornamented with the occasional white, spongy mushroom. At the far end of the yard was Kay,  busy among a lovely vegetable garden. We parked and walked out to greet her.

Post introduction we all ventured inside and Kay began preparing dinner. I was offered a shower, which I eagerly accepted. After bathing I joined them in the kitchen. Before I could offer to help, Dave asked if I would like to get a load of laundry going. Would I!? The notion was thrilling. I set to it, straight away.

Soon we enjoyed one of the best meals I  have had on trail. I enjoyed the company of Kay and Dave very much. They asked if I would like to take a zero day. I was compelled to keep moving. As I had intended to take the Cascade Trail Alternate, I would be walking right back in to town tomorrow.  They said that they would be happy to have me another night. I gratefully accepted.

I retired to their guest bedroom. I was so comfy and cozy and happy and clean. Tomorrow–early in the morning–I would join Dave on his ride to work, and reconnect my footpath onward from Baker Lake Dam.