After arriving at the Portland airport, I caught a ride to Trout Lake, WA where my fellow hikers were set up for the night. I stood, circling, wondering where they could be. Ninja Turtle emerged from the doors to the upstairs lodging; we locked eyes, paused, and hugged while smiling uncontrollably. I made my way upstairs to say hey, again, to the rest of the group. It was like I had never left at all.
The following day we set out on the trail; my first day hiking again since Northern California into Burney Falls, before we had decided to flip up to Washington. The trail greeted me with the soft cushion of pine needles, green everywhere, huckleberry bushes on either side, and the all-encompassing feeling of home.
The next stop was White Pass. The hike there included an introduction to the cold weather we were to experience. Many of the views were obliterated by the dense, low fog, which occasionally lifted, giving way to glimpses of the beautifully mountainous terrain, including Knife’s Edge – the walk along the spine of the mountain was eerie, as you look down on either side of you and see nothing but fog, a bottomless pit. The group split at White Pass; Dime, Ninja Turtle, and I hiked out, while the other half took a side trip and skipped ahead.
We hiked on to Chinook pass, where my grandfather’s good friend Danny picked us up and offered us to stay and rest at his home. Showers, pizza, and beer awaited us, and we couldn’t be more appreciative. In Snoqualamie Pass, we spent some time at the Dru Brew Brewery and at the Commonweath restaurant.
Stevens Pass held little attraction to hikers, since we had to hitch one way or the other to get to accommodations. We hiked in with a section hiker, who offered to take us where we needed to go. We decided to ride into Leavenworth, as many hikers that we had passed by said that it was a cool place to be. We had lunch and walked around the shops, then made our way to Skykomish for rest. As I waited for my package to arrive, Dime hiked out and Ninja Turtle and I took some time to rest and relax at the Dinsmores Trail Angel house.
Once making it back on trail, the next couple of days brought harsh weather. 20 miles in the consistent, constant, freezing cold rain brought frustration and frigid fingers. We were wet and cold, nothing dry except for our beloved down jackets and sleeping bags. The fear of wearing down under our rain jackets kept us from doing so, knowing that they lose their effectiveness when wet. The following day seemed to clear up in the morning, but soon thereafter, the rain came again. And we were cold. We made camp and ate enough food to stay warm, silently and apprehensively calculating the food for the days to follow. The following morning brought more poring cold rain – a decison had to be made: our gear was wet, we weren’t staying warm, we were miserably socked in, it was verging on sub-freezing temperature, and we needed more food than we had to stay satiated and warm. After that day, should we hike, we would have been halfway between Stevens Pass and Steheiken. That morning, we were 35 miles from Stevens Pass, and 76 miles from Steheiken. Turn back and take refuge? Or hike on into the unknown? We contemplated, and decided to turn back to Stevens Pass – a decison made uneasily. Heartbroken (and cold and wet…), we turned back and hiked in the opposite direction.
It was a long walk back, defeat trailing our footsteps. Weather was bad that first stretch back – rain turned to hail, turned to snow, and back to rain again. We hiked to where we had camped the night before and set up in the same spot. The nights got cold and we had more trouble staying warm. Even though the weather lifted where we were, we could still see ominous clouds just north of us, and the nights dipped below freezing.
When we finally made it back to Stevens Pass, we contemplated buying new gear ($$$) or taking off. We hitched into Leavenworth once more, where we got a bite to eat and a room to stay in. This is where we made the decision to make our way down to San Diego, where Eric is from. There was no telling how much it would have cost to get the right gear, or how the weather would be for the next week. The following day, we made a series of hitches west into Seattle, where we stayed with a friend of Eric’s.
We then took a train to Portland, which arrived late at night. Our flight to San Diego was booked for early the next morning, so we decided to pull an all-nighter and head to a lively street of night festivities, which included VooDoo Doughnuts. We stopped at a bar for a couple drinks and killed some time hanging out at a picnic table, people watching. When it was time to head to the airport, we called an uber. Upon arrival in San Diego, Eric’s mom and grandma picked us up and took us to their home. This is where we have been staying since.
Our bodies required some recovery time; for some reason, when you stop hiking, your body says a “hell yah!” and begins to repair itself – muscles, joints, feet… We have been rock climbing at the climbing gym, hanging out at the beach, tandem bicycle riding around the bay (24 miles, a true test to teamwork), seeing the city, and visiting Eric’s family and friends. I’ve had so much fun here, but that doesn’t mean that leaving the trail was easy. It was a difficult decision to say goodbye, knowing that the Canadian monument would be left unvisited, so close to us. However, I believe we made the right decision; we were cold and wet and the views had been dismissed behind layers of fog and clouds.
I set out on this trip to see new things and make memories and have experiences that I otherwise would not have. To say my life has changed is an understatement. My whole world has been turned on its side, and I see things in a new light. There is nothing like the wilderness, nothing like hiking and surviving with your life on your back, nothing like disappearing into the woods for days on end. I am extremely satisfied with how much I have accomplished in these last few months. I have made friends and met some incredible people that I intend on keeping in my life post-trail. I have a job waiting for me at home, and all I can think about is saving enough money in order to get myself back out here again. Once you fall in love with the wild, with the dirtiness and the tiredness and stand-alone beauty, there is no way to cut back the desire to return.
For now, peace out, PCT.