Thursday, August 27, 2015, Mile 2467: The Last Section

At Lake Valhalla, Mile 2467

Memory eternal, Dad. I hope you’re proud of me.

I got a shower and loaded up my pack, before we took off for Skykomish. Because of the uncertainty of everything, I’m carrying two extra days’ worth of food. Food is heavy.

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Andrea, Jerry, and I. It was wonderful to get to know them better.

Jerry and Carl and I had breakfast at the Cascadia, and I once again did myself proud in the calorie department. Burp. We said goodbye at the Sky Deli, and I grabbed the deli’s hitch sign (“PCT Hiker to Stevens Pass”) and proceeded to stick out my thumb. Nobody pulled off of the highway, but a mom (Sarah) and her little daughter (Eva) were at the deli, and mom said, “You’re a hiker! Get in! We can take you to the pass.” And it was a delightful drive.

They dropped me off at the pass, and I adjusted my pack (yet again), grabbed a Powerade, and got the latest info on the trail. Nothing has changed.

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At Stevens, just before hitting the trail northbound
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Sign at the trailhead, regarding the Wolverine/Blankenship fire closures. Even this sign was out of date, as Rainy Pass was inaccessible from the west side, due to the fire and slide at Newhalem.
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PCT North trailhead at Stevens Pass

I crossed the pedestrian bridge and set off from the northbound trailhead. There’s probably a couple of miles of flat, paralleling the highway. I took advantage of this to catch up on my recording.

My destination was just up the trail, to Lake Valhalla. It’s very easy, and is a popular day hike; I was here last year, relaxing at the beach and handing out magic to the thrus. This year, the hike was discouraging. I’m going to be hiking through a bunch of weather, to a dead end; I was asking why I’m even doing this. But I just kept walking. Listened to a podcast, kept walking. Kept walking.  Kept walking.

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The weather forecast is pretty dismal. Rain should be moving in by Friday. There’s functionally 100% chance of rain, between Friday morning and Saturday night; it then tapers off to almost 100% chance of rain. It’s gonna be a damp one. But if you want to hike in Washington, you’d better be able to deal with rain.

I doubt I’ll see many PCT hikers on this section. There’s probably only a few doing what I’m doing, getting to a stopping place and not missing any of the trail until that point.

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Heading up to Lake Valhalla. Today, I’m appreciating blue skies.

I had an entire large campsite to myself, with a family off in the distance. Two gentlemen came through but camped elsewhere; they had attempted to drive up Smithbrook Road to get to the trail via Union Gap, but Smithbrook is closed due to fire danger. The road actually goes over the crest and into Eastern Washington, which is undoubtedly the reason for the closure.

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Lake Valhalla
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I was amazed at how low the lake was. The sandy beach was very pleasant, though.
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Selfie in the sun

Later on, a father and his teenage son showed up, with shiny new gear. Unfortunately for them, they only threw the rain fly on top of the tent, and didn’t bother staking it out.  This may not bode well.

I had my current favorite dinner: 4 oz of spaghetti, cooked until not quite al dente, and then dehydrated.  Rehydrate in boiling water for a minute, drain. Toss with 2 packs olive oil, and then 2 packs parmesan. About 800 calories. I’ve got to think about what I’ll be eating the next few days, as I will undoubtedly be cooking in my vestibule, out of the weather.

And speaking of weather, it’s starting to move in; things are clouding up, with mackerel skies and mare’s tails.

I texted with Steve for a bit. I told him I’ve faced bigger challenges in my life than just putting off a dream for a year. I can do this. But I don’t want to. I want to keep going, and hit the border. And I don’t want to wait; I want to do it right now. But that’s not even an option, from the side of the fire that I’m on.

So I’ll just keep plugging away, and knock off 77 miles. And good heavens, I’ve done part of this segment in the rain before, so I guess I can do it again. I’m not going to push myself too hard, because why? I’ve got enough food, and the trail is familiar enough. So sometime next Thursday-ish, I’ll head down the hill.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015, Mile 2461: Magic at the Dinsmores

At Dinsmores Hiker Haven, Mile 2461

I got up at 5:30, to give myself time to hit the trailhead at 10:00. The trail was five miles, traversing a bowl before climbing a ridge to a chairlift at Stevens Pass. I worked my way along the ski slopes, and finally down to the parking lot.

Stevens Push 5
Fall Colors above Stevens *
Stevens Chair
Climbing the last ridge, past a chairlift *
Stevens Descent
The descent into Stevens Pass *

Brendan and Alex weren’t there yet, but I met a guy named Fred, who spends most of the year travelling in his van, just seeing different places. He was waiting for his monthly check to arrive (tomorrow), and was getting low on food. And lo and behold, here comes Brendan and Alex with an ENORMOUS vanload of chow. Perfect timing.

We stopped in Skykomish, at the Sky Deli, and I got my coveted BURGER AND SHAKE MMMM!! And then it was down the hill to Baring, and the Dinsmores.

Jerry greeted me with a big hug, and then the kiddos proceeded to unload the van. Eyes started popping in all directions. Not even thrus could put this much food away. They were incredibly grateful.

Andrea came out and gave me another big hug, and her eyes started bugging out as well. Most of the food will last quite well in the hiker dorm fridge, and Brendan ended up taking a bunch home, but there were some mighty happy hikers.

I was very grateful just to be here; I know this is where I’ll need to make my decision, and there’s no better place to do it than in the midst of the hiking community, with the very latest info.

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The shower and laundry house. Before washing clothes or taking a shower, hikers need to pre-wash their socks and their feet.
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The garage. A large portion, to the left, contains the hiker dorm.

Anyway, while the kids were feeding people, I started my laundry, grabbed a shower, and began sorting my resupply. Brendan had brought up my bounce bag as well. Many thrus or longer distance sectioners will have a bounce box. This contains things needed periodically, or sometime in the future, and is generally sent a few resupplies up the road. I have a duffel, which the family brings up whenever they meet me; it’s got a couple of sets of street clothes, some extra toiletries, and the like. It was nice to wear a cotton t-shirt while my hiking clothes were in the laundry. But even if I didn’t have the bag, the Dinsmores have a big stash of loaner clothes for laundry time. Last year, the favorite was a purple prom dress, which appeared several times in the annual hiker photo album which Andrea puts together.

Once I was done shuffling things, Brendan and Alex headed down the hill. I wish we’d had more time to hang out; seeing family has been a huge deal for me.

Another cool thing that happened was that I met Soul Sista (aka Ronnie). She’s done a lot of work with packs, and was able to help me get mine adjusted better. We ended up setting the height to halfway between small and xtra small. But ultimately, she couldn’t get it where it needed to be, and she strongly recommends I get a new pack. Maybe it’s time to take a look at the new Mariposa. Anyway, she is up here for a few weeks, camping on the 2 acres of lawn, and generally helping out. There are several people who come up here and pitch in during the summer, cooking, repairing, driving folks, etc. Did I say this community is awesome?

I slept in the hiker dorm last night. Since Jerry and Andrea introduced a No Alcohol policy, there’s no reason to stay up late and party. The lights were out by ten. Of course, maybe that was because we were all excited about having a Real Bed!

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The hiker dorm at Dinsmores Hiker Haven. They have bunk beds (with real mattresses), recliners, a basic kitchen w/fridge, microwave, and pantry), a huge hiker box with sorted supplies, a wood stove, and TONS of memorabilia from hikers through the years.

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