Over the course of the trail I've written about events, people, feelings, and changes. But giving a summary of the end result of the 5 months worth of changes, adventures, stories, and interactions...is hard. I'm tempted to begin this post with where I am now, both mentally, emotionally, and physically... but it would be a strangely inaccurate representation of me, my hike, and the end of the trail.
Part 1 - I will catch you up on the last 2 weeks of hiking as if the end hasn't occurred. It's a struggle to relate... to explain and/or summarize changes and ending thoughts so Part 2 will be about being done / reflection.
The days of Washington are filled with gray mist that begins 20 feet away in every direction... and it never ends. Rain falls softly, angrily, slowly, quickly, or loudly. It is always wet, humid, and cold. Clothes don't dry, the tent is stuffed while it's still dripping steady streams of condensation and rain. Dreams of being warm, dry, or comfortable fade quickly as the days blend together. After the first day everything is always soaked.
I discovered just how ineffective my rain gear is the day I left Snoqualime with Boat and Slimjim . The jacket collected water in the forearm as I hiked, causing my fleece to get soaked, and the shirt beneath was already drenched in sweat. The rain pants had small tears from my glisades in the Sierra's. It turns out duct tape doesn't actually fix everything. The pants let moisture in, but not out... so the bottom half of me became as wet and cold as my top half. In one word... I became miserable. As I didn't have any other clothes besides a pair of long-john bottoms to sleep in, this became a problem.
After the first night camping in an open meadow, with ineffective rain gear, a tent that must not be seam-sealed any longer, a damp sleeping bag, and a failing neo-air I became the hiker I swore to never become. I walked with my head down, feet to the grindstone. I walked on auto-pilot. The Golden Child Zombie walk began as I trudged through thick mist, feeling cold, and depressed. Unable to take breaks in fear of getting wetter and colder, I didn't see a gorgeous Washington... I missed the flowers, the goats, the berries.
As the day continued and the rain fell heavier I took a wrong turn somewhere. Lost and confused I took a 3 mile "alternate route". I discovered how far behind Slimjim and Boat I was when I found a note in the middle of the trail saying they were headed for Desolation Lakes to camp for the night... and "WHERE the hell was I?" FoxTrot and Flashback(really fast hikers) caught up to me on my 15 minute lunch break; they had taken the same extra route I had. I was able to catch up with Boat and Slimjim after 2 hours of hard hiking(3.5 -4 mph). As Boat and I walked toward Desolation Lakes I slightly ranted about how everything was breaking... and I made up my mind that I needed to go to REI when I got into Skykomish no matter how far behind it would put me. Everything was breaking, they only piece of equipment that hadn't was my stove! Boat and I considered pulling an all-nighter but I ended up putting my tent up anyways. That night was the first battle between the field mice and I. I woke Boat up periodically through the night with my headlamp and yells. We fought all night over two snickers bars, my maps/atlas, and my toilet paper. I won the maps and toilet paper, but the mice got the snickers. After barely any sleep I settled on taking a shortcut into Skykomish as did Slimjim. As we split off from Boat for the four miles of extreme descent,(3,000+ ft) I listened to Slimjim tell me about reaching his patience with people. We got down to the road in two hours. Slimjim must have been reaching the end of his patience because after waiting 30 minutes for a car he picked up his pack and told me he was going to start walking. I think he thought I would follow him... but I didn't. Within 15 minutes a car pulled over and we headed down the road. I explained to the driver that another hiker was on the road ahead and asked if he would mind picking him up too. He said no. If a man had left me to hitch-hike alone then he had done me a disservice making me hitch as a lone female. This made me slightly nervous... alone in a car with someone who wants to keep me alone. He dropped me off at Steve's Shop near the Dinsmore's and gave me his cell phone number in case I wanted a ride to REI.
So I arrived at the tiny General Store / Diner alone. The conversation with Steve,the owner, was hilarious to me...
me: and wet
Steve: Dinsmore's House?
Steve: I make KILLER pancakes!
After the best pancakes of the trail I headed to the Dinsmore's House(local trail angels) where I showered and put on a dress from the hiker clothes box. I ended up calling the driver from my previous hitch and he drove me to REI(90+ miles away) and back to Skykomish... it was the scariest ride I've ever had. But it was worth it for the new rain jacket and replaced neo-air and rain pants.
Slimjim, Damien, and Smiles had decided to get a hotel room further in town, so when I got back Babysteps, Foxtrot, Flashback, Drugstore, Boat, and Cruisin'(CDT hiker) were in the garage. It was a bubble of activity and I found Bump doing trail magic! She had brought three cakes and they were so delicious. When Bump dropped Babysteps, Foxtrot, Flashback and I off at the trail head the next morning the car was full of energy! We sang Kat Stevens the whole way! High-fives and hugs of excitement, we started off headed for Stehikin.
I caught up to Boat and Drugstore who had started hiking earlier that day than I. Boat and I decided on only doing 25 mile days to the border because we didn't want to rush the last part of the trail. Drugstore on the other hand was ready to put the miles in and get the trail finished. By the end of our first full day on the trail Drugstore had out hiked us by 10+ miles. The last day getting into Stehikin Boat and I decided to be crazy and hike all the way until 1am to the Stehikin Ranger Station. In the morning we saw Foxtrot, Flashback, Slimjim, Babysteps, and Drugstore all headed out to the Border(82 miles away). Boat and I stayed in Stehikin for the night and treated ourselves to the Ranch and the Bakery. Between the two of us our bakery bill was $78 dollars. We bought a giant scone for every morning we'd be on the trail(total = 9) loafs of bread for lunches, sticks of butter, and tons of sweet and intoxicating-ly tasty pastries behind the glass cases.
Leaving Stehikin was hard, Five days of hiking for me, Four days for Boat... we walked 25 mile days, woke up when we wanted, stopped for berries on every hill. I just tried to enjoy every minute of each climb, descent, break, dinner, and view. We arrived at the border on September 18th at 4:15pm. There was excitement... but there was more sadness than anything. After taking pictures, eating lunch, and making hot chocolate it was time for us to part ways. Boat on his way to Canada and me back toward Harts Pass(30 miles) where I planned to hitch-hike to a town with a pay phone and call Bump for a pick-up and ride to Seattle.
Things worked out amazingly well the day after the border... It turns out Balls and his daughter Sunshine had decided to hike from Harts Pass to the Border and back. I ran into them early the next morning and they had camped with Foxtrot that night, he had already completed his thru-hike and was heading south just like me. I camped with Balls and Sunshine that night and in the morning we all hiked to Harts Pass... through snow, hail and rain. When I got to Harts Pass I found Foxtrot beneath the bathroom roof. My hands were so frozen I needed help un-buckling my pack, getting my dry clothes out from the bottom of the pack inside three seperate bags,... and he untied my shoes then made me hot chocolate. Before I had finished changing into my dry clothes Balls and Sunshine arrived and we packed the compact car up fully loaded with soaking wet gear and extremely smelly hikers. Both Foxtrot and I as well as a hiker I didn't know well, RT, rode into Seattle by way of Balls and Sunshine.