Trail Nostalgia and other Magical Things

It’s July 20th and I have the entire day to get to Portland. Should be easy enough, right? I am planning in my mind to rent a car in Everett and just take my time driving Suoth from there. I envision stopping at REI in Seattle and gettinng good coffee, maybe even running a few other errands. So, at 10am, our group crams into Arrow’s car and we head off to eat breakfast at the Cascadia in Skykomish. 

There is a little moped with a broomstick attached to it parked out front on the sidewalk and I remember that from last year. Nostalgia, trail nostalgia. I’d been thinking of Nostalgia a lot lately, because it is the very thing that allows you to revisit memories that brought you happiness at another time in the past. The definition of Nostalgia is a sentimental longinng or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations. I have a lot of PCT nostalgia and it’s been fun to get to revisit the places that contain those memories. Not only that, but it’s like I am travelling back in time to that happy place and building on top of it, creating something more interesting and layered.

As luck would have it, after a ridiculously filling breakfast and three cups of light roast-drip-crack-coffee, we were headed back to the Dinsmore’s and got stuck in road construction traffic that got compounded by a giant piece of equipment which overturned on the highway. This actually closed Route 2 for a while. We had fortunately all used the bathrooms at the Cascadia and stopped at the Deli for more snacks and beverages, so we couldn’t have been more well prepared for the delay. I was even wearing my neon blue onsie, so I was appropriately dressed for the occasion of what turned into three hours of waiting. We played hackey-sack until the little ball was destroyed, and I had purchased a set of costume fairy wings at the Deli (yes, they had things like that for sale there), so I wore those and we made funny boomerang videos of me dancing on top of a semi-flatbed parked nearby. Nothing short of comical. 

After a while my coffee began to wear off and a little anxiety moved in. How am I going to get to Portland tonight if this road never opens? I called my Dad to let him know of the situation, and prayed that it would all work out. I had busted my butt so hard to get through that last section so I could be on time for my family, and now this! Ha ha Universe, very funny!

Well, the road finally opened up by around 3:00pm and the construction crew let the cars going in the other direction go first. That took nearly 40 minutes, holy cow, how many cars are waiting? I thought about all the people who’s days plans got changed by this one incidence, how might it affect the outcome of everybody’s days? And what is an “outcome” of a day anyway? 

We reached the Dinsmore’s by about 4:00 and it was a mad dash to get all my gear collected and packed into Arrow’s car. Then it was time to say goodbye. It all came up so quickly, the fact that I wasn’t going to see my trail friends again for….who knows? Monica and I had really bonded in that 11 days and it was crazy to think we would not be hiking together anymore. I told her not to hike too fast and to take lots of zeros so I could eventually catch up. Arrow had given me two sets of little prayer flags for my  pack and I gave her one set. We hugged and held each other tight for a long time, exchanging energy and love, gratitude, and I wondered, will I see her again? The trail is crazy like that. While the moments of our hug stretched time out, it sped up again soon enough as we piled into Arrow’s car and zipped away. 

I was frantically searching Google for car rentals that were going to still be open until 6pm and started calling around. I had no such luck. Arrow could see and hear what was happening, and offered to actually drive me all the way to Seattle where I could then catch a Bolt Bus to Portland. Again, Arrow you are my Angel, you are too much! It was about an hour in the opposite direction to get to Seattle but he said he didn’t mind. We had another hiker with us who also needed to get to Seattle, and Anna was actually going back to Bellingham with Arrow so she could get medical attention for her knee. So, off to Seattle we went. I got dropped off at the curb for the Bolt Bus and had to purchase a walk-up ticket which they only had a few seats left, and within 10 minutes I was on the bus and on my way to Portland. Whew! 

I spent most of the bus ride posting photos on Facebook and then realized that my SD card was not loading and something was wrong with my phone. Eventually I just shut it off in despair. I ate a hand-me-down tortilla with olives and string cheese for dinner and it was amazing! By the time I made it to Portland it was 10:04pm and within minutes, literally about 2 minutes, of stepping off the bus, my Dad and Sister pulled up curbside behind the bus and there it was, the “outcome” of my day. I made it! I found my family and was off to a place called Rhododendron, Oregon for a week in a cabin and lots of chill time. Relief poured over me and suddenly I missed the trail. What was it going to be like to not hike for a whole week? I was ready for the rest though, and the comfort of family, the comfort of sleeping in a bed, eating well, and just for the gift of time together.

My Dad had rented a cabin in the woods near the town of  Government Camp and Timberline by Mount Hood and when we got there, my sister and I were amazed. This was not a cabin, cute and cozy or ramshackle, it was a full on house, complete with an awesome deck, hot tub, fire pit, grill, outdoor seating and all situated right on the Zigzag River. I got to have my own cozy little bedroom, with a big picture window looking out to the River, which lulled me to sleep every night. We had a wonderful visit that week, basically every day we would sleep in, have coffee and then breakfast, then go for a hike somewhere, then go have a beer somewhere, and then figure out dinner. 

We visited Mount Hood, Timberline, Ramona Falls and we even drove out to Cascade Locks to hike the Eagle Creek Trail to Tunnel Falls. Unfortunately, the trail was closed just a mile before the Falls, due to fire, but we still enjoyed a wonderful day in the Gorge and we swam under a waterfall at Punch Bowl, in the most freezing cold water. 

My sister and I are like little giggling girls when we get together, and we did lots of laughing and enjoyed the space provided as a break from our other lives: her from work and being a full time Mom, and me from being a full time hiker. My Dad started this as an annual family tradition about 10 years ago so that my Sister and I would have a chance to spend time together in a common space, since we live such completely different lives. Last year we skipped it because I was thru-hiking, so this year, I promised it would not be skipped.  I am fortunate because we met up in a place that was relatively easy for me to access from the trail. I am fortunate just to have all this, my familly, and also thankful that they enjoy nature and the outdoors. Maybe they aren’t going to thru-hike, but at least we were in nature every day and not in a city or shopping mall or the like, such soul draining places. This was refreshing and repleneshing. 

I took them down to Thunder Island Brewery in Cascade Locks, one of my favorite places I discovered on the PCT last year. It is situated right on the Columbia River, and there are little picnic benches outside. There is shade, a perfect breeze and PCT hikers get a free beer! I remembered reaching Cascade Locks last fall and how tired I was. I had been so grateful for the company of another hiker I’d just met that day, Quotes, and we ate dinner there. Ahhhh Nostalgia visits again. After our beer and snacks, my sister and I took a walk on the Bridge of The Gods. Cuz, why not?

The week went by really fast and suddenly it was time to get back to Portland and then back to the trail. I coordinated with my friends Mama Lion and Boone, whom I hiked with last year, and they hosted me for the night in Portland. It was so wonderful geting to see them again and re-live stories and memories from the trail. Nothing bonds you with others the way the trail does, there is so much in the way of common understanding that needn’t be explained. There is just this “understanding”. We went to the park and ate giant burritos and had a couple beers before retiring for the night. Boone offered to let me sleep in his bed and I gratefully accepted. I hadn’t yet worked out my plans for getting back to the trail, and when that subject of conversation came up, Mama Lion’s partner enthusiastically offered to give me a ride. Not just any ride, like to a bus or train station, not just to Seattle, but ALL THE WAY back to the Dinsmore’s! That is a 4 hour drive each way! What?! He had the next afternoon free and was more than happpy to take me up there, which I am forever in his debt now. Thank you Peat!!!

Getting back to the Dinsmore’s was good but strange, as it was now the third time being there, but I knew nobody except for Jerry and Andrea. Udually we hikers judt pass through places like yheirs, in a whirlwind of trail chatter, eating, showering, sleeping and then we rush off. Now, here I was again. I felt a strong need to get back on the trail and continue my journey.  I was relieved to be out of the city though,  and back in a rural town. The city, for all it has to offer, was draining to my soul. I couldn’t have taken it for much longer. Here, the sounds were different, more singular rather than a cacaughany of noise. Here, the overarching vibration was languid. There was the train, a parrot calling, a dog barking, and maybe one car at a time passing by, but the periods in between all those singular noises were silent. Ahhhh, yes, silence. 

I decided to pitch my tent on the lawn again and hoped to set off fairly early the next morning for the trail. As it turned out, a trail helper at the Dinsmore’s, Brenda, was giving a group of hikers a ride to Skykomish, so I jumped on that opportunity and of course, ate breakfast at the Cascadia again. The same little moped with the broomstick was parked out front again! Sometimes traveling back on the PCT is surreal. It’s often like I am travelling back in time, to another dimension, except that things are just a tiny bit different. It’s like getting to re-live your favorite dream over and over again, or like the future never happened and I am just back in that time and space. I am still trying to wrap my head around what it is. What it feels like. So familiar, but not. 

I chatted with some Northbounders and Southbounders over scrambeled eggs and hash browns, and right after breakfast started walking toward the road to get a hitch. I stopped at the Deli again, this time I did not purchase fairy wings, I’d left them behind figuring they would get destroyed on the trail in like a second. I bought some cheese and nice lady at the register actually provided me with a giant sign for PCT hikers for hitching a ride. What world is this that people GIVE you a sign to aid you in your hitching attempts? Grateful, I accepted the big sign and promptly positioned myself out by the road. 

The first couple of folks who pulled up to the store had a white SUV type of car and I approached them. “Pardon me, do you happen to be heading up to Steven’s Pass?” I politely inquired, to which the woman retorted under her breath to her husband, but loud enough for me to hear, “we are NOT picking up hitch-hikers!” The man glanced my way with an apologetic look, and a faint smile, shrugged his shoulders and then looked away again. Okay, well, that was funny. If they only knew me. How ’bout that? I AM hiker trash at it’s finest. No big deal, I walked out to the road and held up my sign and got a hitch within about 20 minutes because I am not an axe murderer, nor do I look like one! 

The nice man who stopped for me was on his way from….somewhere….to…..somewhere….but told me he specifically planned on picking up PCT hikers alongthe way, it was something he did. He was retired, and had a tiny little notebook that he had all the hikers sign with their trail names. It sounds maybe a little creepy in retrospect, but I am telling you, not in the least. People just like to help hikers! It baffles me. People, that is, other than the ones who “dont pick up hitch-hikers”. I was dropped off literally AT the trail, and was on my way at exactly noon.

My pack felt heavy, my body felt sluggish, and I felt nostalgic about Steven’s Pass, being there with Crush and Arrow last season, drinking coffee and staying warm by the fireplace. Now, it was hot outside, there were lots of mosquitoes, and I climbed the long ski slope waiting for the traffic noise from the road to disappear. I was officially back on the trail, back in the Space Between. I reveled in being on trail solo for the first time in quite a while, and wondered how I would like it. I’d grown sort of accustomed to hiking with people, at least camping with people, and so this was different, again. It was four days to get to Snoqualmie Pass and I was going into unforseen territory, as last year Crush and I had taken the Goldmeyer Alternate so we could hit up the Hot Springs, which were great, but bypassed the Kendall catwalk, and so much more that I didn’t know about. So, I was alone, and walking into the unknown once again. My happy place. 

I hiked about 14 miles and retired early at a cozy little nook of a campsite near a creek that had a fire ring. I actually built a fire, something I promised myself I was going to do more of this year. It really helped with the mosquitoes, which at this point were rampant. It was officially Day 12 of my PCT hike and it was almost like I was starting the entire hike all over again. I was excited with anticipation of what was to come, and all with the knowing that all I had to do now was hike, just hike. 



4 thoughts on “Trail Nostalgia and other Magical Things

  1. Hello Milissa,
    I greatly miss you and just knowing the wonderful journey that you are going thru it makes me feel better about you enjoying yourself to the Max…..
    Always thinking of you and wishing you the very best.
    You are in my prayers and thoughts at all the times. Be safe and can wait to see you again!
    Rodolfo V

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