Mary Poppins Meets the Salami Zombie

PCT Sobo Day 15, July 30th 2017

14.5 miles to Snoqualmie Pass, mile 260

Elevation Change: +3461 ft/-5656 ft

Journal Excerpt: “5:33am, I wanted to see the sunrise from somewhere up high today, and believe it or not, I woke up before my alarm. I’m having my coffee and some of my home made superhero power cookies, and there are already so many mosquitoes! I put some Cashew Yum butter on my cookie and oh my gosh it is better than a doughnut! I’m watching the sky surrounding giant peaks turn a pale pink around the margins of dense rock and cliff. In many ways this life has monsatic qualities, in the sense that you wake early to peace and quiet. Also from the meditative quality of walking in silence every day and quieting the mind in so doing, to maintaining an attitude of graditude and loving-kindness when the mosquitoes are eating you alive. It’s also the daily work and chores we do, the community we embrace and are a part of, the Sangha, to the daily practice of nearly coonstantly doing without wants, or constantly negotiating want vs. need. One also is in a continuous state of conversation with one’s surroundings and thus, communicating with the Universe, or God, if you will.”

By 10:52am I have hiked for hours without any water, and across massive slabs of granite, staring up, wondering if I had reached the catwalk yet? I guess I will know when I’m there. The mosuitoes are relentless and I cut open the container of Yum Butter to lick the inside clean. I am dirty, tired, I want coffee, I want lots of things. I fantasized hard about getting a hotel room in Snoqualmie, eating a real meal, taking a shower and getting a good night’s rest. Then, I wavered in my wants. Why do I think about all these things while I am out here? I try hard to put them out of my mind and hike harder, enjoying the scenery quite a bit, as there is a towering Mount Rainier in the distance to the South and she is beautiful. Maybe I need a hiking companion, I think. It had been four days hiking alone, and I was sort-of missing having a friend. I knew not when or if I would catch up with Monica, and I know that hiking Sobo is known to be a much more solitary experience than a Nobo hike. I am ok with being alone, I have hiked hundreds of miles in solitude, but on this particular day, I was wanting companionship. I put my wish to the Universe like this: If I could meet another cool hiker chick who is as into hiking as I am, and we could hike together, that would be really awesome. 

By around noon, I finally make it to the Catwalk, and am a little underwhelmed. There are, by then, hords of day hikers, people in blingy attire and all with brand new gear, shiny faces and lots of food in their bags. I am so hungry! The Catwalk has cool vieed, but I can see how a day hiker would like it and appreciate it much more than a thru-hiker, because it is not unique to the surroundings we pass through each day. I had finally gotten to the darn Catwalk, and I did not even stop, go figure. I passed by all the people, and zoomed on. Shortly after that I found myself in a shaded woods and checkrd my GPS for the mileage points. I had reached the 2,400 Nobo mile point and stopped to make a mile marker for the Nobos. I collected pine cones and enjoyed the process of touching the Earth in silent reverence. I thought about all the miles I had ahead of me, miles I’d already done, just in the other direction.

The heat is getting worse, the trail is so exposed, and there is so much downhill to get to town. Finally after a long stretch of switchbacks and having to duck under some trees to pee without being seen, I am stopped by a couple day hikers. They ask me if I have any Ibuprofen as one of them had a knee injury he is nursing. This is my reaction: “Oh, yes, I do have some Ibuprofen, sigh, but it’s in the veeerrrry bottom of my pack……” and then I stood there contemplating what I had just said. Seriously? You can’t dig that out? How long would it actually take you and how much of an inconvenience wouldit actually be? I was ashamed of myself in  that moment, and apologized for my impatience. I unpacked all my things and got the Ibuprofen out of my food bag and gave some to the man. We then ended up chatting for a few minutes and they were quite interested in my hike and asked lots of questions. They were very friendly and I relaxed a little while talking with them since it tooke me out of the rushed headspace I was in, it took me back to the present moment where I needed to be. Later, when I got down to the bottom of the trailhead, they came in just behind me and offered to drive me the mile down the road to the parking lot in front of the Summit Inn. The trail provides.

In front of the Chevron and the Summit Inn is an amazing food truck called The Ardvark.  I knew about this place from last year but had not tried the food. Fool that I was…I missed out, I was not going to make the same mistake. I dropped my pack in the seating area, which is outdoors, shaded, and dotted with other hikers. I ordered spicy tofu tacos and the owner, Dan, treated me to a complimentary ice cold beverage of my choice and let me charge my phone. He guided me around the back door to a big cooler, it was loaded with sodas, beer, and sparkling water, my favorite. Yes! This is the stuff I fantasize about on a hot day. Lime La Croix, I am in heaven once again!

While waiting for my tacos I walk over to the food mart at Chevron to see what they had in stock. When I return to the seating area, there was a new female hiker sitting just near my pack. I recognize her, but do not say so. Don’t ask me why. She introduces herself and I do the same. She is Carrot and she offers to move over so I can sit down in the seat by my pack. I knew her because I follow her on Instagram, and I read some of her blog back in ’13 about her first thru-hike of the PCT, which subsequently she has written a book about.  Turns out she thru-hiked the PCT twice, and a whole bunch of other cool trsils and routes, quite impressive. Right On! I found out that she was Southbounding WA this time around, how cool! 

Then our chatter was diluted by the the other hikers who were gathered around and I was totally focused on getting my tacos. Where are my tacos after all? Finally, they arrived and I ate in silent happiness. Carrot gets up and walks to somewhere, and I sit there finishing my beverage, letting the fatigue of the day settle. I got an ice pack for my ankle which was throbbing all the way down the mountain, and it felt incredibly therapeutic in that “good pain” sort of way, the ice.  

After the tacos, icing my ankle and chatting with a few other hikers, all Northbounders and section hikers, I decide to go check at the Inn for my re-supply package. The lady at the front desk of the Inn tells me it’s a $15 fee to pick up the package if I am not a guest at the Inn. Well I might be a guest, I haven’t decided that yet, I think. I ask her if I can get a credit if I pay for it now and then decide to stay the night, and she tells me No, they don’t do that. So, I don’t pick up the package for the time being, and go to sit down on the couch. It feels amazing in there, the whole place is air conditioned, and I hadn’t realized how incredibly hot I was. My face was on fire! I think I got too much sun. Just across the room, in the chair, was Carrot. She is on her phone so I just sit there and give her her space. After several brain dead minutes, I ask her if she is hiking out today. “I’m not sure” She replied with a sigh and some hesitation. “Are you?” she asked. I wasn’t sure either, I told her (like past tense) I was thinking about hiking out, because I had only hiked 14.5 miles and I wsnted to deny myself the gratification og satisfying all the “wants”, but at the moment I was having serious considerations about stsying, and resting. Next thing out of her mouth is “If you want, we could split a room”. I thought about it for just about a second, and said “sure”.   

I felt an immediate sense of relief. I felt so much better about splitting a room, not indulging all alone, and paying full price. That way, I wouldn’t have to pay the $15 for my package, too. I thought about it as I was checking in at the desk, In what world do you meet a total stranger and within a few minutes of meeting, decide to share a hotel room together in a totally platonic fashion? The anwer: in the thru-hiker world. I remember last year the same thing happened in Shasta. Prince and I had made it to a motel that had one giant room available, it slept like 8 people. It was 105F in the height of Summer and we needed A/C bad, so we took it. There were a couple other hikers who also needed a room and we had never met them before. In that 30 second conversation, we all decided to room together and share the cost. Done and done. It’s truly amazing! 

Carrot and I checked in, got our laundry started, took showers and went to dinner together. It was seamless, and I was so glad for not only her company, but to know that maybe I had a new trail friend. I felt pretty fortunate how it all worked out. Once again, the trail provides. We decided we would hike out together the next day after we ate breakfast and both finished writing our blogs, of course. Yes, someone who has the same priorities as me! She knew not then that her new trail name was about to become the Salami Zombie, but that’s another story.

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