I wake up at 5:30 and then roll over and wake up again at nearly 8, when I am suddenly desperate to dig a hole. I dig in my pack for my trowel and then rush to the spot where I tied my Ursack to pull out my little baggie full of TP and hand sanitizer. I dig what I hope I will eventually remember as the sorriest cathole of the trail.
I meet another sobo thru while I’m eating my oats and protein powder out of a plastic bag. He’s on his way south again from the border. I introduce myself as Fledgling, which feels odd, but by the end of the day I’ll have done it several more times and more or less gotten used to it. One hiker gets really excited and shows me a video he took on his phone of a mama grouse and her baby, tells me he’s been seeing tons of fledglings on the trail.
I leave camp at 10ish, a bit ahead of J, who after meeting a few hikers going by trail names is willing to adopt the one I gave him: Backup. Last night I borrowed his backup headlamp ’cause I’d forgotten to lock mine and the battery had run down. As I write I am lying in my tent, pitched with his stakes. But I’ll get to that.
I hike for an hour or so by myself, stopping to chat with a few other hikers going the other way, before Backup catches up. The North Cascades continue to be just ridiculously pretty. We’re going up and down passes all day, but the PCT is graded for horses, so it’s mostly a lot of long but not very steep switchbacks. We go from rocky alpine slopes to meadows full of wildflowers to pine forest and back again a dozen times. We stop to filter water and eat something resembling lunch at a creek, and then keep on walking.
Sometimes Backup stops to take many photos of a mushroom or a bug, and I walk on ahead by myself for a bit. On one such stretch, I stop to pee and put down my pack on poop. I guess deer poop? We’ve been seeing deer all day, sometimes walking on the trail ahead of us. They turn and stare at us and let us get very close before bounding away.
Anyway, I’m peeing and I see this poop on my pee rag (which is usually clipped to the outside of my pack). So a few minutes later Backup comes around the corner and finds me desperately searching for the source of this mystery poop, which by now has shown up in small smears on two of my water bottles and on my arm. What the hell! It’s Backup who spots a whole chunk of it on my pack and solves the mystery. I clean everything up as much as I can and sanitize my hands probably a half dozen times. “I’m covered in poop!” I complain.
“In a couple months you’ll look back at this and be like, remember that time I thought being covered in poop was a big deal?”
I dunno, man. It’s pretty gross.
Still probably not the worst mistake I make today, though. We walk on (and on, and on) with our goal being a tent site at the top of Woody Pass, about eleven miles from the Canadian border. I am getting kinda tired and am having trouble convincing myself to eat, which means I’m also getting a little cranky. But then we emerge from pine forest into a beautiful meadow with rocky mountains rising up on every side, and, you know, would I really rather be at work?
Up till this afternoon, every “seasonal stream” identified in Guthook’s app has been flowing, but now we’re crossing dry stream beds and heading uphill and chances are we won’t see more water between here and camp. Instead we head towards one of the only patches of snow we’ve seen anywhere near the trail and melt some using Backup’s stove.
At camp half a mile up the trail I pull out my tent and realize like the proverbial anvil drop that I left my stakes, in their little oh-so-well-camoflagued earth-toned bag, at our tent site this morning. Sooo since my tent is the bigger, Backup and I are sharing it tonight, pitched with his stakes, and tomorrow night until we walk past that site again and I can hopefully pick them back up. Or else we’ll be sharing all the way to Stehekin and I’ll hopefully be able to pick up some new stakes there… though to be fair, I probably could use rocks.
I make a 1000-calorie dinner and manage to get it all down. “Which is the bigger accomplishment, walking 16 miles today or eating 1000 calories in one sitting?” I don’t know!
Tomorrow we’ll tag the border, and then we’ll be flying south.