We wake at six but it’s nine by the time we hit the trail. I’m more or less okay with this. I take my time eating my oats (cooked) and sipping some hot chocolate, then spend the last hour reading The Martian while Backup finishes getting his pack all packed. We’ve only got 17 miles to High Bridge, where we’ll catch the shuttle to Stehekin. If we manage an okay pace, we should get there in plenty of time.
The best part of the trail happens early today: lots and lots of thimbleberries! We race each other to the next patch with ripe berries, then realize our pace is slipping. From there it’s just walk walk walk, up and down but always at relatively low elevation, hot and dense trail. We do stop to admire a perfect bear print in a muddy patch on the trail — we can count the claws! And yes, by “stop to admire” I do mean “talk unnecessarily loudly for several minutes as we look this way and that while hiking.”
We take a bit of a break at the second-best part of the trail today, on a rare open slope with a stream cascading down it. There are big rocks to sit on, cold clear water to collect and filter, and four impressive runners to chat with, who ran from Rainy Pass to Stehekin yesterday and are running back to their cars today. There’s also a misguided butterfly convinced that my purple bracelet and purple hat are flowers and a little dude bird trying very hard to impress a lady bird nearby. The bird flaps his wings like crazy, chirping repeatedly, and every time his lady friend gets close, the chirping gets even more high-pitched and fast and urgent.
When we’re ready to move on, I stand for a few minutes in ankle-deep cold water in my shoes and socks. It feels fantastic.
But most of the day is just about covering ground, pushing through the bushy plants overgrowing the trail, and kicking up absurd amounts of dust. The last three or four miles are particularly difficult. I count down the last two thirds of a mile as though I were walking down the street to my apartment, noting landmarks on the way. I’m still several blocks away when the trail finally ends at High Bridge, a little sooner than expected. Whew!
We annex a picnic table while we wait for the shuttle that will take us to town. Shoes off, contents of our packs scattered everywhere. We wash our hands and feet with baby wipes. A group of day hikers joins us, and then the shuttle shows up — the other shuttle, en route to Stehekin Valley Ranch, which offers food and showers more immediately than the less clear options in town. Oh, all right. We hop on and rent a tiny cabin for the night.
I wear my hiking clothes into the shower to wash them, and go to dinner wearing just my skirt and still-smelly fleece. We chow down on veggie burgers and Backup eats four slices of pie. After dinner we get access to the little bit of wifi available, and I’m able to chat with my mom a bit. More laundry in the sink, reading, then bed. I mean, a real bed.
miles hiked: 110
blisters: zero! (though I do have a couple little hot spots after walking through every stream we passed today)
total calories consumed: probably not enough
total calories carried: 21,000
favorite gear: my fleece or my skirt or my spoon or my shoes or…
least favorite gear: my pack
favorite part of the trail so far: north of Hart’s Pass (Backup and I agree)
funniest day hiker comment: (to Backup) “Tell her she looks like an Athleta advertisement! She’s so cute!” (I guess it’s the skirt?)
showers taken: one
biggest food craving: orange slices!