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PCT day 17: good day sunshine

I wake up early in the bunkhouse at Hiker Haven. I doze in my fluffy dry sleeping bag for a while, and then tiptoe outside with my food bag to re-sort it on the concrete patio where Cynthia, a nobo section hiker, and Ike, another sobo, are chatting and sorting through their own resupplies.

After my impromptu shopping spree at the convenience store in Skykomish yesterday, I have a ridiculous amount of candy for this section. This’ll probably be a bit of a pendulum swinging back and forth, I’m sure; all sweet for one section, and then all I’ll want for the next will be savory and salty snacks. 

At ten we all pile into Jerry’s truck — me, Backup, Cynthia, Ike, and one more sobo, Wallace — and drive into Sky for breakfast at the Cascadia Inn. Eggs, potatoes, toast, homemade apple butter, and the thickest, fluffiest pancake I’ve ever eaten. 

After breakfast we all go our separate ways. The other hikers have errands to run and relaxin’ to do and are taking a zero at Hiker Haven. Backup and I hang out outside the inn for a while; Backup repacks his pack (one of his favorite pastimes) while I call my folks. 

An hour later we walk to the post office so Backup can mail a few more things home; the woman who works there, just like everyone else in this town, is just about the friendliest person you’ve ever met. 

An hour after that, we walk across the bridge and stop to pet an adorable eight-week-old puppy whose owner turns out to be the mayor. We walk to the deli, where Backup gets a sandwich and I get a milkshake. While we’re sitting on the porch outside, a bike tourer pulls up and I just have to ask him about his trip — he started in Daytona, Florida, rode up to Bar Harbor, Maine, is on his way to Seattle now, and plans to ride from there to San Diego and then back to Florida. Awesome!

I’m definitely thinking of my TransAm ride more on this hike than I have in a while. Bike touring is such a great way to travel. But today’s the first day I’ve really experienced what people mean when they say the PCT is a community. I’m not sure anything I experienced on the TransAm really quite compares. It’s about a critical mass, maybe. I didn’t think I’d get it as a sobo. But we’re starting to run into people more than once and collect bits of their stories, you know? I like it. 

So yes, town has been great. But even still — I am relieved to find that I’m feeling a bit antsy to get back on the trail. The deli loans us their pre-made perfect hitchhiking sign: PCT HIKER NEEDS RIDE TO STEVENS PASS. We wave it around, smiling at drivers, until a woman pulls a u-turn to pick us up. She and her son are driving home from visiting her mom, and the windows are down, Fleetwood Mac on the stereo. They drop us off and wish us well, and we head in to the coffee bar for one last check of our food and one last flush toilet before we hit the trail. 

We hike lazily, stopping to pick blueberries and huckleberries. We meet a trio of older day hikers who’ve been berry-picking and have the stained hands and huge smiles to prove it. I feel so much happier with the sun shining, I don’t even care that the milkshake I drank before we left town isn’t sitting very well. Everything is better in the sun. We fill Backup’s cup with berries as we go, underneath the ski lifts of the Stevens Pass ski area, up to the top of one lift and then down the other side. We make camp less than five miles in, just about far enough to be out of sight of ski lifts and powerlines, next to a small lake, and eat the whole cup of berries for dessert after dinner. 

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