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PCT day 16: satisfaction

The moon shines so enthusiastically into my tent that when I wake up in the middle of the night to pee, for a minute I think it’s a hiker’s headlamp at a nearby tentsite.

I wake up again when my alarm goes off at 6:30. I’ve slept well, but I snuggle back into my sleeping bag for a few more minutes anyway, until biological urgency gets me up and out of my tent. I pack up without eating breakfast and head out around 7:30, down towards Zigzag Canyon.

I cross the river (an easy rock hop) and then start heading up. Somehow last night I underestimated both the distance and difficulty of the trail between my campsite and Timberline Lodge. From here, it’s pretty much all uphill or loose sand… or both. The breakfast buffet is open until 10:30, but I want to have plenty of time to enjoy it. I’m going to have to push hard to make it by 9:30 — so I do.

I pass an obvious thru-hiker. I can’t quite describe what makes a hiker look like a thru — some combination of some of the following: small pack, probably from a cottage manufacturer; earbud in one ear; Altra shoes; Dirty Girl gaiters; button-front filthy shirt; beard. He asks as I pass, “sobo thru?”

“Just a section!” I answer, and we exchange “happy trails,” but I don’t stop to chat. Breakfast awaits!

The next two thru-hikers ask the same question. “PCT sobo?” At least I look like a thru-hiker. A day hiker compliments my skirt. “That’s badass.”

A mile and a half from the lodge, I put an earbud in and put on Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer for about the millionth time. My tummy is audibly grumbling; I can hear it even over the music and the crunch of my feet on the sandy trail. Then, a little less than a mile from the lodge, I get my first view of Mount Jefferson. “Django Jane” starts playing and I’m suddenly feeling totally thrilled and exhilarated, just fucking pumped to be right where I am (and, you know, close to breakfast). I run along the trail — like actually run — and soon I’m passing under ski lifts, and then there’s the path down to the lodge. I skip down it, my arms spread.

I walk in the first door I find and look around while my eyes adjust to the relative dimness inside. Then I beeline to the dining room. The host waves me in and sits me down, and only then do I realize that I should really wash my trail-filthy hands before I eat. I leave my pack and find the restroom, and then wander in a daze to the buffet. The first place my eyes fall is on the waffle iron, so I make a waffle and cover it in berry sauce, whipped cream, and maple syrup.

By the time I shuffle out of the dining room an hour later, I’ve eaten the waffle plus another half-waffle, a biscuit, a bunch of cheesy eggs, some melon and Greek yogurt, two small glasses of smoothie, and two big cups of decaf coffee with cream and sugar. I’ve maybe never been so simultaneously uncomfortable and completely satisfied in my life. My very sweet, very hiker-friendly server brings me a little glass full of a house-made digestif — apple juice, apple cider vinegar, molasses, brown sugar, and plenty of ginger. Oh, and a lodge guest asks me if I’m Anish! Hah — super flattering.

I walk maybe fifty feet out of the dining room and plop down in a comfy chair in the lobby near an outlet where I can charge my external battery and phone. I’m still there (and my external battery still isn’t fully charged) two and a half hours later. I do some blogging and a little reading, but mostly I just kill time. I do serve briefly as an exhibit for a ranger giving a tour of the lodge, a nice segue into his explanation of the PCT. Eventually I figure I should go pick up my resupply box, so I wander down to the Day Lodge.

I kill a few more hours sitting in the Day Lodge and chatting with a nobo thru-hiker, Snowman. Another hiker runs out to catch the bus to Government Camp. Oh hey, there’s a bus to Government Camp? I’d assumed I’d hike out today, but I could also maybe stay at the Reed ski cabin…

I can’t get ahold of the ski cabin manager, but at 4:40, five minutes before the last bus for three hours, I decide I’ll go see if there’s anyone there to let me in.

I’m in luck. I drop my pack inside the cabin gratefully (my new resupply weighs 12 pounds. Yikes) and walk to the general store, where I wander around like a kid in a candy shop, putting things in my basket. I’m just barely starting to feel the first inklings of hunger after my enormous breakfast. I decide on mac and cheese and a beer for dinner, and oatmeal with real milk and some fresh fruit for breakfast tomorrow.

Back at the cabin, I do laundry, eat, shower, and sit facing the window and listening to a current student play guitar on the porch. He’s playing the same music we listened to when I was in college: David Bowie, The Flaming Lips, Arcade Fire.

I have a little pain in my outside left ankle that’s made itself known in the past few hours. I find an ice pack in the freezer and ice it before I go to bed. Que sera, sera.

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