Our tent is tucked back between some trees at the edge of the meadow, and I sleep better than I have the last couple of nights. I wake up when it’s light out at 5:30 and decide it’s much too early. I wake up again at 8. Whoops.
We eat breakfast in the meadow, standing in the sun. There are all kinds of creeks and streams up ahead, so when we leave camp at 9 we don’t carry a lot of water.
The trail straightens out and flattens, and for a lot of the day we’re just walking through the woods on what looks like an old double-track jeep road, with one track filled in with sticks and branches to encourage reclamation by the wilderness. We leave the Goat Rocks Wilderness and enter another with a permit box but no sign — when we leave it the next day we’ll see it was the Mount Adams Wilderness — of course.
I’m ready to go at the wilderness boundary before Ben is, and I walk ahead of him, past lots of blooming beargrass. Suddenly, I hear a loud noise in the woods to my left, and then a bear leaps onto the trail and gallops off ahead of me. 50 yards later, it leaps back into the woods and disappears. I’m standing there frozen but totally unafraid, watching it’s bushy haunches wiggle down the trail. Belatedly, I yell after it: “Have a good one, bear!”
Ben, behind me, thinks I’m talking to him and yells something back. I turn around and wait for him to catch up. “I saw a bear!!” I’m pretty excited.
The forest changes gradually as we get closer to Mount Adams. Huge chunks of black lava rock are piled up above the trail to our left. Soon we get to Lava Spring, where J. and I camped our last night on trail in 2015. We filter some water and continue on.
We cross a few rivers on little wooden footbridges, and stop at one for a break. I get a little antsy, though, when Ben finds and kills several tiny brown-red ticks. Before we walk on, we both pull down our shorts for a quick tick check. Ugh!
We stop for a longer break at super-pretty Killen Creek, where the water cascades down a rocky slope and wildflowers bloom everywhere and Mount Adams rises majestically above… but the mosquitos find us. Uuugghhhh.
We walk down some more flat, straight trail, and then we get some ups and downs, the trail weaving back and forth along rough contour lines. We’re on the lower slopes of Mount Adams now. It’s subalpine, with lots of lava rock and shortish, gnarled trees.
And then — Adams Creek. I remember this river from 2015 — we struggled to cross it. It pours down from the mountain, finding channels in a broad rocky drainage. It’s moving fast and it’s hard to tell how deep it is. In 2015, we managed to cross and then had two or three different people on the other side mention the log 100 yards upriver you could cross at. Any chance of something like that this year? There are no recent notes on Guthook. We pick our way up the bank a long ways, but it looks just as tricky up here. We pick our way back down, and try our luck downstream. I’m sure I’m going to get my feet wet, and that’s fine with me, but Ben is still hoping to turn off and head up one of the ridges on the mountain we can see above us, and he’d rather keep his (waterproof, non-draining) boots dry.
Eventually I choose a spot slightly downstream of the trail and cross the first of several channels. I probe the next with my trekking pole and then wade in. The water comes to nearly my knees, but I move slowly and place my feet carefully, and I’m actually feeling pretty good and confident. I judge poorly where to finish the crossing, though, and step (albeit with purpose and grace) into a hole where the water comes up to mid-thigh. I’m able to grab a big rock on the edge and pull myself out without much trouble, though. The next channel is easy to cross. I turn around to yell over the river to Ben. “Don’t cross there!” I probe a spot a tiny bit further downstream; it’s not more than knee deep. “Here would be good!”
I toss him one of my trekking poles, and he pokes around a bit. He eyes the rocky dry ground where I’m standing. “I’m gonna jump!”
This seems like a terrible idea to me, and I tell him so. I am imagining all the terrible things that could happen if he misjudges the distance (which is significant) or slips. I shake my head at him, but he goes for it. He makes it, barely, catching his balance and stepping forward onto dry land. I’m immediately emotional and upset, and I turn away from him.
“Do you wanna talk about that?”
We walk in silence for a few minutes, and then have one those it’s-not-really-about-that-is-it conversations you get to have sometimes if you’re lucky enough to be in a relationship with someone patient and emotionally intelligent and kind. Ben says he’ll walk with me to Trout Lake, and we talk about what that means.
We cross a few more creeks, though none quite so challenging. I love my shoes (Altra Lone Peak 3.5 Mid Mesh — my favorite Lone Peaks since the 1.5); they drain quickly and they feel great.
We get some lovely views of Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, and Mount Saint Helens. The mosquitos continue to doggedly pursue us, but they’re maybe a little better than yesterday. In any case, as long as we keep moving, I don’t feel the need to use my cedar branch “horse tail.”
We stop for the evening at a campsite below the trail, not far from a silty creek. We pitch the tent and rest for a bit before contemplating dinner — and the mosquitos swarm around the tent, collecting on the mesh doors, lying in wait. They were a little better today, but still pretty bad. A hiker we met today told us they’re even worse in Oregon. What have I signed myself up for? How am I going to do this? I’m not stubborn enough to do it just to do it. I want to have fun.
Well, guess I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.
Eventually, Ben gets dressed in a beekeeper outfit of sorts: his rain jacket and rain pants, my headnet and fleece gloves. He goes out to collect water and cook his dinner. I can’t stand the thought of being outside the mesh walls of the tent just yet; I hang out inside and read instead (Ancillary Justice — great space opera!). When Ben’s all done and it’s almost completely dark, I borrow Ben’s rain pants and don the bee suit myself. I cook dinner, do my camp chores, and crawl back inside to sleep.