In the morning, I ask Ben to look at my eye. “Does it look weird? It feels like there’s something in it I can’t get out.”
“Yeah, it’s definitely swollen,” he says. I put my phone camera in selfie mode and peer at it. The eyelid is swollen and drooping slightly. Ah — there’s a mosquito bite right on the outside corner of my eyelid. Goddamnit.
I don’t cook breakfast; I don’t want to be outside. I eat a bar instead. Ben wears the bee suit and cooks for himself. The mosquitos are awful this morning. We pack up and head back up to the trail. I’m wearing my leggings and my rain jacket — it’s hot, but if I don’t keep the mosquitos off my shoulders I’m gonna end up throwing an embarrassing tantrum. I’ll sweat instead. It’s really hot, though, and eventually I can’t stand that either. Which is the lesser of two evils?
We climb up into a pretty, old burn that we’ll hike through for a big chunk of today. After an initial gentle 400-foot climb, the rest of the day is pretty much all downhill or flat. We get lots more pretty views of Rainier, Adams, and Saint Helens, and eventually the trail drops down into thicker, darker, greener forest.
We pass a PCTA trail crew and make a bit of conversation with a group of women who identify bunchberry and queen’s cup for us — two of the many species of wildflower we’ve seen. Soon, we hit the wilderness boundary, and then a dirt road, and then a river with a wooden footbridge, and then — Road 23.
I’d called the Trout Lake Grocery Store 7 miles back when I’d had a little signal to arrange a room for the night, but I hadn’t wanted to arrange a ride to town since we weren’t sure how long it would take us to finish the last bit of trail. There’s no signal at the trailhead, though, so we set off south down the road. It’s sunny and hot, but eventually my phone gets enough signal to get through to Doug, a trail angel who says he can come pick us up in 40 minutes. Just a minute later, a truck pulls over — they don’t have space for us, but they offer us a cold orange soda, which I gratefully accept. We walk a bit further and find a tiny shady spot, where we settle down to wait.
Doug pulls up in his green pick-up a little later, and we head to town. I love Trout Lake. Ben gets lunch and a huckleberry shake with me and then walks to the junction with a cardboard sign reading “OREGON.” Later he’ll tell me he hitched to Carson, where he caught a bus to Portland.
I hang out, sort through photos, fight with the WordPress app, work on my blog. I also buy some bug spray and place an order for a permethrin-treated shirt and a pair of mesh pants, which I’ll pick up in Portland after this next section. Just gotta get there. It is what it is. Doug said a northbound hiker told him: “Oh, it was so fast! There were so many mosquitos, they basically picked me up and carried me!”
I do laundry, take a bath, cook some dinner on a picnic table outside, then go to bed.