Tuesday, August 25, 2015

PCT 2014, Day 122: A Long-Awaited Meeting

DAY 122
August 24th, Sunday
2067 to 2084.5

Today was the day! We had a mere 18 miles to walk today to reach Timothy Lake, where we were planning to meet Zach’s dad and sister, Gary and Ivy. We couldn’t help but wake up early in our excitement, but it was a little while before we were able to get on trail because Zach’s hips were so raw that he couldn’t put on his backpack. He cut out huge chunks of moleskin padding and stuck them to his hips to make it bearable.

We hiked down the side of a mountain, with the peak of Mount Hood before us, then sped through a typical northern Oregon forest: an open woodland of tall firs, fragrant with huckleberries and Oregon grapes. I found myself savoring the smells more than usual today, trying to draw them into my nose and let the memories to stick to them.

It was very important to Zach and me that we not go back to Portland at this point, even though it wasn’t far away and a lot of PCT hikers hitched there for a zero weekend. For both of us, Portland was the place we went when we were done— if we went to Portland, it meant that we were finished with the trail. So we were very glad that Gary and Ivy were able to come meet us at Timothy Lake, which was still luxurious enough to count as a break, while still being very close to trail. Our morale had been flagging for a while now— we wanted to make it as painless as possible to get back on the trail.

The terrain was super easy, so it was early afternoon by the time we came up to the junction of the Timothy Lake Trail, where we’d detour to reach the campground where we’d be staying three nights. 

We paused at the sign, and I took a picture of Zach next to it. This was a monumental moment, because this was the exact spot where Zach had first heard about the PCT. He’d been camping here with his family as a teenager, and came across the sign. Wondering what the Pacific Crest Trail was, he looked it up online and learned about this incredible trail that stretched from Mexico to Canada. He decided then that he wanted to hike it, and that idea stayed on the backburners of his head for a while. When he met me, he assumed that he’d have to give up that dream. Instead, his dream became mine.

And now here we were, standing where it all began. We had made it this far. It was an incredible feeling.

Also, this sign was funny.
We flew down the Timothy Lake Trail, skirting the edge of the lake and looking out at the peak of Mount Hood in the distance and tourists on boats, inner tubes, and the beach. We were much earlier than Gary and Ivy were going to be, so we loitered around a bit before making our way over to the reserved campsite.

It was a large campsite with a picnic table, a grill, and a nice view of the lake through some trees. We set up our tent and blew up our sleeping pads. Zach was wound up, but I took the opportunity to lie down. Soon I was drifting in a half-sleep, only dimly aware of the world around me. At this point in the trail, exhaustion was an almost-constant companion— my mind and body just chose to ignore it, or not.

In my half-asleep state, I heard a car pull up. As I surfaced, I heard Ivy yell, “Zach, you’re so hairy!” I unzipped the tent and jumped out, pulling on my camp sandals.

There were Gary and Ivy and their old Jack Russell Terrier, Jack. It had been seven weeks since we’d seen family— seven of the hardest weeks of trail, full of monotony, demoralization, pain, heat, fires, fear, and aching feet. I hugged them both, and the relief that washed over me was profound. Everything was going to be all right.

Gary began unloading food, and we saw that they had not underestimated our hiker hunger. From the party-sized bags of Skittles and piles of chocolate bars to the bags of bagels and cooler full of eggs and meat, we were set. Ivy had even thought of smaller details, like real pillows (with cotton pillowcases!) for us to borrow. Gary had also brought a huge bag of warm-weather clothing, both Zach’s and his, to see if we wanted any of it for the final stretch of trail.

At this point I was so happy that I would’ve cried if I had the mental energy. My whole body and mind let down, and I relaxed so deeply that I felt weak in the knees and incapable of social interaction. So I just sat and ate Skittles and petted Jack.

Gary and Ivy unpacked the car with little help from us, pulling out a gas grill and a massive seven-person tent, which they set up in surprisingly little time. Then we all decided to take a walk along the trail that loops around the lake.

We began walking (again, a strange motion without a backpack or trekking pole on), and talking. The lake was very sky blue, which a great view of Mount Hood in the distance. I was excited to think that we’d be climbing up to that mountain in a few days— our next resupply box was at Timberline Lodge.

Back at the campsite, Gary fired up the grill and made us a meal fit for hikers— steak and sausages! I hadn’t had steak in years upon years, and I was in the perfect carnivorous mindset to enjoy it like never before. We all sat around the picnic table and ate, Gary and Ivy being very amused by Zach’s and my worshipful attitude toward food.

We all sat around and talked, “filling in the corners” with chocolate and Skittles. There was so much to tell about the trail, it was impossible to know where to begin. Ivy pulled out a ukelele that she had bought and she and I sang hymns and songs together while Zach and Gary continued to talk.

It was long, long past “hiker midnight” by the time we said goodnight and crawled into our respective tents. I laid my head down on the cotton pillowcase, and when my cheek touched the soft material, a wave of euphoria swept over me with such intensity that I nearly cried. I vowed that I would never, ever taken cotton for granted ever again.

With pine boughs and wheeling stars above our heads and real pillows beneath them, we drifted off to sleep.


1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful description of an awesome day! Good on you two!!!