Monday, September 14, 2015

PCT 2014, Day 131: Chilly Nights

(Sorry for the lapse in blog posts… the week really got away from me!)

DAY 131
September 2nd, Tuesday
2174 to 2195

We woke up very late the next day, since the sunlight took a long time to reach down into the creek’s little nook in the valley. We packed up quickly, but didn’t get on trail until 9:30. We plowed along into the cold but bright morning, determined to make miles today before the sun vanished behind the mountains.

We left the rainforest behind and walked through a drier wood along a ridge, but the sky overhead was blustery and whipped the wind and billowing clouds this way and that. 

We ran into Angry Bird that day, who was having the time of his life. He had taken a few zeros and was breezing through Washington, not in a hurry, soaking up the good weather. We paced him for a while, chatting, before he pulled ahead.

It’s amazing that I can remember so little about certain days— even when keeping a journal on trail, I left a blank spot because I was assuming my memories would return to me. My photos show dramatic valley shots of verdant mountains and low-hanging clouds, and I have a vague memory of spitting raindrops and patches of sun. Whatever we did that day, we managed to pack in a lot of miles.

I do remember the end of the day clearly: we were walking through the woods, which were dark not so much from time of day but because of the clouds blowing overhead, and we saw firelight ahead. Walking over a small ridge, we saw three guys around a massive bonfire on the side of the trail. It was Shrek, Angry Bird, and a guy named Ken. 

“Join the fire!” Angry Bird said. He was grinning, clearly in his element, while he and Shrek gathered logs the diameter of my thighs to throw on the fire. Ken, a kid about my age with a mop of blond hair, a blond goatee, a green long-sleeved shirt, and very short shorts, said hi. I didn’t remember seeing him before, but he reminded us that we had all gotten trail magic from Mountain Dog and Zippy back in northern California, and camped together that night.

We didn’t hesitate to join the fire, pulling up logs to sit on while nervously eyeing Angry Bird and Shrek. They took turns hurling a huge log onto the smaller logs to get them to snap, and Angry Bird nearly crushed his toes more than once. At last they had what they deemed sufficient fuel, and dumped it all on the fire. The flames leaped up, making the pine boughs above dance and creak in the heat. I eyed the sparks nervously, although it was hard to imagine anything in this mist-soaked forest catching on fire. We cooked dinner, set up camp, then joined them around the fire as a damp, chilly night closed in around us.

We began swapping stories, both from the trail and from back home. Angry Bird had grown up on a farm, and talked about how he and his brothers used to blow up stuff for fun. Ken talked about how his dad worked in the emergency field, responding to fires and farm accidents. Shrek talked about how he wanted to get his welding degree after the trail and work on the Alaska pipelines until he saved enough money to hike the Continental Divide Trail. 

We all talked and mused and laughed, listening to the trees creaking in the wind. A few raindrops splattered on us, prompting Shrek to try out his new rain gear: two garbage bags that he had fashioned into a poncho and rain skirt. But it didn’t actually start raining, and the fire blazed up.

As we sat in silence, listening to the eerie creaking of the trees in the wind, Angry Bird said, “It sounds like ents.”

“It does,” I said, smiling.

“Ants?” Shrek said in alarm, looking nervously up.

“Ents,” I said. “Like from Lord of the Rings? The tree people?”

“Oh, yeah. I thought you said ants.”

We talked for a long time that night, and like most conversations on trail, I can’t remember exactly what was said, but it was wonderful. The night was cool and windy around us, but the fire blazed warm and bright.

At last we decided that we should go to sleep, but the fire was far from out, and none of us wanted to give up our water to douse it. At last the three guys agreed to pee on it simultaneously, while I turned away and giggled hysterically.

It was very late, by hiker standards, by the time we crawled into our tent. But it was worth it. Besides, I was getting much more relaxed about deadlines— barring a catastrophe, we were going to get to Canada before the winter hit. And that was an incredible feeling.


1 comment:

  1. Have to admit, I'm hooked on your posts of your they-hike! Check every day for a new post...glad to be back on the trail! ;-)