September 6th, Saturday
2252.9 to 2277
As was becoming a bad habit, we woke up late that day. We sluggishly packed up in the freezing air, and oozed onto the trail with sore feet and little motivation. It was so hard to keep walking.
I felt cheerful for a while, but as my blood sugar flagged, I found myself in a vortex of negative thoughts. Soon Zach and I were snipping and snapping at each other, until Zach declared that we were stopping at this creek for an early lunch. He cooked a full meal while I moodily wrote in my diary.
“We are both super tense. I just want this stupid trail to be over. I miss everyone back home. I miss having a sink and vegetables and friends. This trail, however beautiful, just kind of sucks after a certain point. I cannot wait to be done so we can go home.”
Then I closed my diary and sat in silence next to Zach, looking at the sunlight dancing on the water. He handed me a bowl of pasta and I ate sulkily. After several minutes I felt the carbs working their way into my bloodstream, filling up my system, tinging the color of my attitude in a cheerier light. I didn’t feel like slogging anymore— I wanted to bust out some miles.
Soon, we were doing just that. Zach and I flew along the trail, past huckleberry bushes and under firs, up switchbacks and down again, with Rainier growing steadily closer. We talked about what tomorrow would bring— we’d be coming up on the Goat Rocks. On one hand we dreaded it because of our fear of heights, but on the other, we’d heard it was one of the most beautiful sections of the whole trail.
Now we delved into a dense, dark woodland, draped with lichen and moss, giving off a delightfully spooky air. As we walked, I suddenly pulled up short, grabbing Zach’s shoulder. “Look,” I whispered, pointing at an overhanging tree branch.
Perched in the twilight of this spooky woodland sat a large barred owl. It was mostly gray, streaked with black, with a round gray faced edged by a black ring of feathers. Its coal-black eyes stared at us curiously. We watched each other for a while, then he spread his round wings and noiselessly took off into the forest. Broken from the trance, we sped along the trail again.
After a long time of walking quickly, we stalled out in a valley, looking for camping, but decided to go on just another mile or so. However, we soon found ourselves walking along a steep huckleberry-clad mountainside with nowhere to camp. We aimed for the next marked camping and hoped it wouldn’t be full.
When we reached the little stream with ample flat ground nearby, we saw that it was packed, both with PCT hikers and weekend hikers (you could always identify the latter because their tents were huge). We felt proud of ourselves for walking 24 miles in pretty rough terrain!
We wandered up onto a little plateau full of campers, trying very hard not to offend any of the weekend hikers. At last we asked some campers if we could set up next to them. “Of course!” the dad said. “The earth is for everyone to share!”
Smiling, we chatted with them as we set up between two huckleberry bushes. It was a dad and his daughter and her son, hiking a fifty-mile section, including the Goat Rocks tomorrow.
We ate mashed potatoes for dinner, then gathered a cupful of huckleberries to stir into tomorrow morning’s oatmeal. It was dark, and the stars were out, before we crawled into our tent, with the rainfly on to hold in the heat. Our sleeping bag was better insulated now that we’d washed it, but still, it was a freezing night. Tomorrow we’d tackle the Goat Rocks, and I was both nervous and excited. I huddled in my jacket, half on top of Zach, and shivered myself to sleep.