What to say? The homestretch lays before me. I have completed another 250 miles over the past 10 days from Cascade Locks OR. I write from the apartment of two 2011 trail friends, Marmot and Roo, in Seattle. The weather held spectacularly well and the forecast remains excellent. My feet are in strong shape, my legs are hitting full stride, and the mountains get bigger and bigger. Thoughts cannot help but begin to drift back to my other reality, my other world in which I will too soon have to immerse myself again. But for now I look forward to the North Cascades and the last 265 miles.
The past ten days flew by. I had two days over 30 miles, one of which was 34.5, the other, on my birthday was 31 miles of perhaps the least spectacular section of Washington. In that though it was special, and you see, little tiny things we take for granted in ‘the real world’, on the trail can make one thankful indeed. It was a blessing indeed to camp at Trout Lake Creek and be able to take a dip in the evening and get the salt off my body, if not the dirt. A meal of dehydrated ground venison and home grown shiitake mushroom spaghetti with sauce grown of tomatoes of my father and sauce made by my mother hit the spot, and a dessert of Mountain House freeze dried raspberry crumble out of a bag served as a birthday cake extraordinaire.
The following day, with spectacular views of Mt Adams I had several miles of snow slogging, and camped in the alpine beneath the shadow of that massive volcano. The next morning pulling water from lava spring, truly a sacred site and I am sure a place visited by mankind as long as humans have been plodding through these hills, felt rejuvinating and humbling. Seeing boot tracks in the mud there right in the spring reminded me that we as ‘amplified’ humans in our modern world have a lot yet to which we remain deaf and blind. Who would tread through this spring? The water literally flows out of the tip of a massive lava flow into a beautifully built stone lined pool.
The goat rocks wilderness, the day after, proved to be in full bloom up on the knife ridge. What started as a day of ominous and serious looking cloud cover, turned out to be a sunny, warm, breezy day up in some of the most spectacular and difficult terrain I have seen since the Klamath of northern California.
Since then I have been ‘pouring it on’ as one rotund bearded old man sitting in his pick up truck in Cascade Locks said to me. I have been entertaining myself with that memory for days. He had asked me if I came up from Mexico. I said ‘yeah’, being a little cheeky as I didn’t say when I left Mexico. He said to me, “Boy! You’re really pouring it on!! We don’t usually see you all until September!” Since then whenever it starts to get late in the afternoon, maybe I have 20 miles done or so and want to get a few more before night fall I laugh to myself and say in his hearty deep voice, ‘whelp, time to pour it on!’
Yesterday, 22 miles from route 90 and Snoqualmie pass I was hungry. Every bit of my rations was neatly accounted for and every last bit was being rapidly consumed over those last 22 miles. I thought again of that big guy in that truck and imagined for a moment him and I sitting at a massive oak wooden table. In front of each of us stood a mountain of huckleberry pancakes, each with half a stick of butter melting rapidly at the summit. We each held a gigantic pitcher of maple syrup and…well… you know, we were getting ready to ‘pour it on!’
“Don’t I just wish” I laughed to myself as I stuffed another handful of dried blueberries in my mouth followed by another snickers bar (gone in two bites or less) On the wild foraging side of things the fertility of August is really starting to be felt. The huckleberries are starting to come ripe, the fire weed presents itself occasionally in mass as a staple wild vegetable, and the mushrooms pop up here and there. Alas though, no big oak tables stacked with pancakes out there in the woods.
However, Marmot and Roo have been spoiling me for the past 24 hours here in Seattle with every possible edible option they can come up with. They rolled me out of the restaurant last night painfully full. Hopefully I tucked some of those calories away somewhere on my sinewy frame for use at some point on down the line.
This land is becoming increasingly Cascadian. It is beginning to seem like land of the lost. Ferns abundant and massive grow beneath the giant hemlocks and firs. The air can go from clear and sunny to completely encased in a cloud in a matter of minutes. It rains here even if it ain’t. The fog can get so thick at night that the trees actually precipitate the moisture out of it and rain it down to the thick litter and duff layers beneath which in turn soak it in and slowly draw it down to the wanting roots beneath. One night I cowboy camped under a tree. Got wet. The next night I camped under the stars. Got dewed. This land is moist through and through.
As my friend Kevin would say, “these are elky days”. True enough. One morning, passing east of Mt Rainier I was on the trail before 6 am completely encased in fog and in a matter of minutes I came upon about a hundred elk down in a large meadow below the trail. I watched them for about a half hour as they stomped, bum rushed, bucked, and splashed in a recent ephemeral snow melt pond. The calves were kicking and having a hoot. It occurred to me that the elk perhaps even more than the hikers were all too happy to see the snow finally melting out. Everywhere the snow vanishes is not simply clear trail for them. It is food. Lush and green and coming up in a hurry.
All that said, the ten day forecast calls for fair weather, and that should be just about enough to get me to Canada. Praise be, and I will happily put up with the tree sprinkling and deep dewy mornings.
You know, about now I feel as though I could go for another 1000 miles or so. Crossing paths lately with the south bound thru hikers I cannot help but feel a bit jealous that they have so much trail ahead of them. They haven’t a clue yet how good they’ve got it.