Monday, January 24, 2011

Snoqualmie Pass or Bust!

Noga tries to stay dry under her tent as I start my hike.
September 8: The rain finally stopped by morning, but the clouds continued to look menacing. I didn't want it to rain on me during the day, but I wasn't too concerned if it did. I was getting off the trail. No matter what the weather did, I would be spending the tonight indoors, under a roof, warm and dry. And the sooner I hit the trail, the sooner I could get off at Snoqualmie Pass to warm up and dry out.

Noga was still in her tarp when I left, not even close to being ready to leave. She was awake--I could hear her moving around--and wished her a good morning as I left.

And it started raining almost immediately upon my hitting the trail. Darn it! Stupid rain. What was WRONG with the weather? September is supposed to be a beautiful month for hiking in the Pacific Northwest!

About an hour later, I reached Stampede Pass, named for a horrible prank involving pizza and a large group of thru-hikers. Just kidding, I have no idea how the pass got its name, but I'm sure there's an equally good story behind it. =) There I ran into "Phil's Dad"--that's a trailname as well as a description. He set up a rain/sun tarp and a grill to cook hot chili and hot dogs and offered muffins, and drinks to passing thru-hikers. It was a trail angel. I wasn't particularly hungry--I had breakfast just an hour before--but he had hot food on this cold, miserable day not to mention a tarp to keep the rain at bay. It would likely be the only dry place to stop until Snoqualmie Pass, so I stopped and talked to Phil's Dad for the next hour.

Phil's Dad
Phil's Dad, as you might have guessed, is the father of a fellow named Phil. Phil thru-hiked the PCT the previous year, and Phil's Dad had come out to Stampede Pass for a little trail angeling the year Phil hiked the trail, and liked the experience so much, he started making a regular habit of it. He had just arrived mere minutes before I did and was still setting things up when I arrived, and asked if I knew how many hikers were behind me.

The only person I knew without a shadow of a doubt that was close behind me was Noga, but I knew there were quite a few others still behind me.... somewhere.... Just Dave couldn't have been too far back considering that we left White Pass together. And a couple of the hikers I passed the day before but I didn't know probably weren't far behind either. How far behind, though, I didn't really know. Noga, I told him, could walk in at any minute. After that.... it was fuzzier.

And I told him a little about Noga--she was from Israel, and if you really wanted to surprise her, when she does get here, tell her, "Boker tov!" =) Then mentioned that she was planning to get off the trail at Rainy Pass--a mere 60 miles from the Canadian border. She had told me this the day before. There was a wedding for someone in her family that she absolutely would not miss, and part of the reason for her long miles through Oregon was to finish the trail and still have time to fly back to Israel for the wedding. At some point, she realized that she was not having fun anymore, rushing to make as many miles as she could, and slowed down to a more comfortable hiking pace that meant she would not reach the Canadian border in time. And came to accept the fact that she would quit the trail a mere 60 miles from the end. From Mexico to Rainy Pass. About 2,600 miles, and deliberately quit with just 60 miles left to go.

The rain was coming down really hard when I passed
by Mirror Lake. Not very mirror-like today!
I don't think I could do that. I'd probably miss my own wedding before giving up a thru-hike being so close to the end. Whoever it was that was getting married--I can't imagine they have any idea what Noga was giving up for them. But Noga seemed at peace with her decision. But wow, I'd never heard of anyone deliberately choosing not to complete a thru-hike while so close to the end before. It's unusual and impressive.

I lingered with Phil's Dad for about an hour, eating the hot chili, a couple of hot dogs, a muffin, and drinking a Coke. I kept stalling, hoping the rain would let up and I could continue hiking without the rain, but it didn't let up. The punishing storm continued. I finally wrenched myself away, just as Noga arrived. I welcomed her to this little bit of paradise with a Boker tov! then continued my march. Snoqualmie Pass, here I come!

The rest of the hike was miserable. Even when the rain did stop for a few minutes, the tree snot did not. In many places, water ran down the trail like it was a creek bed--just like it did in the High Sierras. The trail crossed one small creek five times for no discernible reason, and assumed that the person who routed the trail just hated hikers. There's no other logical explanation for it.

I pulled out my cell phone and Peek device and put them in an inside pocket, and about three miles before I reached Snoqualmie Pass, I felt the Peek vibrating. I had mail! I didn't bother pulling that out first--first I pulled out my cell phone to see if it too had a signal, which it did. YES! I called Amanda, hoping she was in Seattle. I didn't know Amanda's schedule, and most of the time, it didn't really matter. Whether she was in London or Philly, it made no difference--she wasn't around. But if she was in Seattle, Snoqualmie Pass was only about an hour's drive away. She could visit! If, that is, she was actually IN Seattle and not jetting around the countryside for work. =)

So I called Amanda, and she answered the phone, and she was in Seattle! Sweet! "Feel like driving out to Snoqualmie Pass to pick me up?" She was delighted to do so. =) I told her that I estimated it would take me about an hour to reach Snoqualmie Pass, and she figured it would take about an hour to drive there from Seattle. We weren't sure who'd arrive first--it was too close to call--but we could meet at the Chevron there. I had sent a maildrop to the Chevron and needed to stop there anyway. I sent food to myself at Snoqualmie Pass from Cascade Locks since I wasn't certain if I'd see Amanda or get a ride into civilization at the time. Now that I knew I'd be seeing Amanda, the maildrop wasn't really necessary anymore. But it was there--may as well grab it! =) So we agreed to meet at the Chevron at Snoqualmie Pass, in about an hour.

It took me about an hour and fifteen minutes to reach Snoqualmie Pass--a little slower than I expected, but Amanda must have had the same problem because I saw a green Subaru get off at the I-90 offramp that looked suspiciously like Amanda's. I pulled out my cell phone and called Amanda.

"Was that you I just saw getting off of I-90?" I asked. "Because if it was, I wouldn't mind if you gave me a ride the rest of the way to the Chevron." =)

It was her I saw pulling off of the highway. The Chevron couldn't have been more than a tenth of a mile off the PCT--certainly walkable, but why bother when your girl has a car nearby? =)

I could hear the roar of traffic from I-90 through
those clouds. Snoqualmie Pass was near!
She drove me up the rest of the way to the gas station, and I went in to ask about my maildrop. The guy directed me into the back of the store, and told me to walk into the cooler next to the sodas where I'd find my maildrop. Into the cooler? I opened the glass door and stepped in. It wasn't very cool in there, though. It was either broken or turned off--not sure which--and none of the shelving or anything was in the way. It was still kind of weird back there, though, and boxes of maildrops were stacked like a giant game of Jenga. I found my box, which I brought back to the counter for the fellow to verify that I was the proud owner of this maildrop, then Amanda drove me home. Home, sweet, home! =)

I'd never gone home during a thru-hike before. It almost felt like cheating. =)

But wow, what a mess! With the sale of the house in North Carolina, Amanda started sending boxes of stuff to our little place in Seattle and it was piled high with boxes of... I don't know what all those boxes had, actually. There wasn't even any room on the bed for me to sleep. But I didn't care, I was just glad to be home for the night. =) Not camping. Not in a hotel room. Home!

I showered, got on the computer, and Amanda made spaghetti and garlic bread for us for dinner. Delicious!

And I told Amanda that I could quit the trail. I had nothing to prove, and I looked up the weather forecast which called for rain for the next TEN days! "I don't want to hike in the cold, wet rain for the next ten days!" And what the hell was wrong with the weather anyhow? This was September! It's not supposed to rain for ten consecutive days until the depths of winter!

There it is! The ski area at Snoqualmie Pass!
I'm almost off this rain-soaked trail! =) And I-90 passing
just behind the buildings. Where are you, Amanda?!
I looked for her waving at me, but didn't see her anywhere...
My threats to quit the trail were a joke--of course I couldn't quit so close to the end, now only about 200 miles and less than two weeks away. However, I was very tempted to take a couple of days off the trail for better weather conditions. My goal, when I started the trail, was to finish by the end of September. I was on track to finish 9 days before then. I could take several zero days and still make it by the end of September. Trading a few rainy days for a few sunny days seemed worth the effort. Yeah, I could do that.

Amanda had to go to work the next evening, so if I did take a couple of days off, I'd have to arrange my own transportation back to Snoqualmie Pass. I could hitchhike. Check, I could even walk there if I had to! But Amanda told me no, she only had a few days available to pick me up at the end in Canada, and she really wanted to be there for the end. I was absolutely not allowed to take any zero days. Nope, no, and not going to happen. She'd throw me out at Snoqualmie Pass whether I liked it or not. "But why do you hate me so much!" I whined. She didn't hate me, though. I had simply come too far to quit, she she knew that as well as I did. =)

If only the lifts were running, I could have rode them the rest of the way down
to Snoqualmie Pass! =) They do put ladders on those poles for a reason, right?


Kristin aka Trekkie Gal said...

You went HOME??? Cheater cheater cheater!!!! :D

Anonymous said...

Doesn't sleeping at home count as ending the journey? Not so sure this qualifies as a "thru-hike" anymore. Of course, running a marathon is as close to a "thru-hike" as I know so I don't get a vote. Bravo to Amanda for throwing you back out there before you got soft!

DC Stones

Ryan said...

My journey ends every day I stop to sleep. However, I always restart the journey again the next morning when I wake up. This is no exception! =)

- Ryan

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

haha! I had to laugh reading about how you weren't at all hungry when showing up for the trail magic, and soon afterwards you were then feasting on all sorts of grub.
My perceptions of thru-hikers always being hungry was spot-on. :-D

Amanda sure was nice to you going out of her way to pick you up and then take you all the way back to the trail again.

Sounds like Washington was just showing you it true colors.....grey and wet! ;-)

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers