Monday, December 14, 2020

Day 84: The Magical Land of Vampires and Werewolves

September 1: I hit the trail at a relatively early 7:30 in the morning. I was anxious to get an early start today because I intended to reach the small town of Forks. I was going to check into a hotel, take a shower, eat some food that I hadn't been carrying on my back for over a week, and relax. And the sooner I hit the trail, the sooner I'd get into town.

Sunrise over the Bogachiel River.

I would have liked to leave even earlier than I did except I was losing daylight at a rapid rate. When I started the trail, I often started hiking close to 7:00am, but it was now too dark for me to take photos that early in the morning and 7:30 was realistically the earliest I could start.

The trail out was generally in good condition. A landslide had clearly required a trail reroute that caused a couple of areas to head up and down a very steep section--so steep, that someone had set up ropes to help hikers along. It wasn't particularly problematic, but it made me a little nervous whenever the trail passed next to a steep cliff by the riverbank. It didn't matter if I was at the top of the cliff or the bottom--they both made me nervous. At the bottom, I worried the cliff would collapse and bury me. At the top, I worried it would collapse and I'd fall dozens of feet to my death! But the ground was largely dry and solid, so the risk of a collapse seemed low.

I was now hiking through the Bogachiel rain forest--an area that gets up to 10 feet of precipitation each year. That's a heck of a lot of rain, but happily, the weather was clear and sunny. But very little of the sun reached the forest floor through the thick canopy.

The trail finally left Olympic National Park and headed into Bogachiel State Park. If there wasn't a sign to mark the boundary, I'd have never known there was a boundary. As I approached the trailhead, however, the trail did widen as if it got more usage. But I never saw anyone. I saw no tents of hikers camped along the route either.

It wasn't until I reached the trailhead when I finally saw someone. I took a snack break and was laying out on a grassy patch on the ground when a pickup truck drove up. It stopped, and I could see a couple of people inside, but they didn't get out. About 5 minutes later, the truck started up again and drove off. Those were the first people I had seen in nearly 30 hours. There was another vehicle in the parking lot, but it was empty. I figured the owners were probably camped somewhere along the PNT, maybe off on a side trail and that's why I didn't see them when I hiked out. It definitely wasn't a popular trailhead, though!

This trailhead marked the beginning of my road walk.

After my break, I had a long road walk to reach the intersection with Highway 101. The road was primarily gravel at first, following alongside the Bogachiel River, until I hit a dead end where a large sign marked that the road was closed. A few years earlier, it seems, the Bogachiel flooded and destroyed the road ahead. It wasn't marked on my maps nor on the route I had loaded into my GPS--I guess they hadn't been updated since the floods--so I followed a bypass mostly by "feeling" my way through. It's not like the were a lot of gravel roads to get lost on.

But I wasn't happy about the extra mile or two the detour added to my hike. Especially so since most of the road was exposed to the sun and it was a very hot day. I sweated bullets hiking up the hillside.

The roads eventually led me back down to the main road, although at this point, the road was paved and a bit more busy than the gravel roads I had followed before.

I followed the paved road a few more miles until it intersected with Highway 101--a super busy (and paved) road.

The PNT led south along the highway for 0.9 miles, but the town of Forks was north about 5 or 6 miles. Not wanting to walk that far into town, I did what I always do this situation: I stuck out my thumb and started hitchhiking.

Forks, for those of you not familiar with it, historically was a big logging town. It was one of those down-on-your-luck towns that had been in decline for quite some time and was largely unknown outside of Washington state, until a little book called Twilight hit the bookshelves. The setting for the books was this very town because vampires liked the lack of sunlight. Vampires, if you didn't know it, sparkle in sunlight and to blend in with the population, they need cloudy and rainy days. And Forks is famous for having like 10 days of sun each year. (Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but the town doesn't get a lot of sunny days.) And the werewolves hang out here, because that's where the vampires they keep an eye on are located. 

And nowadays, Forks has a bustling Twilight fan base that has put Forks back on the map.

I didn't know how difficult it would be to hitch a ride into town during this time of coronavirus. I figured it didn't help that I wasn't obviously near a trail. Most people driving by would just assume I was some, strange homeless person trying to get a ride. The PNT isn't particularly well-known, even among those who live close to it.

I await a ride to take me into the small of Forks.

But in any case, I stuck out my thumb and started trying to hitch. My plan to was give myself about a half hour to an hour trying to hitch a ride then, if that didn't work, I'd try to call for an Uber or Lyft. (I did get cell phone coverage now that I was on Highway 101.) And if that didn't work.... then I'd start the long walk into town. I really didn't want to walk into town, though. I had already hiked 16.5 miles to get here, it was hot, I was tired, and the road was awful. No, I definitely didn't want to walk if I could help it.

Car after car whizzed by without even slowing down to check me out. I tried showing a little leg, but it didn't help.

About a half hour later, I finally gave up and pulled out my phone to call for an Uber or Lyft--and a guy in a pickup truck pulled up to a stop next to me. Awesome! 

He had rolled the window down and I looked in and saw an older gentleman puffing away at a cigarette.

Ugh..... But beggars can't be choosers.

He had some stuff on the passenger seat--mostly empty cigarette packs--which he threw off onto the floor, then spent about 20 seconds wiping crumbs off from whatever he had eaten before. While he was doing this, I checked him out closer. He had a classic redneck look. Clearly a Trump supporter too--not to say that all rednecks are Trump supporters or that all Trump supporters are rednecks, but I'm pretty sure that only avid Trump supporters would wear a Trump hat like he did!

But it was really the cigarette that almost made me not get in the vehicle, until I remembered that I had a mask and maybe it wouldn't be so bad. It was only a 5 or 6-mile ride to Forks, after all.

The man wasn't wearing a mask--nor would I have expected to see him wearing one in his own vehicle--but I held up my mask and asked if he preferred if I wore it. I kind of assumed he would--why not? There was no downside for him! Then he said that he didn't care--he thought masks were stupid and he only wore them when he went shopping and such because they were required, but he didn't like them even then.

I put the mask on wondering if he'd take offense, but he didn't seem to care. It definitely helped filter the cigarette smoke from the air I breathed, though, so it definitely served a purpose for me! He went on more about the coronavirus and I got the impression he didn't take it very seriously at all. Probably another good reason for me to leave my mask on. It seemed likely that he would happily put himself into high-risk situations where he could contract the virus.

As we started the drive into town, I told him that I was hiking the PNT and glad to be getting into town, and joked about having to watch out for "vampires and werewolves."

He didn't seem to think my joke was very funny. I'm not sure if that's because he didn't have a sense of humor or if it was because he had already heard the joke a hundred times before.

But, instead of just not laughing, he went one further. "You have to watch out for those beaners." 

I wasn't sure I heard him right. "Beaners?" 

"Yeah, Mexicans. They're everywhere. You used to see lots of loggers back in the day, but now you just see a lot of beaners!"

Wow, and racist too. We have a real winner here. It was very kind of him to stop and pick me up, but I had a feeling that he wouldn't have been so kind if I looked like a Mexican.

I decided to change the subject. "So where's a good place for a burger in town?"

He mentioned a restaurant that he used to go to years ago, but he doesn't go there much anymore because it's full of beaners now. "I'm single, live by myself, and mostly eat TV dinners as meals," he explained. He seemed a little bitter about his place in life.

Coming into town, he slowed down by the restaurant that he mentioned and pointed it out, but it was obviously closed for the day. In these small towns, stores are often closed one or two days each week, and I guess today was the day that one was closed. Or maybe they just opened for lunch and had already closed for the day. In any case, the restaurant clearly wasn't open at the moment.


My hotel was on the far side of town, however, so I probably wouldn't have walked this far to get food here anyhow. He suggested another burger place further into town, Sully's Burgers, which turned out to be directly across the street from the Far West Motel where I had planned to stay the night. Perfect!

He pulled over at the motel. I looked around, making sure that there weren't any vampires or werewolves lurking nearby, then stepped out. I was probably safe from vampires and werewolves today. There wasn't a cloud in the sky! Bright sunlight spilled across the town. I'd be able to spot a vampire from a mile away in this weather.

I left my mask on since I had to enter the lobby of the motel to check in. If I was at risk of a vampire attack, this was where it would happen. The lobby was surprisingly dark--at least compared to the bright sunlight outside.

So I checked in, got my room, and first thing I did was strip off and take a shower. Oh! Glorious hot water! 

Afterward, I got online with my phone. I didn't have a laptop to work on. I was in town for only one night, and I knew I'd be arriving late in the day and that I'd have to leave early the next morning, so it seemed pointless to send my laptop here for such a short stop. I'd have loved to taken a zero day to relax, but alas, my permit system did not allow for it. I had left Olympic National Park and was no longer bound to where I could camp, but I would re-enter the park near the Pacific coastline and I still had a permit for that portion of the hike that I needed to abide by. I wasn't able to work in a zero day for Forks based on campsite availability ahead. This resupply stop was a meant to be an overnight and that was about it.

But I could still check some email and messages and make sure everything was running well on my websites from my phone, even if I couldn't write lengthy messages or fix bugs. So I did that for awhile, making sure everything was still running well.

I put on my camp clothes--the cleanest clothes I had--then headed across the street to fill up at Sully's Burgers--which was absolutely wonderful. Their tables inside were closed off due to the coronavirus, but there were some tables outside I could use to eat my late lunch (and early dinner).

Sully's Burgers

I emptied my backpack of all of its gear, then filled it with a bag of toxic laundry to take to the laundromat. Both the laundromat and supermarket were on the other side of town, maybe a mile away. I wasn't happy about having to walk an extra mile (one way!) for these important services, but I definitely needed them. They weren't optional!

So I hoofed it through town, amused all at of the Twilight references I could spot along the way. Even a pharmacy got in on the fun with a sign pointing the way to "Bella's first-aid station."

I arrived at the laundromat and pulled the door to open it, but it didn't open. So then I tried pushing the door, but it didn't budge. What? I remember when we drove past it, I noticed the location and that the laundromat's open sign was on. Why couldn't I get in?

I looked around a bit when I spotted the hours and it showed a closing time of 5:00pm. What?! What kind of laundromat locks its doors at 5:00?! I had arrived at 5:15. Curses! My well-laid plans had been thwarted! I was absolutely flabbergasted that they had closed at 5:00. Even if I immediately went here upon arriving in town, I don't think I'd have had time to wash and dry my clothes before the laundromat would have closed. 

Shoot. This sucked.

The sign with the hours looked like they had been written in by hand and I wondered if the laundromat had gone to reduced hours due to the pandemic. What are working stiffs with 9-to-5 jobs who need a laundromat supposed to do?

Dejected, I continued carrying my toxic clothing to the supermarket. The store's shelves, I was surprised to find, were remarkably empty. I know when the pandemic started, we had a lot of bare shelves in the supermarkets, but those supply problems had largely ended. This supermarket seemed like it was still suffering from shortages, and I found it surprisingly difficult to find the kinds of food I wanted for the rest of my hike.

They did have some small packets of Tide used to wash clothes in a sink, though, and I grabbed one of those. I'd definitely need it!

I bought everything I needed, then walked back to the motel where I spent a half hour washing my nasty hiking clothes in the bathtub. I wrung out the clothing as best I could, then hung them up around the room to dry.

I relaxed for much of the evening watching YouTube videos--I had fallen behind while on the trail--and downloaded more Netflix shows to watch later on the trail, and eventually headed off to sleep. The end of another interesting day!

The Bogachiel rain forest gets over 10 feet of precipitation each year, and it felt like walking through a primordial forest at times!

The Bogachiel River

Some of the steep sections of trail had a rope to help hikers get up and down safely.

Both my maps and GPS wanted me to continue down this road, but it was clearly closed! So I'd have to follow a bypass instead.

The last part of the day's hike was along this paved road.

The road down below is Highway 101--and the PNT intersects with it then turns left. I'll hitch off the road at the intersection, but tomorrow I'll be walking along that bottom road.

My campsite for the night--the Far West Motel! And without a vampire in sight!

Even the wooden carving at Sully's Burgers was wearing a mask. Very appropriate for the times! =)

No comments: