Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Day 133: Heaven in Whitehall

August 31: I woke up and hit the trail at what I thought was about 7:00am, but when I checked the time upon setting out I was shocked to see that it was already 7:20am. How did that happen?! Where did the extra 20 minutes go? I never did find out....

The morning was really smoky! It turned the sunrise into a very reddish sun.

The first 1.5 miles of the day, I followed trails--real trails!--through Lewis and Clark Caverns SP, more-or-less parallel to the highway I had been following. It was a bit more rugged with ups and downs, and with the twists and turns, the trail added an extra half mile to my day's hiking, but it was also on actual trails which was a huge improvement over walking along the highway so it was a no-brainer for me.

The rest of the day was just one long road walk. Highway 2 eventually led into the small town of Cardwell, which had a very nice gas station convenience store that I hit up for a cold drink and a couple of snacks. The sky had been very smoky all morning--much much worse than anything from yesterday--and the clerk behind the counter confirmed that a new wildfire had broken out somewhere nearby the day before. He wasn't exactly sure where, but that was where all the smoke had been coming from.

Out of Cardwell, I continued my road walk--passing an old campsite for Lewis and Clark. According to Google Maps, the campsite was located just north of where the trail crossed under I-90, just outside of town. Highway 2 then turned into Highway 69, which followed parallel to I-90 the rest of the day on my way into Whitehall.

Reaching I-90 was a milestone of sorts for me. The western end of it ends right in Seattle. I was just one road away from Seattle! If I wanted to quit the trail, this would be an excellent place to do it. Some of the motorists passing by might even be on their way to Seattle and I was just one long hitch from home.

But I had no intention of stopping my hike. I was too close to the end! I had to keep going, and going I did.

Interstate 90 had 80 mph speed limits.

I arrived into Whitehall at around noon and found the town hall where, allegedly, hikers were allowed to camp. I poked my head in and saw a young woman manning (womanning?) the front desk, and I asked about the rumors that hikers could stay there....?

She said yes, absolutely, and asked me to wait a moment while she got the mayor to give me a tour.

Mayor Mary showed me around the place. The town hall used to be where ambulances were housed, so there was a giant garage and small corner of it was set up for hiker use. There was a hiker box, a few chairs, and space to sleep. She also said I could sleep outside in the back on some grass, although with all the smoke in the air, perhaps it wasn't the healthiest of options. There was also a washer and dryer to clean clothes, a bathroom with a shower for cleaning up and wi-fi to get online. The place was a paradise!

She also introduced me to her pink bicycle--it was her personal bike that she brought to the town hall for hikers to use to get around town. I asked if it had a lock in case I wanted to lock it up while I was grocery shopping or something, and she looked at me like I was crazy. "Nobody's going to steal this bike. Everyone knows it's the mayor's bike. And it's bright pink."

In hindsight, it seemed like a stupid question. =) And if someone was stupid enough to steal it, the mayor probably was on a first-name basis with the sheriff. Nobody would dare steal the mayor's bike and get away with it!

Whitehall's Town Hall

Mayor Mary said that she was surprised to see me. I was the first hiker who had dropped in over a week and she thought maybe the last of the thru-hikers had finished going through town. Nope, I was still plodding along, but I was also probably near the back of the pack. I really needed to get a move-on and finish this trail before the snow started flying.

The tour finished, Mayor Mary went back to running the town and I settled in. I started a load of laundry going and took a shower, then decided to head out for an early dinner on the pink bike. I had no problem riding around on a bright, pink girls bike. Nobody would mess with a homeless-looking guy riding a pink bike. I felt pretty sure about that.

Whitehall wasn't a large town, but I did a Google search for restaurants in town and noticed an A&W not far away near an exit for I-90 and thought, yes, I needed that. The last time I borrowed a bike on a thru-hike, I rode it north to Canada and stopped to eat at an A&W. It seemed fitting to repeat the experience. I wouldn't be riding north to Canada--but I would have to ride north to I-90 during my hike to Canada. Close enough!

So I headed off. I was a little disappointed when I arrived at the A&W and saw that the dining room was closed. Stupid COVID-19! So I rode the bike through the drive-thru instead. I really wished there was another thru-hiker around to snap a photo of me. I must have looked awesome riding my pink little bike through the drive-thru of the local A&W. I wondered if previous hikers had done the same or if I was the first.

I ate lunch outside in the parking lot, then headed off to the grocery store to do some shopping.

Eating dinner with my A&W fries and pink bike. =)
Originally, my plan had been to resupply in Butte. Maybe take a zero day. But the weather forecast for the next week looked very good and it seemed a shame to waste it hitching into town, taking a zero, and hitching back to the trail. Butte was just a day or two away, but I didn't know about Whitehall back then. I didn't realize I could do all my resupplying in Whitehall and easily be able to skip Butte altogether. And as long as the weather was good, I really didn't want to slow down with hitches and zero days. Nope, better to push onward!

So I picked up enough food to get me all the way to Helena where I planned to do my next resupply. My laptop was waiting for me at the post office in Butte.... I wasn't sure what I should do about that. Ship it ahead to Helena.... except I expected to arrive during Labor Day weekend. The post office would be closed on Sunday and Monday. Well, I'll figure that out later. For now, I'd just leave my laptop sitting in the post office in Butte.

Then I headed back to the town hall where I settled in for the rest of the night, mostly watching Netflix shows on my phone and reading my Kindle. I was in heaven!

The first 1.5 miles of the day I could follow real trails through Lewis and Clark Caverns SP.

Then it was road walks the rest of the day....

Jefferson River

Arriving into Cardwell.

While it's true that Lewis and Clark did camp nearby, don't think that they endorsed this particular campground. I'm pretty sure the campground didn't exist when L&C passed by. ;o)

Passing under I-90

Whitehall--just 6 more miles away!

Passing under I-90 a second time....

But what about the guns?! That's what I want to know!


Mary said...

You went to A&W but the bag says Kentucky Fried Chicken! Were they in the same building?

Ryan said...

Yes, they were the same store. A&W and KFC are owned by the same parent company (Yum! Brands) which also owns Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and The Habit Burger Grill. Oh, wait... I just checked wikipedia and apparently A&W (along with Long John Silvers) *used* to be owned by Yum! Brands. I guess they're separate companies now. But undoubtedly, the two-stores-in-one model happened when they were both owned by the same parent company.

It's the same reason you also sometimes see Taco Bell combined with KFC, or Taco Bell combined with Pizza Hut, and such.

So the packaging was KFC, but it also included A&W food items. =)

Tina said...

We used to call the place near us the Kentucky Taco Hut.