I am motivated today. In Guthook it says there is reception on a particular climb, one that I can get to right after an initial descent. I missed the rain last night, my shoes are dry. It is not very cold. Today I want to go 20.4 miles.
I heat water for breakfast and coffee and just before it boils, I run out of fuel. In Stehekin they only had the small containers, I doubted it would last the entirety of this section, and it turns out it didn’t. Well.
It’s okay though. My coffee is hot, I think I have enough food for this section even if I don’t cook, this will be a Fun! New! Adventure! in figuring it out as I go.
I pack up quick and as soon as I take my first step it starts to sprinkle. I feel confident that the rain will stop, so I put on Beyoncé, go as fast as I can, and ignore it. I’m going to RECEPTION! To book a room for a zero, to call Carrot, to waste valuable hiking time on my phone.
Except I can’t. One thing about southbounding is that some of the notes in Guthook are in reverse. When a hiker writes “Good Verizon reception at the top of this climb!” What they actually mean in sobo translation is that the reception can be found at the top of the descent. But I didn’t look there. In fact, I went so fast down the descent that it didn’t even cross my mind. I’d had such high hopes, too. Damnit.
It’s 9AM and I am seven miles in. The thought of connection motivated me, I have been very alone since Bogwitch left and now I don’t know what to do with myself. I hike dragging my poles behind me, finish my first climb of the day like Charlie Brown. I really was hoping to talk to….someone.
I plan to dry my shelter out at lunch, and I plan to take lunch at the bottom of my next descent. It’s warmer down there at 3000 feet than it is up here at 5000, and while I do feel confident that the sun is starting to break through, I’m never sure how long it will stay.
The further down I go, the thicker the mosquito cloud becomes. I am running past them, eager to get to the tent site where I’m set on drying my things, but when I arrive there’s just throngs of bugs, swarming me all over. I set my shelter up, and hide inside while it dries out. I note that it has rained almost every single day of this section, which has made it exponentially more difficult. I don’t understand how northbounders do Washington in September. When would one dry out their things? How would they avoid hypothermia?!
I eat quick because the bugs are small and sneaky and are getting in my shelter despite the bug netting. I start my third climb of the day and I listen to podcasts, one of which is Strange Magic. In this particular episode the host says “Magic loves a void” and I think that’s true. My whole life has been a void this year and I’m pretty sure magic is happening? Who knows.
In the last five miles of my day, the air grows thick and wooly and it starts to mist. I am headed toward the outlet of Lake Janus, the 20.4 mile mark from where I woke up and I am determined. I think I can make it!
Mist turns to hard rain and I am dripping water from the sleeves of my raincoat, the brim of my hat. My hands are too wet to operate my phone and so instead of obsessively checking my progress, I just go. I’ll get there when I get there.
The trail is thick mud and I slip and slide on down, almost falling and catching myself again and again and again. When I reach the campsite at Lake Janus there is a stumbling drunk guy smack in the middle and it is a soaked bog. The bugs are thick and they go for my eyes, my nose, my mouth.
I hike on. Down the way I find a site that’s not much better but does lack a drunk guy. Once I get my shelter up, I feel confused on the order to do things. The tent is soaked. The ground is soaked. I am soaked.
Slowly, I go one step at a time. I strip off all of my clothes and try to dry off with the bandana I typically use to blow my nose. I lay trash bags underneath me and I wipe those down too. I blow up my neoair. I put on more dry clothing. I get in my sleeping bag. I eat three bars for dinner on account of the lack of fuel.The rain comes down in torrents and I worry. What if my site becomes more of a puddle than it already is? I feel like I am on the titanic, watching the water rise.
Drops fall hard on the outside of my tent and they blast drops of condensation down on my face from the inside. Last night I wrapped all of my food in my trash bags, the ones I’m using as a floor, as extra mouse protection, which tonight I cannot do. I worry about getting so wet I won’t be able to recover. I worry about mice. I wonder if I should hike the last 9.6 miles into town right now, but then what? That means maybe 4-5 more hours of hiking in the rain. Skykomish is a 14 mile hitch. I’ll be drenched. No one will be driving. I stay where I am, in the puddle. Is this the magic I was after?
I know, when I wake up, everything will be so wet I won’t be able to believe it. I know my first few miles will be freezing and hellish. I also know that tomorrow, I’ll shower. I’ll wash all of my clothes, which inexplicably all smell like urine. I’ll see Carrot, who will join me hiking for the rest of Washington. I’ll stop using this stupid shelter without a floor, won’t need trash bags for under my neoair or to worry so hard about mice or be so lonely.
Tomorrow is close.
📍 This section of the Pacific Crest Trail is on unceded Yakama and Columbia-Wenatchi land.