I wake up in my bed in Portland, Oregon and Liza is camping in my back yard. She is unplugging her phone from the external outlet and my dog Mabel is going crazy with the barking as a result. Today we are going to hike.
It’s mid July now, it’s been grey and rainy all summer in Portland and just today it finally feels nice. I make a bean salad with tomatoes and cucumbers and avocados and and thick olive oil and hearty vinegar; we share it on my sun drenched back porch. We drink our coffee. We pack our bags. Liza walks to New Seasons and comes back with huge bottles of bubble water for the road. We climb into Big Nasty with her roaring Diesel engine and we drive toward June lake.
En route we eat more bean salad and pizza flavored chips and I tell Liza about Sug. Sug is going to hike with us and I tell Liza she is 27 and one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. I’m ten years Sug’s senior and I am confident that she is much more intelligent than me. I am excited for Liza and Sug to meet, I know they’re going to like each other.
Once we arrive Liza and I sit and wait. We talk about that one time we slept together, how for a second we thought we’d fuck all summer in a hot flurry of PCT hiking and tent sex. The truth is, that wouldn’t have made sense. I’m broken and Liza’s broken and either we’d fuck for six weeks and it’d go well and I’d want her to be my girlfriend or we’d fuck for six weeks and it’d go poorly and disintegrate into a pile of shit. I love Liza too much to want more than she has or to destroy our friendship with ill advised boning. I’m happy we can be friends. We both agree it’s much better this way.
Sug shows up, I step in dog shit, we examine the map. We’re circling Mt. St. Helens instead of walking up the PCT due to slow snow melt and while I love the Washington section of the PCT, I am deeply excited for something new. We don’t have a huge amount of info for this trail beyond vague trail reports. We hear water and campsites are scarce. I do have a few latitude and longitude coordinates that we all enter in, while we compare the topography of our Gaia apps. It’ll be fine, we decide, and then we start to hike.
The June lake trail climbs through thick hemlock and pine before giving way to the lush alpine meadow of the Loowit. I feel my body working and a rush of appreciation for myself. It’s been hard lately. I’ve spent a lot of time gloriously, stunningly hurt. Some days, I am not really sure I want to be alive, and now there is today, where being not alive would feel like such an absolute waste. St. Helens glows just above. The birds chirp. The sun is out and the blue of the sky is relentless. It’s going to be ok.
We find a lot of water right away and none of us needs it. We need water a little later and the glacial snow melt supposedly tucked in the isthmus below is no longer there. We scramble up and down lava rock of all sizes, looking on our maps for thin blue lines. The maps were made in the 70’s, all the thin blue lines are actually dry cracked beds of nothing.
The trees disappear. I walk in front and I listen. I know you can find water with your ears sometimes better than your eyes, and I definitely hear something but it’s windy and hard to tell what’s what. I press forward, scanning left and right, and finally I follow a thin trickle down to a deep and wide tenaja. We gather four liters each from the impression in the rock and I am thrilled.
We’re confronted with the reality that maybe the trees are gone for a good long while, and soon we’ll lose the flat we’re walking on too. We don’t mind, we can hike just a little today, we decide. Single file, we cut up trail, find a field of small porous rock, lichen and moss and set up shelter. I ask Liza and Sug if they think squirt is pee, and we debate awhile. I think squirt is at least half pee, and Sug disagrees.
Liza is on the fence, but I think I could easily sway her.
📍The Loowit Trail is on Yakama land. I am a grateful guest.