Quite the lead in, eh?
We said “See you down the trail!” to Puff Puff as we got off the bus at High Bridge after a wonderful zero in Stehekin together. But you know the band had to break up sometime. Puff Puff and the Nearly Dead had some hits but when your crew of geriatrics can’t remember if you’re NOBO or SOBO, it’s time to find a new posse.
Meanwhile, 2 tall slim women of wise years in skirts and blue button-down shirts hiking with an old guy sweeping behind is an unusual grouping. We have had beautiful, clear weather out of Stehekin the whole 6 nights it has taken to get to Stevens Pass. 107 miles of up and down through the worst maintained stretch of the whole PCT.
You grow to love horseshit on the trail because it means stock access for trail crews. I wish the regulatory or jurisdictional agency in charge (USFS) would consult with the BLM Alaska Fire Service or a Search and Rescue group. I know helicopter camps and sling loads could get personnel, equipment and supplies into areas apparently only hikers can currently access. The trail hasn’t been maintained in years. Old, old blowdown, overgrowth as thick as the Amazon, trail eroded down hillsides. Pitiful and embarrassing that this is a National Scenic Trail.
We camped near a stream; in a shaded, soft forest; on a knob just past the most breathtaking cirque I’ve ever seen; next to Lake Sally Ann; in blow down near a glacial ford; and finally by a lake just 10 or 11 miles from Stevens Pass.
Day 3 I saw Double Dip (Dana) hiking north with friends! She is making Washington her home and will be starting grad school in biochemistry. And she has a “thing” with another of my favorite hikers from last year. Made my day!
Day 6 I saw Lord Vader, carrying a message for me from Dan. He is finishing the section he left unfinished last year due to injury.
Day 7 I was leaving for the short hike to Stevens Pass and saw a man in a mountain hat next to 2 tents pitched near the trail. I walked up and stood stock still till he turned and saw me. His face as he recognized me was probably matched by my own. I dropped my sticks to give Papa Raven a big hug. He silently gestured for me to peek in his tent. Out popped Mama Raven for another huge hug! Then the kids Little Crow, as adorable as ever, and Bling, a foot taller, strong and healthy, rolled out of the second tent. We caught up on all the news as they packed up their camp to continue North. All but Bling did the whole trail last year, and now they return as a family so Bling too can complete the monumental NOBO of the PCT. This family, this love, this trail. I knew they were out here, but going opposite directions, the chances that we would miss each other were great. So, so grateful to see them, in our natural environment.
Rick Luebbers, the Lueber Driver, met us at Stevens Pass and we have enjoyed a zero in Leavenworth eating, replacing broken gear, strolling the river, resupplying and cleaning up.
As always I am torn between the comforts of town and the craving for the trail. I am continuously surprised by what I have forgotten and what I remember from last year. Sometimes I walk for hours watching my feet moving through the green tunnel and have very little sense of place. And then suddenly I recognize my perfect campsite, a shelter from the snow, high on a ridge, and recollect the fall reds and rusts, the stinky feet smell of low bush cranberries and I look up expecting to see the weather boiling over the mountain and a regal and wild buck staring back at me. When I look back down I see spring flowers and screaming green meadows ahead, south.