From the Knife's Edge at mile 2386 to Packwood at mile 2303
|Sunrise from the sleeping bag|
Before falling asleep last night I was able too look up at the Milky Way. It was one of the darkest nights with a clear view of the sky that I had seen for a while. The waning moon wasn't up yet softening the view with its glow. Portrait took a few photos of the night sky with his D-SLR that were fantastic--almost better than the real sky.
I slept better than I thought--it really was the perfect spot. It even had a sunrise view. Just John was out of camp first, saying that he was going to eat breakfast after hiking a while. The rest of us moved a little slower. Portrait and I were out of camp next--we did have town to go to after all.
We had a little more of the Knife's Edge to do and it wasn't too bad in the daylight with the sun slowly warming us. We didn't pass a single other campsite while we walked the spine of the mountain.
|Silky Smooth and Blackout camped near snow|
After two miles the trail left the ridge and started to descend into a green basin studded with wild flowers and small streams. And camp sites. There were well protected from the wind campsites all around. They were tucked away into tree groves or sandy spots protected by a flower covered knoll on one side and trees on the other. They could have had walls and indoor plumping and I wouldn't have made it those two miles in the dark. It was a beautiful area to see by early morning light.
Our new best friends caught up with us while I was getting water, having a snack, and shedding my insulated layers. They were also planning on going into town--I think all of our talk about the wonders of Packwood convinced them to go into town as well. We hiked together through the basin talking about cameras, food, and off trail life until morning snack break just shy of where we had all planned on camping the night before.
We left snack shortly before the other two and expected them to catch up soon. I was surprised when they didn't catch up when I stopped to message muscle rub into my hurting legs, but it was a very short break--Portrait didn't even take off his pack. Then it was onward to town again.
We had gone about two miles down hill when Portrait cursed behind me. I didn't even have to turn around to know that he wasn't hurt or hadn't tripped, but had left his camera somewhere. He decided to trail run back to where we had taken that quick break while I continued hiking. He wasn't gone nearly as long as I expected. I heard him run up behind me, breathless, but with his camera in hand. Silky Smooth had picked it up off the log where we had sat and carried it north. Blackout said Silky Smooth kept wondering aloud when Portrait would come sprinting up the trail so he could stop carrying the heavy camera. Now that the three of us were reunited again we could really continue on our way to town.
The trail into town was mostly downhill. That seems to be one of the most reliable aspects of a trail: hike down to get to town. I was happy with the time we were making when taken into account two hurt Achilles tendons, one late night, and dreams of pizza. Sadly I couldn't hike my usual going to town speed because of the tendons.
Mount Rainier came into view as we walked near a ski lift in the mid-afternoon for the first time since we left the Knife's Edge behind. We had drawn noticeably closer to the mountain that seemed to take up most of the sky. Three helicopters were flying close to the mountain. They looked insignificant against the bulk of the mountain, but I'm sure those helicopters meant a great deal to somebody. Even from a distance they didn't look like tourist helicopters. (We heard later from Portrait's dad that the helicopters were removing the bodies of hikers who had died on the mountain early in the year.)
We left the open fields near the ski left and went back into the dark forest and soon Portrait brought us to a stop to celebrate mile 2300. I love that we still celebrate every 100 miles. It's so different than on the AT where hikers celebrated the different states not the miles. Portrait went to work building a marker while I went to work eating a snack and rubbing in more muscle rub--I needed something to get me the last three miles into town.
Silky Smooth and Blackout passed us just as we were leaving the marker. Silky Smooth took a perfunctory picture of Portrait's marker and then hustled on. They were moving pretty good--it took us a little while to catch up, but we stayed just behind them for the last three miles.
The four of us walked the .7 on the road to the store where everybody but Portrait had mail waiting. We all picked up our boxes and went back to the road, thumbs out. While we waited for traffic we debated our chances of hitching as a group of four. We didn't have long to ponder on whether we should split up when we were all picked up by a pick-up truck. And away to the Hotel Packwood and Cruiser's Pizza we went.