Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Day 143-Ice, A Mile Ahead and Behind

From mile 2378 to Snoqualmie Pass at mile 2401

Portrait and I were giving the tent a good shake under the weak morning sun--our breath hung heavy in the air before us--when two hikers came up. One was Action Dan who I hadn't seen since Kennedy Meadows. I had assumed he was done his hike--Samwise and Sweet As were done. Turns out Action Dan had gotten off trail for six weeks with a broken foot. He told us that where they had camped up on the ridge, a couple of miles behind us, had received ice overnight. I felt lucky just getting rain--and it cheered me to no end to see the sun shining in the sky. They hiked on in a hurry to get to Snoqualmie Pass, a hotel room, and a hot tub.

We followed more slowly--there was no hot tub waiting for us. There was a good uphill to get the blood moving and to help warm up. The ground was crunchy underfoot with frost and all the little plants along the trail sparkled with ice crystals as the sun hit them. The drying ground looked like it was steaming where ever the sun touched it. Mist swirled around our legs and mingled with our breath as we hiked through it. After the past few dreary days, to see the sun and to feel its weak light was just wonderful.

Frosted plants by the trail
Portrait had family a short drive away and we had been thinking about warm beds and hot meals the whole time it had been gray outside. He kept calling and emailing and looking for service from the tops of the climbs for the past couple of days, but he was coming up empty. When planning the hike I didn't plan any zero days for Washington (Portrait didn't plan his hike beyond planning to hike 2,666 miles). I realized at some point when hobbling along in forty degree misty weather that I had made an error in my plan. Snoqualmie Pass was just about halfway through Washington, and if it had somewhere to stay would make the perfect place to rest.

It was 11 o'clock, we were at a pit toilet that looked and smelled like it had been forgotten about, when Portrait heard back from his uncle. His uncle told Portrait that he always had a place to stay with him, and said someone would be able to pick us up at the gas station at the Pass that night. That left us 19 miles to hike between 11 o'clock and sundown.  I took two ibuprofens, shoved some crackers in my mouth, took a drink of water, and tried to psych myself up for what was going to be a long hard day.  

About forty-five minutes later the ibuprofens had kicked in and I wasn't hobbling along any more. I was feeling pretty good when we got to our first water source of the day (we had passed another one--a seeping spring in spongy ground and had decided to not soak our feet on a forty degree morning). We each took some of the spring water, and then moved on to find a spot in the sun for a quick lunch  We found a campsite in a field not five minutes later. It was such a warm spot that time got away from me a little bit. Even though we had a room in a house waiting for us our lunch break was longer than the day we hiked to Urich Cabin.

Just like the cabin day, we were making up time and miles. Through out the afternoon I asked Portrait if we were going to be night hiking into the pass or not. Each time his answers leaned a little more towards not night hiking into the pass. He continued to time our breaks, and I ate a few snacks on the move. Each day out of Packwood felt a little more rushed than the day before it. Each day I promised my body the next day would be easier, slower, gentle, and each new day made me a liar. I promised myself a zero at Portrait's uncle's house, and I intended to keep that promise after walking myself into an achy mess.

Rainier popped up through the trees. It had receded from us in the past cloudy days, but still looked huge on the horizon. While we had gotten rain and clouds, it was clear that Rainier had gotten a fresh coat of snow. The mountain was almost too bright to look at. The trail was stubborn and didn't give us a clear view of the mountain--just puzzle pieces seen through the trees. Then we climbed a short ascent and lost Rainier for the rest of the day.

Overall we were hiking downhill to the pass, I knew that, but it felt like an endless series of short ups. Short ups happen to by my sore tendon's favorite type of trail, but I would have preferred a more steady downhill--maybe one carpeted in soft pine needles over dirt tread with no rocks. I was definitely in the mood for cushy trail, but the trail didn't seem to care about my mood.

In the mid-afternoon Portrait called his Uncle to see about arranging our ride. If we could be there before 8:15 Portrait's Uncle could pick us up on the way to drop Portrait's Grandfather off at the airport. If we got to the pass after that, his Uncle could pick us up later after dropping off Portrait's Grandfather at the airport. Portrait wanted to see his Grandfather so we decided to push for the early pick up. I promised Portrait we'd get to the pass, which was still five miles away, at 8:10.  He seemed doubtful of my hobbling abilities.

I had taken more Ibuprofens about an hour before our ride was set up, so I was feeling pretty good (not as good as I hoped to feel after a double zero in the suburbs of Seattle--we had bumped it from one zero to two). The trail continued to be stubborn--it was rocky and full off little ups and downs and just seemed to be getting on my nerves--like it had never been before. In spite of everything we were making good time. Portrait didn't seem to be doubting my hiking abilities when we were three, two, one, mile from the pass. The trail spit us out into a parking lot for the sky hill that we had just walked down and we hustled on to the gas station .7 miles off trail. We arrived before 8 o'clock, and I gloated the whole .7 to the gas station (while limping noticeably).

We found that hikers had taken over the parking lot--somehow they had taken over a circle of folding camp chairs and were sitting around in their sleeping bags drinking PBR that had been trail magic'ed to the group. I sat down wearily after getting my packages from the gas station and a package of gummy candies. I was passed a beer--which didn't go well with my candy, but did seem to hit the spot anyway. We had about ten minutes to cool off in the cold night air before Portrait's Uncle arrived.  By the time the car rolled up, I was feeling cold and no longer felt like I was rushing around. I warned Portrait I might fall asleep in the back seat of the car (but I didn't).

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