Sunday, August 28, 2016

Day 120 : Packwood

2 miles today
358 miles to go

I awake in my tent by the lake. The wind died down overnight. It's cool and peaceful here. I lay in my cozy warm sleeping bag wondering when I should get up. The Kracker Barrel store doesn't open until eight. It's about forty minutes from here. I decide now is a good time and Pfffssssssssssss, my day begins. The granola is good today, like always. It's lighter than its been the last few days. I slept longer, giving the sun more time to figure out that it's time to get up. Mosquitos buzz around outside my bug-free zone. Out where I'm boiling water for my coffee. My tent door is unzipped enough for me to reach through and handle the pot and stove. Mosquitos don't seem to see the reasonably large opening in my door and instead bounce themselves fruitlessly against the netting. I'm glad it makes it easier the constantly zipping and unzipping my door. The fix I made to my zipper slides first at Deb and Dave’s then to the other slide at Cascade Locks is working. The slides had pulled apart slightly and squeezing them with a pair of pliers has got them working properly again. Now I'm much more careful to be sure I'm pulling on them straight and not wrenching them sideways or accidentally pulling them wider. 

I pack a light pack my food is mostly gone. I love it when my pack is this light. Soon it'll be full again, and heavy. Maybe if I stopped eating… Not! Three or four days of food is great. I head out before the southbounders emerge from their tent. Good luck southbounders! I take the trail down the hill. I check for mobile service, three bars! Wow, my phone is a phone again. I walk my pace unconcerned with the time, the miles, schedules, milestones. I speculate on whether I can hike the rest of the trail like this. Probably not. For some reason I feel the need to set goals and timelines, something that I have been unable to shake loose from myself. Oh well, perhaps I find comfort in planning ahead. Before I realize it I'm at the trailhead on Highway twelve. If only all my hikes were this easy. I hike down the road for half a mile and find the Kracker Barrel sitting in the side of the road right where Yogi said it would be. I'm early, I could have slept in. No I couldn't. I had to get up, I'm glad I'm early. I chat with Batman sitting in a chair outside. I haven't seen him since Mazamas. He hiked a forty mile day yesterday. He hiked past my camp last night and stealth camped in the bushes by the road. Good for him. I don't think I have the determination or willpower to hike forty miles in a single day. My max was thirty eight miles way back at Spanish Needle Creek. I learned I don't want to hike that far in a day ever again. 

I walk over to the entrance and the cashier waves me in. “Come on in,” she says when I open the door. It's a few minutes before their published opening time. I walk into the warm store filled with the dreams of countless Thru-hikers. They even have foo-foo espresso drinks here. I ask about hiker boxes. She points to a back room and says, “I'll have to go search for it.” “It's got purple tape and happy fruit stickers,” I say. “You're welcome to go and look for it yourself. I'll have to look up the number first,” she says as I hand her my ID. I head through the door to a room piled high with hiker resupply boxes. I look closely for purple tape, then happy fruit stickers. Bingo! I find it just as she says, “It should have the number six thirty on it.” It does. It also has my name, my old pre-hiker name. I carry the box out and ask about the espresso drinks. “The box fee is five dollars,” she says. “I'd like to get a mocha too.” She thinks for a moment, “do you like wheeling and dealing?” “Sure,” I have no idea what she's talking about. “I'll make you a mocha and give you a breakfast sandwich if you load fifteen bags with ice.” “Sure,” I respond. I think it's be fun to help her out. I need to figure out how to get to Packwood and maybe she'll be helpful if I help her. Besides it's free coffee and a sandwich. She leads me to a giant ice machine in the back room a special bag holder and a scoop. “How many scoops to a bag?” “Four.” This will be fun. And it is, I scoop ice pour it through a spout into the bags. She brings me my coffee as I work and I drink as I go. Pour ice, fill bag, tie off with twist-tie. Fifteen bags. Easy Peasy. I fill a cart with bags and push it out to the store. “Can I put these in the freezer for you?” “I won't charge you for your box either,” she says, “thank you.” I navigate through the narrow aisles looking for the ice freezer, just about knocking over end caps filled with merchandise. Fortunately I catch them
and straighten them before disaster befalls me. I finally find the freezer and fill it with ice. Then I navigate back through different aisles almost knocking more stuff on the floor. Fortunately a Thru-hiker was there the save the day. Thank God for Thru-hikers, they are such a helpful lot. I wheel the cart into the back room and pick up my box. I walk by the sandwich heater and get my breakfast sandwich. The store has filled with Thru-hikers. ‘The Village’ next door is a
place to stay without having to go to Packwood. It's filled with Thru-hikers, or was a lot of them are now here milling about looking for food, buying it, and consuming it. I see Bey, Clinic, Swag, Sour Rip, Butterfly, and the list goes on. Everyone seems to be moving on today. Which is bittersweet since I'm neroing in Packwood to see my good friend. I'll miss them and I'll be behind the bubble again. I’ll overlap with some of them, catching them. Others will zero when I don't. These are my trail kin. We've all done the same miles at relatively the same time. We share a common history, enough to be able to say, “remember when…”

Butterfly’s wife and Turbo’s mom came and brought Turbo’s siblings. They all visited each other here at White Pass. She's offered to drive me to Packwood on her way home. Yay! Problem solved. I realize yet again how much time I waste worrying about things I need not worry about. I get to hang out with my kin while she's takes care of a few tasks before she leaves. I buy a cup of donut holes and pass them out to the Thru-hikers assembled in the dining area. I eat the few remaining ones as I study a map of Mt Saint Helens on the wall. Before I know it I'm riding down from the pass with Butterfly’s family. We have a fun conversation and I can hear the same notes of support and ‘I'm ready for this to be over’ in her voice that I here in Kelli, my wife’s voice. I'm sure they'd have a lot of fun sharing their experiences were they ever to meet. 

Packwood, WA. I am dropped off in front of the Blandon’s market. Perfect, right next door is the Packwood Inn. I leave my stuff in the front office since check in isn't until three and go down the street to the Cruisers pizza restaurant, where oddly they serve breakfast. I guess Italians eat breakfast but this isn't Italian food this is American breakfast served American style. I ask about pancakes. “I want pancakes, coffee, and bacon,” I say. The waitress says, “The pancakes are big, the size of a large pizza.” “Okay, I want one pancake.” Figuring the large is a relatively small large and worst case I can always order more. I sit across from The General and Flora who came in last night and are leaving this morning. Really how big can a pancake really be? I wonder. I watch the news without sound on the TV as I chat with my fellow Thru-hikers. We all talk about end dates, now that the end is actually within reach we lose our superstitions about talking about actually finishing. Earlier in the hike we all would say we “plan to finish…” Now we are saying we will finish. Three weeks to go. It seems we all have the same estimated date, September fifteenth. I wonder if that's true. I wonder whether we are going to finish the same day, it seems unlikely. The news repeats the same stories again and again. For some reason there is a story about Oregon preparing for a total solar eclipse of the sun in two thousand seventeen. They are showing images of a guy standing in stadium seating in a ballpark. I have no idea what Oregon is doing to prepare or how a ballpark works into that preparation. We talk about the weather and the fact that Mt Rainier is ‘wearing a hat’ which means that it's top is covered with a lenticular cloud. That is a clear sign to northwesterners that it's going to rain in the near future. Up until this hike my response would have been, “it's always going to rain in the near future in Washington.” Now I know that's not true. It hasn't rained on me but fifteen total minutes since I crossed the California Oregon border. I look forward to the change of weather with an anxious mixed feeling of dread and relief. So many more things to worry about. So many new experiences and problems to solve and overcome. 

My pancake finally arrives. One of the longest waits for food I've had to endure on the entire trip. It comes on a fifteen inch large pizza pan and it totally covers the entire pan. It is insanely huge. I know already that I will not be finishing it. It tastes great, it's texture and doneness are excellent. It's just too big. It's enough for two Thru-hikers. Well maybe. Two thru-hikers of my appetite anyway. I dig into it and the General and Flora head out to complete their resupply and head back to the trail. I eat half my pancake and donate the rest to charity. 

I head back to my room and collect my laundry. They will wash it and dry it for a nominal fee. Then I sort through my food and pare it down to the exact amount I'll need to reach Snoqualmie Pass. I'm done with carrying an extra day of food ‘just in case.’ I can live a few days without food in a ‘just in case’ scenario and I don't want to carry the extra weight any more. I make a fairly generous donation to the hiker box. Then I take a nap while my laundry is completed. I wake around dinner time and decide to try out the Blue Spruce Saloon and Grill. I order the Buffalo Wings as an appetizer and a bacon cheeseburger with beer batter fries. It was all excellent. As I sat there locals came in and filled the place.  Sure sign of an excellent restaurant. Would go there again for breakfast tomorrow but they won't be serving breakfast then. I eat my entire dinner then go to Blandon's and by a pint of ice cream for
dessert and a few snickers bars to supplement my lunches. With that I head back to my room and try to sleep in a comfy bed indoors. Thinking about rain and the adjustments I'll need to make to my routine. I should be sleeping but instead I toss and turn. Not enough miles today? Too warm? Too quiet? Noisy? Not normal? Do I need the sound of the breeze in the trees or water moving? Maybe rain falling on my tent? Maybe my afternoon nap… Huh!


  1. "Hi Grandaddy. Hope I see you soon, Grandaddy. You're coming back in three weeks! Hi Grandaddy. We are eating breakfast now. Lise is playing right now and mommy is writing this note down and Lise is playing with the cart."

  2. I can't wait for more, not only about the hike, but more! Echo and I were talking last night and realized, what are we going to do when your trip and blogs about it are over. We decided we need more stories!! We have thoroughly enjoyed your writings!! Deb n Dave