Saturday, September 10, 2016

Day 133 : Stehekin, Last Town Day

5 miles today
81 miles to go

Final town day! I awake and check my phone alarm, five twenty nine, one minute before it's set to go off. I lay there waiting with my phone in my hand. Bee… I cut it off before it could finish. Then I lay there some more. It's still dark at five thirty. I won't be getting up this early again for the rest of the trip. Breakfast in the dark. I need to be at the trailhead at nine fifteen. I have plenty of time. I pack, a few snacks left for my pocket. That's it. Six twenty, two hours to the trailhead. No problem. Normally the shortest hours of the day are the first. This could be the exception. I force myself to ignore the time, ignore the miles, just walk and enjoy the trail. 

The fall colors are here in the mountains already. It's strange that I've been walking since spring. The water from Agnes Creek falls through a gorge to the left of the trail. The mountains rise steeply up on both sides. The trail meanders across an open bench following the creek down to the river. The trailhead is filled with hikers, some I haven't seen for quite a while. Thru-hikers literally coming out of the woods. We all were probably within a few miles of each other for the last four days and hundred miles. The bus comes, we pay and board. A couple of day hikers seem a little put out by all these shaggy, smelly, dirty thru-hikers. We all know each other so there's a lot of talking and bantering. Everyone has their own story of the rainy day. It seems that all of them are stories of difficulty and cold. Doh, we don't carry enough gear for a significant storm. Each of us has just enough to feel a bit safer, the line is different for each. 

The bus stops at the bakery. The legendary ‘best bakery on the trail.’ The bakery I've heard about for more than two thousand miles. I get off the bus with everyone else. The bakery is warm and cozy. This might have been the place I was thinking of on the cold rainy day. A big wood burning stove in the middle. It's not lit today. It's warm and sunny. Five or six employees are busy behind the counter making baked goods. We line up and place our orders. Mine is one of the smallest orders, a cinnamon roll and a large mocha. Some thru-hikers appeared to order one of everything. Rolls, muffins, tarts, quiche, ten or fifteen items. My cinnamon roll was really good, but I don't think I could have eaten half of what they ordered. Back on the bus there were fewer riders, some choosing to eat all their stuff and walk two miles.

The landing is where the ferry arrives from the rest of the world. It's also where the bus stops. I get off and head to the lodge. Saturday night, it's a long shot. Nope, sold out. I'm camping tonight. The Post Office hours are twelve to two. I have an hour or so. I go to the visitor center and get a camping permit. I meet Beekeeper and Hemlock. Beekeeper has been jumping from spot to spot on the PCT and other trails all summer only picking ‘the highlights’ she called them. I immediately renamed her Highlighter. They are camping in the same spot. So are Dreamcatcher and Proton. Our ‘group camp’ is pretty much full. I take my food bags in my pack and walk down to the Post Office. Yep, closed till twelve. I chat with Wisecrack, Smoosh, and Batman as they wait. I then walk back to the store and buy a can of Coke. I was going to buy a few more ounces of fuel but all they had was white gas. 

The Post Office is open, we line up to get our packages. The office is piled high with packages. I scan them for purple tape. “What if it's not here?” I think. I'll worry about that if I need to later. Wisecrack was one of the first. He came out without his package. “It's upstairs,” he said. I get to the counter and give my name and show my ID. He looks up my name and says, “it's upstairs. We'll go up there when we have one more.” I go out and sit next to Wisecrack. I feel like we're in trouble and going to the principal’s office ‘upstairs’. We don't wait long, Youngblood’s package is upstairs too. The Postmaster locks the door and leaves the rest of the Thru-hikers standing there while the four of us head upstairs. Another room filled with hiker boxes. I see mine right away, right by the door with purple tape, yay! The Postmaster scans it out. I have enough food to get to Canada! I walk across the street to the picnic tables and sort through it. I end up with a small donation for the hiker box since I was originally planning for five days and now I plan for four days. Short Shorts comes to check out the hiker box. I hand him my donation, “you can have this too.” 

I head to the restaurant and order a bacon cheeseburger and beer batter fries. Probably the last one I'll have for a long time. Then I order two scoops of blackberry ice cream in a bowl and eat it while my battery charges. They kick me out because they're closing to prepare for dinner so I head to the visitor center. Quiet and lots of outlets. I sit in a chair and relax. Hemlock and Highlighter show up and we have a cozy front room chat. We take off our shoes and rub the bottoms of our stocking feet against the thick wooden coffee table. It's feels awesome! Hopefully the cleaning staff cleans that table before some toddler comes along and chews on it. I hear more about Hemlock’s and Highlighter’s adventures and I tell them a few of mine. Before I know it it's time for dinner and we head down to the restaurant. The burgers are good here but I had one for lunch. I order the Pasta Mornay fettuccine with salmon. A giant plate of noodles and cheesy sauce with a salmon fillet on top. So much food. So many calories. I am amazed as I eat the whole thing. I top that off with an ice cream. Somewhat disappointing in that my black cherry ice cream had chocolate chips and almonds. I eat it anyway.

We head back to camp. Hemlock decides she doesn't like where she's hung her hammock. She wanders about the camp trying to find the perfect two trees. Not only do they need to be the right distance apart, they need to be oriented the right way so the wind doesn't blow in. It's way more effort than I would have patience for. Highlighter and I stand around talking while Hemlock moseys about. Highlighter lives an interesting life and has lots of great stories to tell. Hemlock finally settles on a spot. She shows me the features of her high tech hammock. I have to admit it's pretty cool, and she's not sleeping on the ground. 

I go back to my tent on the ground. Nice flat ground. I think I'd have a hard time with a hammock, high tech or not. I like flat and hard ground. I sleep well in the warm low elevation of Stehekin. A cool breeze comes up at night and blows through my tent. I drift off thinking of the remaining trail and wondering if the sunny weather will continue.

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