Friday, August 14, 2009

Snoqualmie Pass, WA

It rained all through the night, either from the sky or from the trees or both. Eventually it was raining inside my tent. I felt completely exposed laying there in the dark with water falling on my face. I could not sleep.

After a while it seemed like maybe the sun was coming up somewhere in the world. At least I could see things inside my tent now. I packed up with my headlamp on and managed to get going in the dark of the clouded forest around 6am.

It was raining while I packed. I thought I would see if wearing a plastic bag over myself like a vest would help. I folded up my soggy tent. It had a small puddle in one corner and the rest was just soaking wet. I tried to squeeze out the muddy water but ended up putting the 5lb blob in the back pocket of my pack and then sealing in the moisture with the garbage bag pack cover I had made. As I hiked I stopped a couple of times and let out the pool of muddy water that formed in the bottom of the bag as the tent drained.

I hiked on into the worst part of the trail so far. There was nothing to say positive about it. I spent most of my time pushing my way through shoulder high or higher soaking wet plants. Very quickly I was completely drenched and did everything I could to keep my body temperature up so I wouldn't get hypothermia. I wore a hat, a hooded windbreaker, my desert shirt, my turtleneck, my gloves, the plastic bag, shorts and rainpants. I didn't wear my pant legs because they would just get wet and cold.

As I waded for 30 miles in the wet brush, cursing the stupid trail that made me climb up every single hill just to see more wet leaves, I suddenly got my PCT epiphany:

It's nice to know there are people out there willing to push their way through wet brush for 500 miles of Washington rain, with feet that are never dry, with shoes and socks that are visibly rotting daily, and sleep in tents that rain on the inside, and climb mountains in the rain with nothing to see but wet plants--all this just to see a post in the middle of a clearcut. I am not one of these people.

I couldn't understand why people said I would love Washington. So far I had pushed my way through about 250 miles of wet brush--either ankle high or higher--and had had soaking wet feet every day except one. I felt completely finished with it. I hated it. It was no fun at all.

I went to Snoqualmie as fast as I could. I didn't get there until 6pm. The trail was rugged and difficult to walk on for the last 10 miles.

I met some people trying to warm up by a fire next to a lake. I unleashed all my frustrations from the last 100 miles on them. I told them how I had stood in the middle of head high wet plants and screamed at the top of my lungs, "F**K YOU! I hate you, Washington!" It hadn't helped. They laughed and said it was 8 more miles of wet leaves to Snoqualmie Pass. I sighed in relief. Only 8 more miles! They looked at me oddly and said it had taken them all day to walk those 8 miles and they were exhausted. They invited me to warm up by their fire. Three big strong young guys. I said no thanks, I was pulling a 30 miler today, just like yesterday, just to get the heck out of this weather. If I stopped to warm up, I'd just go out and get cold and wet in the wet leaves again. They were surprised someone could walk so far. I was sure part of it was not carrying heavy gear. The rest was sheer desperation.

I hurried on, but my feet were failing, tender and sore from 7 days of being wet and 2 days of walking too far. I really wished I was a young strong guy and not an old lady and that 30 miles could feel easy. I walked slower and slower over sharp and slippery rocks. I could feel every painful rock bruising my feet. I struggled and frequently failed to prevent myself from stubbing my toes on the rocks. You CAN stub your toes with shoes on, especially when your toes are pushing over the edges of your shoes like mine are, my feet having become wide to ridiculous, unshoddable proportions.

The trail was so leached out from the obviously constant rain that falls here that it was like either walking in a creek bed or else all the slipery wet roots from all the trees lay in wait to trip me up.

I emerged in a clearing and could see the red roof of the hotel I was going to stay in. I could not find the trail. I just walked straight down through a ski area.

I stopped to let out another cup of muddy water from inside my pack cover and then proceeded to check in to the hotel. I showered and went down to the Family Pancake House in my socks for dinner, wearing only my windbreaker and my skirt (pinned at the waist since now it was two inches too big) since I had nothing else to wear that didn't smell like rotten, wet socks. I had two pork chops, baked potato, vegetables, soup and hot chocolate. There was apple pie filling to put on the pork chops. It was good. I watched a family of 300 pounders eating. How different we were, and how similar. I could have eaten their dinners, too.

After dinner I felt a little better and a lot warmer. I called Tony and we had a nice chat. Santa Barbara is on fire once again. A map of the fires in the last 2 years shows about 1/2 the county has burned now. At least the weather is almost the same as here in Washington so I wasn't missing much.

I fell asleep in a cloud of dryness and softness and woke up in the middle of the night sweating.

The next morning I showered again and went down and ate 2 breakfasts. Finally I felt almost human again. Human enough to start crying. This trail is very hard. It is not fun. It is not a vacation. There was not a moment in the past 4 days that was worth any of the effort. I had hated every single minute of it. The only thing that had been good in this whole state had been Goat Rocks which I had seen 5 days past, the only thing I hadn't had rain for. It had been the highlight of the entire PCT, actually, an exciting knife-edge walk while bracing myself against the winds trying to blow me off, stunning sub-alpine beauty below me. Nothing could top it. I had seen all there was worth seeing, as far as I was concerned

I turned on the TV. The weather report was for an end to the rain and a gradual warming into the next week. I was surprised to see the high temps were in the 40s in places. That was probably what it had been for me. I burst into tears because I did not want to return to the trail. The rain had given me an excuse to quit. I didn't trust the rain to stay away. One nice day and I'd feel obligated to return to the trail and then for sure it would rain and I would suffer again. I wanted no more of this.

I had forged a plan to figure out a way to get to Seattle. I would shop at the big REI, buy some new shoes and socks. Hang out and eat seafood and drink coffee until I exploded. Then take a bus to Skykomish and hang out at the Dinsmores. Then return to Seattle and take a bus to Stehekin. If the weather was nice then, I'd finish the hike. If not, there were only 16 miles of wet brush I'd be willing to hike: the 8 miles from Manning Park to the post in the middle of the clearcut and the 8 miles back. I no longer felt that it was worth it, or valuable, or important or even meaningful to hike every mile of the trail.

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