Day 140 continued…
After hugging Margo goodbye we donned our packs and set off across the road to cross the Bridge of the Gods. As soon as we reached the other side we spotted Trash Can who was just arriving in town. We had a quick catch up with him and then continued up to the bridge.
As we passed the toll booth the attendant instructed us to walk single file on the left side of the bridge. With that, suddenly there we were, crossing into Washington. Approximately 2144 miles of the PCT completed, only around 500 miles to go!
Almost as soon as we crossed into Washington the weather became cold and rainy.
We had actually hiked this section of thr PCT from Cascade Locks the previous year for our honeymoon. Our more detailed Wilderness Press Guide had talked some smack about the first 35 or so miles of this section and recommended a shorter alternate route. Last year we found this stretch to be a lot of work with little reward, so we had talked at length about doing the alternate.
Once on the other side of the bridge we began what we had dubbed the Brew Pub Alternate Tour, following the alternate route. Despite Physio’s condition he could not resist the opportunity to sample a few micro brews along the way at a couple of the brewpubs available. What’s more hiking the alternate reduced how far he had to drag his diseased body to get to Trout Lake.
As we hiked and navigated the alternate we quickly realised it wasn’t an alternate at all. The Wilderness Press Guide to the PCT described it romantically:
“The route follows obvious well signed roads.”
“East of Stevenson, the highway climbs rocky bluffs and provides scenic views up and down the river. Douglas-fir and maple provide plenty of shade even if you’re doing this stretch on a sunny afternoon.”
If we wrote the guide it would have said:
“This alternate is not really an alternate at all. It is a road walk. It follows a busy highway. You will constantly have high speed traffic whizzing by as you walk.”
“Only the most committed beer connoisseurs should even attempt this ridiculous alternate. There is really no other reason to think it’s a good idea.”
As usual we found ways to eke enjoyment out of an incredibly boring road walk.
That was, until Cashmere took a tumble while trying to multi-task. Anyone who knows Cashmere well will know there’s nothing she likes more than multi- tasking. So there she was trying to read a map while walking on the edge of a paved road when her right foot went off the edge and she fell forwards down a gravel bank. Note: when she was 16, Cashmere also learned that reading maps while driving is a bad idea.
Poor Cashmere got up with a grazed and bloodied knee feeling very sorry for herself. After Physio checked she was okay we kept walking. Moments later a driver stopped to ask if Cashmere was alright – he had seen the incident. This was after several drivers had already stopped unprovoked to try to offer us rides. Wow, these Washingtonians sure are nice! Too bad we are so committed to the continuous hike.
Once in Stevenson (our first stop) we immediately went to a pharmacy to buy Physio some hardcore cold and flu medication. Unlike Oregon, Washington has a more liberal stance on selling Psudoephedrine over the counter. You just need to provide ID so they can track who is buying it. Cashmere’s now not-expired Australian driving license (thanks Kat, Julia, Mark & Lucie) confused the employees for a bit, but eventually got us the goods.
We then made our way to our first brewery stop – the aptly named Walking Man Brewery. We ordered a somewhat epic food banquet and a tasting platter of all ten beers. Physio only drank small sips of each – once Cashmere had drank around 3/4 of the sample glass. We had a predictably delicious time, with the highlights being a series of very hoppy IPA’s and an imperial red ale. But these beers were strong so we really did take our time sipping them.
Upon exiting the brewery and heading back towards the ‘alternate’ we discovered another brewery. After a short deliberation, we decided we had to keep walking before we accidentally find ourselves staying the night in Stevenson.
As we kept hiking the highway kept being a highway. We also walked past the “rocky bluffs”. They weren’t that cool, and we were still walking on a highway. Then just before we reached the town of Carson we got off the highway onto another wide sealed road. Amazing!
Shortly before reaching Carson it started bucketing down with rain. This helped further confirm our decision to stop in at another brewpub in Carson. I mean it wouldn’t be a brewpub tour if we only visited one brewery. We were much more controlled this time and only had five samples. Of the samples the highlight was a triple IPA, which was incredible. Apparently its so good they have to limit how many people can order!
We also managed to make the tough financial decision to resist ordering their amazing-looking pizza and keep moving and have one of our less exciting, but already purchased, hiker trash dinners.
We were lucky to have the rain stop for a little while as we walked along Wind River Road. We soon got a sneaky peek off a bridge of the namesake river that was in an impressive gorge. Then, overwhelmed by the opportunity at hand, Physio took advantage of a port-a-pottie at a construction site by the bridge.
After another mile or so the rain started pouring again and we turned onto another paved road. We were really starting to tire of this road-walking alternate and the rain. Some young teenage guys drove by and thought what we were doing seemed peculiar and stopped to ask us about it but sadly didn’t offer to bring us to a warm, dry, house.
As darkness fell we finally reached the PCT again after about 17 miles of road walking (albeit bypassing 35 boring PCT miles).
As soon as we were back on trail life seemed good again despite the rain. The forest, though hard to see well with only our headlamps, was green and lush. We immediately encountered a cooler of trail magic snacks and drinks complete with a strap to keep pesky animals out of it. We helped ourselves to a banana that we shared.
We only walked a few hundred more feet to a campsite near Panther Creek that we had stayed at last year! It was cool. There we cooked a normal trail dinner of a dehydrated meal plus some kind of tasteless weird mashed potatoes we had ‘harvested’ from a hiker box. Unfortunately we had a lot more of that weird mash to eat for the next few nights. Mystery hiker box food fail!
The rain had eased off a bit the next morning, at least for the first few hours. We began the day by taking advantage of being right near a campground and used the long drop (privy) there. We also filled our water bottles at the well-pump so we didn’t have to take the time to filter. Maybe it was the previous day’s brewpub alternate tour, the weather, or the inevitable shared germs of a couple hiking together, but Cashmere had awoken with a sore throat. Physio welcomed her to his exclusive, fever-inducing, sick club; probably the lamest club that ever existed.
We crossed Panther Creek and started climbing. Drizzle soon started to take over the weather but it was at least neat to be on trail that we recognised. It was funny too because the previous year we weren’t trained up to hike a minimum of 20 miles (~32km) a day so we actually passed our old campsites each day.
Cashmere was disappointed to find that all of her favourite huckleberry spots from the previous year didn’t have berries on offer. We later learned that the hot, dry summer, had brought the harvest earlier than usual and that it was pretty sparse. Probably better we didn’t know that would be the case – we might have postponed the hike! To be fair, the lack of berries did make it easier to keep moving.
Because it was rainy most of the day we only took short breaks. Well actually we did take a long-ish lunch break because we waited to have lunch until we reached an outhouse in Horse Crest Camp. Ignoring the wet picnic tables we happily set up shop in the ‘front porch’ of the facility to have lunch without being rained on. It really is the little things you appreciate when you’re hiking. Awkwardly, it wasn’t just Physio’s brain that was excited for lunch in the shelter of the outhouse. His body also got strong poo anticipation, wanting to take advantage of the opportunity to sit down to do his business. I say ‘awkwardly’ because it turns out the toilet itself was locked, and so, like usual, Physio walked to a hidden spot and dug a hole.
Believe it or not we weren’t the only hikers excited by this amazing facility. We later learned of other hikers having lunch in the ‘foyer’, and having their digestive tracks run rampant with the prospect of a no-dig required-sitting toilet. They too were disappointed to learn that they had to run away and dig a hole in the rain. We are actually pretty normal people. Well hiker-trash people anyway.
For whatever reason (okay, probably the rain) we weren’t seeing other hikers on the trail in this section, just occasional tents in the rain.
Later in the evening, after passing a few familiar lakes and Physio even spotting an elk at one stage, we also became a tent in the rain, setting up shop by Bear Lake. The air was cold with the rain but the lake was relatively warm, and was even steaming. But the prospect of a swim was shot down by the reality that we would have to eventually leave the water for the frigid air. And so, we just cooked dinner and set up camp. The cold weather really wasn’t conducive to our usual pleasure of walking some more after dinner. There just aren’t enough outhouse foyers around in the wilderness, not to mention the days getting shorter.
With the rain so persistent, nothing had dried during the day and despite our best efforts, things just kept getting wetter. A few drips crept into the tent, the down sleeping bag was damp, and it was cold. Cashmere just couldn’t stay warm in her sick state and so we took turns spooning each other all night trying to take advantage of our intermittent fevers that pumped out the heat.
With this sick, wet, and cold context, it is probably no surprise that we were excited to get to the road the next day to hitch to the small town of Trout Lake. In fact we had already called to reserve the best accommodation deal on the trail: a PCT hiker special, $25 double room above the grocery. Sure the bathroom was shared, but seriously, that is so awesome.
To ensure our early arrival in town we had set an alarm for a very early start. The road to Trout Lake has very very little traffic so we figured our best bet was to try to reach it by 4:30pm to give us many hours of hitching before it got dark.
With almost 21 miles to walk that day we awoke before it was even light out. However, cold and wet, we seemed to have a slow start.
On the (sort of) plus side, the huckleberries continued to not be where they had been last year, keeping us moving along swiftly throughout the day. Cashmere wanted the Vitamin C from the berries but to be honest, both of us were so sick we weren’t hungry. I know, crazy. Clearly we weren’t well. Still we forced ourselves to take breaks, albeit quick ones because it was cold and still wet. We did enjoy some good eating by grilling quesidillas by Trout Lake Creek, where we had camped the previous year.
Then we had a big, steep, tough climb. Of course all the rain wasn’t making the hiking any easier. There was little in the way of views. Also, despite being relatively close to a trail town (when our bags are usually light as we’ve eaten most of our food), our bags were heavy, soaked with rain. Luckily after our big climb we just had a small descent to the road for hitching.
We were really looking forward to drying and recovering in little, friendly, and familiar Trout Lake. When we reached the road we encountered a family we hadn’t seen since the Southern California desert: a mom, dad, and two kids, aged 13 and 10 (the Raven family). We thought we would have to compete with them for a hitch but in fact, their pre-arranged ride offered to squeeze us in too. As we tried not to cough and get others sick on the way into town, we learned that the family was doing relatively well. They had managed to maintain a continuous footpath from Mexico and the kids were loving the hike. They didn’t seem to complain much like we probably would have, if we went on such an epic and challenging journey at their age. What cool kids! However, the 13 year old son did have a groin injury that was currently slowing the team down, but again, he didn’t even complain about it. He just limped around like a teenage pirate with a wooden leg.
In exchange for getting in on the family’s ride we shared information about the accommodation steal at the grocery, where they soon got a room too. We were all ecstatic to do a load of laundry, shower, and dry our stuff out. The sun even came out for around an hour. Cashmere got to catch up with her sister, Rebecca, on the phone which was a nice treat too.
Most hikers never find out about it, but our previous visit to Trout Lake had informed us of a ‘Country Inn’ about a mile up the road and in a bit of an odd place. We managed to get up there just in time before the kitchen closed to enjoy ‘taco night”, which for us meant ordering about five people’s worth of food. This impressed the cook greatly who came out to see all the food spread before only two people. Embarrassingly we couldn’t finish it all. I blame the colds. That did mean we got to take home leftovers though. Thank you Barb for shouting this epic, and re-charging, feast!
The next day we awoke still quite sick. It was still a bit rainy out too, not inspiring us to get back on the trail. We decided to take advantage of the cheap accommodation and give our very sick bodies a rest by zeroing in Trout Lake. We needed it. We hadn’t slept too well, probably because we were still feverish all night. Cashmere even put in a phone call to her life advisor, her lovely stepmom and trail angel, Barb, for advice. We followed her good advice and bought some fever-reducing Tylenol from the grocery.
When we went to go get a pancake breakfast we encountered several other hikers we knew, some of whom also wanted to take advantage of the cheap rooms at the grocery. We felt bad to keep a room, putting some other wet hikers out of luck, to either camp or pay more to stay at the B&B up the road (not actually that much more expensive once you account for a cooked breakfast). Our friend, Treeman, was pretty cool about it though, particularly as he could save money by camping for free behind the grocery. What’s more the grocery was nice enough to offer him to use their facilities any way. I love Trout Lake! To be honest, once Treeman joined us for breakfast and observed how sick we were, he wasn’t overwhelmingly keen to move into the room we had stayed in anyway.
The rest of the day we just napped, blogged, read, and really rested. We were too lazy and cheap to even go for a proper dinner but rather opted for heating a frozen chicken pot pie in the microwave of the grocery and eating a hiker trash re-hehydrated minestrone soup. Of course our hiking pot isn’t very big so our soups are usually extra salty as they tend to be sort of hyper-concentrated. We didn’t even care. Soup is the best when you are sick.
When we awoke the next day, we were still a bit sick and there was still rain in the forecast. With the artificial energy from pseudoephedrine we managed to tare ourselves away from our cheap and comfortable room at the grocery (that we had also stayed in the previous year and enjoyed).
We went for breakfast again. Cashmere was sick of pretending she even wanted anything other than pancakes and just ordered two portions of them because she is that ballsy.
Physio was a little more controlled and managed to get some protein in addition to the pancakes. Then we walked back to the grocery just in time to catch a ride we had heard might be going back to the trail. We gave the fellow a donation and were back on our way, which you will hear about in our next edition!