Approaching Washington (August 21)
August 21. Got up to my alarm at 0530. I was hungry. I saw my friend sitting at a nearby picnic table, drinking his morning cup of coffee. (Even though we would hike up to a diner within a few hours! That made me laugh some, then I decided to follow suit and make myself a cup as well.) We both packed up, then headed into town.
We approached the city of Cascade Locks, and the large Bridge of the Gods stretching over the Columbia River. It was a cloudy morning, and the river reflected steely grey and impressive below.
To cross the bridge is to cross a state line, from Oregon into Washington. It is a neat feature of the PCT, to cross from one state to the next on this grated bridge, with an open river landscape, hills, mountains all around, the swift water moving below. A fittingly dramatic way to hike into the final section.
I was glad to see the Bridgeside Restaurant nearby. We walked into the restaurant and ordered our breakfasts, then took a seat. Pretty soon, many hikers and non-hikers showed up, and the large cafeteria style dining area was full. Every time I got up, I saw more hikers I knew. This was because we had walked into the city in time for the festivities of “Trail Days”, a gathering event for current and past PCT hikers each year.
I soon recognized a good friend I had been hoping to see again before trip’s end. She came over and sat at our table, and we caught up again. I’d always known her to be a fast hiker, but she was even faster than I’d thought, one day hiking 50 miles! I’d been wanting to hike with her again for a while, but she told me that she was hitting the trail right after breakfast. I asked if I’d see her another time, and she looked sheepish and said, “I don’t know”. I gathered that she was planning to keep hiking at a fast clip with another friend. I was glad to see her on this morning, at least, and catch up one final time before our hikes come to an end.
With the approach to Washington, we are all thinking about the finish now. When we want to finish, and who with. Who we’d like to see a final time before the trip ends. There’s a sadness and a preciousness there, as there always is with endings.
I remain thankful for this unique experience, and the opportunity that has come with it, most importantly, the opportunity to connect with people that I likely wouldn’t have met otherwise, and most certainly would not have come to know so deeply.
I am hopeful that I will see a few more on my list, before this trip’s ending, but whether or not I do, I carry many precious memories and faces with me.
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