Making Peace (September 16 and Ever Onward)
The goal of this day was to hitch with another hiker from Winthrop, westward over the Cascade Range, to Seattle. We were fortunate, and caught two rides with relative ease, up to Rainy Pass. On the ride up into the mountains, I kept looking out at those grand views, the granite peaks and fir-covered slopes, and felt a sadness for no longer having a kind of ownership of it all, no longer looking out at the landscape and knowing the trail passed through it, and that I would be intimately connected to it in that way. Making my home out there, living out there, breathing it in all the time. I looked at it all with new eyes and thought, I wonder if I appreciated it enough.
Is it within our capacity to appreciate things fully, when we have them? Or do we only fully appreciate something after it is over and we are yearning for it again?
The couple we had caught a ride with dropped us off at Rainy Pass. Here the PCT crosses Highway 20, so as we stood with a sign “Going to Seattle?” along the road, we saw a thru hiker approach the highway. We had hiked across this highway ourselves a few days ago.
I was struggling with my feelings. I thought for a minute, then told the other hiker, “I’m going to hike for a few hours today, on the PCT again”. I felt like I needed to say goodbye, make my peace with the trip’s having ended. He said, “So you’re not going to hitch now?” and then said OK, and fist-bumped me. I headed off back towards the familiar trail.
I hiked for an hour. It was refreshing and so comforting to be out there in the fresh morning, among all that beauty again. Pine-laden path, fir-covered, and no need to hike fast in order to meet a goal for the day. I just enjoyed being out there and absorbed the surroundings and the idea that we all have been so lucky to be out in this peace, day after day.
I hiked an hour, then stopped and sat along the path, and ate a few snacks. When I had started, there had been frost on the ground in places. It felt good to sit in a swath of sunlight on that cool morning.
I thought about how in a typical day out there, I broke the day down into short goals, like, get to the lunch spot, or get to the bridge, or get to a good break spot. Maybe I can carry that with me for the next few months, so I don’t get as overwhelmed by the complexity of transitioning back to real life.
After a while, I got up and started working my way northbound, back to the highway and the hitching that was waiting for me. I felt comforted and ready to start on the next leg of the journey.
I hiked back through the pretty forest, then came out onto the road, chatted with a group of hikers who were deliberating about skipping a section of trail due to the weather forecast of coming snows, then headed up the road a bit to hitch. Before long, a convertible pulled up behind me, and a woman in the passenger seat (my age) called out, want a ride? The older man driving chuckled wryly and said, “You won’t be too warm!”
I sat in the back with my hood up and my sunglasses on, smiling in the sun, riding in this classy Mustang convertible with my quiet company, just watching the mountains above and the pretty river all go by. What a ride. The two up front were so polite and kind, I could feel it in their comfortable silence. Neighbors, he doing her a favor and driving her to her car somewhere.
That ride was probably close to two hours, and eventually they dropped me off along the highway at a gas station and continued on their way. And so I continued on my way, eventually, through the kindness of strangers, finding my way to Seattle and the next leg of my journey home.
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