PCT Days 5 – 8: From Cinnamon Toast Crunch to Cinnamon Buns

Day 5:

We wake up excited for breakfast. It was the remainder of the knock off Cinnamon Toast Crunch we bought at Safeway in Seattle. It was a perfect start.

The only way to eat cereal on trail.

Unfortunately it quickly went downhill. Nick is still feeling sick, and almost immediately steps into a huge puddle and is too stubborn to change his socks.

“It won’t matter anyway,” he says.

After a big day of elevation we stand before Cutthroat pass. The sky has been darkening all day, and then we hear thunder. Where as we raced the storm just the other day, today we are tired. We’re not up for it.  We’ve only hiked 14 miles but we set up the tent in the most beautiful spot as it starts to rain. I make peanut pad Thai and some hot veggie soup and we sit under a tree and eat it, passing it back and fourth because we just have a spork and the pot.

Sunset in the mountains after a short & wet day.

He falls asleep soon after and I watch the sunset before crawling into the tent and joining him.

Day 6:

The next day we’re up, early and awake with the birds at 5:00 a.m. Nick is feeling better and I actually had a great sleep for once. Which is good, because today will be a long, long day.

It’s still grey, dreary, and cold but we pack up the wet tent, make coffee, and get on with walking up and over Cutthroat. The view would probably be awesome if we could see it, but everything is just grey.

I find myself looking at my shoes mostly anyway.

Nothing but rocks.

We walk down to Rainy Pass parking lot, where we meet several day hikers.

“Are you thru-hikers?” One woman asks us. She is carrying a small 20L day pack overflowing with water bottles.

“We’re trying to be,” I say.

We meet and dogs, and wish people happy birthday, and when we finally reach the parking lot we sit on the little concrete wall and ate a big lunch of tuna wraps with crispy fried onions and hot sauce.

Finally we follow the trail out of the parking lot, and to the edge of the highway. We look both ways like our moms taught us, and finally run across and quickly back into the forest.

The first highway jay waking on trail

After awhile we reach a stream where we happily rip off our socks and dip our aching feet. We eat the rest of our gummy bears and talk about how happy we will be to lay down in three miles when we get to camp.

A half an hour after that, back on the trail I look at the map.

“Uh,” I say reluctantly, “I think I read the all wrong earlier. It says here that it’s actually seven miles!”

“What?” Nick stops walking and turns back to face me. “My feet hurt so much! My toes just might fall off.”

“I think there was glare on my screen,” I try to explain, although part of me thinks maybe it was just wishful thinking. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize,” he tells me, smiling. “We can still do it. It’ll just be a longer day.”

Just what I want to see…

When we get to camp, the garmin tracking us says we have been hiking for 11 hours.

We make two huge dinners and eat them both plus snacks. We talk about the huge cinnamon buns we’ve read about at the Stehekin bakery and how many we eat tomorrow when we get there. I fall asleep thinking of baked goods.

Day 7:

Nick set his alarm for 5:00 a.m. but we didn’t need it. It seems our bodies have adapted so quickly to rising with the sun. I never was a morning person.

We have to hike seven miles to get to the ranger station and get the bus at 9:00 a.m. We make it with extra time to spare and spend it talking to the other hikers there and asking about their plans. We also talk to the ranger and he tells us about a big party that “everybody” was at last night. He smiles as he tells us the memory of coworkers jumping off roofs into the lake.

The bus driver is wearing a loud Hawaiian shirt and has the personality to back it up. He flips on his microphone and tells the six of us on the bus about the history and quirks of Stehekin. The seats on the bus are small and can only fit one pack and one person per seat. It feels amazing to sit and my feet are happy.

On the side of the bus it reads, “the bakery shuttle.” True to its word, it pulls in right outside the front.

Who wouldn’t get on a bus with a label like this?

“You have about ten minutes,” the driver tells us. “So don’t order any of those fancy coffees or sandwiches!”

We order a large black coffee, two mushroom pesto hand pies, a sticky bun and a cinnamon bun. Outside we see L from the first day of the trail. He gives me a big hug and forgets my name. The second time. We all laugh and it’s one of those friendly stranger moments I’ve read about the pct: it brings people together. He tells us he’s already been in town for a night and is leaving today. We wish him luck on the rest of his trek, knowing we’ll probably never catch up. We exchange phone numbers.

A sticky bun the size of my face never tasted so good!

We also meet up again with G. He’s also been in town for a night but is planning to spend one more. With my hands full of baked goods and surrounded by new friends, the remainder of the bus ride is a dream. Everybody is so nice and helpful to us, and as hiking babies we try to soak up every word.

The town looks like the most beautiful postcard. G takes us up the hill to the tent site and we meet T, who is from Amsterdam and has been there for a few days recovering her leg. We share peanut m&ms as they sort out their resupply food on the picnic table and we set up our tent.

We get quarters for laundry and showers, buy a $2 laundry bundle that includes one tide pod and one bounce sheet, and two beers and go down to the laundry mat. After our stinky laundry is in the machine and we’ve crammed ourselves into the small $1 = 2.5 minutes shower (with one minute just for the water to warm up), we sit in the shade watching the planes dip into the lake because there is a fire nearby. I swear cold beer has never tasted so good.

Why were we actually surprised that the box was here when we only shipped less than a week ago on July 3

We suddenly meet up with everybody we’ve met today as they head to the hiker box. Soon we are all standing around chatting and it’s nice for one moment to have this little group of people in this time and place. Usually, I am not a super social person but in that moment I feel connected.

Nick and I order three meals at the lodge and eat them all together. We drink another beer with a new friend we may never see again after this day. Later when I crawl up to the campsite at 9:00, everybody is already in their tents and quiet before the sunset.

Hiker bedtime

Day 8:

We wake up at 7:00. The bus leaves at 8:00.

Quickly we pack up camp and I cram everything into my backpack in a way that makes it not fit. I strap camp shoes and rain gear to the side and just deal with it, telling myself I’ll repack on the bus.

We pay for the bus again and I send a last minute text to my mom telling her I love her before it speeds out of wifi range and I’m back in the land of no service

After another bakery trip, our stomachs are full. As we exit the bus, there are dozens of hikers waiting for it and they are cheering and clapping.

“Welcome back to trail!”

I’ll take one of everything please!

I can’t help but smile at the fanfare. We end up trailing behind a group of four hikers. We chat as we hike, until the first elevation gain up and then of course I’m just breathing heavily and lack the energy to form any words at all. I marvel at their easy conversation and then feel slightly vindicated when they too devolved into huffing and puffing. Soon Nick and I fall behind and we coin ourselves, “slowbos.”

We meet up for lunch and water at the river. There is a couple from Amsterdam, a short girl from Oregon and a taller man wearing grey pants and black shirt. He does his laundry in a ziploc bag everyday at lunch and Nick and I both think it’s a great idea. As we eat, the group talks. Two of them want to pull more than 20 miles today.

“The best ages are between 30 and 34,” says SB as he swishes his laundry. I don’t remember how we touched on the subject, but I laugh.

“Oh no,” I say. “That’s not good news for me. I better get in as many miles as I can today!”


“Tomorrow is my birthday and I turn 35,” I say. Somehow I feel like this innocent conversation was pointed at me.

They laugh and offer a round of happy birthdays and playful jokes. I appreciate all of them and it feels nice to have people when I am so far away from home.

The day is hot, so, so hot that Nick and I stop and make water a dozen times. The glacier wilderness is fairly unmaintained and there are trees down and bushy overgrown paths at every turn. Oh, it’s also all basically straight up or down hill. By the end of the days my knees are killing me.

Only the coldest streams can numb the sorest feet.

Before camp we come to a stream crossing and find the Dutch couple sitting on the other side. They point to a log and we stare at it, thinking well, this looks a little dangerous but ok. One at a time we cross. They clap and then tell us what they were actually pointing at – a log further down that is much easier and safer to cross.

The log crossing that should not have been.

We walk past and hike up to an empty campsite. Everybody else must have gone past. Nobody else is here. Nick makes pasta and chipotle mushrooms for dinner and it’s delicious.

In the tent, I’m yawning to the sound of Nick rummaging and scribbling. “Don’t look,” he says. “It’s a surprise!”

But I’m so tired I just fall asleep even though it’s only 8:30.

A tent is just like a home you have to clean up every single day.

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