Week 8: Washington Part 2
The Middle and Not So Good
This enlightened mood did change, however, the state was about to hand me my lowest days on trail thus far.
The magic from the last section would fizzle and the trail that had once encouraged me to slow down to soak in its beauty would morph to a green tunnel of dismay.
White’s Pass to Snoqualamie
I left The Kracker Barrel on an incredible high from the day before and there was a vibrant sensation in the air as everyone was emitting beams of joy from the last 30 miles of trail. The theme was clear: this had been a section that enchanted everyone who walked through. As someone who still has yet to complete The Sierra I kept asking, “is this comparable?” The NOBO’s I met seemed to lean towards this being their new favorite section. With the memory fresh in my mind I was ecstatic for what was next because to me, I could only go up from here.
The miles changed from crossing exposed alpine passes to trudging through old growth and thick rainforest. The population seemed to match Washington’s energy as hikers grew more dense— this would be the cause of what came next. I had started to enjoy everyone’s company as my miles started to match those who had been walking for 4+ months. Each day I had similar faces to see along the trail and new conversations to be had as dinner was no longer by myself. That joy ended up turning rancid after an infamous infection.
A vile spec of lifeless RNA passing from feces to person to person to person to fucking me. A sickness as nasty as it is quick to exit the body in record-achieving projectiles. I had just made the decision to push for 28 miles to make it to Snoqualamie Pass so I could have two full zeroes. Zeroes I desperately needed and the trail decided to oblige my need.
Nearly missing the 28 mile mark I made it 2.7 miles from the pass and called it— my stomach was upset. Nothing to be concerned about or so I thought as I had only added a new spice to some Idahoan Instant Mash so, that was probably it. Drifting to sleep I felt a determination to walk to town early and have the maximum time to rest there.
Midnight strikes. Frantic hands attempt to coordinate as one reaches for the zipper of the tent and the other, my toiletries bag. A narrow, deep hole is dug and the routine I’ve had for the last two months was shortly completed. Now, time to get some rest.
Another hour passes and the jolt of a sour stomach sits me up and frantic hands once again coordinate a joint attack towards the zipper and toiletries. The deed is finished, yet this time as I walked back toward my tent in the dim glow of my headlamp, the direction of projection switched. One exit was simply not enough.
Fourty-five minutes pass and the familiar scene replayed. Both exits being properly utilized this time. For the next nine hours the scene continued on repeat with a few variations added to each round of the exit drill. The zipper remained unzipped. The toiletries clasped in hand prepared for what inevitably came next. After the morning sun’s blades started to sneak through the forest screen of trees piercing the wet green floor, I finally mustered my depleted energy to hike out. Never had I felt so impressed by the physical limits my body could surpass.
After a night of quick leaps out of my tent and using the instinctive technique of cat hurling up a hairball, my body was ready for rest. I would spend four days in Snoqualmie nurturing my gut biome back to health— preparing for the difficult section up ahead.
Snoqualamie to Steven’s Pass
Leaving Snoqualamie still drained from the virus, I was optimistic about the next section. I had to be. The climbs became steeper and my body had yet to fully recover.
Hiking out of the green tunnel of dismay Washington reverted back to high elevation and exposed views of mountains still clinging to small patches of snow. Mountains who put their glaciers on full display and attempted to keep my spirits high. Again, my daily emotions mirrored the highs and lows of Washington’s trail. Getting deeper in The Cascades I waded back and forth between: “this is INCREDIBLE!” to “I am miserable.”
Misty mountains painted majestic sunrises filling my morning cup of coffee with warm optimism. The same mist would make for wet evenings as the low hanging clouds sprinkled its moisture all over my gear. Up and down the trail went. Up and down my emotions followed. The decision soon followed to push once again for two days straight and make it to Steven’s Pass a day early.
Even then the trail knew how to slow me down with clustering massive lakes in the last 20 miles. Lakes surrounded by towering granite rock that created the perfect contrast for the fresh snow melted water.
Rolling in to Steven’s Pass early with no misfortunate sicknesses to interrupt that plan I let out a sigh of relief. The border was 188 miles away. The first terminus I would touch on this trip finally felt close and I started fantasizing about the ending of the NOBO portion of my Flip-Floppin’, NOBO-SOBO journey. The time to flip SOBO was soon.
The Northbound End Is Near
I could smell that monument, but I was too naive to realize the smell was of smoke and of the ending that lied ahead.
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