Smoke On The Water
Crossing into Washington via the bridge of the gods was rather surreal. You can walk into town on foot and then pass the toll booth and move with bridge traffic, having no pedestrian walkway delineated. It feels like you can float or glide through this section without the usual challenges of forests or mountains, and yet you’re technically right on trail. A nearby wildfire broke out as I was there, making for a lesser air quality. As I began the substantial vertical climb thereafter, a 90°F/smoke filled atmosphere humbled me. More inevitable pockets of mosquitoes helped me to not forget that I’m in their house, not mine. Flooded trail was pretty far from ideal, but by now, it’s a familiar way of life.
Exit Through The Gift Shop
Casa de Lion
If the Stehekin debate wasn’t enough, I quickly had to stop a day later in Mazama and decipher how it could possibly be a better bakery. The reality is that they’re apples and oranges. As an upscale market however, Mazama was everything I hoped for and more. The salted baguette and honey lavender goat cheese with local PNW jam is not a meal you’ll likely forget. The wine selection is a miracle too, if you prefer to elevate the afternoon. Across town, The Lion’s Den was an absolutely magical trail angel/hostel. They have thankfully continued some familiar traditions of Southern California hippie daycare. With these things in mind, I have to emphasize that Mazama has been my favorite trail town thus far(with honorable mentions to Bend and Trout Lake). Due to it’s location, you might be tempted to pass on it entirely, which I think would be a terrible mistake.
Perfect weather and an increasingly enjoyable stretch of the Cascades had me unexpectedly deposited near the border of Canada. Even as you descend into less interesting terrain near the border, it has a certain weight to it. The area near the borders is always going to feel like sacred ground to a PCT thru hiker. I rounded the corner and saw the monument I’d been dreaming of. Even though I’m not yet done with the journey, it definitely held a special place in my heart.
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