Dinsmore’s Hiker Haven to Janus Lake

Dinsmore’s Hiker Haven to Janus Lake

Day 6: Dinsmore’s Hiker Haven to Janus Lake
Miles: 9.75
Total Miles: 2,471.37
Miles to Go: 187.54

It didn’t rain overnight— it poured so hard that, even pitched under the enormous old-growth fir tree in the Dinsmore’s backyard, the outside of the tent was drenched when we woke up. We packed up as best we could, lying the tent in the misty morning in the hopes it would dry out a little before our departure. Nearly ready to go, we moseyed on into the bunkhouse to see if Krav was ready to roll.

The night before, Joe had told us he would be heading into the little restaurant in Skykomish for breakfast around 9 a.m. and would give anyone ready to go a ride into town for breakfast (and a better opportunity at a hitch.) It was already past eight o’clock and food, and a ride halfway to the trailhead sounded too good to pass up.

Krav sat on the end of his bunk bleary-eyed, staring at his resupply box.

“Hey, Hummingfarts…” Krav smiled.

“Hey, Krappypants. We need to leave in like thirty minutes dude.” I gave him my best “kick it into high gear” look.

I’m not sure where or when it first began, (Oregon I think..?) but Krav had started calling me Hummingfarts, a name, unfortunately, that was well deserved most of our days on the trail. I, on the other hand, had dubbed him Krappypants, in homage to his bout with Giardia. I had nearly forgotten about this until I had read his logbook entry the night before and there in big letters was my name, “Hummingfarts.”

I retaliated with a “Krappypants” honorable mention directly below.

Saying a bittersweet farewell to our wonderful host and celebrity trail angel Andrea, we piled into Joe’s truck with a handful of other hikers and cruised up to the Cascadia Inn for breakfast.

I’m not going to lie to you. In the two years since our attempted thru-hike, I had put on like twenty pounds…maybe more. Thru-hiker eating and desk sitting were ruining me.

“Maybe if I’m really good, I can lose ten pounds on the trail,” I’d thought before we started this last stretch. But now, staring at this menu full of tasty bacon and sausage goodness, my thru-hiker “eat everything in sight” mentality was back with a vengeance. Nahhhhh, I was going need those bacon calories before the day was out.

Leaving the Cascadia Inn with Poco Loco, we headed back to the intersection near the highway. On the corner, was a little deli with a drive-thru window on the side, and a long covered seating area out front.

“Hey, you guys thru-hikers?” We heard from out the drive-thru window. “Come here!”

Walking up to the window to see what was up, the women passed out a sign.

“Just be sure to bring it back when you get a ride,” she smiled.

On the sign in big black letters were the words, “PCT hiker needs ride to Steven’s Pass.” It was bordered in eye-catching red. Now this, was genius!

Poco Loco went first, and with the help of the fancy sign, vanished within minutes. Krav, Bearclaw, and I stood, thumbs out, sign up for less than ten minutes when the tiniest car humanly possible pulled up and offered us a ride.

The driver was thru-hiker alumni, having hiked the trail in 2009, he was more than happy to get us to the trail. The trunk, which already held his small daypack, just barely closed with Bearclaw’s backpack in it. Krav, myself, his backpack, and mine crammed into the backseat. The tallest, Bearclaw folded himself into the passenger’s seat next to the driver.

Knees pressed up against the back of Bearclaw’s seat, backpack on my lap, I could barely breathe. I tried to turn my head to see if Krappypants was fairing any better. Head skimming the roof, pack up against his nose, he took one look at me and burst out laughing. Then, he whipped out his phone and took a picture to show me what was so funny.

Head pinned against my pack my sunglasses were askew; I looked like a crazy person. I whipped out my phone and took a photo of Krav; giving me crazy side-eye. And then we lost it; gut-splitting, childish, impossible to contain laughter.

“You guys okay back there?” Even more laughter.
“Yup, nothing to see back here.” We were roaring.

Unfortunately, the longer we laughed, the more uncomfortable our driver seemed to become. With no idea what was so funny, Bearclaw tried to cover for us with conversation. We laughed nearly all the way to the trailhead.

“What was that about? I think that guy thought you were laughing at him…” Bearclaw asked, confused. Krav whipped out his phone and showed him my photo. It didn’t need an explanation.

We were just crossing the highway when Krav remembered he forgot to buy a staple – his weekly supply of bread. Turning around, he ran to the small store at the Steven Pass ski area to see if it was open. Bearclaw and I lounged by the PCT trail board. We had told Poco Loco we would try to catch her, but at this point, it seemed unlikely. Eventually, Krav made it back, swinging a loaf of bread alongside him.

The trail was pleasant enough, but none of us were particularly motivated. We stopped here and there to pick blueberries, filtered water for longer than necessary at a rocky little creek, and eventually found a lovely meadow near Valhalla Lake where we stopped for lunch and an extended nap in the afternoon sun.

At the ridiculously calm and serene Janus Lake, we found a secluded campsite and decided to call it a day. It was early, and we hadn’t even made ten miles, but we didn’t care. Bearclaw laid down with a book, Krav disappeared into his tent to do whatever a Krav does, and I sat next to the perfectly still waters and contemplated life on the Pacific Crest Trail and what it would feel like to finally make it to Canada…

Mile 2,451.48 to Dinsmore’s Hiker Haven

Mile 2,451.48 to Dinsmore’s Hiker Haven

Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Day 5: Mile 2,451.48 to Dinsmore’s Hiker Haven
Miles: 10.14
Total Miles: 2461.62
Miles to Go: 197.29

It was cold; not Washington snowstorm cold, but cold enough that when our Krav alarm went off, no one was motivated to peel themselves out of their sleeping bags. I popped my head out of the tent to see Krav making breakfast from bed again.

Usually, I don’t make breakfast from bed out of fear of accidentally lighting the tent, and subsequently the forest, on fire. Every time I think to myself, “Hey, let’s make breakfast from bed this morning,” it’s immediately followed by visions of me running around, hair singed, hiking shorts still smoldering, trying to collect all the marmots and pikas to herd them away from the flames. This morning, however, I tightly wrapped up the fly and made an exception.

Not that breakfast was that hard or even required that much cooking— we were down to a bagel, some granola, and enough freeze-dried coffee to make one weak cup. Of all the things I could have been low on, why did it have to be the coffee?! I needed it. Caffeine and sugar are Hummingbird jet fuel. How was I supposed to fly down the trail sans fuel?

The ten miles to Stevens Pass went by in slow motion. It wasn’t just the lack of coffee slowing me down; I was procrastinating. I knew that within ten minutes of arriving at Stevens Pass, I would be out on the side of Highway 2 with my thumb out. Most of the planning I’d done for this trip was just me staring at fluffy clouds, dreading the handful of times I would be forced to stand on the side of the road and beg for a ride.

It isn’t riding with strangers; I don’t mind that part. But that’s probably only because I’ve never had what I would consider an “awkward” hitch. I’ve had friends tell me stories of taking rides where the driver refused to speak to them or rides with people that drove ninety-miles-an-hour while explaining that they were recovering drug addicts. The worst was some thru-hiking friends telling me the story of a woman who’d given them a ride in California. Apparently, she’d made room for them by removing her toddler from the front seat, but not before scolding her for drinking “mommy’s beer.” I’m blessed that the nicest people tend to offer us rides.

What I hate, is standing on the side of the road with my thumb out. Everything about it feels wrong. I, like most people, grew up being taught never to take rides from strangers, and never to pick up hitchhikers. Why do you never accept rides from strangers? Because all strangers that offer you a ride are potentially sex-crazed, knife-wielding, homicidal, escaped convict, sociopaths who just want to abduct you and kill you. And why do you never pick up hitchhikers? Because all hitchhikers that need a ride are potentially sex-crazed, knife-wielding, homicidal, escaped convict, sociopaths who just want to steal your car and kill you. Whenever I find myself on the side of the road, I feel like everyone that goes by automatically assumes I’m a wacko that probably wants to kill them. Suddenly, I want everyone to stop, not so they can offer me a ride, but so I have the chance to explain to them that I am not a monster.

It’s amazing how long it can take you to hike ten miles when you aren’t that motivated. We stopped a half a dozen times to put on and take off our jackets. We spent a good thirty minutes picking perfectly ripe gooseberries and huckleberries – the first berries we’d seen in abundance on the trail this year, I might add. I wandered off the trail at Mig Lake to find the “toilets” FluffyStar had been so excited about (and then felt bad for her when I discovered they were nothing more than wooden boxes with holes in the top.) And we talked to every thru-hiker, section hiker, and day-hiker we came across.

The thru-hikers and section hikers were full of woeful news regarding the fire closures. It sounded bad, but as Bearclaw reminded Krav and me, “There is no point in worrying about it until we get to Hiker Haven and have access to the latest news.”

At the top of the ski hill, we met a day-hiker that stopped my lollygagging dead in its tracks.

“You guys must be headed into Steven’s for burgers!”

“There’s burger in Steven’s?!”

“Yeah, they have a great little restaurant.”

OMG?! Why hadn’t someone informed us of this hours ago? We could already be there eating hamburgers!

And just like that, we were off, stopping only once to coax a blue-lipped Krav out of the middle of a blueberry patch. All it took was these magic words, “There’s a restaurant at Steven’s Pass.”

Halfway down the hill, Bearclaw had a horrible thought. “What if it isn’t open today? It is a Wednesday.”

“Why would the guy tell us there were hamburgers at the restaurant if it wasn’t even open?” I questioned. “If it isn’t, I’m going to hike all the way back up here and kick him in the balls.”

“Yeah, you like that?! Did that feel good?! Because that’s how my stomach felt when I found out the restaurant was closed. A$$h0le.” Krav laughed.

At the very bottom of the trail was a sign welcoming thru-hikers. The very last thing it had listed was the restaurant hours: Friday – Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It was Wednesday.

Lucky for that hiker, I was too lazy (and hungry) to follow through with my threat. Son of a Hamburgalar, now eating real food meant hitching.

As we walked across the overpass and down to the road, I waited for the inevitable. Wait for it….

“You should probably be the one to stand there with your thumb out– women are less threatening.”

….And, there it was.

For five minutes, I stood there, watching drivers pass by us. Not a single car so much as braked.

“I bet we’d have more luck if we just went and asked people in the parking lot if they would give us a ride,” Bearclaw said as we watched people come and go from the nearly full lot across the highway.

That sounded a thousand times better than spending the rest of the afternoon with my thumb out.

“You should probably be the one to ask – women are less threatening.”

Despite what people think, I am quite shy. I can think of a thousand things I would rather do than strike up a conversation with someone I don’t know. When I was little, if anyone I didn’t know tried to talk to me, I would run and hide behind either my mom or my dad’s legs. Unfortunately, I was now a good seven inches taller than my mom, and the same height as my dad. Besides, neither of them was here. Pulling up my big girl panties, I scanned the parking lot for someone who appeared to be leaving that looked as if they might be willing to give three dirty hikers a ride to the nearest restaurant. Sighing, I resigned myself to the fact that I was likely going to have to ask almost everyone in the parking lot before I received a “yes.”

Closest to us were two white SUVs with their back hatches open. Behind one, a statuesque woman with the killer looks of Uma Thurman in “Pulp Fiction” was loading a large blow-up whale into the trunk. A young girl in a jean skirt and billowy Boho top danced at her feet, her Barbie-blonde hair sparkling in the sun. Behind the other SUV, an impeccably dressed, middle-aged woman was closing her hatch door. There was no way these women were going to say yes. But I had nothing to lose by asking.

“Hello! You don’t happen to be heading west, do you? If you are would you be willing to give three dirty hiker’s a ride to Skykomish? We’re really nice people, I promise.” I smiled, and then immediately wanted to kick myself. “We’re really nice people, I promise,” really Hummingbird? Yeah, because that isn’t creepy and weird…

“Sure, but only because you’re really nice people.” Uma smiled. “We just need to rearrange a few things to make room.”

I could have hugged her for saving me the horror of having to ask anyone else for a ride (and for trusting that I wasn’t an ax-wielding maniac.) But again, that would have been creepy and weird.

Our saviors were Vhari (Uma) and her daughter Kealy. While Bearclaw sat in the front and explained to Vhari exactly what it was we were doing, Krav and I sat in the back with our new friend Kealy.

“Kealy’s a really pretty name. I’ve never met a Kealy before.”

“What’s your name?” she asked.

“I’m Hummingbird.”

“Really?” She smiled and stared at me a moment, trying to decide if I was telling the truth.

“Well, it’s my trail name. My friends call me Hummingbird.”

“I’ve never met a Hummingbird before.” She giggled.

Kealy was highly entertaining. She had a new stuffed bear her grandma had brought her all the way from Alaska. On the drive, she named him “Woods” Alaska Bearclaw, “Woods” being his trail name. Woods subsisted on a diet of Rock Candy, which made me think he’d make a great thru-hiker. When Kealy asked if she could pet Krav’s beard, I laughed so hard I almost cried.

Vhari was amazing. She drove us into to Skykomish, found us a restaurant, and then joined us for lunch. The fact that we were filthy didn’t seem to faze her at all. She seemed genuinely interested in what we were doing and concerned for our well-being. She even saved us from having to hitch a ride out of Skokomish and delivered us directly to the front door of Hiker Haven. Hours after they had gone, I was still thanking the trail gods for their awesomeness.

Andrea and Jerry, the trail angels that are Hiker Heaven, were as wonderful as their reputations suggested. Within no time, we had our resupply boxes, had showered, and were waiting for our laundry to dry.

There was a handful of other hiker’s hanging out— Paint Your Wagon and Sobo Fett– were headed south. While fellow NoBo’s – Czech Mix, Poco Loco, Chardonnay, and a couple who were section hiking Washington— were all trying to figure out how they wanted to continue north.

There appeared to only be two options to get around the fire closure in Section K:

1. Hitch a ride to Chelan and take the ferry up to Stehekin. From Stehekin, we could then take the shuttle back to the PCT at High Bridge; this would mean skipping a hundred and four miles of trail.

2. Hike seventy miles up the PCT to the Suittle River Trail, then hike ten miles east along the Suittle River to the trailhead parking lot. From there it would be a twenty-two-mile road walk up Suittle River Road 26 to State Route 530. From 530, it would be twelve miles to Rockport on Highway 20, and another seventy-three miles up to Rainy Pass; this was the new “official” reroute, but no one seemed to know a whole lot about it.

For Krav, Bearclaw, and I, this was a no-brainer. We would skip as few miles of trail as we could. Deciding on the “official” detour, I called Stehekin and asked postmaster Jonathan to forward our boxes to Winthrop. I then called my dad, who was driving down from Canada to meet us at Rainy Pass, and asked if he could meet us in Rockport instead. All our business attended to, we cracked open a bottle of beer, ordered pizzas, and sat down to enjoy some good old hikertrash company.