Miles: 20.28
Camping: PCT mile 2194.48

When I woke up I realized that this could very well be the last time I cowboy camp on this trip. It is said to get cold fast as we gain elevation in Washington. We are only getting farther north after all. This morning was chilly but not too much so, making it easy enough to accomplish the morning chores. There were loads of hikers camped in the same place again, the herd out of Cascade Locks all making the move on Washington. It is the first time since the desert that I’ve seen so many hikers camped in one place. It is almost as if we are coming full circle.

We took off from camp in waves, all a little ragged from 3 days in town. It takes a day or two to get back in rhythm with the trail after every zero. Today we continued climbing, my legs burning for the first time in months. I can happily say that my feet have made a tremendous up-swing lately. I’m sure the rest in town helped, but I credit the Chacos (Thanks Mom!). I’ve been wearing them since Ashland and my feet have only gotten better. It’s so nice to finally be able to say that. I have also had to shake off a little extra vanity to wear socks and sandals together; function over fashion. Though we are dealing with new terrain that is more difficult, it feels so good to be hiking in this forest. Everything is so green and lush, trees are old and covered in moss, ferns growing strong and vibrant, as tall as me at times. I feel so at home on this kind of trail, up and down through vibrant living forest. The air stays a lot cooler in this environment, so pausing in puddles of sunlight for warmth is almost essential. To pause in a ray of sunlight that is scattered by the trees, to deeply inhale the rich organic scent, to feel the softness of pine needles beneath my feet, the sound of rushing water nearby, is pure perfection.

So far we have done a lot of climbing in Washington. The trail is more direct here too, going on steeper routes than we are accustomed to. We are spoiled by gentle grades and long, lazy switchbacks. This is hiking the way I grew up on it, which is essentially walking right up steep mountains. It feels good, but my body is tired and I’m growing hungrier with every mile. I stop to eat more, muscles sore, tired and happy. I’m feeling slightly lethargic, getting my trail legs back, and then there was trail magic. Fellow hiker Birdbath left a cooler of beer, soda and Gatorade! Only planning on a few more miles, I decided to partake in my second on-trail beer. My last one was left by Snake Farm outside of Lake Tahoe. Fellow hikers both times. They know what’s up.

I sat drinking my beer and was joined by a few other hikers who all grabbed beer too. We chatted for a little while and soon moved on for camp. Just before our campsite, there were coolers of water on trail. More trail magic! This was only an 11 mile waterless stretch, but we were dry camping, so an extra liter made sense. Thanks Trail Toad! We set up camp before dark today, and made our dinners together next the unused fire ring. I keep looking at our group, so many of us having known each other from the beginning, and I’m full of joy. Sitting with these people, in this place, so far north from where we started is pure magic.

Not sure what they are experimenting on …