Miles: 6.37
Camping: The Dinsmore’s Hiker Haven off PCT mile 2476
Miles to go: 192.98

I woke up to the sound of thunder (isn’t that the beginning of a Bob Seger song?). I was in no hurry this morning so I lay back with a smile on my face. There is something about listening to a storm in the comfort of my tent that I was happy to embrace. With only about 6 miles of hiking on the agenda today, I could take my time this morning without feeling like I had to be somewhere. Though I was looking forward to meeting the Dinsmore’s (Washington’s premier trail angels and owners of the Hiker Haven), I also liked the idea of just enjoying the day. I began to assemble breakfast when a rumbling came from within me. I had to use the bathroom. Thinking I could hold it off while the storm passed I continued pouring water into my pot for coffee. Lightning began to light up the morning sky and I realized I had two options: 1) Soil myself in my tent or 2) Risk getting hit by lightning. I liked option #2 best.

I ran into the rain, thunder and lightning threatening my safety, and dodged under a thicket of trees nearby. I felt relatively secure there and I began to dig, or should I say, attempt to dig? Time was not on my side and the ground was made of a thick root system with a few rocks thrown in for good measure, making hole digging an impossible endeavor. Lightning struck in the distance. Thunder rolled a long echo through the valley below. My belly turned in knots. “Sometimes,” I thought, “sometimes you just have to give in to circumstance.” I took care of business without the proper LNT (leave no trace) technique, wondering if I was suffering from something I ate, or worse yet water I hadn’t filtered. I have been a bit cavalier as of late on the water filtering, as most of it is spring fed and ridiculously clear on this part of the trail. I made the decision that it was something I ate (mind over matter), and then dealt with hiding the trace I had left behind. Fortunately, there was a great deal of forest debris to build up and over things, and I found an uprooted baby tree to plant right in the middle. Maybe it will grow big and strong one day, all because of whatever I ate that didn’t agree with me. Maybe.

Diving back into my tent I felt a wave of nausea. This worried me only slightly, as I tipped back a liter of water. I usually try to deny any feelings of sickness that come my way, and often they go away on their own. It’s like my super power. I ate some oatmeal and had coffee, noticing that my symptoms were neither getting worse or better. Soon the storm had rolled on, and though I felt pretty crummy, I knew I could make it the short distance to town. Packing up seemed like a bigger chore than usual as I was feeling lightheaded and particularly low on energy. I supposed that I could stay in my tent longer, but at that point I wanted to get to the warmth and security of the Dinsmore’s.

I began my hike and took care to move slowly. No point in overtaxing myself with only 6 miles to walk. I felt weak, but there was no recurrence of digestive issues, so I figured my body was taking care of things. The hike was easy and absolutely stunning as the fog was lifting from the storm. The sky displaying a clear blue behind the receding dark clouds, mist rising from the ground and the trees around me. It was muggy and that added to my ill feelings, but I just kept moving forward. Looking back in the direction I had come I saw new clouds moving fast and furious over the hillsides. It was strikingly beautiful with a hint of ominous. The storm was returning, and fast! I hiked as fast as I could, sweating in the cool yet muggy weather, feeling weak and nauseous, but with an instinct to get off of the exposed hillside quickly. I was climbing up a steep ski slope on one side, completely exposed to the elements. I knew that the road I was hiking to was on the other side of the hill and I went as quickly as I could up the hill, feeling my insides tumbling around like the clouds. I was thankful for my neoprene socks, which locked out most of the moisture, though I found that the wet shrubs that brushed on my feet managed to get water in through the seams. It was worlds better than hiking in soaked socks though, and my feet were quite warm.

The storm was soon overhead, blue sky nowhere to be seen, clouds surrounding everything. I walked through the cloudy soup and finally hit the top of the hillside, admiring the beauty the clouds created in the distant hills. As I began climbing down the other side of the ski slope the clouds embraced me and my surroundings so tightly that I couldn’t see 5 feet in front of my own face. I couldn’t tell how long the storm would stick around but I was eager to get to my destination. There isn’t much more defeating than being socked in by a storm on the one time I’ve been ill on trail. I felt terrible and cried a little in my weakened state. When I finally reached the road I couldn’t even see the cars as they drove by, the fog was so thick. There was no hope for hitchhiking in those conditions so I found my way up to the ski lodge, feeling further defeated. This was not my day so far.

Before I even made it to the door of the lodge a man was approaching me.
“Are you a hiker?” He asked.
I nodded, trying not to look as pathetic as I felt.
“I’m headed to the Dinsmore’s if you want a lift.”
“Yes please! Thank you!” I couldn’t believe my luck in that moment, as relief swept over me.

We got into his old Cadillac and he introduced himself as Legend. He has hiked the trail in the past, and spends time off trail helping other hikers, driving us where we need to go. Legend was enamored with my neoprene socks, high fiving me several times in full support of them. I give credit to Blisster for making me aware of them and to my mom for buying and sending them to me. Legend himself is set on buying a pair as soon as he gets to the city, as they are truly a worthwhile piece of gear in Washington.

After driving through the fog, Legend let me off at Dinsmore’s Hiker Haven, a sprawling piece of property in Baring, WA. They have a huge yard where hikers are welcome to set up tents and also a garage space converted into sort of a dormitory for hikers. There are several bunks, a tv/vcr, refrigerator, laundry facilities, a shower and loaner clothes. Everything we need and in true trail angel form, so much more! A few of my friends were already lounging around watching movies, some of which I hadn’t seen since Oregon: Sacred Cow, Caboose, Party Saver and Trolley. Steeltoe and Dayglo had made it last night, also scoring a fast ride from Legend as they approached the road. Everyone was relaxed and I liked the atmosphere, as all I wanted to do was curl up into a ball on a bunk. Instead, I took a shower and headed over to the cafe to scare up some proper breakfast. I knew I wasn’t overly ill if food was still taking priority, and I managed to put down a veggie omelet and a pancake. I’m going to miss pancakes a lot when this is over as I cannot stomach them in my normal life. They are the utmost in trail treats!

After I ate I went back to the dorm and lounged with the others. We watched movies, did our resupply, wore amazing loaner outfits, and were later fed an amazing meal by a neighbor. A local hunter had cooked up a big batch of venison chili, and we had a true hiker feast, joined by Blisster, Pockets, Hugs, Pirate Bait, Pisa, and more friends throughout the day. It felt good to be surrounded by friends, everyone pretty calm this evening. This was good for me as I never truly felt 100%, and embraced the relaxed atmosphere fully. We all plan to hike on tomorrow despite the heavy rain in the forecast. It’s inevitable in Washington, and I really don’t want to fall behind this late in the game due to feeling ill. I will power through it and in the end, it will still be over all too soon.