I woke up in the dorm surrounded by people who were still asleep. All of the beds were taken and people were strewn about the floor in strategic positions. I tiptoed across the human burritos in sleeping bags and found my way out to the yard where those who slept in tents were beginning to greet the day. It had rained in the night, and though I was still feeling a little ill I eagerly awaited the opening of the cafe. One thing about being an early riser in a small town is that you have to wait for things to open; an early morning sense of limbo. Blisster and I talked strategy for the next section, one no one is looking forward to. It has one of the most daunting elevation profiles and with the weather forecasting heavy rain over the next few days, I wasn’t eager to head off – but I am getting more and more ready to reach the finish line. There is a certain dysphoria spreading among hikers. We are all a bit antsy to complete the hike, but we are all feeling the sense of impending loss on the horizon. It makes it hard to motivate forward, but it also makes me want to see it all be over so I can start recovering. I can already tell it’s going to be hard.
Hugs, Blisster, Dayglo, Steeltoe, Detour, Lapdog and I all piled into a truck to Stevens Pass. Detour and Lapdog were fast onto the trail, but the rest of us wandered inside the lodge not feeling like succumbing to the trials we were about to face. My belly was still in knots a little bit, but I was gradually feeling better if not weaker than usual. The five of us sat at a table and started joking about not doing this section at all. What if we just went to the next town? What if we didn’t hike the hardest section of Washington with forecasts that called for “heavy rain?” It felt like the cowardly way out, but something inside of me was all for it. I definitely want to hike this section, but since I live fairly close, why not come back and do it when the weather is more agreeable? We all had our own internal debate on the matter as the joke became more of a realistic proposition. All of us were tired. All of us just wanted to get to Canada at that point. All of us knew that this would put a bit of a smudge on our thru-hike, where most people will say we aren’t real thru-hikers if we skip 100 miles out of 2660. I had already skipped in California due to fire and injury, so my hike was already not perfect. If I skip this, I will still have hiked 2300 miles. That’s good enough for me, and I decided I’d go with the group decision in the end. If they threw on their packs and hiked, I’d do the same. If they stuck their thumbs out on the side of the road, my thumb and I would be there too. For this I gave in to the hive mentality and it felt rather liberating (as much of a contradiction as it sounds).
We decided to hitch to the town of Leavenworth (which is not a trail town) for the night, and then make the ultimate decision. We could always come back if we wanted to. Amazingly enough, a truck pulled over right away and all 5 of us fit comfortably into the cab with the driver (one of the easiest hitches I’ve ever had-and with 5 people!). It seemed to be in the cards to go, and though I felt regret, I felt relief too. I wasn’t sure which emotion was stronger, but in the end it would be a fun detour with friends. Leavenworth is a small Bavarian village that makes you feel more like you’re on vacation in the Alps than in Washington. The architecture of the entire town lends to the European feel, and the streets are lined with themed shops and restaurants. We all promptly ordered bratwurst and ale before finding a hotel in our price range. With 5 people, it makes it a heck of a lot easier on the wallet! That night we ended up going dancing, as there was a band from LA playing at a local pub. It was an absolute blast! One of the most fun nights I had on the entire trail. Hands down. It was the perfect night of fun and entertainment with my trail friends. I felt like the quality of our detour made it all worth it, as I’m going to miss these people fiercely in just a few short weeks. Why not take the time to enjoy this aspect of the trail one last time? It wasn’t just about the hiking.
The next day, we took a bus to Chelan where we found a cheap hotel and rented movies from RedBox. We ordered pizza and all lounged on beds for the night, knowing we had an early ferry to catch to Stehekin. Stehekin is the last trail town before Canada. It is where we will get back on trail and finish the hiking portion of our trip.
The 4 hour ferry ride was beautiful and we sat in the lower deck playing cards as we made our way across the lake. We had reservations at the Stehekin ranch, and they picked us up in an old school bus to bring us to our lodging. It was our last night of relaxation before getting back to reality and the entire detour was worth it, even if it meant skipping a bit of trail. The most affirming moment was when I went to the post office to pick up my resupply box and it wasn’t there! I had never had issue with getting any of my boxes on the entire trail and all of a sudden, I was standing in a small town with no grocery store and no resupply – but the most amazing bakery on the entire trail. The only saving grace was that I still had the food from the section I had skipped, so I was by no means without food for the trail. It was a letdown as the final box had lots of treats and trail favorites in there, but it was a consolation knowing I had just had a stellar time with my friends touring Washington. I wasn’t going without anything and it was rather serendipitous that I already had food. I can’t imagine how dejected I would have felt after hiking that section in the pouring rain, then coming into this town looking forward to everything in that box … and it wouldn’t have been there. That would have been a major letdown. I feel like it all worked out how it was supposed to, especially after hearing how miserable everyone was that had actually completed that section. I felt slightly guilty but also tremendously relieved. That said, I am ready to get back to hiking! One last stretch to Canada – one last journey through the wild west.