August 25, 2015
Hwy 26 – Portland (2097.0)
0 PCT miles today
2142.9 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 0 ft, – 0 ft
Today was just about the most heartwarming and fulfilling zero that we could have imagined. There is no way to do it justice with this blog post, but I’ll at least lay out the events of the day, and hope that my current level of joy and gratitude somehow finds a way through.
We had spent a long time anticipating this particular zero, and now that it was here, we faced the stark fact that a day only contains so many hours, and we were going to have to make choices about what we could and couldn’t fit into our time in Portland. We tried alleviating the problem from the start with a nice, early wake-up. We had come up with a genius plan where Pickles drove Laura to an appointment and then work and then got to use her car for the day, while I went with Shyam and Sou to the store at 7am (they go every morning to buy fresh ingredients for the food cart), and then was dropped off at the Rain or Shine Coffeehouse before they headed to work, where I had made plans to meet up with my friend Sheena and her two little boys, Daxos who is 2, and his little brother Caius who is only 1 month old.
I had a wonderful time catching up with Sheena and drinking my favorite cardamom latte, and finished just in time for Pickles to pick me up and drive us over to Next Adventure, the outdoor store where we used to work when we lived in Portland. Our time in Next Adventure was rushed since we had lunch plans in Beaverton, but that actually worked out because if we hadn’t had a time limit, it’s likely we would have chatted with coworkers and shopped for hours on end. The place is kind of a vortex for gear-heads like ourselves. Instead, we got to quickly catch up with a few wonderful people whom we hadn’t seen in too long, sell a couple used items to the basement for store credit, and pick up a couple essentials, such as a new headlamp, warmer gloves, and fuel. We pulled ourselves away from the store just in time to hop back in the car and drive out to the Columbia Sportswear headquarters in Beaverton.
Our trip to visit the Columbia headquarters has its origin in the PCT kick-off that we attended the week before we started this hike. We acquired quite the audience when we got our pack shake-down, and when it was finished, two nice ladies came up to us and introduced themselves as Becca and Stephanie from Columbia Sportswear. They worked in the marketing and design departments, and in addition to just being friendly and excited about the PCT, they also mentioned that they had a couple apparel pieces that needed to be tested out in the field. Pickles and I jumped at the opportunity, and after trying out a few different shirts, gave as much feedback as we could via email. The agreement had worked out well, and we had kept in touch, so when Becca heard we were going to be in Portland, she invited us to have lunch with some more of the design team there at their office in Columbia. Again, we were thrilled to be given the opportunity to talk gear among the people who influence it most, so we scheduled it in for today’s lunch.
Becca, Stephanie, and all the other designers and employees we met at Columbia were incredibly welcoming and friendly and we had a truly positive experience trading stories, ideas, and feedback. It was interesting learning more about the design process and we felt that our adventures and ideas were truly heard and respected. We left the office with a few more pieces of clothing to try out in Washington, and a whole new level of excitement over a potentially on-going role as gear testers for one of the largest and most respected outdoor companies around.
When we got back to Laura and Shyam’s house, our day had only just begun. I stayed home, but Pickles and Shyam headed over to Winco to buy groceries for tonight’s BBQ that we had planned as a way to see a bunch of friends all in one place. I eventually took the other car to pick Sou and Laura up from work, and when we got home, the guys had already started to prep all of the food.
The rest of the afternoon and evening is really a blur of kind smiling faces, stories from the trail being swapped for stories from the “real world”, and an overall sense of belonging, as we surrounded ourselves with many of our favorite people. We drank, we ate, and we felt ourselves incredibly fortunate to have had this day off trail. It will be hard to leave all this and get back on the PCT tomorrow afternoon, but it helps to know that we’ll be back through in a month, on our way back home, and at that time we’ll be able to say that we completed the entire PCT and hiked all the way from Mexico to Canada.