September 9, 2015
Tentsite before Bear Creek Trail Junction (2362.9) to Stirrup Creek (2388.7)
25.8 PCT miles today
2423.3 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 5,291 ft, – 6,640 ft
It seems that with sunshine comes all sorts of good tidings. Now that the weather has improved it feels as though Washington is doing her best to win us back. We still haven’t had that many views, but the craggy mountain range in the distance looks promising and Rainier continues to delight with all her grandiosity. The real treat today came in the form of incredibly generous and creative trail angels. We had not one, but two experiences with trail magic today and they did much to bolster our morale and melt away another day of many long miles. Most of all, they filled us with much-appreciated calories that fueled our bodies and made us feel much more prepared to finish this hike to Canada.
This morning was dry as a bone and for the first time in over a week we got to watch the sun rise over a range of mountains. We’re still not sure what range we were looking at, but in the far off distance the mountains seemed to go on forever and their jagged edges made for a breathtaking view. We can only hope that we’ll get closer as the days go by.
The first 10 or so miles of the day left us feeling a little fatigued and bored, with our only source of real inspiration coming from the few rays of sun that would penetrate the thick forest canopy and the spotting of two unique forms of wildlife, a little bunny rabbit that came near us on the trail and a large toad that hopped at least 6 inches into the air. We walked along, listening to our new audiobook (a Great Courses book on Nutrition since we finished History of the World) and barely noticed a wooden sign at Tacoma Pass that said “Magic” and had an arrow pointing off trail to the left.
“Not Phil’s Dad” has been performing trail magic at this pass for 6 years now, ever since his son, Not Phil Collins, thru-hiked the trail himself and his dad played a Mama Bear-like role as trail angel and support. He has it down to a science and completely surprised and humbled us with his incredible offerings. He had three separate spreads and a cooler full of cold beer and soda. On one table he had fruit, endless Oreos and a huge box of Snickers bars. On another he had tortillas, Nutella, peanut butter, jelly, chips, salsa and all the condiments for brats which he was cooking up on a grill and offering to hikers as they arrived. On the third table he had hot chocolate, hot apple cider and coffee fixings which you could prepare yourself using the boiling water in a nearby kettle. To say we were impressed is an understatement. We grabbed our first round of food and then sat down for what would turn out to be over an hour of wonderful conversation and calorie consumption. Our friends Coastal and Tent Talker were already there when we arrived, but they eventually hiked on and before we left, we were joined by a couple nice section hikers whom we’d met the evening before. We learned that Not Phil’s Dad comes out with his trailer and stays until his supplies are eaten through by hikers, lasting in the past anywhere from 8 to 10 days.
We probably would have stayed longer, and perhaps shortened Not Phil’s Dad’s trail magic time by eating all his food, if we didn’t feel some pressure to get back on the trail and get in our necessary 25 miles. We said our goodbyes and a million thank you’s and then headed up a hill with full bellies and happy hearts. It had been such a long time since we’d received any trail magic, and the trail had recently felt so demoralizing that I truly would have never guessed we would have come across such a bounty. For the next few hours we hiked in peace, thought about the kindness of strangers and worried over the state of my ever-worsening feet.
Just when I was working up another bout of motivation to keep me going for 5 more miles to round out our day, our trail opened up onto a parking lot and before us sat 3 women, a tent, and what appeared to be a whole bunch of food. When they saw us they greeted us with welcomes and invitations to join them that that’s when we realized that we had happened upon even more trail magic! The woman responsible, G.P.S. (or Theresa) explained with a huge smile on her face that her and her friends (Luna, or Marge and Eats Rocks and Dirt, or Eva) were in a hiking club and had been given some funds to perform trail magic. They had chocolate milk, Limeade, Mountain Dew, and coffee to drink, as well as fruit, donuts, brownies, chips, AND they were heating up tortilla soup and making grilled cheese, tuna, or roast beef sandwiches. Seeing as how we hadn’t stopped for lunch (we were trying to make up some time from our last trail magic stop) we were hungry yet again and more than willing to sit for another chat and a lot more eating. Theresa, Margo, and Eva were a delight to talk to and incredible hosts, effectively pushing more food and drink on us until we were truly and utterly full. In order to ensure that we wouldn’t need to make dinner (since we’d now be getting into camp a bit later), I indulged in a second grilled cheese and Pickles had a couple more brownies. All our same friends from earlier in the day caught up and by the time we shouldered our packs to hike on we had a great little circle of conversation and laughter going. It was hard to leave such generosity and kindness, but we had to keep moving if we were going to enjoy a nero tomorrow in Snoqualamie. Again, we said our goodbyes and hiked up another steep hill to continue on our way.
The last 5 miles found Pickles and I in a truly positive mood. The sun had stayed out all day, dousing us in much needed Vitamin D, our bodies were running on significantly better and greater quantities of fuel than usual, and we were feeling the love of selfless trail angels and their magic. We got to camp a little after 7, where we got to ice our feet for the first time in weeks in a cold creek, and now are headed to bed without a time-consuming dinner or clean up. If this is how Washington is going to be for the next two weeks, we might actually stand a chance at enjoying it and not just surviving it.