I wake up early to the return of blue skies and get on my way to White Pass where my next resupply is. It’s a 12 mile hike to get there across more exposed ridgelines with enormous views of Mount Rainier, the tallest mountain in the Cascade Range, now standing right next to me. glaciers cover each and every side of it, just how it was capped in a white cloud the other day on Goat Rocks it is now capped in a thick white blanket of snow. Before long I reach an off season ski lift which I cut down in order to get to the general store, known as “Kracker Barrel”, a little bit quicker. White Pass is essentially nothing, just this little store crammed with hikers charging and eating deep fried foods made behind the counter. In the winter this would be a bustling ski area, but now it is essentially a ghost town, one of those places everyone passes but no one stops at. I catch up to Shaggy as he’s heading out who lets me know that the others are only about an hour ahead. My plan is to chill out at the store for a while and then hike out another 12 miles. The afternoon goes on and I still haven’t left but by four I’m back on the trail unsure of how far I’ll go. I make it twelve just as night falls upon the mountains and sit outside of my tent in the dark listening to the stream babble through my campsite as I cook dinner and smoke. The peacefulness of the night overtakes me and soon I lay sound asleep in my tent, resting up for another day.
The next day starts cold but before long I’m going up which covers my body in sweat. it’s another blue sky day, how many more of those will there be on this trail? At the top of my first climb I break to eat breakfast, a jumbo sized honey bun as usual, and then carry on to a road at Chinook Pass where I have my fingers crossed for trail magic. There is no trail magic but instead trail family, I catch up to Shaggy, Red, Short Shorts, Scrapbook, Thirteen, Swag, and Sour Rip. We eat lunch a play a reunion game of Monopoly Deal, whose evil clutches I thought I had escaped but once again I’m easily sucked back into the vortex. The trail begins to climb high after this point offering panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, most notably Mount Rainier. The trees are gone leaving me feeling on top of the world at nearly 7000 feet. We walk along like this until reaching a piped spring with several campsites tucked into a stand of pine trees where we all cowboy camp for what may be the last time. The rains are predicted to begin tomorrow, which will change the essence of this trail completely. For so long it’s been sunny, for so long I’ve taken this fact for granted. What will it be like when there is no sun? All I can do is speculate.
I’m on trail by six with everyone right behind me, we plan to push hard today as it will just be cloudy while the following week will be full of rain. It’s a day of downhill which speeds the hiking process up exponentially. I hike for 7 miles without stopping until I reach a lookout where I eat while watching the clouds blow in and out of the mountains. It is a gloomy day, one that reminds me of those on the Appalachian Trail. I walk on with no views through the cold and dark forest rich with moss and other green foliage until breaking into an open meadow with a cabin in the middle of it. It would be a perfect place to seek shelter in the rain but for the time being the sun had broken through the clouds making it almost bright outside… but not quite. I escape the cabin before being sucked into a game of Monopoly and I’m happy with this decision as the miles go by quickly after from this point on. It’s a mix of sun and clouds all day but I’m just glad to be dry, something I won’t be tomorrow. I hike along through the forest, somewhere along the way passing a southbounder who is the first to utter the words that I both long to hear but also dread: “Congratulations on your Thru Hike!”. I know she means well but it’s all i can do to force a smile and say thank you before passing her and letting the tears roll down my face. There are only three hundred miles left to go.
I end up making my thirty along with Thirteen, Sour Rip, Swag, and Short Shorts. We camped in a ditch-like area near a creek which would have been a disaster had it rained over the night but luckily I wake up to blue morning skies which I hope will stick around but I know wont last. The weather is meant to start by two so I make it an early morning, being on the trail by six. For the first time in a long time I wear every piece of clothing I have to try and keep myself warm in the new weather system slowly making it’s way into the area. The day goes on like every other has for the past five months, or even one could say the past year. I walk. It is my 20th birthday. I think of kids my age back home celebrating their birthdays, probably by getting drunk or something meaningless like that. Today I am 2350 miles into my hike along the west coast. My feet hurt, my legs are sore, it’s going to rain, my mental is fatigued. There is no other place or way I would want to spend my birthday. I run into Mogli and Sweetpea at the top of the ridge and catch up with them for a while, the last time I’d seen them was about halfway through Oregon. Sweetpea gives me a king size Butterfinger, which I thought I hated but it was SOOOO good! Shorts, Sour Rip, and Swag catch me and we walk as a train for a few miles until we reach a spring where they stop for water but I continue on. I eat lunch at the next water source 3 miles away with Mogli and Sweetpea. The sky is getting darker by the minute but it’s only 15 more miles to town where I’ve now convinced myself I need a hotel room for the night. I hike on and get five miles down before drops start falling from the sky. For all the worrying, rain in Washington is not a big deal at all. It is more of a mist really, one that I walk right through enjoying the drastic change of scenery. Mist weaves throughout the trunks of the trees as droplets of water drip from their leaves. The earth is a darker tone, now saturated with moisture. This is not the desert anymore. Underneath the trees it is dry thanks to the thick canopy so I break for a while three miles out of town before walking down through the mist filled meadows where I can see civilization down below. I find more hiker trash at Aardvark’s, a food truck where I get my first beer free before ordering a bacon filled pancake wrapped around vanilla ice cream, dubbed as the “Aavalanche”. I go in on a room with Thirteen, Sour Rip, Sweetpea, Swag. We spend the evening with creature comforts including a hot tub, a perfect way to end my birthday and perfect people to spend it with.