Oh, the restorative effects of a rest day, or two. After my family encouraged me to seek treatment for a persistent sore throat, my brother-in-law's father was nice enough to call in an antibiotics prescription. But since the only pharmacy near Cascade Locks was across the river in Stevenson, WA and was only open Monday through Friday, we were forced to stick around for an extra day to wait until the pharmacy opened for business. A fabulous excuse to laze around for another day, and to visit with Chris' Portland pals - Jim and Heather - who trekked out for dinner with us in Stevenson.
With our extra day off, we also mulled a decision about the next day's hike: do we take the historic PCT that entails a 12-mile road walk, or the new 36-mile trail with thousands of feet in elevation change? We opted for the shorter route. I was still feeling a bit under the weather and we were racing against the clock to get up to Trout Lake, WA in time for our "vacation from our vacation."
So, the next day we hit the road. The first part of our walk was a bit scary - tractor trailer trucks whizzing by and no sidewalk or even a shoulder. But we survived, and our detour was well worth it! We passed by a lemonade stand manned by a very business savvy tyke (she asked if we wanted change from our dollar bill for our 50-cent purchase - "Uh, I guess not.") and we saw a bustling lumber mill with trucks-full of trees. While our feet were tired after a long day walking on pavement, we got to see a snap-shot of small-town Washington. PCT purists might look down their noses at us for choosing to take the road, but seeing small towns and meeting their people is a major part of our reason for doing this trip!
12 miles later, we camped early near Panther Creek and were visited by an owl while cooking dinner. She was just hanging out in a nearby tree waiting for her own dinner to scurry by. The campsite was very much what I expected Washington to be like - lots of dense greenery with pine trees, ferns, and mosses. Our first couple days in Washington brought more of the same. The terrain was a bit steeper too, maybe a sign of things to come. We also got rained on one night and spent the next morning hiking through dense fog and drizzle. The giant slugs enjoyed the moist weather, humans less so.
We arrived at the highway crossing leading to Trout Lake in the early evening and Monte Pearson - our host - arrived right on time. We had met him, his wife, llamas and dog on the trail near Crater Lake. Here we were crossing paths with them again at their amazing dairy farm in Trout Lake, thanks to their breathtaking hospitality. They offered to put us up for the night and get us ride back to Cascade Locks the next day. Upon arrival, we got a tour of their farm that's been in operation since 1883. It's now an organic farm with about 180 cows, calves, chickens, goats, sled dogs and those two llamas that came in so handy for hiking the PCT. The Pearsons fed us, put us up in their charming farm house built in the 1890s and shared stories of their own hiking adventures.
Laura gave us a ride to Cascade Locks where my old pal - Kendra - met us and whisked us away to Portland. Errands, lunching, long-overdue catching up and even a minor league baseball game brought us back to real life. Bright and early, we were at the airport for our flight and a long awaited visit with family and friends. My sister and brother-in-law were waiting for us at the airport, and our nearest and dearest friends gave us a heartwarming welcome before we tucked away in the rental home with all the Parkers. Afternoons on the beach with sandy paperbacks, seafood dinners and lots of laughs.
Tonight, on the eve of our return to the trail, I can't imagine anything further from where I am right now - from glorious comfy beds, fresh bluefish and cold beers to dehydrated pasta, tents and sleeping bags. But we are heading into the home stretch and I'm excited to (hopefully) finish the trail. 420 miles to go in Washington, and we're armed with rain gear.