PCT Day 6, Hideaway Camp to High Bridge, (Stehekin) 13 miles

There are no shortcuts to any place worth going. – Beverly Sills

I wake up late after taking pain reliever, running to the bear box in just my skivvies to fetch it, light rain did not deter because my cramping muscles won’t let me sleep. Al makes space for me on the bench and we chat over breakfast. He doesn’t want his picture taken, but seems to be asking for it in pink pants, orange pullover and blue hat.

It’s back in the brush singing, banging sticks and warning bears there’s no fat on these bones. I meet hikers and we share a laugh wondering if it’s the random-pitched whistling or the crazy-lady-talking-to-herself that keeps them away.

Slowly, bit by bit, my feet on this ground here in Washington is getting my feet on my mentally stable ground. Richard is right that I really need a chasm of space to process. Things seem simpler. I still have no idea what my future will look like, but I choose now how to fill it until I die, at least in terms of my attitude. Working and earning will come together, but now is the time for sorting and regrouping.

I’m glad most of this trail is downhill so I can state my case loudly to the hidden bears, veery and mosquitos. I take a jerky break under a magnificent old cedar, leaning myself against Olive Oyl into his massive trunk. A yellow and orange bird stops to observe, then sings to me before darting into the forest. Falls tumble from a glacier into the roiling river.

I can’t change what happened. Ot’s funny how forgiving people demands we let go of the hope we can. To truly forgive takes time because of the fear if we let people off the hook, the pain we suffer has no meaning. And ultimately, we have no meaning. But is that true? Hanging on to, and dissecting all the hurt might help me manage and eventually heal, but it keeps me tethered. I’m reading Amy Tan in the alicoop at night and I love how she just blurts out she will not abide assholes. In encounters, sure, but also not in her thoughts either. They don’t get to move into her brain and heart.

Three red-headed woodpeckers chase each other to argue on the dead trees, pine cones washed into a divot along the trail.

Bear poop appears with undigested berries. I sing louder.

With only a mile to go and the bus not for two hours, I stop at Howards Lake, lily pads’ yellow flowers like fists to the blue sky. I’m dirty, sweaty and a little disoriented not seeing one PCT hiker today, though I pass two cheerful rangers I’m grateful not to have met last night as one of them ensures I understand I must obtain a permit to camp tonight, even though it’s free.

I wonder if we’re here here on earth in this moment in order to discover something. You know how some people seem to have issues with things you could care less about, but your problems appear easily solvable to them. Everyone tells me I have so many ‘talents’ I’ll be ‘brilliant’ in whatever I choose next. Sitting here, sprawled legs, hat hair, ready for a nap, it all seems uncertain to me. Life goes on whether I’m brilliant or not, that’s for sure. I imagine I need to learn how to find satisfaction and esteem within. A tiny yellow bird with big black eyes cheeps at me.

‘Animal’ catches up to me – and his giant, loud group is right behind. There goes quiet solitude in nature. Randy comes storming around the corner, nervous to make the bus – the only way into tiny, touristy Stehekin – even though we’re almost there. I ask if we can share a load of laundry. Along the way, we graze on huckleberries.

The big red bus arrives for our big loud group. ‘Giggles’ is the ringleader. She doesn’t like me. Ah well.

We bump along a dirt road only accessed by cars brought here by boat. Fifteen-minute stop at the bakery gets me a huge cinnamon roll, sugar up my nose. I see no sign of John with my gear and feel awful none of us knew the bakery was out of ‘town,” so it’s back on the big red bus to Stehekin where tourists and PCT hikers mix, with the only camping left in ‘overflow.’

A beer in the wind with Jan before John returns with my gear. Too late for laundry and I get anxious over this whole goofy decision. Then, channeling Brenda, I look for a solution. It’s hot so I ask my lovely quartet of women neighbors to make my capilene long underwear into shorts. They take on the assignment seriously and I feel like a new woman in this heat, even with wild wind on the lake and in the trees. They invite Randy and me for a beer and talk of doing the ‘wrong thing’ to find the right path. Maddy remarks on my crossing Hart’s Pass – ‘like your heart’s pass.’ I am deeply touched by her kindness.

I soak my tired feet in ice cold Lake Chelan looking at the magnificent mountains surrounding us, the sun turning everything orange and finally blue as a golden crescent moon lights up the clouds. The wind is high, I’ve had a burger and fries and now I’ll cuddle into the alicoop.

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