Day 126: Saturday, September 7

Tenting right on the border of Rainier National Park (PCT mi 2321.0), walked 18.5 miles today

Slept much better than the night before, woke up around 7:30, had some leftover pasta for breakfast, puttered around for a bit, then around 9:45 the whole fam damily, as Anita would say, piled into Paula's van and headed for White Pass. Made a brief stop on the way to pick up apples for the trail magic cooler, then by 11 we were at the pass and the Kracker Barrel. Picked up my maildrop box, which I'd forgotten to do the first two times I was there, and my mom got several action shots of me repacking it all into my backpack out front. Everyone said goodbye to everyone else and then it was go time, almost ... Hooligan left to hike right away but I hung back due to a craving for a corn dog. Once I had satisfied that craving, and looked at the PCT register at the store to learn that apparently no one had passed through in the past day and a half (hard to believe, even with the weather), I finally got going, closer to noon than I had been desiring.

The trail was pretty easy up from the pass, then down again very gently for a long way. It stayed forested, and the skies, which were initially sunny, reverted to gray and stayed that way the rest of the day but didn't produce rain, for which I was grateful. It was all about as uneventful as 18 miles can be ... A bow hunter coming the other way told me that a mule was loose up ahead and wanted to know if there had been signs posted by whoever lost it, but that was the most interesting thing to happen (I never saw the mule). My steps were heavy after the zero day and the pack weight increase, so music was instrumental (hi-yo!) in helping me get anywhere.

Fell a little short of my original goal because I wanted to make sure I had enough daylight to set my tent up, or a little extra time in case rain came. The stopping early decision turned out to be a pretty good one, because I had to attempt to field-repair my tent pole--why I neglected to work on this over the 36 hours I spent in civilization I'm not sure--and no amount of duct tape and twigs could make a functioning splint. I then had to go off and attempt to pitch my tarp the old-fashioned way, with a bough harvested from the woods around me ... Surprisingly I found one the right size quickly and ended up with an excellent pitch, so that's a solution I'm happy with for the time being. There are ultralighters out there who do this every single night with their tarps, and it's not like I'm short of sticks in this part of the country, so I may try it the rest of the way.

At dark an elk started bugling somewhere nearby ... I've never heard this, only the hunters' imitations over the last few days, and it's pretty neat and appropriately spooky for the socked-in foggy Northwest woods that I'm calling home for the night. He's produced a wide range of sounds, from flute to harmonica to engine failing to turn over. I'm really digging it. In the next two days I might try back-to-back 30s, for I believe the first time on the trail, just because the terrain looks moderate and the weather forecast is good, and I might not see that combination again.