Day 132: Friday, September 13

Cowboying on a porch at the Dinsmores' Hiker Haven in Baring, WA (left PCT at mi 2476.0), walked 25.5 miles today

The crew was up early and even though I got hiking by 6:40 it meant I was the last one out. Apparently someone had crept around our campsite at 5:00 a.m. shining his light everywhere, but I slept through all that, while Hitch and 5-Star definitely did not, as they told me later. Caught up to both of them after 1.5 miles at a rather dicey creek crossing that I rock-hopped but should've just waded through, then Hitch and I got our now daily tradition of 5 or so miles of desultory conversation in. People wonder how thru-hikers can bond so quickly and part of it is the undivided attention you give each other as you walk and talk together ... I've hiked around Hitch a total of maybe 7 or 8 days now, less with Matan and Gangster and Gavin back in the Sierra, maybe a few more with Bow in the desert. But that's it for all these people, yet I feel I know or knew them very well, because when else in life do you get to go on conversing with someone new about whatever you want for 2-3 hours at a stretch? Never, would be the answer. Hike around someone at the same pace for just a day or two and you might have their full life story plus every single detail of their hike so far, depending on how conversationally compatible you are and how much the other wants to give away about themselves. "Richness of human interaction" sounds like such a fluffy term to list as a perk of a long hike, but it's totally true.

Hitch and I caught up to a Washington-section hiker named Jackrabbit after awhile and the three of us kept at it for several more miles, only splitting up when they wanted to stop for an early afternoon meal and I wanted to just push 7 more miles to the highway. It ended up not mattering, because I got to the road and there was a former thru-hiker named Tenspeed who had just arrived and was making the universal motions for "I am about to grill up some hot dogs on this grill here." I hung around him for a bit, during which time Hitch and Jackrabbit closed the gap on me. Went down to the road, U.S. 2, another awesome U.S. highway, to hitch for the first time with Hitch, and she flagged down the very first car to come by before I'd even crossed over to that side of the road. A few minutes and some logistical adjustments later, and I was on the way to Skykomish/Baring with Jackrabbit and local hero Ken in his truck, while Hitch and 5-Star caught a ride just behind us. Got to the Baring store and wrecked a near-Reuben sandwich (pastrami and sauerkraut on rye with dijon) and a very generous single scoop of homemade blackberry ice cream. The other three from today were also present, as were Hermes and Lotus, a far too good-looking couple from Vermont who had always been just ahead of me but I'd never met til today. The Dinsmores live 100 yards from the store, so after the repast I drifted over there ... Too many old faces were around to list, but chief among them, from my point of view at least, were Robin Hood and Hooligan. The Dinsmores themselves have a fantastic setup in their backyard and garage area--they don't seem like they've ever hiked at all but they've certainly figured out exactly what we need, and it's all lying in a free box somewhere in the garage if one just goes poking around for it. Stuff like q-tips, Via packets, toilet paper, a chessboard, Yogi's CDT planning guide (if I mentioned how long I read that for, Kristin might break up with me on the spot). Got to bed late because there was too much and too many people to be excited about. Leaving tomorrow sometime, but I can't really say when. Later rather than sooner, I would guess.