Day 138: Thursday, September 19

Cowboying at the campground in Stehekin, a zero day

Today was one of the best days ever. I'm not sure anything else on the trail competes with it, and I'm not sure I ever want to come back to Stehekin because not everything will just fall together so perfectly again. Slept til 8:45 in our very dark room, and after some loafing and moaning set out into the bright world to get the lay of the land--where the one phone in town was, the showers, laundry, "community building" with internet, etc. Located the phone first and with help from Robin Hood's phone card made two calls, one to Kristin to organize a Manning Park pickup for Monday, one to my dad to wish him a happy birthday. He said he had been in Stehekin in June 1973, more than 40 years ago. The way he described it made it sound like not much has changed since then. After using the phone, I found the other essentials, including the community room which turned out to have all kinds of plush new couches, a big TV and a very fast, reliable internet connection, which was a great surprise to me knowing how Stehekin seems to pride itself on detachment from the outside world. Went to the PO when it opened at 10 and picked up two packages, one with nearly enough food for the final 90 miles plus my passport and border documentation, and one from A-Game in Maine with a TON of toll house cookies and a friendly note. Drank nearly a half-gallon of whole milk to accompany said cookies and called it breakfast, and then it was time to catch the bus to the Stehekin bakery, which is maybe the most legendary single food establishment on the PCT (competing with Timberline).

The weather was perfect this whole time--70-75 degrees and as clear as possible, the good side of autumn in the Northwest. At the bakery I ate and drank my fill of espresso and savories with Carrot, Robin Hood, Hermes and Lotus, leafing through a Calvin & Hobbes book in the process. Took the bus back and then spent the afternoon on the porch of the Lodge, sipping San Pellegrino soda, people-watching, and, once all the people left on the ferry down Lake Chelan, finally reading the articles Kristin had sent me two packages ago at Snoqualmie. Did laundry after that and, while it washed, went up to the community room to use the internet briefly, including looking at all of Bow's great pictures of the PCT on his facebook page (he, Matan, Gangster and Siesta all finished on the 5th). All my chores thus accomplished, I went back to the Lodge and had another pasta dinner that couldn't be beat, this time with Coca, Sailor Moon, Egg, Laptop and Leftovers, who had all just arrived today. Carrot sat down at our table at the end and the subject of Garth Brooks' "That Summer" somehow came up, which prompted Carrot and Me to regale the table and pretty much the entire restaurant with the entire song in all its steamy glory. Out on the porch beforehand, someone had discovered a package intended for Uncle Famous and Miss Maggie, whom we all knew were here days ago; group reasoning determined that it probably contained their celebratory booze and that since they would never see it, they would of course want us to drink it. Postal laws be damned, we opened it and it turned out to be a liter of Black Bush Irish whiskey, and everyone got a swig or two.

We all retired to the campsite after that, the whiskey not yet finished, and listened to music primarily from mine and Spark's phones that fit with the "That Summer" vibe--novelty tunes with well-known sing-alongable lyrics from the '90s or early 2000s. Egg, me, Coca, Hermes and Lotus, Robin Hood, Carrot, Leftovers and Instigate all crowded around one picnic table for an hour or so in the dark and just sang and talked and reminisced about everything, trail-related or not. Once people started turning in, I walked out onto the dock right in front of the campsite, underneath a full moon in the middle of this unbelievable gorge with a lake at the bottom, and realized that I had it pretty good. Starting Saturday, the last three days of hiking are undoubtedly, according to every weather forecast, going to be a very cold, wet, maybe even snowy slog, and everyone knows that, but today was so ideal and perfectly paced and convivial that no one could be bothered to worry about it. Now I see why everyone raves about Stehekin.