Day 152: Coming In From the Rain

Guess what we woke up to this morning? Yup: even more rain. While the rain seems to have dwindled over the past few days to what my stereotypes of Washington expect — all-day, on-again-off-again drizzles, rather than absolute downpours — it’s still nearly constant, and keeps everything permanently wet. (Sometimes, I feel like I might mildew if I’m not careful.) We changed clothes under the tarp, again, made breakfast under the tarp, again, packed up our packs under the tarp, again, and put on our rain clothes under the tarp, again, before heading out for the day.

Elevation and temperature around here seemed to be intimately linked, because we’ve been crossing the snow line often over the past few days, sometimes multiple times. The snow line is dependent on the temperature, and is simply the elevation above which it’s cold enough that precipitation falls as snow, while, below it, it falls as rain. Right now, it’s at about 5,500′, while we camped just below that last night. This means that almost as soon as we started hiking, climbing up a rise, we were hiking through snow yet again. This isn’t the beautiful, magical kind of white snows you might see on TV, either; it’s more just treacherous, as you have to watch every step.

However, we had one huge advantage today: after just nine miles, we arrived at White Pass, our next resupply stop. White Pass is really nothing more than a wide spot on a local highway with just two things: a large gas station/convenience store, where we’d shipped our resupply box, and a bunch of low-sophistication ski lodge condominiums. (There’s a fairly small ski resort across the road, although this ain’t Tahoe: there are chairlifts, sure, but almost nothing more in the way of development.)

Our plans, made just before leaving Oregon, called for us to pick up our resupply box, spend a couple of hours there organizing things, and then head back out. But guess what? When it’s been raining for something like nine days straight (seriously, I counted), the idea of being able to be dry and warm for a night is so worth it — and so needed, for physical comfort and mental sanity both — that you just can’t resist it. One visit to the ski lodge, and we had a room for the evening; we sat in the gas station, eating their (surprisingly very good!) pizza made there, while waiting for the room to be ready. We got to chat with Treeman, too, who was there waiting for Hedgehog to catch up; he’s so fast that he’d arrived the previous evening, and stayed in a room with a whole bunch of other hikers.

It’s sort of funny to me that there are these places, spread up and down these West Coast states, where hikers suddenly invade for several weeks out of the year. I can only imagine what random motorists who happen to stop at that gas station might think: you come inside, and here are tables packed with these folks with strong calves, giant beards, and who look basically homeless, except that they seem to be buying vast amounts of food and eating it right there. The people working behind the counter know exactly what through-hikers are, of course, but few visitors likely do. There’s this whole hidden chain of PCT resupply stops up and down the roads around here, and “normal” people must think it’s the weirdest thing in the world every time they interact with it.

We’re inside, warm and dry tonight, eating Kraft mac n’ cheese (which is a rare treat!) and leftover pizza, drinking beer, and watching an apparent Tom Cruise marathon on TV. It’s a tiny studio ski condo, with pretty much the crappiest furnishings ever, and absolutely no light…but you know what? I couldn’t possibly be happier. Just being inside, warm, and dry is so worth it. Wonderful.

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