Day 160: Showers in the Mountains

No, I’m not talking about rain. Today, we saw one of the strangest things I’ve seen along the entire PCT. Walking through the forest, really in the middle of nowhere, we came upon…a shower, attached to a tree. There was a pipe coming out of the ground, clear tubing attached to it with plumbing equipment, and a showerhead, at appropriate height, attached to a tree. And there it was, flowing, even with decent water pressure — a shower in the middle of the forest. Wat?

I even would’ve taken a shower, right there, except that the water was, of course, cold. You should’ve seen our faces on the approach: from a distance, it was just an inexplicable stream of water, seeming to issue forth from a tree…and, as we came closer, we simultaneously recognized what it was and yet were shocked from disbelief. What in the world is going on?!?

All we can figure is that, since this used to be mining country, there are old, old pipes that carry water down from the mountains — likely from springs, given their pressure and constancy. And someone repurposed this pipe, probably more out of a sense of amusement than real utility, and built a shower, there, in the middle of the forest. Someone must’ve used it at some point; I certainly would, on a hot enough day. (When we got there, it was 50° and cloudy — not exactly the kind of weather you want to take a cold shower in.)

This wasn’t even the only seriously strange water-related thing we saw today, either. Less than a mile before it, we saw what looked like, from a distance, a burst water main: a fountain of water, shooting five or six feet in the air, and spraying all over. I mean…this seriously looked exactly like what you see in the city when someone knocks over a fire hydrant or accidentally hits the water main when digging up the sidewalk, just on a slightly smaller scale. When we got closer, we found old, old metal pipe, completely rusted, twisted and broken through. God only knows how long it’s been there, fountaining up water in the air. Unlike in the city, it’s not wasting water — this is just water coming from springs underground that would find its way out somehow anyway, so what difference does it make if it comes from a pipe in a fountain? Still, it was definitely one of the weirder things we’ve seen out there, although the shower certainly topped it today.

Today was a day of hard hiking: we climbed 3,200′ to start the day, then descended a decent chunk of that, both on some seriously steep trails. This part of Washington is not even remotely easy hiking. We’ve heard people say this is the hardest section of the PCT in terms of sheer hiking outside of the High Sierra, and I certainly believe it. The trail seems to always either be going up really steeply or down really steeply, without much in between. It slows us down and tires us out — there’s just no way around it. We’re trying to be good to ourselves and cut ourselves some slack, although we’re also so eager to reach the end (and infinite zeroes!) that it’s tough sometimes.

Early today, we also crossed the 2,400-mile mark. There was no marker for it, since we were on the PCT alternate, but we took a photo of ourselves with some old mining equipment anyway — that seems like it’ll suffice. Not only is it, as always, hard to believe that we’ve really hiked that far, but it’s also hard to believe that it means we have less than 250 miles left to go. Can that really be true? I know it is, but it’s a little hard to believe.

The mountains out here are very pretty, though, and considerably more so than the last stretch we did. (The Goat Rocks Wilderness is undoubtedly even nicer still, although we didn’t really get to see that, now, did we?) We’ve run across several beautiful mountain lakes, any of which would be pretty spectacular destinations in their own rights, and the hillsides are these beautiful colors this time of year. Even the torrents of scree and boulders that pour down the hillsides at times are beautiful, albeit very difficult and slow to hike across. It was overcast all day long today, although the clouds ranging up and down the hillsides created dramatic peek-a-boo scenes with the mountains that were cool to look at.

This evening, we’re back on the PCT, having completed our alternate. Up until this evening, we’d seen almost no through-hikers at all; I think very few people seem to take that alternate, which is a bit surprising, given just how nice the hot springs were. Once we rejoined the PCT, we saw a few other through-hikers, and I expect to see quite a bit more in the upcoming days. We’re slowly getting close to the end, after all…only a couple more weeks to go!

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