There was no 15 foot tin wall, stretching as far as the eye could see, in either direction. No Apache helicopters skimming overhead, beaming bright scouring spotlights, reverberating, shaking the stillness of night. No more doubt, no more anxiety if I would accomplish what I had set out to do. The internal debate ceased, faded into memory, whether it was the right decision to leave my seemingly content, comfortable life in exchange for one unknown. One with considerably less but full of so much more. I thought about the first 100 miles, how they seemed forever, the same way I felt in 1st grade, thinking I would never make it to high school. The truth is if you’ve never walked 100 miles, it feels exactly how you would imagine it to be, long as fuck. But quickly, the more times you experience it, as years of your life, the faster it all seems to pass by, because in the end it is all relative. Maybe there is a secret here, one of an eternal life, that if you go after the seemingly impossible, with no end in sight, each day will be seemingly forever. I thought about this over an incredibly harsh, celebratory cigar. It was my final trail journal to sign before stepping off the Pacific Crest Trail, and I wrote as simply as I could, summing it all up before moving on. Keep Climbing.
Stehekin was not Utopia because of the three days spent prior, three days in which the “the most beautiful section on the entire PCT” was cloaked by a curtain of rain socked clouds. On one switchback, where the trail had eroded and tracks in the mud showed where hikers had fallen, Brunch took one step before twisting out of control and ending up on his back. Determined not to fall, bent as low as I could , I dug the edge of my shoe at a 45 degree angle and planted my hiking poles. And still, I was in the hole created by brunch at the bottom.
My socks were drenched, my rain jacket was drenched, my bones drenched, everything swollen in heavy, oppressive northwest rain. Breaks were passed, conversations left on hold, lunches skipped in attempt to maintain our body temperatures. At camp, in our wet tents, flat depressed sleeping bags we were able to stay just warm enough by knowing someone else was as cold as we were, a pull of fireball whiskey and the severity of our tiredness.
It is Utopia because the only way in is by plane, ferry or foot. It is protected by Lake Chabon to the east and the Northern Cascades to the west. The post master wears worn, faded, denim overalls with a jet black eye patch. When he asked me for my ID I thought about the description I had heard before “Stehekin is where you go when you are running from the law.”
“Did you grow up here?”
“Me no. I’m from Louisiana.”
And then there is the bakery. By itself, tucked in the woods of the pelvis of the Cascades. There is a crystal clear river right behind it with rose pink tender sockeye salmon ripe to be fished. Inside, behind the glass window are soft, sticky, perfectly sweet morning buns, saliva inducing cupcakes with a tantalizing swirl of frosting, begging to be licked.
That night when everything was dry, our bellies full, Brunch who had refused so many times before told me to “roll two”.
We smoked on the porch, under one of our last nights on the trail, dwindling away each puff of pleasure.