PCT Day 117: Stehekin

August 16

Mile 2541.9-2569.4 (27.5)

I woke, ate snacks, packed up, started hiking. No real urgency, sure I would make the 6:15pm bus to Stehekin. A mile in, I noticed I was hiking at a good pace and took a look at my map. I calculated that if I cranked up my pace a little, and didn’t take any breaks, I could make the 3pm bus and give myself a nice nero in town. Maybe go swimming. It sounded so nice I thought I’d give it a shot. 27.5 miles in 8.5 hours!


I am not a fast hiker. I don’t enjoy feeling rushed. But today, spurred on by the thought of a few hours of vacation and motivated by a physical challenge, I was game.
So I booked it over the big climb, totally happy on the cool and beautiful ridge. Even when hiking fast, you can still take in the scenery. I saw the valley I would be hiking into, saw the mountains standing like sentinels on either side. Took a couple deep breaths of the fresh air, then plunged into the sauna down below.


I wasn’t expecting this heat wave. The forest was thick with stagnant air. I haven’t felt humidity for a while. I was sweating like mad. I wished a glacial lake would appear in the middle of the valley so I could jump in. I guessed that helped motivate me to Lake Chelan.


I jogged a little through the hot forest at the end, only because I was worried about missing the bus by a minute or two. As it happened, I ran up just as the red shuttle was parking and passengers were getting off. I stood in line to board, then sat on the bus for 10 minutes until it left. My body was vibrating.

We stopped at the bakery first. I bought two slices of quiche, a lemon bar, a slice of pie, and two day old treats. I barely knew what I was doing at the counter, felt almost like crying. Sometimes town is really overwhelming. I bought all these sweet things, but all I want is savory. I was really happy, only jarred from the sudden transition to quiet forest kingdom to lines at the cash register and finding the post office.

As soon as I could, I jumped into the lake. I needed to cool off. I scrubbed the sweat off my body and swam around a little. Then I lay my shirt out to dry and talked with some hikers. I found a site at the campground and tried to get in touch with family. I ate some of my treats, wandered around. In the evening I wanted to go swimming again but knew my clothes wouldn’t dry before bed, so I abstained. I tried to sleep at 8pm, but mostly just lay in my tent sweating. It was so warm. I slipped in and out of consciousness, sometimes waking up to snippets of other hikers’ conversations. When I dreamed, I dreamed of their hikes, of situations I wasn’t a part of and had never experienced.

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