Monday, February 9, 2015

White Pass and Packwood

After some restful sleep in White Pass, Freebird surprised me by suggesting that we stay another night. He walked over to the office to reserve the room once again. Then we returned to Kracker Barrel to do some laundry and have some lunch. We stayed there all afternoon - talking with Carrie, reading the humorous entries in the PCT hiker log, and looking at their selection of tourist books and maps, trying to decide whether to hike the next section of the PCT or to go elsewhere. One place we considered was Olympic National Park, though we quickly forgot about that idea since it looked like a long, difficult hitch to get there (we would be purchasing plane tickets and heading Southwest soon). Once the laundry was finished, we purchased a frozen lasagna to bake in the condo that evening. Carrie gave us some lettuce and tomato from the deli (since no vegetables were sold at their gas station) so that we could make a salad as well.

Our back porch.

The following morning Freebird reserved the room for a third night. Then he returned to Kracker Barrel to look at the maps some more. I wanted some alone time outdoors, and since the rain had stopped momentarily, I decided to circle Leach Lake, just behind the condos.

I couldn't help but sing Freebird's "Save the Waterbugs" when I spotted these guys!

On the other side of the lake I came across the PCT. This is where we would've 
gotten back on the trail, but we had already decided not to hike the next section.

After that venture I was planning on returning to our room to draw. But plans changed, as they always seem to do. Sitting on a bench outside of the office was Giggles, who we had met the previous night. He had just crossed Knife's Edge in the rain the day after we did. The winds had picked up and the temperature and visibility had dropped significantly, compared to when we had traversed the ridge. I sat down beside Giggles and talked with him for awhile.

He walked over to Kracker Barrel for lunch; meanwhile I returned to our room to draw. Just when I took out the sketchbook, the inspiration vanished. Now I felt that it was more important for me to be around everyone. So I left for Kracker Barrel as well. The timing was perfect when I arrived. Freebird was about to pick out some food for dinner and breakfast and wanted my input. He purchased all of that as well as lunch, and after eating there, we carried everything back to our room in one of the store's shopping baskets.

I then returned the basket to Carrie, and sat on a bench with Giggles outside of the store. He had packed up all of his belongings and had telling us all day that he would return to the trail, yet he hung out all day at Kracker Barrel, talking with Carrie and all the customers! Giggles gave me a huge bag of Cheese-Its that he no longer wanted, some of which we hand-fed to the gray jays. Not much later Spreadsheet arrived, with his friend, Jukebox, trailing somewhere behind him. They were about to reserve a room for the night. Spreadsheet and I laughed at Giggles as he stood behind the counter with Carrie, just chatting away. She had to close up the store soon. Spreadsheet purchased a pizza, and Giggles brought along a 6-pack of beer. They would be splitting the costs of the room. 
So much for Giggles leaving that day! To this day I'm still impressed!

That night Freebird and I watched "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," found in the DVD collection in our condo. During our entire stay in White Pass, we also watched "Soul Surfer" and "Little Miss Sunshine." Sometimes it feels nice to return to society and watch a movie.

 The next day we knew it was time to leave. We said goodbye to everyone in White Pass, and thanked Carrie especially for her kindness to us. As we were leaving Kracker Barrel, an elderly mother and her son wished us safe and happy travels. The mother sincerely said to us, "God bless you." 

A man from Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, who moved to Washington in the 60's, picked us up at White Pass and gave us a ride to Packwood. He dropped us off right in front of their library. Since we had no Internet access in White Pass, we decided to go to Packwood to research plane ticket costs.

Across the road from the library, we met a sweet woman named Marilyn who checked us into Hotel Packwood. We then walked down the main drag to have dinner at a local restaurant. Their line was stretched to the entryway, and every single table was full. So instead, we went to the IGA and purchased our resupply groceries along with dinner. We asked Connie at the deli for a 5-piece chicken meal, and since they were about to run out of hot food soon anyway, she decided to give us more food. We ended up having about 3 times the amount of chicken for the same price, a much better deal than that restaurant! We sat down at a picnic table across the street from the hotel, outside of a coffee shop, to have dinner, more preferable than an overcrowded, noisy restaurant.

While we ate, Wonderer (who we met briefly at Olallie Lake in Oregon) arrived in Packwood to reserve a room. He walked to IGA to buy himself some beer and then returned and sat with us. Wonderer is a tutor in Japan who was about to finish the PCT for the 3rd time (He has also hiked the AT once.). He returned to Packwood to see Marilyn again, who took care of him 3 years ago when he got frostbite. He's attempting to the most-hiked Japanese person (almost to 10,000), in a country where he said backpacking just isn't done. According to him, there isn't even a Japanese word equivalent to "backpacking." The next trail that Wonderer has in mind is the CDT, which Freebird gave him plenty of advice about for the next few hours. Feeling a bit chilly, I left them to their conversation and went back to the room.

A carving of Teddy Roosevelt by a local resident. Teddy is said to have stayed at Hotel Packwood years ago.
 The next morning, Wonderer woke up around 10 AM, much later than the typical thru-hiker. Marilyn, who clearly adores him, insisted on doing his laundry for him. In the lobby, we chatted with Marilyn, sipping on hot chocolate and eating fresh-picked apples from down the street. Wonderer said that he was going to try to get a ride back to the trail that morning, until Star Rider (who we met at Castle Crags with his wife, Dawn Patrol) stopped by and offered to take him there around 6 PM. So Wonderer stayed in town all day and played with Jed, a yellow lab companion of Marilyn and David (her husband).

 A local resident named Lana heard that Wonderer was in town, so she and her dog, Louie, came to visit. Lana was the one who drove Wonderer to the hospital during that frostbite incident 3 years ago.
Also, a woman from Kracker Barrel in White Pass called to say hi to Wonderer. He certainly is fortunate to have so many people who care about him.

Louie waiting patiently in the cab of Lana's truck.

Marilyn allowed us to leave our packs sitting on the porch for as long as we needed, while we returned to the library. Following intuition, Freebird purchased tickets from Sea-Tac to Vegas on October 15th. We would be in Washington for just a couple more weeks.

Jed watching Freebird floss after lunch.

 We visited a small farmer's market nearby and purchased some more produce to take with us on the trail. We returned to Hotel Packwood for our belongings and said goodbye to Marilyn and Wonderer.

We had decided to go to Mount Rainier National Park next, since it was only minutes away, and spend one night there before heading back to the PCT. Hungry once again, we stopped by IGA for some hot dogs. While Freebird was in the store, I took pictures of this sculpture out front with Mount Rainier in the background. A local woman said to me, "It's funny that the best view of Rainier in the whole town can be seen from the supermarket!"

Once we had enough to eat, it was time to hitch. We walked to the edge of town and awaited a ride. Larry, his wife Chisty, and their 3-year-old daughter Natalie picked us up. On the way there we played peek-a-boo with Natalie as she growled like a dinosaur. Larry shared stories with us about his thru-hike of the PCT, which he completed in a course of 3 years. After giving us some cookies, the family dropped us off at Highway 123, which would lead us into the park.

Next a couple, who were celebrating their 39th wedding anniversary, offered us a ride and drove us through the gates. Interestingly enough, it was National Parks Day and there was free admission! The couple dropped us off at a trail, and we began our hike through Mount Rainier National Park.

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