Bridge Creek – high bridge/Stehekin
7.8 miles 1126ft up. 2095ft down
It rained pretty much all night, and it was so hot I was lying half on and half off my mat, with half my body on the ground to try and cool down.
After all the talk of bears I spent all night dreaming that bears were attacking me. One particularly mean one clawed its way through my tent. I had managed to convince myself that bears don’t like rain. They are all cosy in their bear caves. If anyone else knows otherwise then don’t say anything. I am happy in my blissful ignorance.
This is the first morning I set my alarm. There was no way I was going to miss the bus to get to the bakery for lunch to get some real food. Not that I needed the wake up call. It was so hot. Everything was a bit damp and I had a bit of a drip in my tent, but it didn’t matter because it’s a town day!!
I packed up quickly and waited for Catwater to give me my trekking pole back. She snapped hers yesterday and she uses them to set up her tent.
I set off. I was determined to achieve more than 2 miles an hour, although I had plenty of time to make the bus. I had my waterproofs on as I knew the trail would be overgrown, and it was, but it was so muggy and the first bit of the trail was a climb so I de-layered pretty quickly. And then of course it started to rain. I kept my waterproof trousers on it ditched the coat. The rain was light and my body heat was drying my top as I was getting rained on.
My mind was running away with me and going to places I didn’t want it to go so I listened to a podcast for the first time on the trail. My headphones were buried deep in my pack so I did that thing I hate other people doing. I played it out loud. I listened to two episodes of ‘Friday night comedy from BBC radio 4’ so I was walking for an hour without the temptation to check my gps every 5 minutes to check how far I had left to go.
I only ran into one person and I was really embarrassed about having my phone playing out loud so I hurried on by. I should have stopped to speak because it turns out he was probably the first northbounder I make it up from Mexico and he was doing 40 mile days. Well, that’ll teach me.
The trail was pretty uneventful, mostly wet and overgrown – at times it felt like I was walking through the jungle. My legs were soon soaked and it all ran into my shoes so they where squelchy, but it didn’t matter because it was a town day!!
The patches on my heels are very sore and the first few steps of the day are really painful, but as I get going they become almost numb and I don’t notice the discomfort, until I stop and start going again. It just best not to stop too much. I’m hoping some time in town will let them air out a little.
I was cruising along, I ran into a couple of day hikers. One was talking to herself and she told me she was doing some ‘self counselling’. Okay. Then I ran into a girl – Alex, 21, Kiwi – who asked if I was Puff Puff. Apparently people have been talking about me on the trail. All good I am assured. She said she had never heard of the trail in New Zealand, which isn’t all that uncommon for kiwis not to know about the Te Araroa. She was a nice girl, her first big trip abroad, but she could do with a pack shakedown! She said she was carrying 45lb and her tent alone weighs over 5lb!! I’ve caught my first SOBO.
I pushed on, I had bags of time but I just wanted to prove to myself that I could go a bit quicker. It rained on and off the whole way. When it wasn’t raining the mozzies were out. I preferred the rain. I got to high bridge at 10:10am. 8 miles in 3 hours. Not too shabby. Then I realised I had to sit around until 12:30 for the bus.
I layered up and took off my shoes and inspected the manky patches on my feet. A young couple with a little baby came to speak to me and they were pretty amazed with what I was doing. The usual ‘we could never do anything like that’ was their response and I told them about the geriatrics behind me and assured them it’s never too late!
I was eating a dry cracker which was the only thing left in my food bag (apart from the emergency ramen) and I dropped half of it into the dirt. Bum. But then it looked as though my luck was changing. A park ranger came by, she emptied the trash cans and restocked the outhouse with toilet paper and then came to talk to me. Ooh she might give me a ride. I explained to her we were staying at the ranch and she told me about all the delicious food they served there. Friday is BBQ night, and Saturday is prime rib. And for dessert they serve pie from the bakery. Then she said goodbye and drove off leaving me to pick up my dirty cracker. I sat under a tree to shelter from the rain and waited for the others.
Catwater came in about an hour later and soon a lot of people began to gather. All these people had popped out of the woods, and yet most of the time you feel like you’re completely alone. Scott joined us, and we got chatting to 3 high school boys who were telling us about their 40 mile backpacking trip, they were planning to walk the 11 miles into Stehekin just so they could say they had walked over 50 miles. They wanted to train to be marines I think. The third boy wasn’t so keen on the fitness side of things. A little chubby and carrying 6 cans of Vienna sausage (God knows what else he had in his massive pack!) his friends were being a little mean to him. He had bad blisters so he caught the bus instead of walking, he was a really nice kid with ambitions to become the sherif of his hometown.
The bus eventually came and we all piled on, just as the last people were getting on Scott says hey look, there’s Dan and Jackie! They made it! Reunited again we rode the bus to the bakery. I had been looking forward to this for days. Real food! I ordered a turkey and avocado sandwich and a huge hot chocolate, rounded off with cookies and cream ice cream. Delicious. We waited for the bus to do the return journey. Scott had continued on into Stehekin but when the bus came back he was on it and has decided to continue hiking, he had only been on the trail for 4 days so didn’t really need a break yet. We got to the ranch and said our goodbyes.
The ranch is pretty cool. We have a cabin and within about 5 minutes we had stuff hanging up for every possible place to dry out. We showered and did laundry and sorted out our resupply boxes. The ranger I spoke to this morning was not wrong. It was indeed BBQ night and we had chicken, corn on the cob, beans and cornbread. How very American! I then nailed a piece of lemon pie and a piece of strawberry and rhubarb. I was full to bursting but happy.
I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water. Donate here.