I can’t call what happened last night actual sleeping. More like just getting through the night. Every time I started to drift off, I would jerk back awake to the cold. It was the longest night, but it did eventually end. And the sunshine wasn’t warm but it was a miracle. My fingers still went numb when I stuffed my tent in its bag. I was giddy with dreams of hot water and dry socks.
I stepped out onto the paved road on icy swollen feet. Walking was the only cure. I saw a couple who had pulled over to admire the view of Mt. Adams. It was spectacular, coated with fresh fallen snow. My phone battery was dead, as well as all my back-up batteries. No pictures for me. The couple verified that I was on the road to Trout Lake, but they were headed in the other direction. I kept walking and in half an hour, the first truck headed my direction stopped. It was a couple from Salem and their dog. They’d driven over 100 miles to have breakfast in Trout Lake. They dropped me off at the grocery store.
Trout Lake Grocery Store rents out rooms to hikers. $25 for a warm bed and a shared bathroom. With a glorious bathtub. Downstairs, I petted Mikey the Big Cat and bought a huckleberry pie. “It’s snowing around Mt. Adams,” the owner Dora told me. “The snowline is down to 4000 feet. The last people to make it through said it was cold, deep snow and tough going. They were big guys with winter equipment.”
Just about every person in Trout Lake could have walked out of the pages of a novel about quirky big-hearted small town folk. From the old boys bellied up to the grocery counter to the shaggy cavers staying in the downstairs bedroom, everyone chimed in with kindly facts and concern. And stories. I heard about a female hiker who’d disappeared in the snow along the same section of trail. Her parents came to search along with rescuers from town. After two weeks, she reappeared at a trailhead after huddling in a snowbound tent with not enough food.
The idea of my parents looking for me in the snow while I’m trapped in my Big Agnes with no phone and a dwindling stash of bars is so terrible. And cold. Just the worst thing I could do to them. Not to mention all the rescue people, putting themselves at risk – absolutely I cannot be that person.
So I guess this is it for my PCT.
After the pie, I ate a lemon bar and a box of donuts. One last eating hurrah. A super generous trail angel named Gary gave me a ride all the way back to Vancouver. Which actually isn’t that far if you don’t have to walk the whole way.