PCT Day 100 : Two Bears And A Bakery

July 13 (~06:45 – ~08:40 / ~15:00 – ~20:30)
Before Trapper Creek – Hideaway Camp (18.6 mi / Total: 2585.8 mi)
Total PCT miles: 1485.8
Weather: Sunny and warm.

I’ve been looking forward to today. I’ll be going into the tiny town of Stehekin at Lake Chelan, and I’ll be able to buy some bakery food here. Despite loading up on enough food in Leavenworth, I’m hungry, and it’ll be a fun challenge to resupply with bread and pastries for once.

It’s just a short hike down to the ranger station, where a shuttle operates four times a day to and from town, with a stop at the bakery just outside of town on the way. I half run the 5 miles – I have enough time, but there’s no way I’m going to risk running late for the shuttle. It’s just an easy up and down through the forest, following the river just like the day before, and surprisingly I bump into several northbound hikers here. First a couple, then a girl, and when I get to the ranger station, I see the guy who passed me on trail yesterday. It’s funny how suddenly the few northbound hikers are congregated on their way into town.

Once everyone and their packs are loaded onto the bus, it’s a scenic route down, and soon enough we’ve reached the bakery for a quick pit stop. Ah, food. This is what I was rushing down for. I’m completely overwhelmed once I step inside, with all the options and the bus outside waiting, but I pick up one of their cinnamon pastries, a hearty one, blackberry scone, a loaf of bread and add a quick coffee. I’m the last to get back on the bus and soon we’re all dropped off in town, a tiny, quiet place at the gorgeous lake. It instantly feels like the most serene place to be.

I’m only planning on staying a few hours and taking the shuttle back to the trail in the afternoon. I find the general store and pick up a few things, then position myself at the somewhat less scenic but still pleasant picnic table outside the public laundry and shower building, where I find an outlet to charge my devices. There’s no phone signal or WiFi in town, so there isn’t much else to do but some writing, wash some clothing, and wait.

After some time the hiker from yesterday joins me and we chat a little. When I go back to the general store I meet Kidnapper who is hiking with his entire family, including his wife, mother and young children. I’ve been thinking about my options after reaching Canada, how to get to Vancouver from the trailhead in Manning Park, as the Greyhound bus doesn’t appear to run anymore. As they’re also headed north I ask him what he’s planning on doing once they hit Canada, but they’re getting a ride out from family. He tells me they’ll offer me a ride if I have any problems getting out of Manning Park. When I see the girl again I ask her the same question. Unfortunately she’s getting picked up by her boyfriend when she’s done, but she also tells me they’ll give me a ride if I’m still there, hitching. I have a feeling I’ll be reaching the border before they all will, but it’s nice to have a backup anyways.

Then it’s time to go – my siesta in town is over. I add a quick visit to the visitors center to get a permit to camp along the next stretch, and devote myself to hiking another 13 miles this afternoon. I get on the bus at 2, and when we’re close to the trail there’s suddenly commotion on the bus. ‘Bear!’ It goes, and I look out of the window and see a black bear sitting in the grass, right next to the road. My first American bear. This is a bear-heavy section, so once I hit the trail, I stay alert, and it keeps me a little spooked.

I try and do the right thing, and keep the bears aware of human presence. It’s exhausting to keep on making noises though, and I’m naturally a quiet person so it requires a lot of energy. At the same time I’m constantly unnerved by noises and movement, and try to keep a level head. It’s only a few miles from the trailhead when I hear rumbling in the bushes, and as I pass and look back, I see a waft of thick, black fur in the bushes – a bear! It doesn’t notice me, so I keep on going as fast as I can, then decide to up my game a little – I play some downloaded Netflix out loud in order to add some noise to my immediate surroundings, simultaneously driving myself a little crazy with the narration of Star Trek episodes I’ve already watched.

Then the pressure starts. I have 13 miles to hike and it’s getting later. I didn’t start until 3, and I’ve been doing a lot of stopping and starting – getting some water, taking out a trekking pole, getting some food. I sit on a rock and look at my ruined shoes. Time is flying by. The other hikers left before me and I haven’t caught up. I don’t know where they’re staying tonight, although the guy I met may be at the same tentsite I’m at. The trail will be ascending steadily for the next 25 miles, with small ups and down in between, and I try and up my pace. The trail is still similar to yesterday. It follows the river, climbing higher and higher, but I stay in the jungly forest, moving up and up and up.

It’s just before dusk when I arrive at the campsite. Of course, the others aren’t here. I walk to the back, where the river is, and find a small tent hidden. I don’t know who it belongs to but I know it’s not from anyone I met in town. At least I won’t be completely alone – with so much bear activity it’s nice to have people relatively nearby. I set up close, but not too close. Then I have a giant cinnamon roll for dinner – it’s good but not the best thing ever, and place everything smelly in the available bear box before going to sleep.

Tomorrow will be similar to today – I’m hitching into the tiny town of Mazama, which also has a bakery, for my very last resupply before reaching Canada.

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