Monday, August 08, 2005

Back to normal, whatever that is

Enrico is back from the woods. Saturday my friend Monica joined me once again for the shorter drive to the pickup spot, and this time I took the dogs too. There was no way I could have taken them to the dropoff - absolutely no way they'd allow us to walk away from a member of the pack and abandon them in the woods. The entire 2-hour drive home would have been one unrelenting chorus of "Hey, bonehead! You forgot Enrico! We have to go back! The pack is separated! Woof, woof!"

But Saturday they got to come, and I think they were just expecting a nice hike and were totally surprised to see Enrico standing there in the parking lot. Ecstatically surprised. And then we hiked a little too, back up the trail Enrico had just finished. And we made the ritual stop at Scott's Dairy Freeze in North Bend, WA for milkshakes. Gotta top off a hike with a stop at the Dairy Freeze. It might even be a law.

How did his trip go? Most excellently, according to him. [Note: The following is more of a compilation than a transcript...If I've made any errors, I'll let Enrico pipe in with comments to correct them.]

Flora: So, how was it?
E: Fabulous, it was great!

Flora: Was it pretty?
E: Of course! It was absolutely gorgeous. Every day brought new amazing scenery. It changed a lot.

Flora: Was there one thing that really stood out as most striking or beautiful?
E: No, it was all beautiful, and surprisingly diverse from one day to the next.

Flora: What was the hardest day? The first one, with all that elevation gain?
E: No...that was hard, but it helped that it was overcast and cool. On the third day, the trail came to a huge valley, and you could see where you needed to end up on the other side, but the trail skirts around the most enormous rock bowl all the way around. It was painful because you could see the destination so far away, and the hot dry rocks seemed endless, but it was also incredibly cool.

Flora: So what was your routine?
E: I'd get up as early as possible to get my walking in while it was cooler. As soon as I'd get to my stopping place for the day, I'd pitch the tent and set up camp, and try to nap. I took a refreshing dip every day in some lake or stream. Then I'd explore, and read, check out the birds and the wildflowers, take some picures. I was always in my sleeping bag by sundown.

Flora: So how did the food work out for you? [We had rather lengthy discussions about food before he left. Enrico did not want to hassle with the camp stove and dirty dishes, and was prepared to eat "bar food" (Power Bars, Cliff Bars) until he realized that the 2,500 calories necessary to sustain a man of his size for six days of heavy exertion would mean about 10 bars a day. Even no-nonsense Enrico couldn't choke down 10 of those sweet, dry things for six days straight. So I had made it my mission to diversify his food options, while keeping them nutritionally balanced and lightweight.]
E: [Laughs] You were right, of course, the thing I ate the least were the bars. I'd have some of that vanilla protein powder and a bar for breakfast; stop somewhere scenic for lunch for some salami and cheese, and the avocados while they lasted; and then just have bars for dinner. In between I'd snack on those sesame things and the soy nuts - too bland on their own, but great together! I had to make myself stop and eat during the day, I just didn't feel hungry.

Flora: Yeah, I never really feel hungry when I'm hot and exerting myself. Weren't you ravenous at night though?
E: No, surprisingly. I notice I've lost 5 pounds though!

Flora: See any critters?
E: Marmots, picas, squirrels, the usually assortment of small ones. No bears.

Flora: See many other people?
E: Up to the last day, I saw maybe a half-dozen a day. Then the last day was a Saturday, at the closest trailhead to Seattle, so it was much more crowded. I did meet some people hiking the whole PCT; they'd say, "Are you going to Canada or Mexico?" Which was pretty funny. There were a couple of guys running the whole thing.

Flora: Yeah, somebody was just telling me that people do that! That sounds insane, running a 2,000-mile mountainous trial. Did they have packs?
E: No, they obviously had support people who set up their camps and brought their food. I met one woman waiting for them with food, but she didn't speak English so we couldn't exchange much info. I'm not sure where the runners were from.

Flora: But not a lot of bonding or camaraderie on the trail?
E: No, just trail conditions and camp options and light chitchat. There were a few horse parties, they had specific campsites for pack animals.

Flora: Did you do a lot of reading?
E: I read Franny and Zoey three times.

Flora: Three times?
E: Yeah, it was all I had, so I just kept re-reading it.

Flora: Would you do this again? Make it a yearly ritual? Maybe do a different stretch of the PCT?
E: Would I do it again...sure, I'd consider doing something like this. Not the same stretch of trail, 'cause there are too many other nice areas to see. The other hikers were saying the stretch north of this one, from Stevens Pass up into Glacier Peak Wilderness, is really spectacular. Or there's also a couple routes across the Olympic Peninsula. We'll see.

Flora: Well, we all missed you. I'm glad you did it, and I'm glad you're back.
E: It's good to be back!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

and if I didn't say it loudly and clearly enough, thank you.