Highs and Lows

The past two days were an odd split: 5 miles and 18 miles.

Yesterday, we chose to walk a short, easy day and rough camp one more night in the shade of the Olympic National Forest. It was my first opportunity to pull the cart. I pulled through towering old growth forest, down logging roads, and across a bridge over the Sol Duc. We filled our water reservoirs and soaked our feet in the river’s icy water. I tried to talk Rod into a swim but he wasn’t having it with the glacial temperature. We learned about caddisflies, a genus of flying insects that larvate in water and build bespoke little suits from pine needles and other tree debris. We stopped early, with the sun still high in the sky, made camp trailside, and sluiced the sweat off with water still cold from the Sol Duc river. Rod changed a slowly leaking tire, and we simply enjoyed the forest until the sun set.

Today, we crossed into Olympic National Park, where camping is closed due to covid. To complicate matters further, the beautiful, level, seven mile Spuce Railroad Trail along the north shore of Crescent Lake is closed for constuction. The only alternative is a gruelling 18 mile slog on the undulating, shoulderless Hwy 101, replete with roaring logging trucks. My parents, who live a few hours from the trail, saved us from real danger by portering our cart to our night’s accommodation. Even without the cart, the walk felt dangerous and tiring. The shoulder is at most 18 inches between line and guardrail, sometimes far less, and trucks, RVs, and all manner of vehicles whizzed by inches away. We trudged, rested, trudged, snacked, and sawed away at the miles resolutely, with little enjoyment. The last three miles, we finally turned off the busy highway, and shared a mix of curses, jokes, and silly songs meant to distract us from the pain in our feet, shins, and knees. It half worked. It kept us going just long enough.

At 6 pm and 18.2 miles, we arrived at the Crescent Lake Log Cabin Resort in pain and exhausted. At the desk, we were greeted by a collage of crayon drawings by previous guests, and I was surprised to find amongst them a drawing of my own: a cat I had scribbled as a child vacationing here with my family decades ago. I don’t remember the cat specifically, but I remember drawing at dinner, and she is unmistakably mine, right down to the crook in her tail I make to this day in my rush to finish. After check-in, we showered as if it might be our last, and ate dinner outside, eyeing the tiny droplets of rain with a mix of skepticism and resignation, knowing tomorrow will bring it’s own challenges.

I sit now sipping cider by the lake’s northeasternmost point, watching little ant cars and big beetle trucks whiz down the highway we walked on the opposite shore, marveling at how far we’ve come. They play peekaboo, darting in and out of the fringe of trees that hug the lakeshore. From here, their rumbles are murmurs and their danger begins to fade in my memory, and I slip into thoughts of the bed that awaits me under the eaves– a real bed, with a duvet, and proper pillows, and, soon, me fast asleep between its sheets.

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