Yesterday, we walked 15 miles from Lake Crescent to the site of the former dam on the Elwha River.
Interestingly, it seems a local buzz might be developing around us. Walkers or bikers stop us on the trail to tell us (from an appropriate distance) they saw us walking yesterday or the day before or a week ago. Everyone asks about our cart and then our plan, and they marvel at the undertaking. One couple offered us a beer. Yesterday, as I trundled up a particularly steep hill with cart in tow, I was startled out of my reverie by a a whoop and a cheer. A tanned young woman leaned from the waist out the window of a rusting Ford pick up truck, shouting enthusiastically, hair whipping in the wind. Cars tap-tap-tap their horns once they’ve passed us, by way of greeting and encouragement. It’s good for morale, I tell you.
Around mile 10, I dropped the cart in a gravel pull out and dashed into the tall grass to answer the call of nature just as rain began began to fall. Tromping back to the cart, the rain became a sluicing downpour, and I suddenly realized I was starving. Without a second thought, I pulled a slice of pie from my pack, plopped down in the mud, and began to devour it. A well-worn couple in an equally well-worn purring little pickup truck pulled over opposite me and called out, “You alright? Need some help?” It was only then that it struck me how I must look: cart leaning haphazardly forward by the side of the road, me soaked to the skin and sitting in the mud, shoveling pie into my face. Rod caught up to me about then and together we assured them we were fine, just stopping for a rest. They u-turned to drive back the way they’d come calling, “May god bless you on your journey,” and I wondered if they’d driven down that road just to find us.
I pulled the cart the last 10 of today’s 15 miles, over many a hill. At times, rain poured so heavily it completely occluded my glasses, and I had to slide them down my nose and peer over them. My tank top and pants and every article of underclothing I wore was soaked and water trickled into the crevices of my body. All except my socks, which remained miraculously warm and dry, despite my waterlogged shoes. Pulling the cart kept me warm though, and my body was so occupied that I was only vaguely aware of more. The world around me was green. The traffic briefly roaring then long stretches of windy, grassy quiet. The smell of mud and cows and rain and berry flowers. When walking is good it is like meditating; everything slows down and the world is in both sharp focus and faded wash. The mind rests in it without thinking about anything in particular.
The rain still poured as I crossed the Elwha River Bridge and pulled into the Elwha Dam RV Park and Campground. We found a campsite and the downpour turned to a deluge. We set up our tent then mopped the standing water from its floor. We struggled to hang a blue tarp over our picnic table. I laughed and wrung the water from my shirt as we worked, but goosebumps were growing on my bare arms and my serenity was wearing thin. I wanted hot cocoa more than anything in the world. It was still a long way off.
Today is a rest day. Yesterday’s rain is gone, though the sky still looms grey. We’ve done laundry and napped on our mats, and generally loafed about. We’ve picked up resupply boxes we’d left with the RV lot owners, and our bear canisters are once again stuffed with dehydrated food. Tomorrow we walk to Port Angeles. For another few hours though, all I have to worry about is hot cocoa.