The Struggle Bus may be no fun to ride, but it provides excellent trailside service. I’d walked 4 miles on the road out of North Bend, when the Struggle Bus overtook me with hot cocoa and fresh raspberries. At the top of Snoqualmie Pass, the Bus met me with a cheeseburger and rootbeer. It also portered the Wander Wagon over the pass, so I could take the steep and beautiful Twin Falls trail instead of the longer, more cart-friendly route by Rattlesnake Lake. Not only was it a prettier, more challenging trail, but it also worked different muscles than usual, and created different wear patterns to give my blistered feet a break. And did I mentioned, slackpacking via the Struggle Bus got me a night in a hotel and TACOS? When you hike 15 miles a day, you can eat a lot of tacos. I stopped at six, but only out of decorum. I know Rod has big, mixed emotions about being the Captain of the Struggle Bus, but he is handling it with grace, while allowing me incredible luxury on the trail.
Yesterday, I passed through the Snoqualmie tunnel. At 2,500 feet, it might be the highest elevation I’ll reach in Washington. At its eastern portal and near the end of a long day of hiking, I met and bid goodbye to Rod and the Bus, and headed south out of Hyak along the western shore of Keechelus Lake. The route from Hyak to Lake Easton State Park is 18 miles– just a bit too long for comfort given the preceding day’s 17.6 miles–, so I’ll take it in two leisurely days. At Lake Easton, I’ll meet up with Rod again for a rest day and hopefully some swimming in the lake.
The trail here is the Iron Horse Trail, a converted rail-trail made from the last stretch of the old Milwaukee Road railway line. It’s wide and shallowly gaveled, with only a 2% grade, making for an easy walk. Converted rail trestles carry me easily over steep river and stream valleys, and each one feels like both cheating and triumph. I-90 hums across the lake, but it’s far enough away to fade into the background. There are even “primitive” campsites on the trail with vault toilets, tent pads, and picnic tables. Between the trail amenities and Rod’s trailside support, summiting the cascade range felt entirely too easy– like just a stroll up a hill. I’m sure the challenges of the Eastern Washington’s plains and desert will make up for it though, and that’s just a few days ahead now. Best to enjoy the mild mountain weather and little luxuries while I can.