Mile 2323 to 2344
I wake before the sun with a strong desire to return the water I drank last night to the local watershed. The stars shine with pin point clarity, indicating the winds of change have arrived. The smoke has indeed gone back to meet its maker at Mount Adams.
Ixnay disappears faster than the smoke and Kevin and I have breakfast and pack up. On our way up the first grade we are welcomed by two fawn young enough to still have their spots but old enough to be out without their mommy. The scene is adorable. That is of course unless one of the fawns is named Bambi and Mom lies motionless in the bushes with a rifle shot to the head. It is so hard to read the emotional state of these dear little deer.
With a relatively clear sky we are rewarded with spectacular views of Mount Rainier. It is startling how such a massive thing can sneak up on us like that. We are now getting a glimpse of what other thru-hikers enjoyed from the Knife’s Edge. I suppose if we blindfolded them, turned on a huge fan and doused them with a hose they could get a glimpse of what we did.
Not to be confused with naked hikers on the solstice, we come upon a couple of bear hunters. Their camouflage must not be top quality because we can clearly see them with their binoculars, rifles, side arms, chairs and backpacks. Apparently bear season in this area started August 15th. Concerned I ask one if we should be wearing orange vests. He just smiles and says that will not be necessary. I smile praying he does not mean he can get a good bead on us either way.
As we press on we see a herd of mountain goats high on the ridge. We stop and watch for a while. Something spooks them and they scramble over the ridge, but quickly return to pose majestically on the high rock out cropping. Kevin has now seen his first wild mountain goat herd.
We finally catch up to Ixnay at the Mike Urich Cabin shelter. We set up camp not far from a stream. A caretaker at the shelter boils a bunch of water on the wood burning stove, which we use for dinner. A guy shows up on a motorcycle from some forest service road, drawn by the smoke and concerned about fire. The lack of a spark arrester on the stove pipe sparks a debate as hot as the wood stove. Kevin and I think given the current wildfire situation in California, Oregon and Washington he may have a point, but his approach is so confrontational that the message is lost on the cabin crew.
After the motorcycle guy storms off, cooler heads prevail. The caretaker creatively and bravely shimmies onto the roof and uses a make-shift rope of PCT bandanas to pull up a new spark arrester that was just sitting in the cabin. He successfully plops it on top of the hot pipe while the stove fire rages on. We applaud when he safely reaches the ground, having been provided hot dinner water and a show.
The caretaker warns us that the cabin area can get loud from singing and talking. Seriously how loud can early-to-bed and early-to-rise thru-hikers be? We retire to our tents with the good news that only 13 miles of the trail ahead are officially closed. How to navigate around it however will likely be our nightmare.