The last day was bittersweet. I had camped just 3 miles from the trailhead, did a little backwoods sighseeing, then it’s off to play in Seattle.
Since I had a very short distance to travel and quite a bit of time to get there, today was the most unique day of the trip. I listened to music until 8 and did not get on trail until 9 am. The night cleared at one point and I could see a million stars, but it clouded up again and stayed that way the rest of the night and morning. It was cold, probably around twenty, but I stayed warm all night.
Since I had three hours before pickup and only an hour to travel, I decided to take the side trip to the lookout tower, if I could find it. From the trail, I could see the road leading to it, so I bushwhacked up a steep incline up to the road. The road itself was steep as well.
The spot where I bushwhacked up was about a mile past the tower, so I was actually going backwards. The weather was clear and I could see the tower as well as most of the surrounding mountains. There were two trailheads on the way up to the lookout tower and they had some good informational signs that were cool to read. Literally cool – I had to wipe the snow and ice off of all of them to read them.
I learned that this site was once used for cold war detection of Russian planes making their way to the US mainland. Once at the top, they had three different signs outlining the profile of all of the surrounding mountains so you can tell which one is which, which I love. The problem today was that by the time I got to the top, it was totally socked in and I could not see a single one of the mountains.
I headed back down towards Hart’s pass and decided to hike the road instead of the trail, just to see something new. There were several more trailheads, including an equestrian one.
When I got to the pass, I was thirty minutes early, and there was a trail angel set up grilling for hikers. He had quite a spread, and started to cook me a salmon burger while I cracked a beer and ate a cookie. Before I even had the beer opened Ken comes walking around the corner. He arrived just four or five minutes after I did and heard my voice as soon as he stepped out of the car.
It was good to see Ken and have all the anxiety of being in the woods several hours from Seattle just melt away. We hung out for ten or fifteen minutes, then said thanks and headed down the mountain. It was quite a drive and had one stretch that was pretty steep and a bit spooky.
We made it back into Mazama without incident and stopped by the store so I could make a quick stop for coffee and a shirt from the outfitter. There was only one other hiker in town, which surprised me a little.
We made our way to Ken’s house with a stop to get home made ice cream. The drive toward Seattle had lots of great views. Lakes, mountains, dams, farms. When we got to his house, he had a huge dinner planned – seafood pasta. We had a good time visiting.
The following day, we played tourist and went into Seattle to visit the market and of course the Space Needle. We took the tour and it was quite interesting reading about the genesis of the project and it’s role in the World’s Fair. We also had to hit the obligatory brewery. Back at home it was another big meal – baby back ribs. Did I mention Ken likes to cook?
The following day was more tourist, but this time it was a bit more targeted. Ken works at Boeing and he took me to see the factory tour. That place is huge. They have six main assembly lines and we toured all of them. One thing that was interesting to me was that after seeing the shuttle payload processing for so many years while working at Kennedy Space Center, this looked just the same, but on a huge scale. Little bits of vehicle surrounded by scaffolding and equipment. It was nice getting some extra inside information on top of the tour. It made we want to move away and go work for Boeing, too.
Guess what we did then? If you guessed a big meal, then you would be correct. And if you guessed salmon, then you would be pshychic. We watched a movie, then it was time to say goodbye. Ken dropped me off at a hotel near the airport so I could catch an early flight back. He had been such a good host for half a week, the least I could do was let him sleep in on the weekend.
It was an uneventful flight back home. The hurricane that blew by Florida the day before left Gainesville largely unaffected and Atlanta was operating at full capacity. It’s been a great trip, but I can’t wait to get back home to Karen and my real home.
As I write this on the last flight from Atlanta to Gainesville, I have a million thoughts running through my mind. The depression and wierd feelings from the thirty mile march back from the Canadian border is gone. There are so many things to be done at home, the least of which is working again.
I plan to take at least a week off before trying to enter the workforce again. Not to reflect on trip so much as just relax and put a period between the last phase and the next phase of my life. It’s not every day you can quit your job and not work for five months. I know I will hike again, some with Karen and probably some solo, but probably never a big grand trip like this one. This has definitely been the trip of a lifetime that I will never forget.