Awe inspiring beauty and thoughts of being still as hike nears end
2,402 miles. After having walked through desert heat, climbed to some of the highest points in the lower 48 states, been hungry, and nearly exhausted beyond belief we have reached the mid-point in Washington and entered the rainy Northwest. During the day the rain is more of a constant mist and fog than a downpour. It’s just enough to keep us cold and wet while the clouds assure that we will not be able to see anything more than 10 feet in front of our faces. Living in the damp brings a great respect for the luxury of just having a dry room to sit in.
Having wet feet for days brings blisters and the possibility of trench foot while the cold slows you down and makes it difficult to get up in the morning. When the only heat source you have to keep your body warm is your body, it is a very humbling experience.
Our daily average of miles has declined somewhat since leaving Oregon. Through that entire state we averaged close to 30 miles a day and could do so without much strain or effort at all.
The grade of the trail was fairly level and the terrain was some of the best suited for hiking that I have seen. A few times I found myself looking out from the top of a mountain wondering how I came to be there, I had no idea that I was even climbing.
Geographically, Oregon is a marvel. What was once a land shaped by violent geothermic activity and ripped apart by massive glaciers is now a lush green and peaceful landscape. Forests seem to stretch endlessly and lakes fill every basin and glacial recess that we passed. Many of these lakes contain land-locked salmon called Kanokee. These salmon live their entire lives in the freshwater lakes but still swim out of the lakes to spawn. My brother and I were fortunate enough to have a taste of the red meat fish when a local gave us a bag of fresh fillets.
As we approached Washington the landscape began to change yet again. The smooth grade of Oregon began to turn back into long ascents and our daily mileage has dropped back to around 23 miles.
Still, it is a stunning land. Just over 100 miles into Washington we entered the Goat Rocks Wilderness area and found ourselves camping one evening within sight of Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier.
The ancient volcanoes are unique among the landscape as they stand taller than anything else and seem to sit in rule over everything.
Sitting here at 266 miles from the end of the journey it is increasingly difficult to put into words what it feels like to have walked all this way. We are tired and our minds often drift towards thoughts of anything other than hiking. I find myself wanting to simply sit in a chair and do absolutely nothing, watch the day pass by without motion on my part.
Still, we will continue to walk and hopefully have reached the Canadian border within the next 13 days. I wonder what it will be like to return to the hustle and speed of life in “the real world”.
Aaron and Andy Agnew are using this hike as a means of raising awareness to the efforts of the Faith in Action Food Pantry of Keyser. They will be posting weekly to their website www.pct4hunger.com and monthly through Graffiti.