“Wait, look”. I stop and find what Jono is pointing to. We’re looking out above the Hoh River from an embankment about 20 feet high. A row of elk, single file, are crossing on the opposite side. A few at the end of the line look back. I imagine they are having a little back-and-forth a the sight of us. “Yo, Bruce!” “What?” “A couple of weirdos watching us up there.”
It’s raining today, the rain jacket was able to borrow deters water at a minimal rate. The Gore-Tex jacket I’ll be using on the PCT arrives in the mail sometime soon. We’ve continued East from camp. I have my camera under a plastic bag, but with all the photo opportunities it has proven ineffective.
This trip began on Tuesday, my friend Jono and I took the ferry West and drove to the Olympic National Park visitor’s center in Port Angeles. There, we got our permits and bear canisters. The ranger was a friendly woman in her early forties and told us we could camp at designated spots or on the gravel bars.
We figure this will be a nice pre-PCT shakedown in order to reduce pack weight and perfect recipes. I’ve known Jono for a few years and we reconnected a few months ago, just as I was deciding for sure whether or not to hike the PCT. He was just finishing his Bachelor’s degree in fisheries science at UW. In talking, he said he’d always wanted to hike the PCT. Beginning with a familiar face makes sense.
At 4 miles in, the moss is becoming less vibrant, and the overcast skies are feeling less glowy. We decide to set up camp the next time we see the river. At 6 miles in, we spot the river through the trees. We head off-trail and cross water a couple of times to get to it.
There’s an immediate change in noise and light. Everything that was muffled is now exposed. The forest, a mossy decaying library. The river, a highway.
The river creates a comforting white noise that helps me drift off quickly both nights, though I wake frequently with aching joints, repositioning my body.
It’s the morning of last day. I’m in my tent reading, late into the morning, avoiding the rain. My book, Shooting the Boh, is a true account of a journalist entering menopause. She accompanies a misfit crew down the Boh River in Borneo, Southeast Asia. They are traveling far slower than anticipated, through the dangerous waters of the equatorial rainforest. She’s facing foot rot, dwindling resources, and constant high humidity. Reading this is making the cold rain seem fantastic. A few mosquitoes are buzzing at my net. At last, hunger forces me to put on sopping clothes and shoes and venture out.
I am urgently reminding myself to be mindful, to notice details in the moment. The turquoise water. The low clouds traveling hurriedly upstream. The thunderous river and the hushed forest absorbing its sound. I know that as much as I want a hot shower, I’ll miss the present landscape as soon as I’m away. I predict this will be a prevalent mental battle in the coming months.