Imagine hiking as a video game. Every hiker starts their journey at 100 life points. The more life points you have, the better you feel and the further you can go. If your life points get close to or reach 0, you’re more likely to be injured and knocked off the trail.
Every step you take has a life point value, controlling how far you can travel each day. Some events remove life points more quickly, like kicking rocks and roots, or tripping to the ground. Everything has a cost. As much as you plan based on past performances, you never really know how many life points a day will need to get it done.
It is possible to restore some life points throughout the day. We carry pounds of life points in the form of food and electrolytes. Sometimes playing tunes from your phone can even give a temporary boost. However, these are only temporary gains in life, one of the only true ways to reset back to 100 is a good night’s sleep, whether in a tent or town.
Today I made a mistake that took our life points from near 100 down to zero.
Snoqualmie the Sickly
Our stay in the town of Snoqualmie was cloaked in the shadows of sickness. Not us, mind you, we are perfectly healthy. A lot of hikers are coming down with what sounds like the norovirus. I’m still convinced it may be related to zombie flies biting people and turning them into undead human insects.
Being in a hotel stuffed full of sick people is not ideal. We hunkered down inside and washed our hands frequently whenever outside. Most of our time was spent planning for the next 5-day section into White Pass. With all the time in the world to plan, you’d think I’d have a pretty good chance of not mucking it up.
Brianna found an alternate that we could take out of Snoqualmie with the ideas being that we could both avoid sick people and have an easier day on trail. I found the Palouse to Cascades trail easy enough in my Gaia app and charted a course. Everything looked easy, probably too easy now that I think about it. Toggling between Farout, Gaia, and Apple Maps ended up being a bit more than I could handle. We had a course charted but would not realize the destination was incorrect until it was miles too late.
Seeing sick people everywhere and trying not to get sick sends the mind into overdrive. We can’t avoid drinking water from the same streams, but we can choose which streams we get water from and go further upstream when we do. We can’t avoid camping outdoors, but we can choose where we camp and how close that camp is to other people. One of my saddest overprotective thoughts is that we might need to stop eating huckleberries and blueberries for a while. They are on the trail and could be touched by the sickly? I don’t know.
Palouse to Cascades Alternate
Walking south from Snoqualmie to the Hyak trailhead was downhill and simple enough. We had hoped to see the Snoqualmie tunnel, an old railroad tunnel you can walk into. Whether I plotted it wrong or just misunderstood its location, we overshot it by about .4 (-10 life points). A hiker was walking into the Hyak trailhead area when we arrived and shared that she was infected with whatever was going around (-10 life points).
The Palouse to Cascade Trail is an old railway path with the tracks removed. It’s about as flat a walk as it gets, very similar to the Gandy Dancer we walked on the Ice Age Trail last year. We had a leisurely walk on this trail for about the first 9 miles of our day. Instead of continuing on the Palouse to Cascades Trail for another few miles to Stampede Pass road, we followed my Gaia plotted course up some old forest roads for a couple of miles before Brianna pulled out her phone and asked, “why are we going in the opposite direction of the PCT?”
You know that feeling you get when you’ve done something wrong but it’s too late to do anything to fix it? That feeling hit my gut hard when realizing we would be making it back to the PCT, but it would be 4 miles away from where we had intended it to be (-50 life points). The day would be longer and steeper than we had hoped. Brianna was distraught, I was sad and embarrassed.
We walked the 4 additional miles in relative silence. I knew Brianna was not mad at me, she was just digesting our new reality. In my head, it felt like making it to Stampede Pass could reset my blunders… little did I know, there was trail magic when we arrived! (+70 life points)
Trail magic, like a good night’s sleep, can also restore life points back to 100. Random acts of kindness go a long way. I cannot remember the gentlemen’s names, but one had just finished the Continental Divide Trail and wanted to give a little something back to the hiking community in the form of beer, pop, cereal, and a variety of other snacks.
Joining a circle of hikers and digging our hands into a common area of food and drinks was against all of our precautionary rules, but we did it anyway. Good conversation, a Coke, and a Coors worked in concert to lift our spirits higher than they were when we started the day.
Home for the night is a dry campsite in a valley between two steep inclines. Brianna set up the tent while I climbed .3 to a barely flowing creek to grab us the water we would need for dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow – my self-imposed penance.