Yellow Blazing: Mount Shasta to Hart’s Pass

There will be no hiking in this post. Unless you count hitch-hiking. This, I won’t be tracking distances for each day. In the end of the last post, I was just picked up by a taxi headed to Mount Shasta (the town, not the mountain). Let’s get right into it.

Day 1

The cab driver was not only nice enough to come out and get me when he was supposed to be ending his shift, he also agreed to stop at the motel my phone case had shipped to. He dropped me at the post office, got paid, and went home.

I picked up my other package: the map bounce box. I pulled out the northern Washington maps and bounced it on. I installed my phone case. Correct size this time! About time I wasn’t hiking with an unprotected phone.

I figured out where and when the bus to Weed picked up and then walked to the pizza bar, ordered a pizza, and drank a couple beers while they made it. I took the finished pizza up to the park beside the post office to eat.

I met a lot of travelers (young migrant workers who enjoy the hobo life) there, shared the extra pizza I couldn’t eat. The park had ripe apples and pears on the trees, and when I went to the gas station to buy a new charging cable for my mobile battery (because my old cable had vanished somehow), I found a tree full of ripe plums. I ate one on the way back, then put some apples and pears in my pack for the trip ahead.

I went to the bus stop a few minutes early, and before the bus could arrive, someone pulled over to offer me a ride, having just transported another hiker to the Weed Greyhound stop. I accepted. It would save a bus fare.

The Greyhound stop was at a Mexican restaurant, and when I went in to ask about the stop, the brusque Korean manager marched me out the other side to point it out, saying they did not sell tickets, they were just a restaurant.

So I sat outside and purchased my tickets, and then I felt like having a margarita at the one outdoor table facing the bus stop. So I went inside to look for the same man. He immediately interrupted me and asked to talk to me outside adding, out of nowhere, “I don’t respect you.”

Once outside, he pointed at the travel center across the street and told me to go take a shower, that my smell was driving his customers away. Not that I could have known he had seated customers inside… I had assumed they were takeout only like most restaurants lacking patios. Also, this was clearly false, as not a single other person had reacted to my presence strongly besides him. The other employees seemed like they would have tried to be helpful if he hadn’t intervened.

Anyway, I could appreciate that three days of sweat may have a strong odor, but I asked if I could order first anyway. He personally took my order for some nachos and a margarita and delivered them to the table in to-go containers. He also agreed to let my battery charge inside while I was there.

Also, the information that I could get a shower in that travel center was genuinely useful, so I went over there as soon as I had finished my margarita. I stayed for some hours too as it turned out I could also do laundry there and get some supplies I needed. And I had the time to kill.

While it was washing, I went back to the restaurant to get my battery and the manager had put it on the table I had sat at, still not completely charged. He came out and I thanked him for the shower tip. He claimed he was just concerned about my hygiene and that the bus would not have let me ride the way I had smelled. Implying that I wouldn’t have tried to find a shower on my own and that Greyhound strongly values pleasant smells in the same breath. But as condescending as this was, he was at least gesturing towards being polite this time.

Anyway, I finished out my laundry, and carried my uneaten box of nachos back to the bus stop to wait the last hour for the bus to arrive.

Day 2

The bus arrived right on time (1am, roughly) and left on time too. Every row already had someone in it, so I had to sit next to a stranger, but I managed to choose one with someone who would be getting off at the next big town. After that stop, I had a row to myself for the rest of the trip.

We stopped at a number of travel centers for bathroom breaks and opportunities to buy more root beer. The end of the line was a random street in Portland at around 9am, where I got off, grabbed my backpack from the luggage hold, and walked back 30 feet to board a Bolt bus that would carry me the rest of the way to Mount Vernon.

This bus would drive up into Washington where it made a couple of stops in the same area outside of Seattle. The first was in front of an Asian market, which I walked through and bought a Kombucha (and nearly missed the bus getting back out), and the second was a bus terminal where we had to park for most of an hour for who knows why. Here I accidentally tore one of my headphones out of its control box junction thing that all headphones have to have now, but a passenger offered to give me his new ones that he didn’t need anymore (because he had left his phone with his girlfriend for some reason) if I bought him a Gatorade. What a great trade, and the fastest I’ve ever had a broken item replaced in my life.

I arrived at Mount Vernon sometime in the early afternoon and caught a city bus uptown toward a hotel I had reserved. I still had to walk half an hour from the bus stop to the hotel, but it was relatively early, so I had some time to settle in.

After wasting a few hours enjoying being in a bed (while on the internet and phone trying to organize a ride to the trail), I went a few blocks up the road to Farmstrong brewery to get a flight and dinner from the food truck in the beer garden.

It started raining as I was finishing up and I still needed to swing by Walmart for my resupply. I didn’t anticipate rain and had not brought a raincoat. So I carried my groceries home in the rain. Luckily, it was only a few blocks and there was nothing stopping me from just stripping and climbing into bed as soon as I got back.

Day 3

Since it was the last day of another month, I was now allowed to gift myself a true zero to fully relax and unwind from all the running of the last week. I spent most of the day in my hotel room. I only went out to visit Jersey Mike’s for dinner and maybe the convenience store on the corner. On the bright side, despite being unable to organize a ride to the trail, I had put together a plan to get incrementally closer at least. The downside was that it could not be done until the following afternoon. Fine. I could certainly make use of the morning before my journey started in earnest.

Day 4

One of my longest days yet, which makes up, I hope, for the fact that this post will only cover a four day span.

I packed up and checked out of my room without getting any breakfast. On my way out, I had the desk clerk print and rescan my absentee ballot request form.

I had a few stops to make along the way to the bus station. The first was Safeway because I thought I could ship packages from there (such as the extra socks I had bought at Walmart but did not want to carry) but they only took already labeled boxes, so I added a third stop to my walk.

My second stop was Firehouse Subs since I had enough loyalty points for a free large sub and I probably would not come so close to a Firehouse again on this trip. I ate my brunch sitting on the curb in front of the building.

My third stop was an independent Pack n Ship business that could ship with any shipping service. They could box my extra stuff and send it home no problem.

Finally, I had another mile to walk to Skagit Community College. This was where the bus to Sedro-Woolley would be arriving in 20 minutes. By the time I had walked this far, I badly had to pee and all the convenience stores I passed had no public restroom. The public busses certainly had no toilets on board, so there was no way I could wait. The college was basically closed except to staff and completely locked down. I asked a lady if there was a way to get inside to use the restroom, and she suggested using a callbox near the main building door to call security to let me in, but there was no such callbox where she indicated.

I wandered around some more and considered climbing into a thicket in a tiny park they had planted along a nearby small building, but I was sure I would be seen by any of the people out there. I walked back over to the main building when I saw a man with a laptop bag coming up the stairs. Before I could say anything he asked me if I could open the door for him.

“I was going to ask you the same thing.”

Another professorly type was coming up and the man asked him if he could let us in, explaining we were there for the meeting with such and such organization. He agreed and let us in. Once inside, the man with the bag asked where I was from and whether I was there for the same meeting.

“I’m just here to go into that restroom, come back out, and leave to catch a bus.”

I wished him luck with his meeting on my way out again.

The bus cost a dollar and got me to Sedro-Woolley in about 30 minutes. I would be able to catch another bus there in an hour that could get me down Highway 20 as far as Concrete.

I passed most of this time talking to a very talkative and fascinating old lady who kept an incredible garden, had recovered from a heroine addiction, and had had at least one shared near death experience. She also wanted gave me a bag of off-brand butterscotch candies.

I ran across the street to a Walgreens to get a drink, and when I returned, there was a new lady there, perhaps my age, absolutely falling to pieces. Bawling. Disgusting sobbing. Unable to think about anything but her situation. She had fled from her home and her partner for some reason. Domestic abuse? A bad argument? Anyway, she was taking the bus to another family member’s house to get away from this man and seemed genuinely afraid when she saw him pass in his car. I went back to the Walgreens to use the bathroom before the bus came and also to get away from her constant sobbing, cursing noise that was really bringing down the mood, especially since there was no way to comfort her. And the older woman definitely tried. To zero effect.

We all made it onto the bus okay and the only eventful part of the trip was the old woman asking the air conditioning be turned off. The bus got uncomfortably warm.

I got off in Concrete at the easternmost stop then walked down to the highway. It was around 4:40pm. I made a sign that said I wanted a ride to Mazama. After 20 minutes, I made another saying I wanted to go east any distance.

Around 5:20, a shuttle bus with a casino advertised on the side picked me up and carried me a few miles down to a Rockport. The place where he dropped me was in a curve so that cars could not see me in time, so I walked to the other end of town (about a quarter mile).

By around 5:50, a couple returning to their other vehicle after a kayaking trip on the Skagit River (which the highway followed) picked me up and took me a few more miles to Marblemount. So I only had 74 miles left to go to reach Mazama, and there was only one town in that entire span, so it was very likening that any car leaving town on that road would be going that far, but also very unlikely that the average car would be leaving town. It wasn’t the right time of day for people to be setting out across the mountains. I had reserved a shuttle from Mazama to Hart’s Pass for 7am the following morning, and it was looking increasingly unlikely I would make it. I resolved to keep at on the roadside across from the busy diner until night fell and then try to get a room at the nearby inn before picking it up again in the morning.

But I got even luckier than I had hoped to. Within the hour, a Volkswagen Vanagon camper van stopped to pick me up. Wayne was going all the way to Hart’s Pass to pick up some hikers finishing the trail and had planned to stop at Rainy Pass that night, then drive up in the morning. But since I wanted to go there, he offered to go all the way up before stopping. I agreed and immediately emailed the shuttle company canceling the reservation (since I hadn’t paid yet).

A couple of hours later, maybe a little after 8pm, we arrived in Mazama, and the town was already completely closed. Wayne waited while I called the owner of the guest ranch in town from a phone next to the front office. I told the man that answered that I was looking to stay in town that coming weekend, but I needed a place to leave a bag of food to continue my hike. He told me to leave it in the “Chicken Coop,” a building that fed as their banquet room and game room, and he would take care of it. I found the building by the light of a flashlight borrowed from Wayne, went inside, searched the trash for a scrap of paper to write my name and expected return date on, pulled my trusty Sharpie from my pocket, and left my bag of food labeled on a table by the door.

Wayne and I continued up to Hart’s Pass, a 35 mile drive up some treacherous dirt roads. Sometimes there were potholes we just had to drive through full speed because the Vanagon’s tiny motor had too little horsepower to be able to slow down and get back up to speed again on the steep hills. It took nearly 3 hours and we wound up in Meadow Campground instead of Harts Pass, but we found an empty site to park in, and I started setting up my tent in the dark and wind. That done, I went right to bed. I hadn’t eaten anything since lunch 10 hours previous, but I sure wasn’t going to waste any more time cooking dinner. It was already far too late.

Thus ended a 3 day streak without any trail miles completed, but I had successfully left the haze and smell of smoke behind. The weather for the next week looked beautiful, so I was looking forward to any easy few days of hiking as I went to tag the border and back.

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