We get up early so that we don’t get caught on the beach. Today, the group splits – Donor and Trooper are going to hike ahead while Quiet, Dexter, Energizer Bunny and I take a bus to Tillamook to resupply and get a power bank but mostly to tour the Tillamook Cheese Factory.
We catch the 7 am bus which means we are early, so of course we stop for breakfast. It’s our first real breakfast of the trail and we order so much food that the server shakes his head a little, but it’s a normal amount to us and even though we’re not hiking as much as the PCT, we eat it all.
From there, we walk a mile and a half to Fred Meyer. Quiet and I talk (he is named Quiet ironically, because he’s chatty, though he claims to be an introvert at home) and walking down the roads I am struck with a feeling that I’m a traveler now. I see people in their normal everyday lives and I think – that isn’t me. I did the thing I wanted to do, that I was afraid I wasn’t brave enough for. I stepped away. I chose an unconventional life, if only temporarily. I think of Jack Kerouac and other exaltations of traveling and freedom and in this moment I think, oh – this is that feeling. To feel different and to walk through the life you’re not choosing. To feel like you stepped outside of the system. To feel like you broke free, like you can see it all for what it really is, like you have found the secret.
We step into Fred Meyer. I help Energizer Bunny get situated with electronics and then get some fuel and then stand at the sunglass kiosk for a while trying on sunglasses. This trail has made me more self conscious about my hikertrash appearance, or maybe it’s tiring to look so dirty all the time. Dexter has gone so far as to start wearing deodorant again. Being around non-hikers makes me aware of how dirty my clothes have permanently become, how loose they are, how much I do not look like a bubbly, fun hiker. And the weight I’ve lost I notice most in my face, which seems to look svelte to others but looks gaunt to me, and my body awkward and gangly. There are a few things I enjoy: my armpit hair is longer than it’s ever been, probably 3 inches, and I am getting a kick out of its presence. My legs are solid muscle. Even my arms are more cut, bulging from trekking pole use.
But ultimately I don’t buy sunglasses, because I can’t find a pair that transforms me from looking like hiker trash to dayhiker. Go figure.
It’s another half mile to the cheese factory and we try all the cheeses and order grilled cheeses and then we go back for ice cream. We spot a deal: a five ice cream sampler. The cashier says they’re junior scoops, but when we get our cups I’m faced with more ice cream than I’ve ever been tasked with eating. “You’ve never eaten a pint of ice cream before?” Dexter asks, like it’s a normal thing to do. No! I say. Dexter ends up finishing my ice cream for me. Quiet tells us that he spent years of his life thinking that everyone else was eating 6 or 7 eggs for breakfast like he was. He once ate 11 eggs, he tells us.
Apologizing to my body, I waddle to the bus stop and we ride back to where we left off. The goal is to get a little boat across the water so we don’t have to road walk, but when I ask the first person coming in he says that it can’t be crossed, the water is shallow and there’s a clam bed. I don’t believe him, but I also don’t see any other boats.
Dexter starts walking but Quiet, Energizer Bunny and I get a hitch from a man Quiet had chatted up. It is nice to have Quiet because he sits in the front and chats with the driver, which I usually have to do. When we get to camp we debate a little bit over what to do – keep walking so we’re closer to the lake we need to cross at low tide, or wait for Dexter, camp here and leave very early?
The camp is nice so we decide to stay. I take a shower and we cook the sausages I’d packed out and they’re delicious. We’re joined by Mermaid, who I hiked with on the PCT (!!) and Frank, a hiker from Ghana who had been traveling all over but was new to hiking.
I get in my tent around 8 but stay up late finishing my book. It is such a pleasure to read out here.