Raindrops Falling On My Head

We woke to the sound of raindrops hitting the tarp above our tent. Both of us were immediately thankful we had taken the time to set it up the night before. We were also not exactly stoked to get out of our tent and start the hike into Stehekin. It was only twelve miles but it only takes a couple of miles to be completely soaked. The tarp functioned beautifully, we were able to take our tent down and keep everything dry while cooking breakfast. Eventually we couldn’t avoid the rain any longer and we ripped down the tarp, stuffing it into a pack and sprinting down the trail, determined to get into town as quickly as possible.

It was a very wet day. I can’t imagine if we had needed to hike more than twelve miles, seeing that twelve miles was torture enough. We were completely drenched. Water seeped in through our pathetic rain jackets after only a couple of miles, making its way down our arms and through our waterproof mitts. It leaked in at the hip belt, and then down into our rain pants. I was wearing a long sleeve shirt and long johns so even though I was wet I felt fairly warm. Kyle on the other hand had gone with rain layers and nothing but a t-shirt and shorts on underneath, mostly because he didn’t have a whole extra set of long johns, dry in his pack. He was fine while were hiking but cold when we stopped. We were both displeased, with the whole situation, and I was feeling fairly miserable about our future prospects. We were so close to finishing, but if it was going to rain like this every day for the rest of the hike… how would we keep hiking? I feared that if tomorrow was as bad as today we would be getting off at Rainy Pass and coming back later when the days were less wet.

Finally we made it to where the PCT crosses the road into Stehekin and joined about ten other hikers who were huddled under the overhang at the ranger station there. A regularly scheduled bus shows up at this spot to pick up thru hikers and day hikers alike and shuttle them back into town. We were lucky though, our friend Marieke lives in Stehekin, and we would be staying with her instead of trying to set up our tent in the Stehekin campground. However, we arrived at the ranger station around 11:30pm and she wasn’t going to be there to pick us up until two. I was unwilling to sit in the cold and the wet for any longer than we had to so when the shuttle showed up at 12:00 I forced Kyle to get on it, despite his concern that we would never find Marieke. The bus driver seemed to know exactly who we were talking about and offered to drop us off at her yurt. I figured there were only about 60 people living in Stehekin, how hard could it be to hunt her down? I mean, the lack of cell phone service was sure to cause problems, but we would find her eventually.

Sure enough the bus driver dropped us off right in front of her yurt, which was really kind of him considering it was not part of his scheduled route. However, Marieke was not there… Kyle assumed a very sour I-told-you-so attitude while I wandered around looking for someone who could help us. An open door led to two rangers who were happy to hunt her down via radio. That led to someone on the other end of the radio actually getting in their truck and driving into the rain to find her. I felt terrible for sending so many people on a wild goose chase, but I also felt like it was a rainy day in a sleepy little town and people were probably glad for something to do. Marieke was hunted down in no time and while we waited for her return Kyle and I broke into her yurt and took a very very hot shower and changed into dry clothes. Once Marieke showed up we headed to the famed Stehekin Bakery. I seriously wished I had about five more stomachs on top of my one giant hiker hungry stomach. It all looked so good, I wanted to try one of everything. I settled for an incredible pastrami sandwich and asparagus soap, along with some coffee cake the bakery gave us for free upon learning that we were thru hikers. They said if we didn’t eat it the pigs would. We gladly offered to take it off their hands.

After eating as much as we could we headed back to the yurt, did some laundry, aired out our gear and chatted. Very soon it was time for dinner down at the lodge. I elected to eat ice cream for dinner, it was delicious. We brought our laundry along to dry it and learned at that point that there was no where to stay in town except for the campground because of a wedding. I felt terrible for the other thru hikers who were squished into the public laundry room, trying to stay dry. It was still pouring outside. I also felt incredibly blessed to have a friend and shelter on such an unfortunate day. We headed back to the yurt and turned in early, both Kyle and I exhausted. All night I kept waking up, the sound of rain pounding on the roof, and my stomach kept turning. What would we do the next night if it kept raining like this? How would we ever get dry? How would we get warm? I kicked myself for not grabbing our more intense rain gear, for not making Kyle pack extra layers, for not being more prepared for shitty weather. Without cell phone service we had no way of really knowing what lay in store. The pounding rain mocked me for hours until finally, it was silent.

We got up in the dark, planning on heading back up to the trail early since we had a long day out of Stehekin. I stepped out of the yurt and in the dark the moon lit up white fluffy clouds which swirled overhead. The sky wasn’t clear but I could see stars, twinkling up above. I felt a surge of hope but pushed it back down into the depths of my stomach. It was too early for hope.

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As Edward Abbey said, "An indoor life is the next best thing to a premature burial."

9 thoughts on “Raindrops Falling On My Head

  1. I too have hiked in the WA PCT cold rain. What worked for me was Zpacks rain jacket and/or pants and an umbrella! I was damp (not soaked) and warm. Umbrella kept rain gear from wetting out.

  2. I too have hiked in the WA PCT cold rain. What worked for me was Zpacks rain jacket and/or pants and an umbrella! I was damp and warm and rain gear did not get a chance to wet out.

  3. Love reading about you two and the PCT adventure! The last two years I sectioned hiked in Or/WA, and it rained all day once and for two days another time. I wore Zpacks rain jacket and pants AND used an umbrella. This kept my rain gear from wetting out and kept me warm in the 40 degree weather. Umbrella weighs 8 oz. Have you thought about using an umbrella? It saved the day(s) for me :>) Wondering …

    1. Yeah Kyle started with an umbrella in the desert. But that was for the sun… maybe we should try them again for he rain? He got rid of it because they become pretty worthless the moment there is wind, and there was a lot of wind in the desert. Unfortunately in Washington the trails need a good amount of brushing, the overgrown plants get you just as wet as the rain, but I can totally imagine a couple of times when they would have been super useful!

  4. You guys are so funny, and you had me laughing my ass of only seconds ago. I never could figure out why it’s called rain gear! When you really need it, it doesn’t work. You might as well just walk in the rain. It will keep you warm, which can be a good thing, or not! Always nice to see the stars at night after a long day/evening of rain… one of the best feelings! Keep on truckin! Home!

  5. Ah the yumminess of Stehekin. The word Stehekin can still conjure up the smell and taste of the contents of the bakery. Walking in the rain is not so bad, if you have a dry place to “finish” the day at. We walked for a week straight in the rain in Washington, and thought it would never end. Definitely character building.

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