PNT Day 21: The Happiest House

Today’s miles: 23.4

Total miles: 276.8

The jets continue even after dark, and I find it difficult to fall asleep and then difficult to get moving in the morning. The campground is perfectly silent at this early hour, all the car campers tucked in their tents and RVs, save one in pajamas who is walking her dog. I head out, finding a trail right away along the edge of Cranberry Lake that leads me all the way back to the welcome station and the highway, and am irritated all over again that I was instructed to walk among the cars here yesterday when there’s a perfectly good pedestrian path.

Back on the PNT, I have road to walk anyway. A very gentle misting rain joins me as I wind along the water’s edge to Cornet Bay. The jets begin their noisy flights again before 8am. I see a deer and two fawns nibbling foliage on the side of the road, the babies just starting to lose their white spots.

Cornet Bay

The route takes me through a sparse little neighborhood here. A man out for a morning walk passes by. I wave, and he says excitedly, “They’re in!” “What’s in?” “The humpies! They’re in!” I have no idea what this means, and for five seconds I think he’s talking about humpback whales, then look out at the little bay and realize the impossibility of that. So I just say “Cool, thanks!” and walk on, filing this away to ask about later.

There’s a brief section of actual trail, with plenty of giant slugs, then back to paved road. I expect to be on road for the remainder of today, unless I find the tides hospitable when I get to the beach. But my tide chart suggests I’ll need to take the road alternate. For now, I trudge uphill through another small neighborhood and along rural roads. As I pass a bed and breakfast place set into the woods, the thick smell of bacon surrounds me. Oh my god. I look longingly at the little inn, jealous of the guests. The smell lingers for a long time. Rude.

Occasional water views from the road
“Wilderness Way, private road” — this sign reminded me that hikers joke that PNT really stands for Private, No Trespassing.

The jet sounds are constant in the background, louder as I approach Ault Field Road. I’d read that there’s an excellent taco truck at this intersection, but when I arrive, nothing. After the bacon smell agony, this new disappointment is fairly crushing. I unwrap a Snickers bar and keep walking. Near an intersection a bit later, there’s a tiny drive-thru-only Caribbean place, and I head over for a lunch break, but find seven cars in line already. As I wait, the line only grows. I sit on a large chunk of concrete nearby and eat lunch from my pack instead. Looking ahead in my GPS app, I find a note from a previous hiker indicating that the taco truck is still a possibility, a mile ahead. My heart leaps.

Sure enough, more paved road leads me to a gas station and convenience store, and a taco truck parked in the lot. Yesssss. Chicken and fish tacos in my hands, I share a picnic table with a cyclist and a few folks from the Naval base. Between these tacos and yesterday’s bakery lunch, I suppose all this roadwalking does have its perks.

Of course this feeling fades as I hike on. The paved road takes me through farmland. At least there are a few fun surprises though: at the edge of one farm, fixed to a fence, I find a life-size silhouette of Bigfoot, giving a thumbs-up. Later, right in the middle of a large, otherwise empty field, sits a giant Darth Vadar mask, at least three feet square. Huh.

Aside from Bigfoot giving me a thumbs-up, this is what most of the day looked like.

At last I reach the short trails crossing through Whidbey State Park. In the wooded portion I find a $20 bill just on the side of the trail. Absolutely no one is around, so I slip it into my pocket. The park ends at the beach, giving me my first really good look at Puget Sound. Though I’m anxious to get my remaining miles finished, I still stop here at a picnic table to eat a snack and admire the water.

Hello Puget Sound!

As expected, the tides are not in my favor for beach walking, so it’s more paved road for me. The first portion runs parallel to the Sound, so at least I have something pretty to look at. Just before the road veers inland and up what looks to be an endless hill, I pass an eastbound hiker. He’s very chatty, and tells me this massive hill is the last I’ll really have to climb today. Near the end of our conversation he offers that his name is Juice, short for Grape Juice. We fist-bump over our related juice names, and though I think he’d like to keep talking, I’m baking in the sun and eager to move on.

Several hot road miles later, I turn off the PNT and arrive at one of the most established trail angel stops of the PNT: the Happy House. Rebecca and John have been hosting hikers since 2012, and they know what they’re doing. As soon as she opens the door, Rebecca is showing me the guest bathroom stocked with toiletries, the huge hiker box, the bin full of loaner clothes, a basket for my laundry, and a big set of annotated maps and permit info for Olympic National Park. They generously open their spare bedrooms to hikers as well, but I opt to camp in their backyard, feeling cautious about the delta variant.

It really doesn’t take much to feel completely pampered, when your baseline is hot, sweaty, stinky clothes and protein bars. I’m so stoked to put on clean cotton loaner clothes and to throw my disgusting hiker clothes into a real washing machine! They make a taco salad bar and we eat outside at the picnic table. It’s great to soak up all their knowledge about reading the tides, navigating the Wilderness Coast, and how trail angeling has changed over the years as the PNT gets more established. I suddenly remember to ask them about “the humpies,” and learn they’re pink salmon that come down from Alaska. Aha!

After dinner, I’m treated to a personal-size apple pie, with ice cream and caramel sauce. Then I pitch my tent in their yard and crawl into my quilt, belly full and feeling quite at home.

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