PNT Day 31: Emerging

Today’s miles: 17.4

Total miles: 447.1

In the night I dream about town food: pizza, salad, fresh baked goods. This has been a tough stretch of hiking. The big trees do a lot to protect me from the overnight rain, and when I wake it’s neither actively raining nor very cold.

My hike out of the park is generally flat, except for one steepish uphill and one slippery steep downhill that features a long rope as an assist. I try to use the rope and am so awkward with it that I probably slide around more than if I’d just ignored it. There is also one final blowdown to tackle, and I actually whine out loud about it before sighing heavily and crawling under. I can’t complain too much, since this whole section was a complete nightmare of blowdowns before this year’s long overdue trail maintenance. I got off easy compared to previous hikers.

The sign marking the boundary of Olympic National Park seems shockingly mundane, given all that I’ve experienced these past eight days. I have still more forest to walk through, though, before reaching the trailhead. There are a number of dayhikers along here, including one large group posing while one of them attempts to set up the self-timer on his camera. I offer to just take a picture for them, but they decline.

Leaving the Bogachiel.

Just as I emerge at the trailhead, a light rain begins. It’s too early to get a hitch into town from here — everyone parked here is going into the forest, not out like me. So it’s more road walking for me. Down a long gravel road and then onto a bypass road that curves quite steeply uphill. A Forest Service truck is parked on the side near the top, and the driver leans out of the window to ask about my time in the park. “Did you see any critters?” Yep. The road levels, then goes just as steeply downhill. Midway through, there’s a terrible screeching, grinding noise. I turn the corner to find a giant construction vehicle in the road. As far as I can tell, it’s being used to mow down the plant and tree matter along the ditch on each side. The operator sees me, places the machine’s working parts (they look kind of like jaws to me!) gently down on the pavement, and waves me through. I yell thanks up to him as I pass. “Happy walking,” he says.

This road spits me out at a state park campground where I have weak cell service. I eat a snack, try and fail to charm a ride to town from an RV driver, and decide to just walk into town. What’s another six paved miles at this point. I put a podcast in one ear and am soon in Forks, setting of the Twilight series (which I have neither read nor seen) and my last resupply town. I see a sign saying “Twilight firewood $5,” but honestly it doesn’t look any different to me than the regular firewood for $3 just a mile back.

It’s too early to check in to my room so I get lunch at the pizza place and eat on their patio. I wipe my nose on my sleeve and realize I’ve forgotten how to behave in town. I eat a whole pizza and drink three sodas, and am still hungry. In my hotel room, I take a truly amazing shower and drape my wet tent over a chair on the tiny balcony. I desperately need to do laundry but when I get there the owner says she just called for last wash, I’m too late. I’ll have to come back in the morning. I walk to the grocery store and buy my resupply for my last section. How strange to be so nearly finished with this trail.

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