Monday, August 15th, 2022, 0620-1300
HWY 9 Hobo Camp to Lake Samish & the Walkers home, WEBO mm 935.5, Section 8 Puget Sound
20 miles, Gain 3800′, Loss 3800′, elevation 515′
I slept great overnight but had some anxiety over all the road traffic, thinking about how I’d need to walk alongside it for 3 miles in the morning. The highway had little to no shoulder, tight turns, and guardrails intermittently. Huge trucks, including double trailer logging rigs, were frequently driving by, using the route to skirt the weigh stations on I-5 (as was later explained to me). A posted speed limit of 50 mph was laughable. Most traffic was traveling much above 60 mph. I waited a little bit for the light to improve then made my dash. I left my headlamp on the flashing red light setting just to improve my visibility a little. I also walked as fast as I could, even jogging in spots.
My early morning strategy kind of worked. At first, most of the traffic was going south, so few vehicles passed as I walked opposite of traffic. It picked up both ways as I got to the last mile. I had to jump the guardrails and stand in ditches several times, waiting for trucks to pass. It was all over after about 45 minutes. I’d made it but definitely felt like my life had been in jeopardy. After all the road walking I’d done on the PNT, this was the first segment I considered exceedingly dangerous. I hope some sort of bypass can be devised for hikers in the future, because I do worry that someone will be hit on this highway. I say skip it if you can!
Turning onto my next dirt logging road was like turning off a switch…no more vehicles. I had a 2,500′ climb over Anderson mountain, which passed by quickly. I was going fast this morning, looking forward to my stay at the trail angel house. There were some nice views at the top, including one of Mt Rainier! My first sighting of it this trip. I could see it over a time span of 20 days on the PCT, which was astounding to me. I also had a great view of Baker, slowly growing smaller as the distance increased.
I bombed down the other side, meeting 2 mountain bikers going up. There was some single track trail with lots of intersections, so I had to pay attention. At the bottom was some more paved road walking towards the town of Alger, with a turnoff onto more trail just before. A series of old forest roads led up to a hill and then a narrow ridgeline with a really fun little trail running along the spine. It reminded me of some of the crazy fun ridge trails in Hawaii. I later heard from other hikers that after going to Alger’s gas station, they’d just walked the road north to rejoin the route, rather than go up the hill. What a shame, because it really was a nice series of trails. But welcome to the Puget Sound section! Hikers don’t have to follow the suggested route through this semi-urban and populated area, and rarely do. Whether they forgo the circuitous nature of the route in favor of more direct roads or hitch/bus past long road walks altogether is entirely up to the individual. I had a fun time following the route but can certainly see the point of trying to make up time in this section, in favor of better hiking and weather/tide windows on the Olympic Peninsula.
On that note, I’d just like to make an observation. When reading others’ blogs and descriptions of the PNT, I got the impression that the Puget sound section was all road walking and that much of it was along dangerous HWY 20. I did not find this to be the case, as readers will hopefully be able to discern from my descriptions. Some of the authors failed to mention that they took more direct \ less-involved routes to bypass many of the trails and quieter country roads of the official route. It does meander around a bit in an effort to get hikers off highly-trafficked direct roads. Obviously, it’s totally fine if hikers take their own routes…schedules may be tight and they’re eager to get back to the mountains on the Olympic Peninsula. Believe me, I get it. But when they take these shortcuts without specifying that they’re not on the official route, what’s posted online can be misleading. Case in point, if I were to have gone to Alger and walked the road north to the I-5 intersection, and then blogged about yet another (dangerous) road walk when I actually could have been on good trail…well, you get the point.
Moving on, yes, I did come to some more road, bringing me to an underpass of I-5 and on towards Lake Samish. Here I took an important right turn off the route to arrive at the Walker’s house. Momma Mary Walker was still away on travel, so her very kind and patient husband Marc greeted me instead. They began hosting hikers a couple of years ago and have quickly become legends. Aside from the spectacular setting of their lakeside house with a dock, they have a beautiful home, perfectly flat grassy spots for tenting, and the coolest Labrador ever, named Boon. Marc was in the middle of grilling lamb chops for lunch when I arrived. Poor guy, he felt inclined to split them with me, even though I hated to poach on his food. I tried to decline, saying I could just cook some mac and cheese that I had left over (blech!). But the smell of the grilled meat was overpowering and I surrendered in a moment of weakness. As he said jokingly, “My wife will be mad at me if I don’t feed you.” Getting to know Mary later on, I learned there was truth to this statement. Still, it was incredibly kind of him to share his lunch and much appreciated. I just wish that he hadn’t felt the need to do it…I felt guilty about being such a bum.
Marc got back to his chores remodeling the house while I did chores of my own. While drying my tent, Boon came over wanting to play fetch with a stick. Thus began our throwing and fetching relationship. I couldn’t resist his adorableness. If I tried, he barked relentlessly at the stick, rolled it towards me and even chucked it at me. Seeing that I was a sucker, Marc released him from the backyard for me to dog sit. He promptly ran out to the dock and jumped in the lake. Oh boy, wet dog. Then he ran around in circles in the mud on the shoreline and dug up a piece of driftwood for the next stick. Now he was a muddy mess… some dog sitter I am.
Wolverine and Karaoke arrived later in the afternoon and were able to take over some of the stick throwing responsibilities. Boon was very wound up by all the new people and attention…that is until Momma came home. Then he was a perfectly relaxed and well-behaved dog. I cuddled with him all day (after I washed the mud off) and felt like we had kind of a bond. My partner later reminded me that he’s a lab and would go with anyone that shows affection…true. We had a lovely evening, as Mary immediately set about trying to feed us…not even taking time to unpack or relax after traveling from MT! I’m still uncomfortable with staying with trail angels AND being fed …I like the compromise of offering to buy them dinner or order pizzas to be delivered. I hate to appear so entitled as to expect to be fed. But this was out of the question at the Walkers. Mary loves to prepare meals and will watch all the hikers eat before she even takes a bite herself. She made strawberry shortcake for dessert, which is absolutely one of my favorites. She’s an amazingly kind and caring human being. It’s wasn’t hard to decide on taking a zero the next day.
Tuesday, August 16th, 2022. Zero at the Walkers
Physically, I didn’t need to take another zero, but I just couldn’t resist spending some more quality time at Momma Walker’s. We’d each been able to sleep in beds upstairs, take showers, and wash our clothes. We woke to an amazing spread for breakfast. I can’t even remember all the dishes but there was bacon, fruit, an egg scramble and bread. Mary really went all out. We were the first hikers she’d hosted this year, so I guess she was pretty excited.
Next up was some paddle boarding time. Since I’ve been kayaking for years and recently worked as a paddle guide, I’ve been around paddle boards long enough to appreciate and be content with my kayak. But the lake was the perfect setting for tooling around on a board. I had high hopes for paddling all the way around the lake but was quickly reminded of the inefficiency of a board. I paddled out a little ways then decided it was more fun to hang out with Boon near the shore. I coaxed him onto the board for a spell, just waiting for the moment he would leap into the water and tip me over. For a few minutes we were a great paddling team and then the inevitable happened, but at least I was ready for it and didn’t capsize.
Mid-day, we got word that more hikers were coming. A total of 4, in fact: the OG’s Carol and Mathias plus Funk and Quetzal. I’d heard of Funk and even seen a few pictures of him. Sashay and Skunkbear had met him near the Lionshead bushwhack. But Quetzal seemed to appear out of nowhere. I asked her that standard nosy hiker question about when she’d started: July 7th! She’d been flying! I have to say, I’m so impressed by all the strong, independent solo women I’d met on this trail. Now at the Walker’s house there were 7 PNT hikers, only 2 of which were guys. Add in the fact that we’re at the very front of all the hikers (save for 4 guys that were ahead), we’re also some very fast women.
Speaking of hiking ladies, I’d reached out to Kelly, who I met while hiking through the North Cascades NP and who was following my blog. She lived in nearby Mt Vernon and offered to take us out for lunch. Problem was, Mary had put out another huge spread and was making margaritas when Kelly arrived. We were all content to hang out around the table, snacking while we talked relentlessly about the trail and all the people we’d met. It was a great reunion. Kelly seemed to relate well with Mary, both of which are hoping to do more sections, if not all of the PNT. Living so close to each other, hopefully they can get together for local hikes too.
Dinner was yet more fabulous food, with elk (I think?) burgers and all the fixings. I tried to offer Mary a donation for all this food and she only laughed. I hope I can think of something to repay her. The evening held more cuddle time with Boon and making s’mores around the porch fire pit…of course Mary got all the ingredients for these treats. What a wonderful day. Much praise and thanks to the Walkers for their overwhelming kindness and hospitality. They’ve been through some tough and scary events that I won’t go into, which makes it even more surprising how welcoming they are to strangers. Bless them.