Friday, August 19th, 2022, 0750-1800
Dike rd to Port Townsend, WEBO mm 1020, Section 8 Puget Sound
23 miles, Gain 2000′, Loss 2000′, elevation 50′
In the morning, Skip dropped us off at our respective stop locations from the day before. I guess I could have gone straight to the ferry, since it looked to be mostly road walking all day. The south end of the route takes walkers onto the beach, but is only passable during low to mid tide. I’d be reaching it on a rising tide, so was resigned to the roads. As such, I decided to take a slight alternate to connect to HWY 20 more directly, cutting off about a mile. Missing out on a trail is one thing but sacrificing a quiet road for a busy one is sometimes worth it. Walking on the shoulder of the highway during rush hour for 2 miles kind of sucked but turned out well since I quickly came to a drive-thru coffee shack and port-a-potty.
I later walked past the Naval Air station and then a golf course, which was quite busy already. As though the threat of getting hit by a car wasn’t enough, an errant ball soared over my head, landing on the road just behind me and bouncing into the ditch. I heard uproarious laughter coming from the direction of the ball and wondered, had it landed on a car windshield, would there still be laughter? Later I passed a stand where two guys were tapping into a keg and sampling the contents. I glanced at my watch: 10 a.m. They get the party started early here on the island.
I reached Skip’s house after 11 miles, where I’d smartly left my pack in the morning. I grabbed it and continued on down the road. All the road walking was much faster than the beach, so I anticipated getting to the ferry by mid afternoon. But a bit of a surprise and delay were in store. As I walked down Libby road, I noticed a sign for the Happy House. This was the very first Trail Angel location in the area, started in 2012 when Rebecca and John hosted Buck30. They’d become quite legendary since that time, to the point that even hikers on other trails had heard of them. Time constraints and other factors meant they couldn’t host hikers this year, which made me very sad. I’d amassed such a great collection of stories and memories from all the trail angels I’d visited on the PNT, I regretted that I wouldn’t be able to include the most historic. But the trail has a funny way of providing.
As I paused to stare longingly at the empty-looking house, wondering if it would be inappropriate to take a selfie with their sign, I noticed a set of familiar trekking poles sitting outside the door. Wait a second! Just then, John stuck his head out and yelled: “Twig!” Clearly there was a hiker inside that had told him my name. It was Quetzal. Rebecca had seen both her and Funk walking along the road and stopped to invite them over. She’d also seen me, but since I’d been lacking a backpack for the first part of the day, she didn’t recognize me as a PNT hiker. We all stopped in because just that night, their freezer had broken and they had a bunch of extra food that needed to be consumed. I’d arrived just in time for lunch and also in a pinch without any food, since I’d wrongly assumed there would be more gas stations or restaurants along the way.
I giggled with delight as a tater tot and venison casserole, dungeness crab and rhubarb cobbler were pushed my way. I suspected that the broken freezer might be a convenient excuse, because Rebecca also had watermelon for us…my favorite trail magic food on a hot day. Truth is, I know they loved and missed hosting hikers, they just couldn’t make a full-time commitment this year. At least having a few over for the afternoon was a nice refresher and I felt so incredibly lucky to be a part of it. They asked that we not post anything about our stop on social media or FarOut, lest other hikers be disappointed or confused, but I confirmed with them that it was ok to include the details in my blog. I wanted to at least recognize and thank them for all their love and support over the years.
I stayed far too long and ate too much of their food…but not like I had a ferry to catch or anything. Quetzal departed and Funk arrived. I decided to call the Olympic NPS number to get a permit for one night, which was enough to get through the park to Port Angeles, where I could plan for the rest of the permits in person at the ranger station. The process went very smoothly and I had a permit in 15 minutes. I was even able to print it thanks to Rebecca. The only snag was that I was supposed to have a bear canister for my campsite, but I hadn’t planned on getting one until Port Angeles. Rebecca graciously offered to let Funk and I borrow her 2 cans, so when we finally left, we both had 2 lbs of bulky dead space strapped to the tops of our packs. Yay. But, there were said to be a lot of bears in ONP, so why not? Funny that Glacier NP, with its many bears, both species, doesn’t require canisters. Go figure.
I hadn’t had much opportunity for one-on-one time with Funk, so it was nice to finally get to walk with him. Come to think of it, he was the first solo guy I’d really hiked with on the PNT… all my other companions had been women…plus the German couple for a bit. I learned that he was from Colorado, living in Denver, but that his relatives were from the same small ranch town that my grandparents were from. Maybe we even had relatives in common? His trail name is actually his last name, so I joked that he was destined to be a thru-hiker. We set off on an adventure through a maze of mountain biking trails that Rebecca had shown us on a map, hoping to make our way south while staying off busy hwy 20. As mountain biking trails do, we meandering around and got lost, but were eventually spit out onto other correct routes. These led through open fields and finally to a bluff trail along the beach. The tide still looked too high to walk the last few miles to the ferry, so it was another series of quiet roads for the last stretch.
Whidbey island surprised me with its variety of landscapes, both forested and open farm fields. Even though it was a lot of road walking, I was glad to have done most all of the route. Had I skipped some parts, I would have missed out on visiting the Happy House. We arrived at the ferry just in time to take the 6 pm ride. It was only $4 as a walk-on and the easiest 5 miles of the whole official PNT. Someone had looked into kayaking across but the costs involved were significant, plus it could be a pretty dangerous crossing, what with all the commercial ship traffic and strong currents. I should know, having taken a NOAA ship in and out of Puget Sound (can’t believe that was almost 20 years ago). In training at the Merchant Marine Academy, I’d also done simulator runs in the sound. The instructors loved to crank up the speeds of ferries and naval ships, always trying to run them into our simulator ship. Thankfully the ferry performed normally this day, and we were across after only 30 minutes.
I’d first visited Port Townsend in 1998 and hadn’t been back since then. I didn’t even bother with a visit to the downtown area this night. It was getting late, so we went straight for some takeaway Thai food and beers from the convenience store. There we ran into the German couple, plus Karaoke and Wolverine. The later 2 were staying in a hotel room, while the rest of us hoped to stay at another Trail Angel’s house. We hung out in front of the store for a bit, while the OG’s told us the story about their and Wolverine’s 62 mile day. They’d made it all the way from the Way Cool Barn to the ferry terminal in 24 hours. Then they’d spent this day relaxing in town. They were eating a pizza from the store, so we joined them in eating our Thai food.
Eventually we wound our way through neighborhood streets to Lys and Dan’s house. They are listed on Warmshowers.org…which is a site for bikepackers to link up with local hosts. They also host hikers, which I knew from reading several blogs. Somehow Quetzal had been able to contact them and confirmed that we could stay. Dan and Lys are legends in the bikepacking world, having led pioneering trips from Alaska to Chile back in the 70s. I was so excited to meet them but unfortunately Dan had already gone to bed. Lys graciously opened up their downstairs to all of us (Carol, Mathias, Funk, Quetzal, Costanza and me). We made ourselves at home, while I marveled that there were a total of 8 PNT hikers in town this night. We were all together, ready to start our last 2 sections through the Olympic Peninsula. It was so much fun to be in the company of others that had struggled and persevered along this hard trail. The past week had felt like a reward, or at least a brief reprieve. This was my 5th night in a row at a trail angel’s house and almost 6th in a week if I counted the night at Dan’s in Sedro-Woolley. I’d been spoiled, but it was time to get back to business of being in the mountains the next day. Oh, and I crossed the thousand mile mark this day!