Thursday, September 22, 2016

Day 18- Kindness of Strangers

Washington PCT Section L

Jan and I didn't expect to get off the trail at Rainy Pass. But her foot is too injured. So here we are, getting off trail, not going to Canada.

How will we get 200 miles to Jan's car near Snoqualime Pass? There is so little traffic on the road. We stick out our thumbs and put on our best smiles.
 Hitchhiking sign 
A van pulls over within 15 minutes. Amazingly, Steve and his dog Molly are going all the way to Snohomish and can drop us off at the bus stop in Everett. What luck! Though he looks like a woodsman, he is an adventurous old soul who tells us tales of packing horses on the PCT in the 70's. Since then he has been a commercial pilot for skydivers, been in the navy, and now dreams and plans to embark on a sailing trip to Alaska. I only hope that I can lead half a life of adventure and keep learning new skills. Also, Steve is kind and we are so lucky he picked us up. Thank you Steve!

Three hours later, Steve is driving us in circles around the Boeing factory complex as we provide horrible  navigational directions. Its more like a small city and everyone is business clothes and security badges with checkpoints everywhere. We have no idea how to find the Metro bus that google says should be here. We are so obviously not in the right place and we know we made a mistake in being here. This bus stop is clearly for Boeing employees, not smelly hikers. Finally, Jan asks an employee bus driver where the Metro bus stop is and she takes pity on us and will take us there. So we leap out of Steve's van and onto the bus.  The bus driver drops us off at a bench in the middle of a sea of cars and gives us a stern warning. "Can we go to the bathroom somewhere?" 

"No you must wait here. You are on Boeing property. You do not have badges."
We don't need no stinking badges
 We wait for an hour for the bus. Everyone stares at us. Everyone keeps their distance. We have no bus map. Our iphones hardly have any battery left. My charger is near empty and seems to be malfunctioning and Jan's broke last week. We ration the last of our battery power.  Google says it'll be four buses minimum. Will there be any bathrooms on the way? Where can we get some water? We are surrounded by civilization, by technology, but we are trapped like animals in a cage. Without a bathroom.

I remember a time when I was street smart, living on the south side of Chicago, cruising the DC Metro. A lifetime ago. Now we are feral creatures of the forest. And we smell like it.

But not everyone keeps their distance. Mr. High School Guidance Counselor arrives and immediately takes us under his wing, orients us, and proceeds to launch into a rich discussion on hopes and dreams, travel, life, and everything. "I wish I had my car I would take you all the way to where you need to go." He rides the bus with us and we talk for an hour and feel like old friends when he gets off the bus.
Once he leaves, Mr. App Guy comes over and wants to empower us and teach us the ways of the bus system. He gives us 4 transist system app choices with pros and cons and studies our options and we take notes of all the bus transfers on paper.
This transfer ticket gets us really far on just a few dollars
 Partway through the bus gauntlet there is a problem. Imagine: you are at a bus stop with people and cars around, you've been traveling for six hours and you still have six more hours to go. The next bus is coming in two minutes. You have to pee. BAD. Do you put on your rainponch and just go in the gutter? Do you "hide" behind the transparent bus stop? Can a bladder explode? 
Which way to the nearest bathroom?
The next bus comes and we get on and start talking about our next transfer. Mr. Nerdy Programmer leans over and whispers softly, "Get off at the next stop, go up the stairs, and go to Bay number 4 for the 208 express." Do we listen to him or follow the instructions on google?

Finally, one more bus change to go. Ms. Professional gives us the most efficient way to get the job done. "Don't listen to the bus driver. Take the 556. At the end of the line, transfer to the 218." She is right. Of course.

We are overwhelmingly grateful when we see Taryn waving to us when we get off the last bus. She brings us to Jan's car and we collapse in the hotel. We made it all the way from Rainy Pass to the town nearest Snoqualime Pass in 12 hours! 

The kindness of the people that helped us restores my faith in humanity many times over. I thought I knew how city people were. But it wasn't like that at all. We were dirty and worn. And we were met with generosity and kindness. 

Thank you Steve and Taryn and all the wonderful people that we met in between.


  1. Reminds me of life in Ecuador, and China, and Prague. lol

    1. OMG I've been to Ecuador and Prague too-- don't think I've met anyone else who has been those places too what a coincidence. But yes, maybe these are universal travel tales. :)

  2. Truly a remarkable journey. We shall never forget this day and it certainly will rise to the top of our J&J tales.

    1. Totally unforgettable. Who would have thought that off-trail adventures would be as meaningful and wonderful as on-trail ones.