From Packwood WA to Cascade Locks OR via bus and train
"How can you stand being in town after being on trail for so long?" asks Still Waters.
Being away from town allows me the opportunity to look at things I normally take for granted.
I wander into the public library and for FREE have access to books on every subject. I can look up anything on the computers and I can even print my paper Halfmile maps for the next section (also for FREE!). Town is where I really appreciate this access to our human knowledge base. Out in the woods I have my own observations and memory, but I miss humanities collective wisdom, our scientific knowledge. The Public Library is where I can read about anything I want to know. I read more about William O Douglas and elk, I try to figure out where the rivers flow carrying all that rain downstream. Sometimes its easy to get trapped in our small hiker mindset of thinking of streams as things to cross or places to get water. We forget the meaning of rivers apart from ourselves. How does the fish see a river? Our maps only show the narrow world around us- a few miles. Being in town you see the bigger picture.
At the post office, I ship food to my next resupply stop-- can you imagine-- only a few dollars and they bring my stuff for miles and miles to somewhere I can pick it up later!
I also learn there is a public bus (LEWIS Mountain Highway Transit) that for $3 will take me to Centralia (where there is an amtrack station). The freedom of mass transit!
On the bus I greet fellow passengers as I would on the PCT. A warm "Good morning! How are you doing? Where are you coming from?"
I keep forgetting that I am not on trail or behind the front desk at a visitor center at my park.
I have the good fortune to strike up a conversation with T. who has a flare for storytelling, a passion for sociology, and has lived a rich life.
I want to know about the local area of Packwood and Mt. Rainier, but he recounts the socioeconomic history of the entire region, weaving in tales of his own life growing up in Alabama then moving out west and watching the northwest changing and being in the teamsters union, being a Boy Scout leader and watching changes in recreation, and how Thoreau's Walden Pond really spoke to him.
He tells me one story about when he was a young man and went on a journey to visit all the Native American reservations in Minnesota. I ask "What was your purpose for doing that?"
Here he gets to the heart of his tale, the important life lesson he wants to pass on in our brief passing. "I went out there to find out what it had to teach me."
That resonated with me deeply. Funny what thought provoking conversations can be had in such short timespans and in such unexpected places when you step out of normal routines and take chances.