A Lesson in Scarcity

Start: near Snoqualmie Pass (2399)
Camp: T20N R12E Section 3 (2382)

I woke early to the familiar din of traffic on I-90, though it was far below. I had set out from Snoqualmie Pass at 7:00 p.m the night before and hiked until it was dark, making about four miles. My discussions the day before with John, where everything seemed to relate back to the idea of scarcity, the idea of there not being enough of something to go around, lingered in my mind. I excitedly strutted up the trail comfy and rested but at the same time I was sad to see the consumer-driven land of the familiar go.
I haven’t been coming to Washington but four years, and when I have I’ve always come via Snoqualmie Pass. I’ve stopped and poked around the closed ski resort here, much as I did last night, never staying more than a few minutes, but being here brought back many fond memories. Long, meandering drives, sometimes in the wrong direction, and sitting in hours of traffic, but with 25,000 of your best friends; Snoqualmie Pass is also on the way to Sasquatch Music Festival, a large part of my motivation for coming to Washington on any of my trips. Memories of rain and gushing falls, as well dry hot sun and strong steady wind. And of the hundreds of windmills that rise into enormity and flank the Columbia River.
Feeling light, quick and spry I bounced along the trail today faster than I could read a map; I barely looked at the map all day, let alone taking the time to compile a complete understanding of the available water sources as I passed them, which have started to become much more sporadic.
The sun sat low in the sky by the time I realized my folly. I was out of water.
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I silently censured myself for having felt so dangerously gung-ho as I hiked on, my feet aching and my mouth dry. Why hadn’t I just camped when the clock struck 6:30 p.m. like usual, why had I so adamantly pushed on when the day’s goal had already been reached? I had to hike another four miles to find water, bringing the day’s total to 17, and that late in the day, having thought I’d already completed the days miles and would just tack on another one, maybe two, I felt rudely awakened: I’d have to be more careful now that the snow was gone, much more careful than when I could simply eat snow if I couldn’t find water.
Relief coursed through me when I located Scott’s seasonal spring and it was gurgling, which I consider a reasonable sign of freshness. I tried to remain tacitly aware that my feet were no longer waterproof (I was acutely aware of their throbbing soreness, particularly in the bottoms) as I filled my bottles and my stomach. I sighed as I once again shouldered Midget, my behemoth of a lightweight pack, and headed up the switchbacks toward a windy and sonorous night on a dirt road, the only level ground I could find, over an anonymous populous below that rested not, though this mattered not: the sounds of trains, large construction equipment that runs, curiously, at night and aircraft fused with the nighttime hum of I-90 traffic and brought me back to a childhood growing up in a boomtown suburb of Denver where two lanes of a rural highway  sprawled into six, a golden field of grains sprouted the epitome of invasive urban species, the shopping mall, where two freight rails underwent mitosis to produce two directions of 24 hour commuter rail line, and among it all the noise floor, and my tolerance for it, grew logarithmically. I laid out my tarp, prayed that it wouldn’t rain, and did what 21st-century urbanites do for relaxation: I got out my phone and got on Facebook.

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