I had breakfast with him one hundred and twenty six days ago at a table with Maya and Dario. He’s been my pal and confidante and other half on and off for four months, in between his sabbaticals and the inevitable returns that earned him the trail name ‘Prodigal’. But today, we said goodbye. Clearly, I wasn’t happy about letting him go, but a man’s got to follow his heart, and I have to trust that this goodbye isn’t our last.
The sun rose, as I packed up my tent and began hiking.
It seemed logical that the easiest way to get through today – knowing I’d have to say goodbye to the Prodigal at the end of it – would be to walk by myself and pretend it wouldn’t happen.
I rounded the first corner, and was met head on by Mt Rainier.
It was one view after another.
And then I turned another corner, and was met head on by a different sight, a more beautiful sight, a sight that lit me up on the inside far brighter than any mountain ever could (no matter how gorgeous said mountain is).
Half of the Hong Kong Four!
I had leapfrogged back and forth with them right from the beginning, too. We have shared milkshakes, and McDonalds, and pizza, and campfires, and many, many miles together.
Our reunion was brief, but it gave me a glimpse of what post-trail life might look like, too. I have no doubt I will see these two again in the future. Same goes for so many other people I’ve met along the way. These friends are forever friends, no matter how long in between catch ups. It gets me excited to see people again one day, at airports or in different countries and cities and hometowns.
I had to stop at the lake – technically, it was only 10:58AM, so I was within my rights to keep walking, but by the time the others got there it would be 11AM and according to our HBG laws they would have to swim. I couldn’t miss out on the Prodigal’s last on trail swim, so I waited.
Don’t let the blue skies or big smiles fool you: it was COLD!
I kept up with my hiking alone, but the reunion with Hester and Samuel had also made me homesick for other friends I haven’t been reunited with in a while.
As I peaked over Kendall Katwalk and began the descent into Snowqualmie Pass, I came into reception, and phone my girls back home.
Thank you Kimbo, Lozzie, Ash and Sar for keeping me company on the way down. I felt like you ladies were with me.
The Prodigal caught me with a mile to go.
It was fitting, getting to walk with him again for these last steps. Admittedly, it was also hard; I’m glad hiking one in front of the other means you can’t see each others’ faces… He couldn’t see me blink back the tears. We talked, and reminisced, and giggled about all our exploits and blunders. I inwardly tried to come to terms with the goodbye that was coming up fast.
We reached the gas station and burger bar before the others, and shared our last beer and burger together before they joined us. A chick in line ahead of us started chatting as we were ordering; she was going back to Seattle in an hour or so, and offered him a lift the whole way back.. WAY better option than trying to hitch the three hour journey!
Way better for him, that is.
I had to blink even harder to keep those tears at bay.
I did smile for one last Hiker Biker family photo before he jumped in the car, but I’ve been pretty quiet since it pulled out of the carpark.
Our big gang of hikertrash has dwindled to three.
Nemo, 2Beers, and myself.
Some of the others are still scattered across Washington and Oregon. Some have gone home, or onto other adventures already. Some I’ll see very very soon, and some it might take years to hug again.
These goodbyes hurt, but I count myself very lucky. The hurt means they mean something. I wouldn’t swap it for the world. This is my world.