8/17 Mile 2573- 2600

We got on the shuttle at 8am and it makes a stop at the bakery before heading to the trailhead.  Hikers piled out to buy various pastries for the day.  I grabbed a cold sandwich and something sugary.  I run into Niko again and we catch up a bit.  Haven’t seen him for a couple weeks.
Back on the bus, I met a few other hikers for the first time.  A gal named Halo is hiking with her 17 year old daughter Chief.  Dipper, a guy from Denver, is also hiking with them.   Nice tight little tramily (trail family).  Another tramily is composed of a tiny gal Sunrise and two dudes Viking and Wrong Way.   She’s in charge, setting the hiking goals and stops for each day.  The boys nod.    
Interesting I’m running into my first tramilies for this hike.   Must be on the leading edge of the bubble.  While all the hikers are catching up with each other, I head over and talk to the shuttle driver.   He is the opposite of the sort of person I normally run into in this role.  He has no interest in thru-hikers.  I think he considers them sort of a blemish on society, kids (mostly) who don’t work and feel entitled.   Flipping my point of view, I can see where he is coming from.  This is the last stop for most hikers.  They are broke, at their peak hiking fitness, and feel like champions.  This poor guy has to haul their euphoric asses back and forth every day.  He seems bummed that the peak flow is about to arrive like a cloud of locust.
The Hiker Drop
Hikers take off in small groups and I finish up my conversation with Sullen Shuttle Guy.  The trail follows a river valley gradually upward from 1500 ft to 6k over a 21 miles stretch.  This is my kind of climb.  I rack my hiking poles and decide to maintain a fast pace and start off.  

I Need a Passing Lane
Around noon I run into this guy
Patches (Rear View)
He got an early ride from SVR and has been grinding uphill.   We hike together for a bit and catch up.   He’s got a friend meeting him at the next pass who is going to give him a resupply and hike with him for the last segment.   We cross over this new bouncy bridge. 

Shortly after that I stop for lunch with Patches around a set of nice boulders.  My cold bakery sandwich turns out to be a disappointment.  It is a giant bun surrounding 3 thin slices of roast beef and a couple sad looking tomato slices.  Guess bread and sugar is all they got.  Dog Bite turns up and joins us.
Dog Bite keeps working me on my target for tonight.  I know he wants to hike together to the end, but it really isn’t my style right now.  My goal is to hike until I can’t, nothing more or less.  After lunch, I take off in the lead and turn the burners on, the other two guys slowly drop off behind me. 
I’m feeling really good.  I’m rested, motivated, got the music blasting through my earphones.    The weather is cool and getting colder.  Perfect hiking weather.  On the way up I pass both tramilies I met previously plus a number of other rando’s.   I’m smoking everyone today.  

I hit the Rainy Pass trailhead at 2592 and run into Patches friend, Bone Spur eating a bunch of berries.   I stop and chat with him for a bit.  He met Patches a few years ago on the trail in California.  They stayed in touch and now he’s doing a little Angel work.   I told him Patches was about 30 minutes behind me and took off.  
I took a break at the picnic tables to make a little afternoon noodles and talked to Dipper for a bit when he caught up.   They are aiming for a site over the peak at 2600 and I figure that sounds like a good goal.   
The weather continues to get cloudier and colder.   I’m getting hit with little rain showers so I stop to put on my wet weather gear and add layers.  

It is about 8:00 when I go over Cutthroat pass and begin to head down to the campsite.  I get that cool spooky feeling of being alone on a mountain top late in the evening where the temperatures are dropping and the wind is picking up.   There is a timelessness to these places that always sends some shivers down my spine.  
I do the next 2 miles in a hurry and find the Halo Tramily all setup and comfy.  There’s no room at their site, so I put on my headlamp and check some of the others.   I find a good one and put my pack down, getting ready to setup my tent.  Then I remember to look up and scan the trees….there is a big dead tree that has fallen but is hung up in the branches of a neighbor.  Hmm.  I move my pack and walk over to give that dead tree a push.   It comes crashing down right where I would have put my tent.   Strike that site off the list.
I finally head back to where the tramily is and find a flat spot right next to the trail.  That will have to do.  I’m finally in bed by 10:00.   I’ve logged a good day. 

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