Glacier Peak Wilderness - Day 11
When we woke up, we were happy we only had a few more miles to go. Because we were tired, it still took until the afternoon before we reached the parking lot. We had planned our hike in such a way that we could either stop here or add another two days and thereby make a full loop back to where we had started 9 days earlier. Those extra two days would involve climbing two enormous mountains and crossing a river were the bridge had recently been swept away. Due to our previous detour and losing the trail on day one, we also only had enough food left for another ~1.5 days. Therefore, we decided to end our hike at the parking lot and perhaps do some shorter hikes later in the vacation.
That was all nice. However, we still needed to get back to civilization. There was no cell phone service and a 20 km dirt road to the nearest building. Before we started our trip, I had arranged that I could contact a taxi service with our GPS messenger to schedule a pickup. However, this would cost about $300 from our current location and I again had poor coverage due to the trees. Everyone at the parking lot seemed to be arriving for the hunting season rather than going out, so they weren't of much help either. We didn't really have an option but to continue hiking down the dirt road, hoping to find GPS or phone reception or someone willing to give us a ride. Diane didn't really like the idea of hitch-hiking, but I didn't want to waste $300 dollar on a cab if we didn't need to. Eventually, someone stopped to offer us a ride.
It was a guy who we previously had seen running toward the parking lot. Apparently, he and his wife had been hiking in the area and he had been in charge of retrieving their car. Although we were covered in dust and probably smelled horrible, he agreed to drive us most of the way to our destination. First we needed to pick up his wife a little down the road. They both were very friendly and we spent the ride talking about the various hikes we all had done. We started to see a lot of smoke on the horizon due to multiple wildfires in the area. The man and woman dropped us off at the gas station we had visited before with the expensive Uber driver. To thank the man and woman, we gave them our bear spray and gas canisters; that worked out great since we wouldn't have been able to take those back on the plane anyway.
We were planning to visit a small village called Leavenworth, but first we wanted to call home and eat something at the local restaurant. While we were calling Diane's dad, a lady started talking to us from her car. We weren't really paying attention and waived her away. Only after she left we realized she had offered us a ride to Leavenworth, where we needed to go. That was pretty stupid. Diane's dad had apparently been following us in great detail. He knew all the height differences and names of every lake and mountain we had passed. After assuring Diane's parents we were still alive, we went to eat. Normally, the first dinner after a big hike always feels like heaven. We were really looking forward to some fresh food. The restaurant was a typical American burger place. As we live in NYC I hadn't really been exposed to the stereotypical American portion sizes yet. Even after 9 days of hiking we only managed to eat half our meals. I don't know how anyone can eat that much on a regular basis. The food was also just greasy meat and fries without any nutrients, so it it didn't feel as good as we had hoped. Diane asked for two doggy bags to bring the food to our hotel.
Next, we needed to find a way to get to Leavenworth. Despite the nice couple that drove us to the gas station, Diane didn't really want to try hitchhiking again. Therefore, we called the taxi service which told us that the 10-15 min ride would cost $100. As someone had already offered a free ride without us even trying, I figured it wouldn't be hard to get another one. I tried to convince Diane hitchhiking would be fine. She agreed that $100 was ridiculous, but was nervous about getting in the car with strangers. I explained she just had to get into the car after me and get out first, that way it would be impossible for a driver to drive off with only her in the car. We probably spent half an hour discussing what to do, while the owners of the restaurant were looking confused at us through the window. As we needed to decide something, I eventually just put my thumb up and the 4th car that passed offered us a ride. He was a father from Leavenworth, and he gave us some tips about which restaurants to visit. As soon as we got out of the car, Diane threw all the leftovers from the restaurant straight into the garbage because she was grossed out 'it had been in a stranger's car'.
Leavenworth was a bit of an odd village. A few decades ago the inhabitants had decided to turn the entire town into a fake Bavarian village to attract tourists. All the houses and traffic signs were made to look Bavarian and there was German music playing everywhere. We would explore the village tomorrow, first we needed a shower. We found a nice hotel and after an hour of showering, we smelled slightly less bad. When we took a brief walk through the village at night, the air smelled like smoke and we could see red lights from wildfires on the horizon.