It started with a text message. I hadn’t talked to him in a week, and then he sent a text message with coordinates to the location where I would pick him up. I looked up the location, “Hart’s Pass” and the internet lined up all the information for me. The first word my eye fell upon was “dangerous,” then “treacherous.” I tried to text Darwin back with my immediate concerns but it was too late, he was already gone, with no idea what he had left for me to stew about the next few days.
That night, I didn’t sleep very much. I was to busy sending mental messages to Darwin and envisioning the van getting stranded on a narrow section of road up to Hart’s Pass or Bowie and I tumbling around inside the van as rolled down a cliff taking us to our doom. You see, I had ruined myself with the information I found online. I had read articles about this dreaded road up to Hart’s Pass, being known as the most treacherous road in the whole state of Washington. Darwin had unknowingly tasked me with driving up it and back down. What Darwin didn’t know is that I had felt a small catch in the Clydesdale, it was faint and not often, but I felt it. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get to him.
I continued on the next day watching videos of people bouncing around in their vehicles and stopping on a cliff’s edge to allow another vehicle to pass them, their tires mere inches away from the edge. I read how if it was too windy vehicles should not attempt the drive as the road was partially exposed and a small breeze at the bottom of the mountain was hurricane strength winds at the top. Hart’s Pass also was the highest road in Washington, taking those who dared drive it over 7,000 feet up via a narrow, washboard road. Trailers and motorhomes were entirely not allowed per the Forest Service.
“How am I ever going to get the van up this road?”
“What happens if I get stuck?”
“What happens if I need to turn around?”
“What happens if I don’t judge my distance right and a tire goes off the edge?”
“What happens if the catch becomes a puttering stop, on the way up?”
I had put the Clydesdale (our van) thru the ringer the last few weeks with gravel roads, potholes, washboard roads, etc. and I was concerned I had pushed it a little too much out of necessity and of course, I had felt that “catch” when driving a few times. I had not had a shower in over two weeks, I hadn’t been sleeping well, and I was extremely lonely. This last month without Darwin had felt like one of those never-ending hallways, always stretching further before you could reach the end. With this new concern of “Washington’s most treacherous road” in front of me, I decided I needed a break. I was getting a hotel room.
I booked one in a town that Darwin and I had previously discussed we would be staying at when I picked him up from the PCT. This conversation had been several weeks before this more recent Hart’s Pass text. In my exhausted and worried state, I didn’t even think to look up how far away Hart’s Pass was from the hotel. It was only after my time frame to cancel the room, I discovered it was still a three-hour drive to the pass. I felt completely defeated. So Bowie and I drove, it was the only thing we could do.
I sat in that hotel room feeling further away from Darwin that I had ever felt in my entire journey even though I was only two days away from seeing him. I felt consumed by loneliness. I was tired. I called my mom, talked to my sister, and called my really good friend Caron. I cried a lot. I washed down three large slices of pizza with two beers. I soaked in the tub. I sent text messages to Darwin explaining I didn’t think I could get up the narrow road to Hart’s Pass. I pleaded with him to call me, but I knew he wouldn’t get my messages. I thought about him waiting for me at the top of the pass. Once I drove the three hours there, I would try to get as close to the top of the pass as possible.
The day arrived when I was to meet him. I was a ball of nerves. Even though I knew he had twenty to thirty miles to hike to reach the pass, I left early, and by eleven I had driven as far as I could down another gravel, washboard road, feeling the catch now more prominently. I parked the van in front of a warning sign that said “Road becomes narrow next ten miles, proceed with caution,” or something along those lines. Bowie and I hiked up the road and found it drivable. However, from my research, the road would continue to become steep and narrow as it gained in elevation. I then made my final decision. I would wait at the bottom of the road and hope Darwin would figure it out to hitch or hike down; he was going to have to give me a few more miles after already hiking over 2,000. I felt awful.
And so I waited. I counted the vehicles as they passed by, seven had gone up, and three had come down. I had hoped each heading up would remember me and if approached by Darwin at the top, would notify him I was down below and maybe give him a ride down. I had no signal, and I figured he still didn’t either. I had previously called the forest service; there was no way to get a message even to the campground at the pass. I kept waiting.
Four hours later it happened. A car coming down from the pass slowed as it came close to the van. Then a car door opened. Then there was Darwin. He had found me. In a rush of words, I explained what had occurred. The most treacherous road, the catch in the van, my missing him, the long never-ending hallway.
I hugged him, and I kissed him and on the hour drive back into civilization, while he slept, a funny thing happened, the check engine light came on.
Notice Anything Wrong With My Sign?
I Suppose I Was To Worried About The Road That I Forgot The Name Of The Man I Was Picking Up!
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