I was wandering in and out of the brewery, loitering in town. I lay on my back in the park for a while, staring up at the sky, a short, tattooed, shirtless twenty-year-old, with his butt crack hanging from basketball shorts, smoking cigarettes and selling drugs to the local teens in the nearby ward. A resident walked across the green from his house, heading up the low hill to Main Street. The young drug dealer smiled foolishly and waved to the other man, who looked back fiercely and continued to walk. Then the drug dealer shook his head and laughed at himself as he wandered out of the park.
The garden seemed a strange place, like a tramp presence to anyone watching like a fat delinquent. I made my way to a bench just off Main Street and scrolled through social media on my phone, waiting for a call or text telling me my friends were nearby. As it turns out they were at a wedding and won’t be back for a few hours. When they finally got me back, I went back to the brewery, feeling somewhat embarrassed, as I had been in and out a few times. Once to see if Jhett was working, again shortly after getting food, to charge my phone and have a beer, and then again later because there was all that needed to be done while I waited. For all the time the occupants of the brewery did not change, since the place was a central dwelling; The heart of society, so to speak.
Reunion with friends
Mike, Chad, another Mike, Artie, and a new friend named Rusty, they all came to join me. We had a few drinks between us, and I was eventually invited again to stay with Artie and Mike. Mike and Chad happened to rent an Airbnb for the weekend, and although they were happy to get me on the couch, Artie and Mike had a guest room I could stay in downstairs.
Back at Artie and Mike’s, I got to know their two cats, Opie and Willow. Obi was a fluffy Maine Coon who loved pets, and Willow was the opposite, though she slept between my legs all two nights of my stay, until I casually tossed her by rolling around in the middle of the night. It made me miss my friend’s cat Matty, who slept with me the same way when I was living in Flagstaff at the end of 2021. Oh man, I loved that cat.
pontoon river Kettle
We got up relatively early the next day to float on the Kettle River. We were met by about thirty people at the site; All friends, or friends of brewery friends. It was a huge crowd with all their different assortments of rafts, kayaks, canoes and inner tubes. We spread ourselves thinly on the initial push out from the beach. Eventually, everyone merged into smaller groups that mingled with each other sporadically. Thus, the drinking began, and the general celebration took place.
We spent several hours floating down the river at our leisure, meandering towards a spot taking some locals called “Crack Alley Cove”. The stretch through the mountains did not disappoint, the area is one of my favorite places to hike, although it is difficult to classify each geographical section in terms of beauty. The highlight of the buoy must be the old man mowing his lawn naked, riding on a sitting mower, basking in the warm sunshine. He gave us all a friendly wave as we sailed. With his beautiful modern log cabin above the river, slapped in the middle of the Northeast Washington mountains, I saw in the naked old man something to aspire to.
I had a lot of good conversations throughout the day, and I met a lot of new people, if only for a moment. Many of the people I met were women I passed on the road several days ago. A week or two later, I got a shout out on Instagram from some friends I met on CDT in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. One of the women I met while floating happened to stay with them all the way on the East Coast and the mutual bond entered into conversation. The itinerant community is small.
After floating cocktails
We’re back in town and headed for dinner at Knotty Pine Restaurant & Lounge. Mistakes were made. Chad had lent me a swimsuit with a small hole on the inside and my thighs were sore from sunburn. That will be a constant nuisance for the next few weeks.
At Knotty Pine, more drinks were taken, a couple of Blue Moons, and one or maybe two gins and tonics. We were having fun.
I went back to Mike and Chad to rest a little longer before they took me to Mike and Artie for the night. That would be the last time I saw Mike and Chad, and I’d hate to say goodbye. I really liked the two of them we talked later, and they said they didn’t really interact with any other hikers after I left. I told them it’s okay, every gay couple needs their wanderer like every wizard needs a hobbit.
When I got back to Mike and Artie’s, Artie made sure I knew their flight log and insisted I sign it. The book consists of a perforated topo map file on which every traveler who stayed with them wrote a letter of thanks. Artie told me that this tradition was started by people who got rid of their maps from the last section, and recycled them as scrap pieces of paper for writing gratitude notes. We passed by and found a letter from my girlfriend Molly Molly, who had skied several years earlier, and we stopped. According to Molly Molly, Mike and Artie weren’t even around, they just gave Molly Molly and her family home.
Back to Trail
The next morning, I woke up, and Mike took me to the Twenty West Highway to where I got off. When I set off in the car, I immediately played my audiobook, which is the end of the third book in the Memory of the Earth series. The next two days, I would crash sixty-three miles and enter Oroville, Washington on the second night. I faint roaring. The break in Republic was sorely needed and my only regret was that I didn’t get more opportunities to relax like this at this altitude.
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