Miles: 18.85
Camping: PCT mile 347.35
Hikers seen on trail: 5

I had already hiked 5 miles by the time the sun came up. The heat was supposed to be pretty intense today, and I wanted to hike in the cooler morning hours. It was so quiet and peaceful, the moon bright enough to compete with my headlamp, mountain silhouettes sharpening as the sun became brighter.

I snacked on trail bars and gorp as I hiked the easy terrain. Once the sun rose, there was a slight cloud cover locking in the morning coolness, preventing that intense heat that immediately follows the arrival of the sun. This prolonged the pleasantness of the morning, but soon my feet had something to say. They were not having the miles I’ve been putting on them. The new blisters were going through the part of the cycle which makes walking painful, and my feet were sore in general.

The hiking grew a little tougher, gaining elevation and adding pressure to my already aching toes. My feet were feeling like balloons inside my shoes, and I couldn’t help but ask, “Why?” I’ve paid those dues, endured that right of passage where blisters rule new hiking feet. I’m 3 weeks in, I’m supposed to be toughened up now. Tinkerbell was saying the trail is like a reality show. When things are going smoothly someone behind the scenes says, “cue the blisters! Cue the gnats! She’s having fun, bring in the wind!” Sometimes it does feel like that, and usually I shrug it off as part of the experience. This though, feels a bit like defeat.

Just as I came to the last mile and a half, I felt like there was a rock in my shoe. Weird since I wear gators for that exact reason, and how did it get to my toe before I noticed it? I took off my shoe and found a giant blister had popped on TOP of my pinky toe. The entire toe looked like a deflated balloon, and it was pink and sore. I only had a mile and a half before I could take a long rest, so I forced my foot into a dry sock and back into my shoe. I hobbled along as Tinkerbell cruised ahead, McDonalds in our sights. I wanted to cry, but I didn’t. I’m tough, and this too shall pass.

The last .4 miles were the worst. Hot, gravelly pavement wreaked havoc on my already protesting feet. “Nobody ever said this would be easy,” I thought. You have to endure the pain to get the reward. In this case it would be pseudo food made to taste like fat and salt, both of which appeal to the hiker appetite.

Hobbling into McDonalds was strange. There was a long line of clean people, all shiny and fresh looking. I was smeared with dirt from head to toe, carrying a backpack that housed all of my worldly possessions, and had just hiked 15 miles before 10 am for an egg mcmuffin and a cup of coffee. I didn’t care. Out here I’m Dust Bunny, and dirt is like my second skin.

Food in hand, I sat in the corner by the bathrooms and began eating. It was sub-par even with a raging case of hiker hunger. It scratched the itch though, and the coffee was actually quite good. Soon enough, the place began to fill with hikers. It felt like home with them there. “These are my people,” I thought.

We sat there all day, literally until 4pm. We all ate more than we knew we should, and even got milkshakes from the gas station next door. There was a man with a food cart selling fresh fruit, so I bought a bunch to share, knowing we could all use some actual nourishment. That was my favorite part, eating and sharing the fruit.

Lots of people looked at our ragged clothes, dirt smeared faces and pile of packs and decided to ask lots of questions. They were genuinely interested in us, we were like celebrities, or zoo animals. Kids looked shocked that somebody’s parents allowed us into public looking so filthy. I think they were jealous, because we embody the freedom of childhood without restraint. We can be dirty and eat all of McDonalds, and people admire us. We are a special breed.

By 4pm, I needed to get out of there. I’d almost put in a full shift at Micky D’s, and I was well over the whole thing. Giant was also ready to go, but everyone else seemed sucked into the vortex of overly processed food. I couldn’t even look at the stuff anymore, and began craving a salad more than oxygen itself. We will be in a real town tomorrow, there will be vegetables.

Giant and I cruised back to the trail, back home to our dirty palace of mountains and fresh air. It felt excellent to be there, and the hours of rest had really given my feet a chance to get over their complaining. I took to a nice slow pace admiring the rocks and mountains around me, beauty at it’s finest. I really didn’t expect such a glorious scene after being at a rest stop all day, but I appreciated everything about it. This whole thing goes so much better when my body isn’t complaining, and going slow helped with that.

Of course, that wasn’t long lived. I hadn’t planned on going too far, but after 5 miles it seemed all hell had broken loose. My blister toe lost it’s fancy blister bandaid, which taunted my other toes as it decided to float around my sock, and then…lady trouble arrived. Early. On top of a mountain ridge. 5 miles from the very place I could have dealt with it properly. 17 waterless miles from where I can do anything else about it besides some trail improv. Cue tears? Nah…cue calling it a night and camping in a beautiful meadow. Cue sleeping it off and enjoying the view from my tent. Cue obnoxious guys who decided to camp right next to me and make a bunch of immature jokes. Cue ear plugs, and a brand new day tomorrow.

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