Miles: 15
Camping: Little Jimmy Campground PCT mile 384.4
Hikers seen on trail: 22

I accidentally slept in until 6:30, my latest morning on the trail yet. It felt good, and I was in no hurry, so it didn’t matter. The whole gang was still there that had joined us at the house last night (#1, Gypsy, Brent, Testament, Snake Farm and Dayglo) much to my surprise. I had thought they had an early exit strategy, but it was nice to see them again before we went our separate ways. I had a few errands to run in town still, and they were headed straight for the trail. I suppose I’ll see them at the Saufley’s or the Anderson’s, both famous trail angel houses in the next 100 miles.

It was hard saying goodbye to Teresa, Ryan and Skyler. I really enjoyed them and didn’t really want to leave. It felt really good to be there, but I knew it was time to get back to the task at hand…hiking. my feet were doing better, and a trip to the Saufley’s also means a trip to REI where I can replace a few things for the next leg. My shirt is now huge on me and losing buttons, my pants are too heavy, I’m contemplating a bigger tent at only 4 more oz than my current one, AND my spork broke at dinner tonight, which will make the next few days of meals a little challenging. At least I’m right in time for the anniversary sale!

As I was finishing up in town, I was asked on a date by a man who was nowhere near my age. It was hard to take him seriously, but I easily told him I was on my way out of town and insinuated that I already had a ride. I was going to hitch, but didn’t want him to offer. Easy enough, I got a ride from the guy who owns the ski mountain. His name is Carl and he also owns the one in Stevens, WA where I should be in late September. He said to check in at the other end, as he loves to see who makes it.

My plan was for a 15 mile day, so I could make an easier transition for my feet from resting to hiking. It was a mountain climb today, gaining 2,500 ft in 4 miles. It was pretty straightforward, and the day was cool as clouds loitered in valleys and skirted up into the mountains. About a mile in a SAR (search and rescue) chopper started circling. I need to learn the signal that says I’m okay, as it’s the second time in 3 days they’ve circled near me when I’m on a break, and I feel the need to keep moving to prove I’m fine. There was an older man coming down the mountain, and he said they might be looking for him. He hurt his knee and some other hikers may have called, but he wasn’t sure and was quite embarrassed. They circled for a long time, which was loud and unsettling. You never know if someone is seriously injured, and you worry for your fellow hikers.

They took off after what seemed like an hour, and I was slowly making my way up the mountain. I saw 7 snow plants today as well! I thought they were pretty rare, though you wouldn’t guess it today. John Muir had something to say about having the opportunity to see them, but I forget now. They are very cool though, and I feel lucky to have seen them today. Clouds were collecting every which way, making the air cool and some great scenery. I took lots of pictures today! Once I got near the summit, I dropped my pack next to some others I recognized from town that morning. There was a sign saying the tree there was estimated to be 1500 years old! Very cool for a tree at that elevation and exposure.

I grabbed my down jacket, camera and trekking poles for the .1 mile finish to the top. I felt like I was filled with helium at that elevation, climbing with no pack. It was a truly bizarre sensation that lasted until I came back down. At the top were Wrongway (a different one than the one I met in Julian) and Dirty No Shoe Jon (he hikes in Tevas). We chatted a bit and watched the clouds roll around us from 9,339 ft. It was beautiful, but cold and windy, so I quickly went back down to reunite with my pack. It felt strangely comforting to put it back on. It’s a part of me now.

The next 5 miles were stunning with the clouds dancing about. It was freezing, so I hiked in my down jacket, but it was so very nice. I enjoyed the hike a lot today, despite the big climb. I love being way up high, the air just smells better…and I think I like the natural buzz I get from that elevation. I ran into a group of 6 I’d never seem before, as well as Brent, Gypsy and Snake Farm. They were all marching pretty fast though, so I let them all go ahead while I literally meandered with my head in the clouds.

I came to my destination at 6 pm and cooked up some quinoa, lentils and veggies with bouillon. It was ok…not my favorite trail meal, but full of important nourishment. It’s getting colder out, so I’m hunkered down in my down jacket and sleeping bag for the night. I know morning will be a bit of a challenge in the cold, but better motivation to get the blood moving faster. There will be a bit of a road walk tomorrow to avoid the breeding ground of an endangered frog…that and another mountain climb (a smaller one this time).