“Wander a whole summer if you can…time will not be taken from the sum of life. Instead of shortening, it will definitely lengthen it and make you truly immortal.” John Muir


July 2014

Day 92: Hot Stuff

Miles: 20.12
Camping: Drakesbad Guest Ranch PCT mile 1353.87

We woke up well rested in our hotel room and enjoyed the continental breakfast before heading out of town. We made good time and were hiking again by 9am. The terrain was really easy, so we had gone 10 miles before we knew it. It seemed a good spot for lunch, right next to the Feather River. Breakfast had filled me up pretty well, so I just snacked for lunch. It was really hot, so even though we had only been 10 miles, I was covered in sweat. This was a great excuse to take a river bath, which almost always hits the spot. The water was shallow and ice cold, so I washed up birdbath style, feeling refreshed enough to hike on.

There were several other hikers we hadn’t seen in a long time, so we felt that we had lost some ground with our extra night in town. Though we had slept long and well, the energy was still not there, and we were lacking in enthusiasm. My feet weren’t hurting, but they didn’t feel great either. I was walking in new gel insoles, and I couldn’t tell if they were an improvement yet. It takes some time to really tell, so we kept moving in hopes of getting in over 20 miles today.

We took a .4 mile round trip detour to the terminal geyser in Lassen National Park,  and it was really cool! There was even a bear off the trail digging up a stump, completely oblivious to us standing and watching it. The geyser itself is not a true geyser, but a perpetual steam vent. Off to the side was a small river that was literally boiling as it rolled down the hill. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and we joked about cooking dinner there.

About a mile and a half later we came across the Boiling Lake. It was a lake that looked like thick green soup, and it burped up random spouts of sulfuric gas. It made gurgling noises, and had a powerful smell to it, though didn’t have the appearance of boiling. The banks around the river were a rich red soil, providing a truly unique scene. We are definitely in new territory here.

The next 2 miles were to Drakesbad Guest Ranch, and my feet were as bad as ever. I was developing hot spots, which seemed impossible, and the balls of my feet were in the most pain to date. Someone once said, “ignore the aches, but not the pains,” and I’m in the arena of pain now. I had ordered shoes in Chester to have sent to Burney and thought I could make the easy 80 mile trip, but humbly learned that would be a poor choice. The number one rule of thru-hiking is to listen to your body and I realized for myself, that means stopping. I decided that tomorrow I will try to get to Burney, and wait for my new shoes there. The support is gone in these shoes, and I would only miss 60 miles of trail, as opposed to the rest if I don’t stop now. It’s a tough decision, but it seems the smartest. This will force me to rest for a couple more days, and the next set of shoes will hopefully offer the needed support. I’m switching brands again, moving to Solomon’s…here’s hoping!

We hiked the half mile into the ranch with Doc and found other hikers already there. They offer dinner at 8pm for hikers, which includes a shower and a swim in their pool. It’s a geothermal pool, not hot, but way warmer than your typical heated pool. We floated for an hour before dinner feeling quite spoiled. It was another very necessary dose of healing. The water was amazing, and we sat around the hiker table ready to chow down on the well reviewed food.

They brought over sliced baguettes and lasagna that was killer. It was a delicious meal, but most of us could have eaten several servings. A couple of guys immediately broke out their stoves and cooked up a second meal, but I didn’t feel I needed to do so. Instead, I walked back with Danger Spoon and Doc to set up camp. It was already after hiker midnight, and though I’m not planning to hike tomorrow, my optimistic side wants to be prepared to if I recover overnight. I set up my tent without the rain fly, and now I’m staring at the stars. I feel a little unhappy to be skipping trail, but I otherwise feel very happy to be here having these amazing experiences. The trail will go on, and I will be there until I either can’t walk or run out of money. Don’t give up on me friends! I’m still determined to beat this foot pain!

Terminal Geyser
Boiling Lake

Day 91: Aches and Pains

Miles: 0
Camping: Still in Chester

There isn’t much to say about today. I woke up in a room full of friends, and we went to the gas station for breakfast. Apparently that’s a thing, and it wasn’t bad! We then got to running errands, updating blogs, eating more food, etc… All the while my feet were still swollen and unhappy. Danger Spoon was complaining of shoulder pain, and we both kind of agreed that another night in town may be what we needed, even if it means falling behind. Everyone else hiked on, but we listened to our complaining bodies. I hate getting behind, but would rather hike happy and healthy than achy and sore.

We spent the night enjoying big comfy beds all to ourselves. Usually we pack enough people in a room that we have to share beds, but we are indulging today, and it is just what the doctor ordered. I made a nest of pillows and can’t wait to drift off to sleep in a soft embrace. I hope the extra day of rest makes the necessary difference…

Danger Spoon, CrackerJack, Cheeseburger and Dust Bunny

Day 90: Living on a Prayer (aka Halfway There!)

Miles: 13.55
Camping: Seneca Motel, Chester, CA off PCT mile 1334.2

I stood outside of Cheeseburger’s tent saying his name in the fashion of the same named trail bird (it’s call sounds like it is saying, “cheeseburger, cheeseburger”). I had been instructed to wake him up with no exceptions, and based on how difficult it had been for me to break out of my restful slumber among the shady pines, I knew he would be hard to wake. Eventually he started grunting and asked, “is it that time already?”

“Yes it is, let’s go to town!” I said, trying to match my voice to my level of excitement to get there. I needed a day of rest, not to mention a real resupply. There was also a package waiting for me with a titanium spork (I shouldn’t be able to break that one) and a new stuff sack since mine had ripped. New gear is pretty exciting, and so is coffee. I have learned a valuable lesson about my relationship with caffeine these last few days, and I will honor it more seriously from here on out.

I reached the halfway point after an easy 5 miles, ready to include second breakfast in the celebration. It was a moment of great anticipation for me, and I was overwhelmed with a great sense of pride. We have hiked 1,325 miles, climbed 250,000 ft in elevation, passed through many state and national parks, seen several monuments, wildlife, mind blowing scenery, met amazing people, visited amazing towns…and that’s only the half of it. They say the second half goes by fast and it should take one less month to complete. It’s bittersweet at best, and though I’m excited to complete my goal, I am not ready to say goodbye to this experience yet (especially the people). I want to hold onto all of it forever, knowing that even the bad parts now will be preferred to bad days in “regular life.” I know I will look back on blister pain, hot sun, sweaty climbs, getting slapped in the face with tent poles, etc and long to return. Now more than ever, I am savoring this journey.

I kept this in mind, blissfully walking down the trail, knowing half of it was behind me. I inhaled the fresh air; the piny, organic smells, and breathed in the scenes around me. It was a good day, they all are really. I’m feeling more confident than ever that I can finish this, despite my ornery feet. I will figure it out and I will march on, successful in my endeavor.

We made it to the highway by noon and found several coolers of trail magic. I had an orange soda and Cheeseburger had a root beer, then we went to the side of the road with our thumbs out. Cars whizzed by, the sun reflected off the asphalt onto our bodies, and time ticked away, making our arrival at the post office later and later. We both had boxes waiting, and we would otherwise have to wait until Monday to pick them up. I secretly hoped for the excuse to take a zero, but also knew it would be best to expedite.

After 20 minutes, a nice local woman stopped to give us a ride 8 miles into Chester. She left us at the post office, and we did what we could to get the attention of the worker in back. The window wasn’t open, but someone was there filling PO boxes. We tried in vain to get her attention, with little luck. I was ready to give up and hunt down some breakfast, but Cheeseburger wanted to give it one more try. Luckily he was successful this time, and soon our boxes were wrapped in our loving arms. I even had a bonus box from my dear friend,Andy! So exciting! We went to the all day breakfast restaurant and sat on their patio with our loot and packs. We were still dirty from the trail, but also feeling the vigor of town.

After breakfast, we were surprised to learn that all but one of the hotels was booked for the night. The only one available had no AC, no wifi, and had bad reviews online. With no other option, we made our way over. Our friends were still on trail, and we weren’t sure about making a decision for the group. We debated shortly, but at a mere $85/night, we went for it. The room had 3 beds and a shower, so it filled our basic needs for cheap. As we began the routine of showers and such, Danger Spoon and CrackerJack arrived.

Soon enough we were reunited with Ninja, Landfill, Apache, Blisster, String Cheese, Half Dome and friends Andy and Emily who visited us in Tahoe! It is CrackerJack’s birthday and we are all in good spirits. Our celebration is mellow as not all of us are drinking, but it is merry. These are the times that I feel whole on this trail, aching feet included. These are the times I want to wrap up in my arms and heart and hold onto forever. I love these people, this life and this feeling of being complete. I am happy. Oh, so happy.

Landfill, Apache, Ninja, Danger Spoon, Cheeseburger and CrackerJack
Cheeseburger does resupply

Day 89: Oh, deer.

Miles: 24.8
Camping: PCT mile 1321.2

Last night as I lay in my tent, feet achingly resting on my backpack, ready to drift away, we had a camp visitor. Apparently, a deer had made the decision to crash our sleeping party by crashing aound camp. It stomped around, grunting and whining. Apparently deer can whine. Whenever I moved so that my sleeping bag hit my tent it ran away, crashing through the woods. It kept coming back though…seemingly confused and keeping us awake. This made morning a little difficult to take but we had designs on at least 25 miles today and I had to get moving. I took out the coffee I had bought in Belden and quickly realized that it wasn’t instant. With no other option, I drank the cup, grounds and all. I think this was the moment I became a true thru-hiker.

Cheeseburger was just getting up as I left to tackle the remainder of the big climb, spitting out coffee grounds as I walked. Even with my healthy dose of cowboy coffee, I was moving at a snail’s pace. I could not conjure up enough energy to crush that morning climb, so I heavily plod up the mountain. It was right around mile 1300 that I decided to stop for second breakfast and try to add some pep to my step. I had hydrated some quinoa, adding almond butter and goldfish crackers. Don’t judge, it was delicious. Cheeseburger joined me, making himself some instant potatoes, and off we went with 4 more miles of climbing to go. I started singing, “this is the climb that never ends…” and was instantly annoyed with myself. I practiced tongue twisters, made up stories, invented an app for making playlists based on mood…huffed and puffed, sweat and groaned. Then, the climb was over. I was finally on top of the mountain looking out at the vista, Mt. Lassen in the distance, my feet aching. I laid down on the rocky hillside with my feet up and took 800mg of Vitamin I, resting my eyes and my head in the process. The shoe situation is becoming more clear, as I seem to have about a 250-300 mile limit on shoes before they break down. This doesn’t bode well for my finances, and I still haven’t discovered a brand that suits my feet. I’ve even managed to wear through a pair of darn tough socks in 250 miles, not an easy feat. They are guaranteed for life, and they didn’t even last me a month. I must be harder on my feet than most people, though I’m not sure how that is possible.

We stopped for lunch by our last water source until our intended camp loading up for the afternoon. It was hot, but at least the rest of the day only dealt in mild elevation change. I can’t imagine the loss and gain of the last couple of days helped my foot situatuion, but the milder terrain coming up should not aggravate things. We walked on, taking a .6 mile detour straight down and then up a hill for water, opting to avoid a 1 mile detour closer to camp. We were tired and ready to sleep knowing that tomorrow is a town day. Camp is 14 miles from the highway leading into Chester, and all I need is some sleep. I set my alarm for 5:30 am, hoping to make it to town in time for the post office that will only give us packages until 1pm. We also reach the halfway point tomorrow, an exciting prospect as I ready myself for sleep. Goodnight.

Day 88: Belden is all the rave

Miles: 22.82
Camping: 1296.32

I woke up this morning saying, “Wow!” The sun was rising, and for the first time in a long time, I watched it begin the day. I was tucked in my tent eating oatmeal and sipping the last nescafe, remembering how special these moments can be. It made me remember the desert, surprisingly with a touch of tenderness. Almost every day was a beautiful sunrise, something I’ve mostly slept through since breaking off the desert schedule. I could see the guys standing by their tents, also savoring the scene. It was bound to be a good day.

We had 16 miles to get into Belden, which we planned to make for lunch. The hike started by following the ridge we had climbed the night before, an exposed granite mountain covered mostly in bear berry and blueberry bushes. The shrubs offer up splashes of green and red with a fluffy visual texture across the foreground. I Love the contrast they provide in the granite outcroppings. We walked through this scene into a lush forest where I filled my water bottles for the last stretch while eating second breakfast.

The day grew hot, and the trail continued going down for miles. Switchback after switchback brought us farther and farther down the steep mountain, down and down for what seemed like forever. It was hard on my feet, and it was hot and dry taboot. Poison oak lined the trail on either side, taunting me by taking up all of the useful peeing locations. I shuffled along, dodging a plant that has never given me a rash, but it might. The heat made me perspire, and my feet asked for impossible breaks. The terrain just didn’t accommodate stopping, only walking downhill as nothing below seemed to get any closer. It was a rather purgatorial hike this morning, but there would be a hot lunch and coffee waiting at the bottom of this giant hill.

I made it to the restaurant just after noon, walking through an area that looked to be setting up for a big outdoor festival (turned out to be a weekend long rave). It reminded me of summers in my 20s, always finding an excuse to party in nature. Now my idea of a party in the woods has changed, and I’m living it. The whole scene was overwhelming, and a bit tempting in a weird way. Some past version of myself saw a fun weekend just getting started, but a slightly more enlightened version saw this as a major distraction. I kept my head down and found my way to the restaurant.

I had done a solid 16 mile hike by noon, and felt deserving of a town meal. Danger Spoon, CrackerJack and Cheeseburger were already siting at a table eating fries when I walked in. I joined them, overwhelmed by all that was happening, and really just wanting a lemonade. I ordered a chicken sandwich, drank lemonade and coffee, and talked game plan with the guys. Cheeseburger and I seemed the only one’s eager to get out of there. Everyone else wanted to stay, so he and I may our evac plan for 4 pm, giving us time to buy some trail snacks, hang out with friends and charge our phones. We ran into LaZboy who we hadn’t seen for a while, and it was nice to catch up with him. Several others rolled through, and the whole time I was thinking about the 5800 ft climb we had coming. In the plan I concocted with Cheeseburger, we would go 7 miles tonight, cutting the climb in half. I liked this strategy far better than doing it all at once, so when 4:00 rolled around, I knew there was no more stalling. I knew Pockets was close to arriving, and I wanted to say hi before moving out, but I couldn’t delay any longer. It was now or never, and Cheeseburger was ready to go.

The climb was hot and exposed, climbing for 7 straight miles. It’s a dry heat, the kind that makes your mouth dry out between every sip of water. Fortunately, there was water along the way. I stopped and cooled off a couple of times, closer to heat stroke than I have been since the desert. My skin felt waxy and dry at the same time, but I was just happy to be getting it halfway done before tomorrow.

We made it to camp around 7:00 and had a quick dinner by the fire ring (sans fire). The mosquitoes seemed as if they hadn’t seen humans in a while, so we quickly retired to our tents. We really have to step on the gas tomorrow if we want to make it to Chester in time to pick up our boxes at the post office Saturday. A good night of sleep is in order!


Day 87: I Do Love Caffeine

Miles: 21.28
Camping: PCT mile 1273.5

Since our camp was deep in the woods the sun didn’t reach us until well after the usual wake up call. For me this typically means less miles, but it makes little difference to my speedy companions. I took out my one VIA packet and gazed at it while my oats hydrated, hoping it would deliver the boost I would need for the 3000 ft climb we would start the day with. It was my most precious possession and it would be fleeting, but I would cherish our time together. Even though it wasn’t hot I pretended it was, taking small appreciative sips. It was over before I knew it.

I ended up being last out of camp due to my morning moment, and I was dreading the climb. That coffee didn’t seem to be kicking in, but up was the direction the trail was heading, so up is where I went. I felt surprisingly strong going up, and for the first time I dared to think that this was getting easier. Not that the trail is easier persay, but that I am handling it better because I am stronger. I may huff and puff on my way uphill, and I may sweat buckets in the process, but it isn’t as hard as it once was. This made me smile as I huffed and puffed and studied the plants that surrounded me. We are in forest now, this is the hiking that won my heart years ago. Tall mossy evergreens, ferns, pine needles and rays of sunlight that burst through breaks in the canopy; a canopy of trees! It feels so magical to walk through unadultered forest, unlike some of the clear cuts we have seen recently. It really plays with my imagination, which is a wild animal out here. Without the overstimulation of town life, our minds really find ways of keeping things interesting. I’ve had some of the most off the wall conversations on trail, and it’s all quite wonderful, if not entertaining.

I leap frogged with Adam a lot this morning, and eventually met with most of my gang at a spring. We talked about an alternate around Buck’s Lake, where we could go to a restaurant and buy a few resupply items. It would add 2 miles to the day and be on pavement, so we had to want it pretty bad. It turns out we didn’t. I was kind of proud of us for this decision, as town has a way of offering up too many distractions. I’m even considering a new resupply strategy to cut down on town time. Towns have been fun but I want more trail time, and it feels good to be gaining so much ground lately. We stayed on trail and ate lunch in a nice mossy patch in the shade before heading on.

We hoped to make it a 26 mile day, but there wasn’t a lot of oomph left in us. Danger Spoon had given me some tea at lunch, so on top of coffee this morning, my energy levels were good. It was my feet slowing me down. Right around lunch they just start to ache, and afterwards they gradually build up to a throb, then just all out pain. I have decided it’s shoes, and I’ve yet to find out what works best for my feet. After all of my years of hiking, and over 1,200 miles on the PCT, I still don’t know what shoes to wear. All I know is that it is driving me bananas! In the past I have hiked in Chacos, and though they are sandals, they are the one shoe that doesn’t give me grief. It’s time to give them a run on the PCT, and hope for the best. This shoe thing has been the most expensive part of the trip!

On that note, a quick thank you to Jeff W and Vincent G for donations! It is truly appreciated, and I feel super lucky to have your support. It isn’t every day you get to fulfill a dream like this, and it just wouldn’t be possible without the support I receive, whether financially or otherwise. Sometimes this gets really hard, and I need to remind myself why I’m here. When I get a note, email, contribution, package, a kind word, or a selfless gesture from a total stranger, it gives me a lot of momentum. My faith in humanity is not only getting new life, it’s growing exponentially. Thank you!

Anyhow, we only made it 22 miles today, but it was mostly a good day. I had a 3rd dose of caffeine in the form of some Crystal Light from Cheeseburger at afternoonsies. I was feeling great after that and could have gone on for a lot longer, but Blisster and Danger Spoon wanted to stop, and my feet did not protest. We found an amazing spot overlooking the valley, and set up camp early. This puts us 16 miles from Belden where we will eat lunch and do a snack resupply tomorrow. Coffee, here we come!

Day 86: It’s Raining Caterpillars

Miles: 24.95
Camping: PCT mile.1252.22

I woke up and decided it was a breakfast in my tent kind of morning. I hydrated my oats and blueberries, and begrudgingly made a nescafe. Remembering that I had stashed a dark chocolate bar in my food bag I nibbled on that in between sips (thank you Elaine!) It provided an adequate improvement, even if I had no choice. It hadn’t rained last night, so I had a much easier time of packing up camp, and made my way out of camp feeling better than yesterday.

The morning was cool and cloudy which was great for the elevation climb this morning. Once atop the ridgeline, there were blueberry and kinnickinnick bushes everywhere, dogwoods and soft needled pine trees. The wind blew a cool breeze telling of a storm nearby. I didn’t know if it was approaching or not never sure what to believe about the weather anymore. What I did know was that it kept me from sweating, and I felt like I could climb for miles in that temperature. I came upon a spring .3 miles off trail with a sign naming it “Whiskey Spring.” Someone had scrawled a note that said, “good water, no whiskey.” (It was Blisster). We filled up on the refreshing spring water and had a snack as we looked at the rest of the day. We decided to go 6 more miles to the next spring and have lunch there.

We caught up with Danger Spoon here and drank upon the sweet water. We are getting spoiled by springs in this section, and the water is delicious. As we set up beneath the pines I began to notice some really cool looking caterpillars. They were fuzzy and yellow with long hairy horns and adorable faces, like the character from the “Labyrinth” with bushy eyebrows. That is, they were adorable until we realized they were everywhere and on everything. They were falling out of the trees like a pinata full of them had burst open. We continually flicked them away while eating our midday meal.

The choice to make the 25 mile day happen today was made. We would hike an additional 13 miles after lunch to complete this goal. This is when I started having foot pain again. It’s mind numbingly painful, yet I still push on. I’m getting to my wits end on the subject though, and am not sure which factor is causing the pain. Is it the shoes? The miles? The terrain? Some days I merely bear it, others it is barely there. Somtimes Vitamin I does the trick, other times nothing helps. It’s frustrating, but I’m almost at the halfway point! Just a few more days and I have walked half of the PCT. I have a feeling the second half is going to fly by, especially now that we consistently do bigger miles. I hope more than anything that my feet keep up. They kind of have to.

Danger Spoon and I had agreed on a time and place for afternoonsies, but when I got there, he wasn’t there. I walked another 1/2 mile and gave up, happy enough to snack alone, and absolutely having to get off my feet. I laid back on a bed of pine needles and stared at the drifting clouds above. They are now light and fluffy, not even hinting at inclement weather. It was such a peaceful break, where I nibbled on a Snickers and some pretzels while staring at the sky. Blisster eventually found me this way and joined in the relaxing space. We were only 5 miles from a river though, so we found some motivation to move on with visions of swimming in our minds.

Caterpillars still dropped from the heavens, and my feet ached to the point where I was worried. I’m telling myself it was the terrain today, but we will see tomorrow. I hobbled to the river, distracted by the plant life changing with the terrain. We are now seeing live oak, and some new trees I can’t wait to identify. I focused on their identifiable features, narrowing them down to genus (an oak? a maple and a pine). I’m really enjoying my botany education these days, and yearn to learn more every day. Plants fascinate me, and so do these caterpillars. I wonder which butterfly or moth they become…and how do they do that anyway? It blows my mind. All of this provided temporary distraction from my foot pain as I arrived at the river. Adam, Cheeseburger, CrackerJack, Danger Spoon and Lost&Found were already there. I quickly joined them in the water washing the 2 day layer of dirt from my skin. It was beyond refreshing, and I definitely didn’t want to leave. We did eat dinner there beneath a big bridge before walking 1.5 more miles to camp. It was a muggy walk and now I lay in my tent exhausted. I have drank nearly all of my water so I will have to hike before breakfast tomorrow. We have nearly 7,000 ft of climbing to start out the day as well, so I think I’ll drink my one Via…hope it helps. Praying to wake up with new feet. Goodnight.

I wonder if this is what those caterpillars turn into?
lazy break view

Day 85: I Needed a Shower

Miles: 22.36

I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of rain and shuffling outside my tent. CrackerJack and Adam had both been cowboy camping, and there was quite a stir as they frantically dealt with that decision in the middle of the night. I waited for the noises to settle, then lay listening to the rain on my tent. It’s actually quite a comforting sound, especially when I am warm and dry in my little home on the trail. I felt for the guys and their rude awakening, but I was quite content and slept well.

It was still raining by morning, which made for a late start in camp. We all hung in our tents as long as we could, hoping the drops would subside. It was the first time we had seen the rain continue into morning this whole trip, and none of us wanted to pack up our wet gear. Inevitably, we soldiered up and got through the task of wrestling with wet tents and making breakfast. I had one of the Nescafe packets Michael gave me and it was horrible. It was all I had though, and any caffeination is better than none. I choked it down while eating my oatmeal, then made way for the trail. I could finally test out my new backpacker poncho, which is basically a giant tarp with snaps and a hole for my head.

I felt like my morning was lacking, not having had my usual high octane coffee. The walking was easy though, and the rain reminded me of Portland. It made me long for home a bit, but I was comforted by the thought that we would be in Oregon before long. I walked along dreaming of the lush forests of the Pacific Northwest, and even thought I saw big waterfalls in the distance. They were just big fallen trees, though I let my imagination believe they were waterfalls. I ran into String Cheese who was hiking with Cheeseburger around 5 miles in. I just met her in Sierra City but a few of the guys had hiked with her before. It turns out she grew up in New England as well, and her parents are trail angels on the AT. That sounds like a cool way to grow up to me, and she currently goes to college in Colorado.

We chatted for a couple of miles before I bowed out for second breakfast. My energy was low and my shoulders were aching, even if I was making quick miles. I am carrying my biggest load of food yet, not out of necessity, but out of a twisted hiker laziness. I would have otherwise had to have mailed a box to Belden at 95 miles, but instead opted to carry food to Chester at 140 miles. There is no resupply in Belden, but there is a restaurant! By then my food weight should be normal, and I can grab some snacks if I need to supplement my food. I doubt I can find instant coffee there, but there may be some other form of caffeine, even if it’s candy.

I spent the day hiking alone, struggling under the weight of my pack. The extra food seemed to weigh a ton, and I suddenly wished I had mailed a box to Belden. Nothing can be done now, so I will learn my lesson by having to deal with the extra weight. It’s a painful and uncomfortable decision, but it only gets lighter from here. I ate lunch by a small spring and watched the rain clouds floating away. All fingers and toes were crossed that it would not rain tonight, as my gear isn’t even dry from last night.

After lunch, I hiked 4 miles to another spring. Everyone else was finishing their lunch break and contemplating the rest of the day. I stopped and had a snack as we decided to go to the next water in 4.5 miles and decide. This was easier hiking, as perhaps the weight of lunch was just enough to slightly ease my shoulder pain. Before I knew it, we were standing by yet another spring making decisions for the night. I suggested hiking 3 more miles, and then having dinner before walking another 3. It would put us at 25 for the day, which we all hoped for. Danger Spoon led the group and found a great dinner eating spot where a few of us collected. Others chose to keep hiking, so there were only 4 of us. With less people to worry about, finding camp was easier too. We got a nice flat spot short of where we intended, but good for our needs. All of us are carrying heavier packs than we are used to, and we are just not moving as well…plus we lost a lot of time dealing with rain this morning. Tomorrow should be better, as breakfast starts the day by lightening the pack, and even without coffee I feel I can do the miles. The farther I go, the closer I am to coffee.

Hoping for a dry night as I drift off…

Day 84: Ice Cream Social

Miles: 7.5
Camping: PCT mile 1205.00

Waking up was difficult after the late night we had dancing at the bar, but I did not want to miss out on breakfast at 7am. The Red Moose was supposed to serve us but they still appeared closed. Blisster and I walked up to the main building, and we noticed some new signs as we left camp. They said, “no camping, effective today.” Then I walked into the cafe entrance and was greeted by a rather surly host, “no breakfast,” he said, “power’s out.” I had barely just rolled out of bed, and though this made sense I was a bit befuddled.

I wandered down the street trying to figure out a strategy for acquiring breakfast and/or coffee in a small mountain town with no electricity. Bob, the bar owner, was setting up a grill outside his bar. He was going to cook us breakfast on his grill and even had coffee!  Everyone in town seemed to collect on the bar’s tiny porch to eat bacon, egg and cheeseburgers for breakfast. There was no other place to go at that point, and the burgers were great!

In this time, it was brought to our attention that we were no longer welcome at the Red Moose Inn. The owners wanted us all to pack up and leave immediately, so we all headed back somberly to comply. It was a weird feeling to be there, as I felt it unfair to all of a sudden turn on hikers after advertising as trail angels. We aren’t all the same, and to be lumped together and discriminated against was a new experience for me. I hated the vibe in camp this morning as we packed up, feeling unwelcome and rejected for no explained reason. It did turn out that it was an accumulation of experience, and not just us, but people had been breaking the one rule and being disrespectful. I’m sad to see people taking advantage of the people trying to help us, but it sucks to be treated poorly because someone else ruined it for the rest of us. At any rate, we all took our packs back over to the bar and waited to see if the power would come back on.

The man who runs the general store across the way said power should come on by 11am, so we had to wait until then to shop. In the meantime all of his ice cream was melting, so he brought out a shopping cart full of it and gave us all spoons. We each had a 1.75 quart container, and we enthusiastically shared bites in a wide range of flavors. There must have been about 20-25 of us sitting outside of that store eating more ice cream than is prudent for those of us planning to hike out today. It was a  delightful free for all as we dipped our spoons in every flavor, sharing hiker germs like one big happy (though sticky) family.

Afterwards, we all sat around with 1,000 mile stares, groaning a little. We had eaten so much ice cream! It took some time, but we got back to waiting around like pros. Eventually the power did return, and we all flooded the store to buy our resupply. It was slim pickings, and I’m without some essentials this section. They had no ibuprofen, no wet wipes, no salami, and worse of all…no VIA! VIA is the Starbucks instant coffee that I live off of, and I only have one packet left for an entire week. I was able to get a few packs of nescafe from Michael, but not enough to get me to the next town. I guess caffeine withdrawal while hiking is my next step in self development out here. I don’t imagine it will be pretty, as I drink 2 cups a day to supplement my hiking energy. I’m scared to live without it…first world problems, I know.

After resupply I felt like I was going into an ice cream coma. My friends agreed, and a bunch of us wandered over to the park to take naps in the grass. We snoozed off the over indulgence and started looking at the hike ahead. We had a 2,800 ft climb to start out with, and we all sat there dreading it. No one felt motivated, but I arranged to hitch with Danger Spoon and CrackerJack. I wanted to get moving, feeling like it was now or never, and wanting to get the climb out of the way. We ended up getting a ride with the pastor, who was a really sweet woman. Everyone in this town was so nice, aside from our sad experience this morning.

We only planned to hike the 7.5 miles to a camp near a spring. It took a while to get up the mountain, all of us feeling the added weight of town lethargy. Cheeseburger and Blisster caught up to us, and we found camp after nearly completing our big climb. We left about a mile more of climbing for morning, but it should go quickly. The elevation for tomorrow looks pretty reasonable, with one steep climb late in the day. We want to get to Chester in 130 miles by the weekend, but we will see how the week goes. We all had to make sacrifices on this resupply, so hopefully there is no negative effects. If nothing else, it’s all part of the experience, and we will get through it. In the meantime, I look forward to sleeping tonight. Goodnight.

Hikers waiting for the town to power back up
Danger Spoon and CrackerJack
Ice Cream Social

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