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…