Miles: 17.08 (2 miles to the PCT)
Camping: PCT mile 1524.18

It felt good to wake up in my tent this morning, strangely more comfortable than a hotel. I slept wonderfully in the campground, and woke up refreshed. I happily made a cup of cold VIA, and hydrated some oats with blueberries. Trail breakfast never tasted so good! I added some peanut butter from the bear box (it was a single use pack), and dodged yellow jackets while I ate. It would be 2 miles to the trail and finally I would be right where I belong. I felt pretty good about my new shoes, and was eager to see how many miles I would put on them their first day. I’m striking out alone today, but it has been a while and I crave the solitude. I’ve really needed some alone time, and it’s a great day for it since I was breaking in new shoes.

The 2 miles to the PCT were uneventful, climbing up through trees on what was mostly a dirt road. It went fast, and soon I was filtering water from a stream right on trail. It felt right to do it this way and the water out here is far superior to any I have drank from a tap. Freshly delivered by the mountains is my preferred H2O. I had to take lots of breaks to adjust my shoes today. They started out too tight, causing my toes to go almost numb. It was that uncomfortable stage of numb that just kind of burns, and it took several breaks and lace adjustments. Finally, I found a method that worked, and my feet went back to plain old achy. As long as it’s just aches, I’ll tough if out. I’ve pretty much accepted that they will likely never feel 100 percent out here.

I took a nice lunch next to a stream, and made the poor decision to only carry 1 liter of water for the next 6 miles. On a normal day of hiking, that is sufficient, but today was not normal. It was about 100 degrees and I was climbing uphill almost the entire 6 miles. I stopped in every bit of shade that the trail offered and I took small drinks from my bottle, rationing for the distance. I started to feel the first stages of heat exhaustion, so I spread out right on the trail at one point and took a siesta in the shade. When I finally reached water it was .2 miles off of the trail, down a little gully. The water was nice and cold though, and my last chance to fill up for 16 miles. I drank a liter there and took 4 liters, planning to use 2 more today and 2 to get to the next water tomorrow. It was the most water I have carried since the desert, but it’s better to carry too much than too little, even if it wreaks havoc on my shoulders. I wasn’t planning on hiking more than 5 miles from there anyway, so I lessened my pace and carried the extra weight.

All day there has been smoke on the horizon, wildfires sprouting in every direction. Every time the wind blew I grew more tense to the fire situation. I have been watching the closures whenever I have internet access, and there are many I will have to get around. Most recently is one right on the CA/OR border a trail landmark I will be devastated to miss. It is such a symbolic milestone to finally leave CA and to miss that seems depressingly anticlimactic. Some of the area I skipped has also been closed, which made me feel better about skipping because I couldn’t have hiked it anyway. I am heartbroken that so much of the west is burning though. I took pictures of smoke clouds, and an hour later watched them more than double in size (pics below). It’s going to be an interesting rest of the journey dodging smoke and fire.

My camp tonight overlooks Mt. Shasta and a giant plume of smoke right next to it. It is my first night alone in weeks, and it is amazingly relaxing. This really is what I needed…to be back on trail, just me and the PCT. I’m going to read a chapter of my new book (a kind of awful novel called, “The Enchanted”) and go to sleep. I will pretty much read any book that is lightweight I can get my hands on. If you have any good light reads to suggest, I really enjoy reading a few pages every night…or more often if time permits. As I type, 2 others have joined my camp…so much for solitude. One of these nights, I hope to camp alone again. It’s quite a testament to how many people are out here. Oh well, goodnight.

That is smoke, not clouds
Smoke and Mt. Shasta