Camping: PCT mile 1818.34
I slept somewhat poorly in our little camp last night, but didn’t feel unrested by morning. I ate breakfast and broke down camp pretty efficiently getting on trail by 6:45. My feet felt pretty normal all morning, and I took second breakfast to ease a creeping hunger more than to combat foot pain for once. I found a nice spot with lots of sun and a good “seat” under a tree. My tent was wet from condensation last night, so I draped it on a fallen log while I sat in the shade eating snacks.
The day was pretty uneventful but for encountering a fire camp. There is a fire burning within 3/4 mile from the trail, and they are monitoring it from the ridge (we just saw smoke). Firefighters were scattered about the area and they had a camp set up on an open grassy plain. Their camp even had a weather station set up, which looked really cool and kind of fun like a spaceship computer. I didn’t see any other hikers until lunch and I really enjoyed the day. We had a 21 mile waterless stretch coming up, so a few of us had our midday meal at the last stream crossing. Most of us opting to eat whatever we’d planned for lunch at dinner since it usually doesn’t require water. It is important to plan ahead when you have to dry camp, which is camping away from water. You should know exactly what you will use and carry a little extra. I calculated 4 liters for 21 miles of hiking and a night of dry camping. 1/2 liter will be for coffee and oats, and the rest I can drink since I’ll have a dry dinner. It’s been a while since I’ve had to plan for that but this is the second to last big dry patch we will hit for the rest of the hike. That’s going to be so nice to have behind us. It’s like things are finally getting good as we all get dialed in. Oregon has changed something in all of us, like things just got real. We are the ones who will finish the PCT.
I had mentioned only hiking to Cascade Locks (the last town in Oregon) to Caboose and Sacred Cow, and they looked at me like I came from another planet. “Of course you’ll finish,” they said. Something in the way they said it got me thinking. All day I walked through the trees and thought about it. Why am I so eager to give up all of a sudden? Turns out I haven’t been enjoying myself anymore. I’ve been giving in to the pressure of making bigger miles and racing my way to Canada. It just isn’t all that fun to hike big miles every day; my feet hurt, and there is literally no down time. It’s only eat, sleep, eat, hike, eat, hike, eat, sleep…and not enough time to sit and just “be.” That is not what I’m here for, especially putting my body through this kind of pain and stress. I can easily lower my daily mileage and make it to Canada by October. It could be that easy. It really could.
Just thinking these thoughts made me happy, and then it occurred to me that my feet weren’t bad at all today. The last mile was hard but the day itself was smooth. I actually began to look forward to hiking again, knowing I could take more time and enjoy myself. There is no race and no need to push my body. That said, there is a 27 mile waterless stretch coming up in a couple of days, so I will start doing lower miles after that (a light at the end of the tunnel). My daily mileage goal will be 23, and occasionally, I might get up to 25-26. No more pushing to do 25+ every day just because I think I have to, or because someone else is. I’m going to enjoy the rest of this hike. I’m going to savor the moments instead of rushing on to complete more miles. A few miles may not seem like a big deal, but an extra hour in my day where I’m not walking sounds luxurious. It’s a luxury I can definitely afford. Lower miles means my body won’t hurt as much either, so I shouldn’t need to take many more zeroes, and still feel good. It’s all starting to come together now. It’s going to be over in no time, and I’ll be looking back on all of it wishing I could trade whatever I am doing for another moment on the PCT.