Miles: 21.45
Camping: Big Lake Youth Camp 1 mile off PCT mile 2001.29

I spent a lot of the night waking up to the wind playing with my tent. The sound was like a slapping and the echo in the trees was persistent. It hadn’t let up by morning, so I spent a good deal of time chasing things around camp in order to pack up. I felt considerably better than yesterday though the lack of sleep was something I had to embrace. It would be a little over 21 miles to the youth camp, and my next resupply. Back to the same boring things I packed myself though I had a couple of things left over from cousin Elena that made it through the last stretch. Either way, this next stop would be a place to have a hot meal, a shower and laundry. This was the motivation I had to start my day and I looked forward to getting there. I figured it would take no more than 8 hours with breaks, but that was before I met the terrain.

As soon as I walked above treeline I was faced with the beginnings of lava walking. This is lava rock, not the hot gooey stuff, and is notoriously bad on shoes and feet. Just when I was starting to see improvement too. We used to hike on lava rock in Hawaii and it would shred the soles of our shoes in no time. It’s also pretty loose stuff as well, compared to walking on ball bearings by a hiker I passed today. I took it slow and cautiously, trying to be aware of every footstep. One bad foot placement could do a lot of damage. I’d have to stop every once in a while to look at the views, which were beautiful and surreal. I was walking around the 3 Sisters which towered above me with their big snow fields, and had views of 3-Fingered Jack and Mt. Jefferson in the distance. I would look at my feet for several paces then around me in awe for a few seconds. It was taking a long time, but I had no choice.

I made it to a small lake for second breakfast and was happy to get off of my feet for a bit. I pulled a Mountain House ice cream sandwich out of my food sack and decided it was time. I’ve never had one before, and I looked at it as an exotic treat. I made a second cup of coffee to go with it, and savored every morsel. If you’ve ever had freeze-dried ice cream you know what it was like. Funky and amazing about sums it up. I stared over the lake for a few moments, and found that our friends from dinner the other night were passing by. I got to talking with Cowboy for a bit and he told me there would be trail magic in a few miles. Then I moved ahead a bit and caught up with True. She’s a triple crowner (has hiked the AT, the CDT and the PCT), which is what I look at as the pinnacle of hiking. Doing all 3 long distance trails is no small thing, which I’m gaining more and more respect for as I attempt to complete this one. True has a hound dog named Villi, and he is a perfect hiking companion. We talked about dogs for a bit, discussing which breeds were good for long distance hiking, then we got to talking about my feet. She asked how my hike was going, and I told her how strong I felt all around but how my feet are constantly on the verge of total breakdown. I told her I sometimes contemplate not finishing but can’t bring myself to do it. She said that something is always going to hurt when thru-hiking, it all just depends on how much of it you can tolerate. I realize this is true for almost everyone out here in one way or another. Some people get back and shoulder pain, some get hip pain, foot pain, shin splints, achilles tendonitis, some get a combination of these, and maybe more. What I see is a whole lot of thriving and surviving people though. We are tenacious, determined, a little bit broken, and we somehow keep walking forward. It amazes me every day. True really put it in perspective when she said that, and it got me really digging into the psychology of pain. She moved ahead after that and I kept wobbling along the lava, thinking about how much I really need to embrace the pain if I want to finish. I began to feel just a bit more tough through these thoughts, as if I could accomplish more than I’d given myself credit for.

A few miles later the trail magic Cowboy had promised was at a road crossing. Allison was there, the gal who worked in my neighborhood Whole Foods, and she offered me a Kombucha. Her sister (I forget her name) handed me a bag of potato chips, and a third woman handed me a wet wipe and a Snickers. I was overwhelmed, and most interested in the Kombucha. The group was going into Bend and this was their support team, I just happened to have excellent timing. They all were piling out in big SUV’s, so I said goodbye and hiked on into the lava fields after savoring my Kombucha. Before pulling away, Strider offered me a ride into town and as tempted as I was, I had to hike on. It was the first time I had turned down a ride. The lava continued on for miles and my feet were beginning to ache. I could feel hot spots forming, and I couldn’t believe I was forming blisters at a time like this. After all I’ve endured, and keep enduring my feet are in a constant rotation of painful maladies. I’d give anything for one good day.

When the lava finally quit and I walked onto normal soil, I knew I’d have blisters form from the heat on my soles. I simply hoped they’d be easier to manage than my previous row with them. Part of the problem back then was a lack of water on trai, so I couldn’t keep my feet as clean. Now I can wash them almost daily in a stream, so that should work in my favor somehow. As the terrain became easier I was able to walk more quickly towards the camp. I wanted to get there before they served dinner, and it was starting to near that time. The landscape was a burn zone from 2011, and was very hot and exposed. The highlight of the day was passing by the 2000 mile marker on my way to the camp. It seems like just yesterday we were celebrating 200 miles now there are only 660 left. Where did the time go?!

It turned out to be a much more difficult day of walking than I had anticipated, and I was ready to relax a bit. The trail to the youth camp was only .8 miles long and I made it to check in with half an hour to spare before dinner. The people who run the camp are some of the nicest I’ve ever met. They showed me around and it really is a hiker paradise. They offer everything we need and more, including a hiker lounge with sofas. I wandered into the lounge and saw Caboose and Sacred Cow along with other hikers I don’t know very well. Everyone was busily doing resupplies, laundry and other chores, and I just watched letting my body rest from the arduous day. I didn’t want to do anything but sit there until dinner, which is what I did. Dinner was in a huge dining hall, and everyone lines up and helps themselves buffet style. They had “Yum Bowls,” tonight which were beyond “yum!” It was build your own bowl with beans, rice, tomato, avocado, fresh cilantro, lettuce, cheese, salsa, sour cream and various other sauces. They also had a salad bar and hot cocoa station. The food was so fresh and healthy I didn’t want go stop eating. I had 2 yum bowls loaded with veggies, a salad from the salad bar and a hot cocoa with almond milk. I felt spoiled as I ate dinner and then went to take a hot shower and do some laundry. Biscuit and Switch showed up and we all set up camp by the lake. The plan is to eat breakfast here in the morning and hike out. Until then.