PCT miles: 220 to 235.5
I went to bed early last night and this morning I still woke up tired, after something like 9 hours of sleep. All day I wanted a nap, and when I tried to take one around 1130 I couldn’t quite fall asleep. I’m wondering if I don’t need sleep but something else – calories? Vitamins?
Tarantino and Rawhide leave before me but I’m not far behind. The first thing I have to do is cross the creek we camped near. I find a spot where I would have to leap to get across without getting my feet wet. My body says “yeah, not likely” and my brain says “maybe we’ve gotten stronger and can jump farther!” and they get tired of debating so I leap for it, and my left leg makes it on the back and my right leg goes into the creek with a loud splash. I’m shaking off my ego when I pass another hiker who points me toward the trail. He doesn’t seem to have seen my big fail. Whew.
I’m not sure what it is today but I am not especially digging the hike. I find myself wanting to zone out, so I put on some podcasts I’d downloaded on my phone. I keep one earbud out in case of snakes. The podcasts help and I truck through the miles. I don’t have cell service except for after one big climb, a first. I wish I could download more podcasts. I’ll probably do that in Big Bear.
At the top of one mountain I chat with two hikers I haven’t talked to much – Agnes, who I’d bumped into for the first time two days ago, and Will, who camped with us at 205 but who I didn’t see there (he’d heard about In N Out but arrived late.) Will and I chat for a while and he apologizes because he feels like he’s bringing up depressing stuff but I’m happy for the company until I spot some shade and stop and he passes by.
A mile later I find him, Rawhide, Tarantino and several other hikers in the shade of a tree. There’s a hiker who looks like he’s trying to nap and I find out his trail name is Tallboy and he spent the night throwing up – I recognize him as one of the hikers Rachel was hiking with from yesterday.
Catty and Hobo are there and a girl with a hat that says “Bud” and I find out this is their friend from the AT, and she’s packed in a ton of food. Catty offers me a hard boiled egg and hot sauce and carrots and I couldn’t be happier. Soon everyone moves on and I decide to try to get a nap. It doesn’t quite work out because I’m too interested in the hikers coming and going. A lot of them had camped at the Whitewater Preserve, where there was trail magic in the form of spaghetti and pancakes the next morning. Tallboy and I chat a little. He’s from England. I’ve heard that his group of hikers call themselves “The Assholes” and I ask him about it. He seems a little embarrassed and says it’s an inside joke and that really they’re all very nice, which is good to hear because I was feeling a little intimidated about chatting with them with a name like that. Tallboy’s plan is to keep resting and then try to nighthike to the same place everyone seems to be aiming for, me included, which is the last camp site before a fire closure.
Eventually I decide to get hiking, knowing I’ll be slow because it’s the heat of the day. The good news is there’s water everywhere because the trail follows Mission Creek through a canyon. I keep stopping by the water when there’s shade to cool down. I am kind of enjoying this kind of hiking – no one passing me constantly and making me feel slow, no one to keep up with. But I am also not getting many miles in. Soon I bump into Will, Shipwreck, Iguana and a hiker named Hot Sauce under some shade and we chat a little. They get moving and two other hikers who I’d seen at the last shade gathering join me, David and Julia. They’re both solo hikers but seem to have a fun dynamic. David is from Utah and has a great laugh and is nervous he might run out of cigarettes before Big bear. Julia laughed at all my jokes and supposedly literally stopped to smell all the flowers she saw today. She’s from Germany.
We all start out at the same time and I let them set my pace, which was probably a little too fast for me. I consider putting my podcasts back on but I don’t. I can feel my energy and attitude dropping and I’m not sure why. I just want to be to camp. But it’s still six miles and each of them seems to be dragging endlessly. I probably didn’t eat enough, and the uphill is a sneaky kind of uphill – we’ve managed to gain 4000 feet today but it was sort of an endless, moderate climb.
Two miles before camp David and Julia stop for water but I keep going. I am moving so, so slowly. I tell myself to just make it to camp, but a mile before camp I collapse onto a rock and fish out some Fritos and drink some Gatorade. This greatly improves my mood though I’m still moving extremely slow. Luckily camp isn’t far and when I get there I set up my tent and stretch while chatting with people and make myself a big pasta dinner with tuna. Bud has more trail magic and there’s fresh greens which I add to my pasta and Jim, a section hiker from Australia whose son works at Facebook lets me sit in his camp chair, which makes a shockingly big difference. Rawhide gives me two packets of oatmeal which will make an excellent snack tomorrow.
We’re all getting into our tents when another hiker comes by and says he saw a bear a couple of miles back. That seems really strange with how deserty the area we’re in is, but we are headed to a place called Big Bear. Tarantino is especially freaked out because he’s cowboy camping tonight since he hates his tent.
It feels like the “herd” of thruhikers is thinning a little bit – I sat for quite a while in several places without people passing me. But I am camping around 20 or so people tonight, so maybe not as thin as it seems. It’ll be interesting to see how things change as we all get more spread out.
I also wanted to say, one thing I like about the trail is that it’s is one place men and women can really be friends. Obviously that happens in real life too, but it seems harder and more awkward in many ways. Out here it seems more natural. We have a common experience that brings us together and some shared struggle and suddenly we’re happy to share things about ourselves that we probably wouldn’t in real life.
But that said, the trail still doesn’t really feel real – I feel like I could wake up tomorrow in my bed and not really think anything of it. I wake up and I walk for some reason. I talk with strangers. But it still feels like a thought I’m playing out rather than the life I’m really experiencing. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad.