PCT miles: 719.2 to 735.1
I wake and am on the trail by 6:20. It is still strange to me that in this group I am the earliest riser. I only get a mile or so before my body makes me stop and eat breakfast, half a Biscuits and Gravy Mountain House that Natalie sent me. Still, I am happy to be hungry again. I eat and half heartedly wave away mosquitos and then continue up the climb, the first of the day, which goes to 10,600 feet – the highest I’ve ever been. I feel sleepier than usual and I’m not sure if it was poor sleep, too little food, the altitude, or a head cold coming, but it doesn’t especially slow me down. The group’s goal is Death Canyon Creek for lunch, but I keep finding myself stopping to eat and drink and rest. I reach Gomez Meadow, a short and flat 2 miles from the planned lunch spot, and it is too pretty and I am too tired to pass it up. I lay my Tyvek down and put my feet up. My group passes – “are you just going to stay here?” They ask. No. I’m just going to grab a nap first.
So I do. It’s the perfect temperature and I stay there for about 20 minutes and then I pack up and go. I feel a lot better after the nap and get to the water source quickly and chat with the group – Ko, Sole Sister, Couscous Balls, LiterBit, Fizzy, Whoopie and Thirsty Detour. I make half a package of mashed potatoes for lunch and eat them with bacon bits. These mountains are making me hungry and I make a note to prepare for that in the next section.
We still have a 2000 foot climb before our planned camp spot at the top of the next mountain at 10,600 feet. I am the second one to leave because I like to get to camp and rest and go to bed earlier than the rest. I am making good progress when I run into Thirsty Detour. We’ve been watching big, fluffy clouds start to get darker all afternoon.
“It looks like it might rain,” he says.
“It can rain, just no lightning,” I say.
Rain it does, a steady sprinkle that is honestly super refreshing. I catch some cell service a mile from the top and call my dad to wish him happy Father’s Day and respond to some texts. I’m hoping there might be service at the top, too.
I finish the climb and I should be scouting for a good camp spot for us all but instead I hang out at the ridge and call Mark. The mosquitos are plentiful and Mark is stressed and upset and it is not a good conversation. There is a lot going on at home and I feel both guilty for not being there and glad that, for some of the first months of my life, I am trying not to jump in and save the day. It is also hard to translate the sense I have of the world out here to the problems of the “real” world – the trail rarely lets me worry about more than what is immediately an issue, and back home there are a series of hypothetical possibilities that may present themselves that everyone seems eager to turn over and over.
I get off the phone and walk around with out my pack trying to find the best view. This isn’t something I normally do – I usually prefer to take the first viable option. Turns out the first viable option was the best view anyway and I set up camp. I’m starting to get a little worried that I’ll be camping alone (Thirst Detour continued on to meet his group and camp near water) – it’s taking them way longer than I imagined, especially Whoopie and Fizzy who are faster than I am and supposedly were leaving right behind me. But then I hear Whoopie and Couscous and eventually the whole gang is there. Couscous finds a great spot to watch the sunset and we bundle up in our rain gear and head nets to try to keep the mosquitos away. This is the strange mercy of the trail – worries about home rambling in my gut but sitting with new friends watching a sunset over a beautiful valley.
I go back to my tent. My head hurts – is it the altitude, my pack straining my neck, a head cold, stress? I’m not sure. Some of the others cook dinner and chat, but I put in my earplugs and pull my buff over my eyes and wish a goodnight to the world. “Let us know if we’re too loud,” Sole Sister tells me. But I find their company soothing up here on this mountain, and I fall asleep.