Maybe California

DAYS 45-49; Ashland to Etna Summit to Dumbell Lakes

August 29th– September 2nd, 2017

PCT SOBO Mile 934-1,116 (Trail Closures due to fire, skipped from Ashland to Etna Summit)

 

DAYS 45 & 46: Double Zero in Ashland

August 29th-30th, 2017

Zero Trail Miles hiked. Quite a few town miles hiked.

Taking zeros may seem like a luxury and a lazy time, since there are no trail miles involved, but town always has a way of draining you despite. I woke up at 6:38 am at Callahan’s. My body is so conditioned to wake up and start walking, that when I take a day off, it doesn’t know the difference. I didn’t sleep all that well either, despite how tired I was. With all the traffic noise from the nearby Interstate, I opted to sleep with ear plugs, which worked for shit. I’m getting rid of those, what a waste! I made coffee in the gazebo and Tripsy and American Idol joined me. We sat talking about the next section, about the fire closures we’d been hearing about, and trying to figure out where exactly we could get back on trail. Tripsy and I also discussed the option of tagging the CA/OR border, it was about 25 miles from here, and then turning around and coming back to Ashland, then hitching onward. So that was on the table. I was down for it if that was important to her. The thing was, it was still so incredibly smoky, part of me wondered if it was even a good idea. I hoped that hitching around the fire closure would ensure that we’d be in the clear soon. I was getting really sick of all this smoke!

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Coffee in the Gazebo

We went into the restaurant for brekky and Hummingbird joined us too. I ate a veggie omelet with French toast on the side instead of bread, added avocado and had fresh brewed drip coffee. Somehow, all that, plus tip came to $30. What am I doing here? I need to be a little more conscientious about my spending, did everyone else’s breakfast cost that much? It was exactly what I was dreaming of however, so I suppose it’s worth it! After brekky, we packed up all our gear and headed out to the road. It was so easy to get a hitch from here! A young woman who seemed to be living out of her car picked us up. She was really kind-hearted, a gentle soul, a free spirit, a wanderer. She talked a lot of the Eclipse and how that is what brought her out to Ashland, for some festivals around that time. I asked her what her interpretation of the Eclipse was, and she gave an interesting answer. I would categorize her in the realm of higher consciousness seekers, most comfortable in a metaphysical community of like-minded individuals. She talked about how they believe that the Eclipse is a special time when the Sun and Moon line up exactly so that it creates a portal for increased negative energy that affects the Earth. Likewise, spiritual practices can become much more powerful during these times. So, lots of people gather to first protect themselves from the negative influences of the Eclipse, and second, to enhance their spiritual practice and hopefully transform the negative energy into positive. Pretty interesting conversation on our way to Ashland.

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My $30 Callahan’s Breakfast

American Idol had booked a room at the Commons while Tripsy and I got a room at the Ashland Hostel. On the way to our Hostel, I slipped into a coffee shop and bought myself a $5 chocolate croissant. It was huge! And about that spending…. I was so dang excited for this, however, it is my absolute favorite treat while on the trail. And I ate the entire thing before we made it the .25 mile walk to the Hostel. I could have eaten two! We got a great little room with two twin beds, walls painted sky blue and a slanted ceiling that Tripsy kept hitting her head on. We took showers, and I washed my hair! I realized as I lay on the bed, all clean and relaxed, that it had been 25 days since I slept in a building.

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Before and After!

After the most magnificent shower, I could have easily taken a nap, but we had errands to run. The biggest challenge was getting our laundry done. This is always when you really understand that we take having a car for granted in regular life! The Hostel had some guest loaner clothes, so we dug through the stacks of random items, each finding something that fit. Loaner clothes are the best! We walked two miles down through town to the Laundromat. It was so hot, we were sweating like mad. We stopped at a Circle K and got cold drinks. I brought my post cards with me and wrote in them while we washed our clothes.

On the way back, we couldn’t figure out where to catch the bus, as it seemed to go only one direction. So, we ended up walking quite a long ways again, it was not hotter and we were a lot sweatier. Finally we got on a bus, and were so glad for air conditioned ride, we actually missed our stop by a couple miles in the wrong direction. It was quite comical, of course we missed our stop, getting off at the right place would have been boring! So, we got off the bus, and stood on the corner, waiting for another bus to come by, heading the correct direction. Fortunately the bus driver had given us transfer tickets. As we sat there on the sidewalk, sweating, laughing at the situation, a nice woman pulled up and asked us if we needed a ride. Yes, we do! She took us back to the square near the Hostel, and we were soon back in our little blue room. The kindness of strangers! 

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Waiting or a Bus or a Hitch in loaner clothes
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Got smoke?

I gave myself acupuncture and relaxed until my hiker hunger kicked in again. We decided to go down the street to a Thai Restaurant, another one of my favorite trail town treats. American Idol texted that she was completely beat and was not up for going to dinner. So it was me and Tripsy on a date. Dinner was fantastic, and soon we were all tucked into bed, it was hiker midnight and time to sleep again.

In the morning, I woke early again. Dang it, I can’t seem to seep in. We had to check out of the Hostel by 11:00 am, so I went down the street to get a latte and another chocolate croissant, which constituted my breakfast. That was consumed at the dining room table at the Hostel, while working on my blog. All I really wanted to do was hole up in a corner of a coffee shop and write all day. That was not in the cards, however, I had more chores to do. Just as we were checking out, we ran into Hurl Goat and another new Sobo, named Bellows, at the Hostel. It was cool seeing them, and since we were just on our way out, we only chatted for a few minutes. We’d found more information on the fire closures and had decided on getting a hitch from Ashland to Etna, and continuing South from there, as the logistics for doing anything else were nearly impossible.  I was bummed to have to skip the OR/CA border and Seiad Valley, but we really had not choice. At least we had a plan, so we moved our belongings to the Commons for our second night in town.

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Ashland Hostel, Night One
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Ashland Commons, Night Two

The commons was across the RR tracks and a bit of a walk to the other end of town. It wasn’t that bad, but for purposes of running errands, it required more efficiency in our planning.  I had to go to the Post Office, buy a new pair of Altras, get groceries at the Coop for my resupply, and of course eat lunch. Tripsy and I went to the PO together and we ran into Angela and Zach nearby. I don’t know much about them, except they are married, from PA, and they hike fast. I was happy to bump into them again, they seemed really nice. Perhaps we will see them again on trail after all. I went nuts at the COOP, it is definitely my kind of store. I did my full resupply there and also ended up with lots of deliciousness to take back to the Commons for dinner: mixed greens, avocado, smoked salmon, French bread, butter, a giant peach, some wine. I was all set!

Later that evening, I worked on my blog, made dinner and joined in on a conversation with some of the other guests in the house, but found their energy to be a little frenetic and intense. It’s sometimes hard being around people, and other people’s problems, who are not hikers! Tripsy was on the phone with her boyfriend all this time, so I had no other hikers to talk with, until Shameless showed up. I ended up talking with him for a bit and sharing my wine. What an interesting guy! He is the super fast hiker we met along with Angela and Zach, he is about 22 years old, recent college graduate, from Napa, CA and he will be travelling and working in Europe later this year. Little did I know, all these chance crossings with fellow Sobos, would be the beginnings of a great trail family.

After dinner, Shameless headed back out to town, while Tripsy and I sprawled out on the carpet with all of our resupply food. Our next resupply from Etna was going to be at Amiratti’s Market in Castella, about 100 miles, so I packed enough food for 4 days. That was one of the last chores I needed to check off my list, besides calling my Mom, which I did that earlier, too. My Mom is always happy to hear from me, Love you Mom!  Finally, I enjoyed the luxury of a second town shower and was in bed at midnight, real midnight.

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Four Day Re-supply

 

DAY 47: August 31st, 2017

PCT SOBO Mile 1,062 (Hitched from Ashland to Etna Summit)

9 Miles; Elevation: +2,244 ft / -1,320 ft

We weren’t exactly sure how we were going to get out of Ashland, and all the way to Etna. Heading into a situation like this is always so mysterious, I mean, anything can happen. It’s all part of the great adventure of thru-hiking. Our plan of attack was to walk out onto the street in downtown Ashland, and stick our thumbs out. Of course, that was after grabbing a delicious coffee from a tiny little hole in the wall coffee shop downtown, called Hilltop. As we walked across town, some local hippies playing music on the street stopped us and could tell we were PCT hikers. They were over the top gregarious about cheering us on. They were whooping and hollering saying “right on” and “you are so amazing, you’re so badass”. They meant it too, they were just super into the fact that we were thru-hikers. The whole town of Ashland is so hiker friendly, it’s pretty cool. We thanked them as we walked by without stopping. We were on a mission to get out of town.  It was literally five, maybe seven minutes of us standing on the corner, when a woman approached us, asking questions about where we were headed. It wasn’t long before she offered to give us a ride. She first agreed to take us to Mt. Ashland, but once we got going and talking with her, she decided to take us at least to Yreka. This is such a common occurrence with rides and trail angels, I guess once they get to know you, they just seem to want to do more to help you out. It’s truly amazing. We heard from American Idol that she was taking more time in Ashland because she was dealing with her gear change-ups still, she was awaiting a new backpack. We hoped we would see her again, but on the trail, one can never know. Hike fast and catch us American Idol!

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Ashland “locals”

On the way to Yreka, we traveled down Interstate 5 through the most intense smoke we’ve seen yet. It was another really hot day, and as we drove South I was actually really relieved that we decided not to go tag the OR/CA border. It would have been awful. I was not happy about all this smoke, so much so, that I didn’t even take any photos. I find it difficult not to think of all the toxins I am inhaling. Still, nothing I can do, and at least I am not in harms way, and I am aware how lucky I am to just be hiking, not suffering the loss of a loved one or my home. I tried to maintain my sense of optimism and trust that the place we were going would be less smoky, maybe even smoke free, how wonderful would that be?! Maybe California…will be better. As Barbara drove us closer to Yreka, she announced “you know what, I’m just going to take you girls all the way to Etna”. Seriously! This was such a stroke of fortune. The entire drive was an hour and 45 minutes, she went way out of her way to do us this favor.

When we arrived in Etna, we’d planned on getting a hitch from town up to Etna Summit along Sawyers Bar Road, so we asked Barbara to deliver us to the Hiker Hostel on the outskirts of town, figuring we could get a ride from someone there. Upon our arrival, the place was a little deserted, but the hosts said that someone may be available to give us a ride later that day. At that point, our personal trail angel had dedicated half her day to shuttling us around, and ended up suggesting that we go and have lunch together. Turns out there was a brand new Brewery and Taphouse in that tiny little town, and we gladly agreed to have lunch with her there. Etna Brewery had just opened that week, and while you could tell they were still working out a few kinks, it was a great experience. They were super hiker friendly, to boot! We had some delicious beer and the food was top notch, my compliments to the Chef, I was really impressed! Definitely make a visit there!

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Etna Brewing Co. etnabrew.com check it out!
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Albacore Sandwich and Greek Salad

While we were there, we met a new Sobo, named Maple. He is a sweet young man, age 19, hiking solo, and is from Berkeley, CA. He has fiery long red hair and is slender, very intelligent and maybe a little shy at first impression. I was super impressed that he was out on this amazing journey all on his own at his age, and he was crushing it, wow! We met him just as we were leaving from lunch, and get this, Barbara not only paid for our lunch (we fought with her on this and she insisted!) she also decided she wanted to drive us all the way to the trail and see us off. WHAT A SWEETHEART! Tripsy and I were just floored by her generosity. Thank you Barbara, you made our week! We invited Maple to join us on the ride back to the trail, and he accepted!

On the drive up to the Summit, Barbara was telling us about one of her favorite places to camp out there, Kangaroo Lake. I promised her I would take a photo of it, and send it to her, if we passed by it. At the Summit, where the PCT crosses Sawyers Bar Road, there were closure signs at the Northbound trail entrance. There were also large bulletin boards with postings about the closures, and there was a cache of water bottles for the taking. There is a fire North of this trailhead called the Gap fire and another fire South of the CA/OR border towards Seiad Valley called the Salmon August complex. Between the two fire areas, I could now see how tricky it would have been to try and hike any of the trail between here and Ashland. It was super smoky up there at the Summit, and of course, super hot. I was not encouraged by all the thick smoke, but then thought, look at all the great things that just happened! I expressed my gratitude to Barbara for all she’d done for us, we all exchanged big hugs, and then headed over to the trail.

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The trail was rocky and carved it’s way through a steep granite slope. As we hiked up the first hill and came around a bend, a broad vista appeared in front of me and it hit me, we are in California! Crazy! As we hiked along, Tripsy and I were both commenting on how great it felt to be back on the trail. It was such a relief to be in the stillness and quiet of the rolling landscape, with no signs or sounds of civilization, no personal dramas of strangers in our midst. Ahh, we are home. We crossed paths with a couple Sobos who had flipped around, their names are Boomer and Happy Feet, and we’d last seen them in Washington! They had skipped down to the Sierras and started hiking North, and looked like they’d been doing some heavy hiking. They were covered in dirt, their gear was worn, and they just had a “look” about them. The best thing was, they were smiling from ear to ear. They gave us some intel on what we could expect as we traveled further South. The good news, the smoke would clear up. The not so good news, it was not going to happen for another hundred miles or so. It was helpful, at least, to know what to expect, rather than all the guessing and hoping. We wished them well and continued on.

We hiked through a beautiful burn area that afternoon, and we took our time admiring the interesting shapes and colors of the dense, slender trees. Many of them had white trunks, revealing a core where the bark had been scorched off. Others were black as night, with bark still attached or clinging loosely to the body of the tree. Sometimes it would break off in patches. The trail followed back and forth on switchbacks, gently graded, across the slope for some time. We actually did quite a bit of climbing that afternoon, considering we only hiked for about nine miles. Most of the time was spent walking among burned areas, though sometimes the thick, green forest would return for a little while. At one point, there was a forest of black trees that were covered in little white dots. I wasn’t sure what they were, but it looked like a galaxy of stars splashed out across the bodies of the trees, as if another dimension existed right there, and I was walking through it.

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We stopped and camped at a seasonal stream. There were several large campsites to choose from. I remembered last year when I’d reached this very place, I almost cried because I was the last person to make it to camp and it took me 45 minutes to actually find myself a spot, it was so crowded with hikers. Now, we had the whole place to ourselves! Sweet! When we got there, Tripsy exclaimed “I Love the PCT!” and shared how much better she felt being back on the trail. It was really genuine and adorable and made me smile, I agreed 100%. I decided to cowboy again that night and Tripsy took a time lapse video while we set up camp. She was laughing in envy because I was set up in minutes, and sitting on the ground eating chips, while she was still fussing with her tent. “This isn’t going to look good on the video” she declared playfully. Shortly, Maple showed up and asked if he could join us in camp. Of course! I was happy to lay there and stargaze before falling asleep, and thought to myself, wow, you’re in California now, and tomorrow is September, how time flies! Yes, maybe California…will be better. 

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DAY 48: September 1st, 2017

PCT SOBO Mile 1087.7

26 miles; Elevation: +4,900 ft / -5,386 ft

I can’t believe it’s the first day of September! Today we entered the Trinity Alps Wilderness and Klamath National Forest. Trinity Alps is one of the largest designated Wilderness areas in California, with over 785, 000 acres of protected land, and it is beautiful.

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Journal Excerpt: It’s 9:12 pm, the moon is brightly hanging in the sky. Last night, the angle of the moonlight skimmed over the top of my sleeping bag, directly into my face in a laser-like beam. It was quite enchanting, like I was being infused with magical moonbeam light. I lay there soaking it in, my eyes opening every once in a while to see the glowing silhouettes of the trees.

This morning I got on the trail by 7:45 am, late, and finished my 26 mile day by 7:45 pm. Yea, it was a bit of a rough one. The trail in the morning took me out on a gorgeous ridge for several miles. The sun wasn’t quite hitting the slopes yet, and smoke had settled into the valley below. The ridge was composed of large chunks of gray granitic rock, lots of talus and small boulders on the trail on a well graded slope through skeletal conifers that had been burned in recent years. Despite the starkness of the scene, it was quite beautiful, as there was a grandness about it all. It reminded me of places in the Sierras.

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It was a warm night last night, I woke up sweating, and this morning was warm too. By mid day, it was in the 90’s. There were several sections of trail today that traversed exposed ridges, where there were few trees for shade, just open baking dirt and some lovely dried out yellow flowers. I tried hiking with my umbrella to keep me cooler, but I just haven’t gotten my system down to where I can hike and still have my hands free for my trekking poles. And I needed them today. I love my umbrella for the rain, but for shade, it often turns out to be more of a hassle than a help. So I begrudgingly stuffed it back into my pack.

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For lunch, we stopped at an unnamed creek and boy was I glad for that icy cold water and a spot in the shade. On the few miles prior to the creek, I was hurting, mainly because of the heat. I couldn’t wait to get my head wet, my shirt wet and my feet wet. When I arrived there, Tripsy had already been there for a little while and somehow another hiker we’d met back in WA, Bandit, was there. I don’t know how we ended up crossing paths with him again, but these things do happen on the trail. I wasn’t feeling very social, so I may have been a little standoffish, but I just needed to take care of my immediate needs, which were to get cooled down, to rest my feet, and to eat.

After lunch, I felt so much better and I hiked my strongest of today in the miles after lunch. I’d eaten plenty of good quality calories, hydrated, then made coffee and rested flat on the dirt with my feet elevated for a bit. I left with my head wet, a wet bandanna and a wet shirt, keeping me much cooler. I hiked well that is, until mile 20, and then I hit a wall again. It’s what I call the 5:00 wall. This is an almost daily occurrence now, and I have discovered that if I stop and take a short break and eat something, I can then push the last 5-8 miles to camp with a decent second wind. Which is what I did today, but it was painful. My left ankle was particularly painful, as there were lots of rocks on the trail all afternoon, causing my feet to wobble in all sorts of unstable ways. The scenery in the last six miles of today more than made up for my discomfort however. It was absolutely stunning! The trail meandered through giant red walls and huge boulders made of red clay rock. There were Jeffrey pines, Sugar pines, and even a relative (I think) of perhaps a Foxtail pine, or so it seemed, as they were so twisted and snarled, that is what it reminded me of. I took deep breaths, infusing my olfactory nodes with the scent of vanilla from the Jeffreys. I’m sure I inhaled quite a bit of smoke too, but at this point, it is unavoidable, I’ve got to enjoy this.

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We ended up with a pretty stellar campsite tonight. Tripsy made it there just a little before me, and fortunately there was a little creek about .4 miles before, so we had both filled up with plenty of fresh, cold water. There was a little outcropping of pine trees with flat spots for two tents in the center, next to a ridge that dropped off, exposing a valley and a skyline of mountains and trees to the East. Bandit and Maple showed up that night, too, and they both ended up camping just across the trail a little ways. I am really happy to be sitting down, and eating my dinner, and tomorrow, I think the sunrise is going to be magnificent!

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DAY 49: September 2nd, 2017

PCT SOBO Mile 1,116;  Deadfall Lakes

28 miles; Elevation +3,332 ft / -2,532 ft

And it was. It was a magnificent sunrise. Smoke still filled the valleys, adding a dramatic texture to all the layers of tree covered mountains. I woke up and made coffee right away like I do, and sat there along the ridge, sipping, waking up, and smiled to myself thinking today is my Mom’s Birthday. It’s going to be a great day!

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Attitude is everything. I decided today was going to be a great day, and it was. I felt stronger than yesterday overall, and was able to make 28 miles in 12 hours relatively easily. There were several factors that also contributed to this, one of them being less elevation change. Another was more frequent water sources along the trail. Another yet, was the scenery of today. It was varied and just beautiful. Even in all that smoke!

I passed by a couple places today where I received some great trail magic last year. The memories also gave me a positive boost. Tripsy and the boys all left camp before I did this morning, so I was alone for the day, and enjoying the solitude. I love hiking alone, but at the end of the day, it is really nice to have people to be around, and most of the time on this hike, I seem to have struck that balance. By 9:30 am, I stopped at the parking lot by the Hwy 3 crossing, and did some push-ups and sit-ups, had a snack of trail mix and that all got my blood good and flowing for the climb that followed.

By mile 15, I stopped for lunch at a spring, which are increasing in their frequency, thankfully. The water is lusciously cold and delicious, I am so incredibly grateful for these springs. It was another scorcher today, and my mind kept returning to thoughts of anything cold to eat or drink, like fresh fruit, iced tea, ice cream, even a cold soda sounded good, and I hate soda. Since it was another two days before making it to town, I had to force myself to not think of these things, so I thought about going swimming instead. I decided that I was going to swim at the end of the day today, no matter what!

Remember that wonderful woman, Barbara, who drove us all the way to Etna Summit? Well, she had mentioned Kangaroo Lake, and today I passed a sign for it. Unfortunately, I saw the sign after I had apparently already passed the lake. I’m not sure if it was off trail or what, but by the time I saw the sign, it was pointing in the direction I’d just come from. I’m sorry Barbara, all I have is a photo of is this sign, but I didn’t forget!

20170902_142940Shortly after crossing this ridge, there came a person on horseback, from a different lake down below. I was so excited to see someone on a horse, because it reminds me of my Mom, and as it was her Birthday today, this was a perfect meeting! It would be so cool to travel the entire length of the PCT on horseback, I thought, planting a seed. This person was not thru-riding, but doing a section of the PCT along a loop in the Trinity Alps. I smiled from a deep place as they rode off in one direction and I hiked in the other.

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The rest of the afternoon miles took me through some beautiful landscape and I was observing how much had changed since Oregon. Mostly, the sections of dense, shaded forest were fewer and fewer, and the areas of open, exposed hillsides were becoming more common. The trail and it’s immediate surroundings were overall much rockier in NorCal, and the terrain more varied, from elevation profiles to all the different types of rock, soil, under story plants and even the trees.

That afternoon, I walked through yet a different section of trail, dominated by red clay boulders and orange soil. I was cruising along at a steady pace and feeling quite great, elated actually. I started to think about my legs, all that they had done for me, to get me to this place. I was feeling a deep appreciation for my legs and kept looking down, taking a couple photos, even a video of just my legs, walking. They just do this all day for me, I thought, all day, every day, for 10-12 hours a day, for six months. This is not something to take for granted! And in the next thought, as I looked down at my strong legs, wow I am so frickin’ dirty! It’s amazing how quickly we get dirty out here. Though it had been only three days, how I was looking forward to a good swim and rinse off at the end of the day.

Soon, I’d passed through a peaceful grove of old trees, accompanied by yellowing grasses and a haze from the smoke that was almost like a fine forest mist. The afternoon light was starting to turn golden, and the trail flattened out for a bit. It was easy, dreamy walking for about a mile, and I felt very at peace around all those ancient tree souls.

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By 5:00 pm I was hitting “the wall” again. I was crossing through a very exposed, hot, dry section of yellow tall grasses interspersed with rough boulders and a few trees. I was pushing by then for the past 9 miles without taking a break. I wanted to make it all the way to camp, but I finally admitted to defeat and by 6:00pm I stopped, I couldn’t go any further at that moment. I wandered off into the grassy field, dropped my pack, and took a seat on a jagged rock. I was suddenly feeling bonky, a little nauseus, I needed to go use the bathroom, and very generally just tired and “out of it”. Where did all that strength go? I thought, as I realized it was probably blood sugar related. I forced down a Cliff bar, drank some water and just sat there staring off into the smoky void. These are the moments, I remember thinking, that I  might ask myself why I am out here, and I have to force that thought out of my brain, and just keep going. I still had close to 4 miles to go before making it to Deadfall Lakes. That was where I would swim and finally be able to cool down and rest. I let that be my motivation for the remainder of the day.

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Feeling spaced out
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The smoky void

I was nearly out of water by then, so I earmarked a small creek that was the next water source, in about 3 miles. I can do that. I can make it to that creek and take another break. 

Once my blood sugar stabilized, I started feeling much better. I should really know better by now. I think this heat and smoke is making me lose my appetite and forget to eat as often as I need to. I was drinking plenty of water, or so I thought, but it still seemed like I could not get enough of it. I was so looking forward to that creek and after that, the lake. I soon crossed a big dirt parking lot, and suddenly remembered where I was! The name Deadfall Lakes didn’t ring a bell to me, until I saw that parking lot and the sign nearby. Last year, I received the greatest trail magic there by a man named Coppertone. He was everywhere along the trial in 2016 following the Nobo pack. I was having a tough morning then, and his trail magic saved me! Those memories are the greatest, and just thinking of all that, gave me just the boost I needed to push those last miles of the day.

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Now that I knew what lake I was heading towards, I was even more excited about the prospect of swimming. Last year I had been coerced by Boone to take a swim with him at a spontaneous 10:00 am snack break. I hadn’t planned on swimming when I’d stopped there, I was actually just tired and in pain. But then, I could never say no to a 9 year old to a swimming invitation, right? I mean, what kind of person says no to that?  It was a great, refreshing and reviving dip in a perfect temperature water and had been the beginning of a string of good things that came my way that day. Great memories!

I pushed and finally got to the creek, did a very quick fill up of two Liters of water, and pushed on from there. I was getting so close, I could almost feel that water! Finally, by 7:00pm I was on the approach to the Lake. I remembered where I’d swam last year, and so I tried to take a short cut to the Lake. I hadn’t realized that so many weekend campers would be there, the place was littered with people! Kids ran around, babies cried, people laughed and chatted. This was not what I had in my mind for a peaceful ending to my day. I came up on the opposite side of the lake that I’d intended to be on, and the only way to get across was to jump along a series of logs, or turn back and go all the way around. I made it across the logs as the sun was dipping lower on the horizon. I looked all around for any sign of my friends, but they were no place to be found. I started feeling a bit irritable, I was so hot and sticky, tired, hungry, and didn’t want to be around all these people. There is no place for me to camp and no place for me to swim.

Eventually, I walked back to the other side of the lake where the PCT wraps around, thinking maybe I’d find my friends there. Nope. Not there. Where are they? What should I do? I was just about to stop right there, drop my pack on the trail, and go for a swim, and figure out the rest afterward. Just at that moment, Bandit appeared out of nowhere. Oh, thank goodness. I felt a wave of relief to see a fellow thru-hiker. He had come specifically out to look for me, as he and Maple and Tripsy were camped along the “lower” Deadfall Lake. I had forgotten completely about the lower lake, and had darted straight up to the upper lake. I felt so silly for not thinking of that, pleading a major case of hiker brain. I thanked him genuinely for going to the trouble of finding me. I was really touched by his gesture, and so grateful to find my friends. It had indeed been a long, hot day, 28 miles over 12 hours in 90 degree heat. I was ready to be done. And guess what? There’s water!

We were camped above the shore of the lower lake and while the look of that lake wasn’t much of a feast for the eyes, all I cared about was that it was wet and cool. I stripped down to my underwear immediately and went down to the lake shore. It was getting fairly dark, but the moonlight was starting to shine, the moon was getting fuller by the day and it’s glow cast a gentle aura over the surface of the water. I dipped myself in the cool, languid liquid and swam about, feeling so amazingly refreshed. The water was cold, cold enough to give me a chill and I felt my muscles contract joyfully, it was so soothing. I scrubbed the dirt off my legs and feet, my arms and my face. I splashed around in there for maybe 15 minutes and was eventually chilled down like I’d dreamed of all day. And what a day! I thought about my Mom again, and sent out more good energy for her special day and hoped it had been a great one for her too.

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