Mile 39.6- 55.9 (campsite in boulders)
I was actually able to sleep a bit and had vivid dreams while doing so! I dreamed that I was already home after finishing the PCT and I couldn’t believe how fast and easy it was! No one from home seemed to care, though…. Then, I started to panic a bit… Wait a minute- I never picked up the bear canister at Kennedy Meadows that John so graciously agreed to lend me (and that meant I never returned it to him!). And I never saw Sisters or Bend…! I was trying to make sense of what had happened…
I woke up, just as Mike was passing by, to the sound of my breathing through blocked nasal passages, which were again filled with blood and mucous. It felt good to have finally slept a little! I got up about 6 and was on the trail by 7:00, just as Luke was approaching!
I stepped in behind him and we chatted a bit as we walked. It was nice to have company, but I noticed that I wasn’t nearly as aware of my surroundings as when I walk alone. The scenery went right by me, unnoticed! We passed by some beautiful trees that provided plenty of shade and I wished we were hiking this section in the afternoon when we could take advantage of the sun protection. The miles passed pretty easily and soon we came to a hiker sitting under a fountain. It turned out to be Drama Queen!
“Boy am I glad to see you guys!” he said. “I hope you like cold water!”
Luke and I didn’t need any water at that time. We both planned on filling up at Mt. Laguna. Drama asked if we were sure there was water there, as the sign on the fountain said this was the last water source for the next 10+ miles. Luke responded, “It’s a town! Of course there is water!”.
So Drama decided not to fill up there, either. I took a sip of my water and discovered that it was still cold! Amazing!
Together, we went on, eventually reaching the picnic tables that signaled the path we were to cut up in order to reach the road to Mt. Laguna, and came upon a bunch of people at a picnic table with bountiful amounts of food, including lots of bananas.
“Let’s yogi for food!” Drama called outloud. Luke and I told him that is NOT how you yogi food… No one offered us anything. Instead, they pointed out the direction we were to take to get to the store. As we came to the road, we turned left and walked down the road, arriving at the store at 8:30. We had a half hour to wait until it opened. Luke and I happily headed for the restrooms, only to find out they were locked due to a broken pipe! This broken pipe also meant that there was no running water in the vicinity! Really? We ended up going to the bathroom in the woods across the road. (Good thing we are prepared to do this!). We snacked a bit as we waited for the guy to open the store. I was charged $5 to pick up my box. Luke and Drama shopped at the store and somehow managed to get packed up before I did! I asked the guy if there was anywhere we could get water and he said the next closest place was 6 miles down the trail! Great…! However, not long after, he offered to fill up Luke’s water bottles! (?!) I asked Luke if he could get mine filled up…
As I was looking at my appearance in a store mirror, I heard a familiar voice. I turned to see Duane- the older man who started the day before me, who had never backpacked before!
Two minutes later, I saw a shiny black jacket. Caroline! I went over to give her a hug. She excitedly rocked me back and forth. “How has your hike been?”. She was staying overnight in a cabin with Duane. She already had six blisters!
When Duane saw me, he also gave me a hug. Caroline invited me to hang out in the cabin. She tried to tempt me by telling me there was shade (the sun was already burning and hot by 9 am!!), a fridge, a microwave, and a shower. The shower got me to consider… She told me the number of the cabin and I went over and told Luke. Drama had walked down the road to the outfitters and Luke agreed to hang out in the cabin. However, he then changed his mind and decided to hike on. I felt I had to move on, as well. When Drama came back, we took a group photo, and then hiked back up the road and past the picknickers once again. During our walk, I learned that Drama is from Fitchburg, MA- the town next to the one I grew up in! I couldn’t believe it! No one had ever heard of my town before! He was calling me “Sashay Shante”, which greatly amused me. Later, he began musing philosophically about life on the trail. “In New York, you meet someone and maybe decide that you like them, but then never see them again. There are oceans of people. But on the PCT, it’s the opposite. The first time you meet someone, you decide you can trust them. They are not going to slit your throat. Okay, you can camp near me…. Then when you see them again, you feel happy to see them. You realize they are funny, or you like the gap between their teeth, or whatever. They endear themselves to you. The next time you see them, you are even happier!”.
We walked up to and along a ridge. I needed to take my pack off and give my shoulders a break, as I need to do every so often.
Drama said I should do some yoga. I took a break for a couple of minutes as they walked on. A bit later, I saw them looking at something in the bushes. I thought they were discussing why those particular bushes were burned. When I caught up to them, they said the bushes smelled strongly of marijuana. Drama went up a side trail and started whooping with excitement. Naturally, Luke and I followed. A father and son soon joined us. It was our first expansive view! Storm Canyon. I suggested we take a break there, but they didn’t want to. They said it was too early for a break and besides, there was no shade there. Sigh. (Give a thru-hiker the choice between a magnificent view or shade in the desert and they will pick shade!). So, we continued on.
I fell a bit behind as I needed to take my pack off of my shoulders quite often. (I have to hike all of my long trails like this). As I came to some stairs leading up to a Shriner’s Lodge, I heard my name. Drama was telling the others that I taught yoga. I went up the stairs and joined them on the porch deck, trying to find a spot in the shadows. I ate the rest of my summer sausage and was asked by Matt if I was immune to blisters because I hiked the AT! (?) Of course not!
Drama decided he wanted to walk a couple of miles to a campground so he could get a shower. The father and son headed back on the trail and I started worrying that they were going to claim the single campsite listed on our maps that I was hoping to sleep at.
I hiked alone for the rest of the afternoon and eventually reached the Pioneer Mail picnic tables, where several thru-hikers were taking breaks, including the father and son. I joined them at their table and asked if they knew where the water cache was. I took my water bottles in the direction in which they pointed, only to find the cache empty! There was a well there with green water in it, though. So, I returned to the table to get my filter. I also decided to take off my shoes so my socks could dry out. When I walked back up the hill, the trail angel who stocks the cache had appeared to re-stock it! I chatted with her while the father came up and took a gallon jug for him and his son. He came back up the hill to give her a couple dollars. The woman told me about the Indians that used to migrate from the mountains to storm canyon every winter. She also talked about a spindly (not pretty) small yellow flower (creote?) that they often used to help soothe tired feet. I love hearing about these kinds of things!
She said she didn’t want to hold me up, so I filled up my water, went back to the table, and returned to give her a donation.
“Oh, honey!,” she said. “Now I can buy more water. And maybe someone needs a ride!”
Meanwhile, another hiker named Marmot had come through and was immediately on her way up the trail after quickly filling up on water! Again, I worried that she was going to take my campsite…
Luke, Matt and Drama came in a half an hour later. They debated whether or not they should stay there overnight. (Our guidebooks said no camping was allowed at the picnic area). I told them that I heard 15 people stayed there last night.
Drama was digging at his blisters with his knife. I gave him some wool I had been carrying that was supposed to help blister problems by reducing friction. Then, I headed back to the trail. I came to another nice view of Storm Canyon and stopped to take in the view. Two day hikers were just returning from their hike. I still had 3 or so miles to hike until I reached my campsite. I began to get tired as the evening wore on. Around a bend, I looked to my left and saw a patch of grass. ‘I can camp there!’, I thought to myself. Perfect! After I got my tent set up, two hikers came from the opposite direction. They asked if there were any campsites beyond this one. I think they were planning on staying here, too!
A bit later, I saw that they had found a spot across the way and were setting up.
I cooked my dinner and tried to wash the dirt off my legs with the one wet wipe that I had allocated per day. (Toto, I don’t think we are on the AT anymore…! One wet wipe isn’t even enough to clean one leg!). It was a windy night. I had to keep adjusting my trekking pole that I use for the main support of my tent. At 4 in the morning, I had to get up to pee. It was another sleepless night.
(I still couldn’t believe that I was the one to get this camp spot!)