While I was still in my tent, many of the hikers who had stayed at the gazebo area walked by. Such early birds! I was glad I had moved on a little ways last night because it’s really hard for me to get up in the mornings.
I resumed my walk along the ridge with a view of a large creek well below me and soon found the Swedes having breakfast on a rock, admiring the view.
We said hello and then I moved on, stepping across the 300 mile mark, spelled out with rocks.
It was a warm day and the landscape provided very little shade. The trail wound around brown mountains dotted with green shrubs.
After seven miles, I reached a creek, where I found another hiker lounging. I decided to take off my shoes and cool my feet in the water for a couple of minutes. The Swedes passed through, excited to reach the hot springs a couple of miles away. I felt in no rush to get there.
When I did arrive, I was astounded to see the number of hikers lounging around! I thought that only the group who had slept at the gazebo would be there, but there were hikers who had been camping there for days! I was unsure where to go and then someone called my name, so I headed to that area to drop my pack. I saw Elizabeth who had started the day before me for the first time since I started the hike, as well as Matt (Luke’s cousin). I recognized some other hikers and some I was seeing for the first time. I felt self-conscious about my body and wasn’t comfortable going into the water in my underwear with so many people around. I decided I would go in with my running shorts. There were pools of differing water temperature- one that was much too hot for me to stand, a very, very warm one in which several people were sitting in, and cool water down below. I unsmoothly made my way into the very warm pool and then switched between that and the cold water below. There were locals as well as hikers, and it was easy to tell us apart. One local woman started talking to me about my journey and why I was doing it. I love it when people ask me these kinds of questions. She said that she would love to do what I was doing but didn’t know how with the responsibilities of children and a job. By the end of our conversation, I was worried that she was getting the wrong impression of the hike, as she probably envisioned lounging around in pools of water rather than hiking 12-13 hours a day in extreme conditions!
I returned to my sandy area to snack and collect water, knowing I had to get going to be there for my visitor (but having no idea when he would be arriving!). Some of the hikers nearby encouraged me to spend the night and have my visitor meet me here. But the plan was already in effect. (I still hadn’t seen Dinnertime or Birches).
I packed up and headed back to the trail. It wasn’t too long before a naked man with a backpack on approached me, asking if I knew where a particular trail was. I kept my eyes on his face and pretended that nothing was out of the ordinary, as I apologized for knowing nothing but the way the PCT went. I hiked on alone, winding my way down some switchbacks where I could see the bridge I would cross.
Cowboy caught up to me while I was taking a break at the end of the bridge. We chatted for a couple of minutes and then he moved on. When I caught up to him, he asked if I wanted to go ahead of him. I said I didn’t care. Really, I was happy for the company. I finally got to ask him about his yoga practice and a little about himself. I told him that I had to stop at the road ahead to meet my visitor and he promised that we could do a little yoga before the end of the day!
We reached the dam and then had a tough time re-finding the trail! Baby eagles flew overhead and Cowboy wished that Birdman was here to confirm their identity. We ended up walking through a creek (the cold water felt good in our shoes!) and then someone pointed us back towards the trail. We climbed up towards the road, hoping that the owner of the RV we could see might offer us some water. And then, suddenly we were there! My friend had texted me, saying that his plane was delayed and that the airline had lost his luggage! I wrote back but he didn’t reply. I had no idea when he would be arriving or whether or not he would even be able to make it! Cowboy asked if I was okay waiting alone and then started to head off, saying that Canada wasn’t going to wait. “But what about our yoga?” I asked. He agreed to do some, so we spread out our sleeping pads and I changed into my shorts. He wanted me to lead, but I wasn’t prepared, so he went ahead and lead us through some Sun A’s. It was his first time leading and he did a really good job! He told me that I was a good friend to wait for this guy and then headed out. Several minutes later, I heard someone call my name. I wasn’t sure who! It was Cowboy letting me know that he had found a small water cache under a bush up the trail.
I spread out some of my things that needed to be dried and waited and waited and waited… Finally, I called the guy to see what was happening. He was on his way, but stuck in traffic. I realized that the Spillway where he wanted to meet us was a mile and a half back on the trail. Dinnertime and Birches would be stopping there. I didn’t see any roads there, though, and didn’t understand how someone could drive there! I explained the situation to my friend and he said he would meet me here first and then go back to visit them. The sun began to drop below the horizon, and still no one showed up…
Finally, a car pulled in.
“It’s been five years,” he said.
“Four,” I corrected.
He opened up his trunk and cracked open a beer. The owner of the RV returned and asked us if we were hiking the PCT. “I am. He did it last year.” He asked if we wanted a rootbeer float! I agreed. After chatting for a few minutes, he said he was going to take off to meet the others and that he would see me here tomorrow. (?!) Birches was being picked up at 10 am. He wanted to leave me at a road alone and make me wait until 10 am (when it would be scorching out) for them to come back here?!
As he started walking off, I said, “Why don’t I just come with you?”. He told me I had two minutes to pack up my stuff! I stuffed most of my things back in my pack and left a couple of things in the trunk of his car, including my tent. Then, I lead the way back in the dark. When we arrived and heard voices, he made an owl call, which was returned by Dinnertime. (I guess that is how they would find one another on the AT). We found Dinnertime and Birches and our friend asked Birches if he wanted a beer. (He was carrying a tiny pack- most of which was a case of beer!). Birches did not recognize him. He said “sure” thinking we might be trail angels. Finally, he figured out that it was his good friend standing in front of him! Dinnertime lead us back to their “sketchy” campsite which turned out to be a wide dirt floor with the biggest cracks that I had ever seen all over it! Oh, my goodness! Dinnertime and Birches already had their tents set up, as did Leftover and Lullabi. I stood in a circle with Dinnertime, Birches, and our friend, who only offered his cans of beer to the guys. (?) We talked until 10, when Dinnertime said it was time for him to go to sleep. I looked around for a place to lay out my groundcloth.
And that is where I will fade this scene.