I now have 525 miles left to hike in California, and just about 1,500 miles to get to Canada. In order to make it home in time to attend one of the weddings of the two friends of mine who are getting married on the same day (as well as beat the oncoming winter in WA), I will need to hike 21 miles every single day with no rest days and no time to resupply in towns (which obviously isn’t possible). This was a tall order and the weight hung on my shoulders. To a certain degree, I was in control of the number of miles I hiked each day, but I was not in control of how long it would take to hitch into any of the towns (some being up to 40 miles off the trail!), nor was I in control of any stormy weather ahead. Plus, the thought of having no rest days for the next 1500 miles was an exhausting one!
I headed back out to the trail, continued the climb, and then realized that the trail stopped! Somehow, I had veered off and followed a jeep path to the campsite. I didn’t mind because I got to see an amazing sunset! I followed the track back down and then found the much more narrow PCT veering off to the left. (I always want to take the path of least resistance on the trail!). I walked along an open ridge and soon a hiker caught up to me. His name was Dan and we we chatted for a moment before he headed on.
Later on in the morning, I ran into Sharky. I reminded him where we met. His wife was up ahead, trying to find some reception to figure out how to get a new tent shipped out to them, as the zipper on theirs had broken. Zippers don’t do well out here with all of the dirt!
I caught up to her and also had to remind her that we had previously met. I told her that I was the one who was sick and she said she was glad that I was feeling better. I wasn’t feeling better, however! Several people had told me that I didn’t look sick, which was good, but my insides were still undeniably sick!
The temperatures soared and the walking got slow. My energy was down.
I saw a couple of hikers approaching and stepped aside to take a snack break as they passed by.
I definitely needed a little music boost to help me along.
I later ran into Sharky and Bibo sitting on the side of the trail, looking at their maps. I asked them if they were planning on taking the alternate route into Sierra City, as there was supposedly an excellent swimming hole on that path. They said that sounded great!
I continued downhill and later ran into a man who was out running on the trail. He stopped before I got near him and seemed a bit annoyed about having to do so. A few minutes later, I sat down for another break. He turned around and started chatting with me. He talked about how crowded the PCT is with us thru-hikers and how hard it is to keep stopping to let us go by. He asked me if I had seen the guy with the tiny pack and we both wondered how he was hiking the trail like that! It looked as if he was carrying an empty daysack! He told me that he taught nature classes and could tell me anything I wanted to know about the flora and fauna out here. He said he loved how everything was interconnected. It was fascinating to find out a few things about the plants around me and I wished I had the time to learn more about what I was seeing. My hike would be so different! He told me that he had seen a bird’s nest on his way through and was going to go back and check it out. When I didn’t follow him, he invited me along! It was on a ledge of a big rock and I had to jump up to get a very quick and tiny peak! He said he wished he could have lifted me up! I felt lucky to have been where I was at that moment. He invited me to hang out at the nature center if I had time and then continued his run as I slowly meandered on.
(Here is his website if you are interested in his classes and/or books: http://www.lukasguides.com/)
I soon came to the trail split off, growing more and more drained with each minute. A lot of my energy went into looking for the amazing swim hole. I stopped at every possibility and wondered if that was it…
Then, my intestines would act up! When was this ever going to end?
I continued walking on a road, hot and exhausted. I was just about out of water and didn’t find it appealing to stop and drink warm water, anyway. I continued to wonder about each spot of water I came to. Is that the swimming hole? I finally saw it, but I didn’t feel like going in alone.
It would take a lot of effort to make my way down, take off my socks and shoes, and then put everything back on again. I would just look forward to a shower in town.
Slowly, I trudged on, eventually coming to a tiny road intersection at which two cars were trying to pass. There wasn’t enough room, especially with me on the side, and one of the drivers angrily asked me to move. Being yelled at was the last thing I needed!
I walked along the main street, looking for the Red Moose Inn, which was not coming soon enough.
At last, I saw a PCT sign and a bunch of lounging hikers. One person cheerily yelled out my name and threw up his arms. It was Fun Size! He tried to get others to join him in welcoming me, but they did not. At least there was one nice person there! I was so dirty and felt so disgusting that all I wanted to do was take a shower. However, I quickly learned that that might not even be possible!! The owners had stopped offering laundry to us and the only shower they had was accessed through one of their rented rooms! I was told to ask the owner about it. Fun Size gave me the low down on the place and advised me to hurry to the store before they closed if I wanted to order some food. I headed over and was able to get the last order in for the evening. I ordered a hamburger and a blackberry milkshake, the latter of which was quickly forgotten about. While I waited, I headed to the public restroom to wash my hands and forearms, which were black from dirt that had stuck to sunscreen and from the handles of my poles rubbing off. I returned to the store to wait and wait and wait for my burger. Service in Sierra City is incredibly slow! I saw Dan enjoying an orange juice, so I decided to buy one, too. Finally, I paid for my burger, reminded them about my milkshake order, and joined Dan on the porch. He was talking on the phone to his mother, telling her that he had hiked a part of the day with the guy who was attempting to break the speed record. By 4:00, he had already put in 29 miles. I learned that the guy with the tiny green rucksack, essentially carrying nothing, was the guy attempting to set the speed record. His mother was meeting him at trail access points several times a day, bringing him food, water, and then his sleeping bag at night! That seemed pretty ridiculous to me. We were all out here carrying everything we needed to survive for 4-8 day stretches at a time! Having someone else carry all of your needs was an entirely different kind of hike. (Dan told me that I could try to set the speed record for someone hiking with giardia!).
As I ate my food, my stomach began to hurt. Why was it still doing this? Why couldn’t I eat a regular meal on this hike without being in a tremendous amount of pain?
I headed back to the Inn to inquire about a shower. Everything happened very slowly in that place, but finally I was lead up to a very dirty bathroom. I wondered why anyone would want to pay to rent out such a room! I quickly hand washed the incredibly dirty clothes that I was wearing, jumped into the shower, and then tried to clean up the bathroom a bit.
Then, I asked the husband about my packages. He was not the kindest person… Two of my packages were waiting for me, but one hadn’t yet arrived because it was sent parcel post. (I think I will have to type up very detailed instructions on how to send out a box next time…). Tanya had sent another incredible package and said that three more were on their way! I couldn’t believe it! I very quickly looked through the boxes as I joined FunSize, Emma, and Cuddles at their table. We laughed a lot! Fun Size told me that I was his favorite person to giggle with in towns, which was the biggest compliment ever to me! He barely even knew me! As it approached 8:00, I had to find a space to set up my sleeping bag. The owners said their yard was as large as a football field, but in actuality, it was very tiny. I spread out my groundsheet and sleeping bag to the side of the house, away from the others. Then, someone told me that I would have to move because their neighbors did not like hikers and would be mad if they saw one from their window! Incredible. So, I picked everything up and set up in between two tents.
I got no sleep. I had the most painful and intense heartburn all night long. This was something that I had no experience with and the fact that I was still so sick that I couldn’t sleep was extremely upsetting. And on top of that, hikers would get up in the middle of the night and walk inches by my head to go into the house to use the bathroom! That was a scary feeling. And then, at 4 in the morning, people began getting up and breaking down their tents so they could get an early start on the hot 3,000 foot climb we had ahead! It was a terrible night!