Day 23: Success is Warm Ramen at the End of a Personal Best

This is probably the flattest camp spot I’ve had thus far on the PCT and I actually got some sleep last night, despite my flurry of emotional outbursts. Sometimes I need to cry until I’m empty, and the storm clouds will pass over me without too much damage. Yes, it’s dramatic and weak and embarrassing, but before medication, these same episodes would be disastrous, destructive, and the chaos would last days and days, not just one pitiful night in my tent. So, I’m fortunate! I’m here! Still trying. Still chugging along.

I’m up and out by 7am. The morning is clear and the trail is still contouring the high desert-forest mountainside. I amble along, enjoying the fresh air, the clean pine scents. I find TnT packing up their gear a few miles down the trail, their campsite has a pile of rocks fashioned into a kind of table. “Welcome to our kitchen!” Texas says.

“I missed you guys!” I say. I’m happy to see them. Maybe I won’t try to go faster. I should just stay right by their side forever. But, yet. The trail calls. My body wants to quicken the pace, even if my feet aren’t cooperating. “Did you see the cute young guy last night?” Texas asks me. I shake my head. “He’s a long, lean thing. Neat tattoo on his leg. Name’s Alex. He started before us and has taken 9 zeroes.” Tumbler laughs and says, “Ah, he said he’s taking his time, partying his way through all the trail towns.” “Excuse me,” Texas retorts, “I’m pretty sure that’s what YOU said, not him.”

Tumbler is on Guthooks map. We want to meet at the next water source. He keeps assuring us that it is in 4 miles, but I know it is closer to 8. We agree to meet at “Holcomb Creek”. I can’t tell if Tumbler is saying ‘4 miles’ to con Texas into thinking it’s closer than it is (The first day I met him, he told me: “Sometimes I’ll lie a little, tell Texas it’s fewer miles than it is, and if I say it long enough, I start to believe it myself!”), so I don’t dispute him and head out. I check my maps when I’m out of sight, though, and yep: 8 miles.

The trail is slowly making its way out of the mountains this morning, there is a generally downward directional pull. A fire has swept through this area sometime in the last few years; it’s like an uglier version of parts of Oregon I hiked last year. Rolling hills, as far as I can see. The terrain transforms yet again into the sandy, dune-like, dry deserts of days ago. Complete with a resurgence of the mean, prickly plants that like to scrape and scold. It’s warm but windy, and the long switchbacks take their time depositing me to the flat area close to where I am to meet the mighty TnT.

The creek is about 1/3 of a mile away, but there is something here. An……outhouse? And a picnic bench! Hell yeah! I clamor up onto the table, and pull out a Pay Day, kicking my legs to and fro as they dangle. Picnic benches are such a treat on the trail. And this one is extra long, too! I take off my shoes and socks. I even take off my sun shirt, to let my pale arms try to play catch up to my super tan legs. It’s wonderful here. A great place to take a nap. I stretch out, flexing every muscle in my body, and yawn like a cat. Purrrrrfect. I use my shoes as a pillow and fall asleep.

An hour later I wake up and wonder where TnT are. Am I really going this much faster than them? Is it going to be a problem down the line? They find me a half hour later, and plop down, as happy as i was to find a picnic bench. Tumbler seems a tiny bit grumpy, possibly because the miles were twice what he thought? We exchange pleasantries, but I’ve been here so long, I need to get moving again. We discuss the campsites that are still about 10 miles away. Well, one is 9 and one is 10. We agree that we will all meet at the campsites at the end of the day. It’s only after I leave that I realize we didn’t specify which campsite.

I collect water from Holcomb Creek, which has a surprising amount of water, and I will pass several times. It’s hot now and the climbing round and round is tedious on my mind and my feet. It’s beautiful and sparse. The sky is a gorgeous blue. I know I’m not stopping to enjoy it like I should. I pretty much have to spend a lot of time distracting myself from the pain in my feet. I stop at a little clearing to let them dry out and rest. TnT don’t show up.

Off I go again, the terrain flirting again between desert and forest. There’s a good amount of green because of the creek on my left. I wind back down to that creek and stop once more to collect water and eat some mixed nuts. I disturb a really neat looking snake; green with two yellow stripes running down its length. The trail ‘fords’ the creek here, and I hop along the small boulders to the other side. No sign of TnT.

A while later I ford the creek again, opting not to shake and quiver my way across the thin log and instead just slosh over to the other side. Then I’m climbing, collecting dirt on my wet shoes and gaiters. I reach the first campsite. Cool. I’ve gone 16 miles, breaking the 15 mile barrier my feet have set. Am I suppose to meet TnT here or the next one? It’s only 5pm, and I think about how last night they had continued on because they wanted to hike until 6pm. They’re gonna go to the next one, I decide.

I make camp about 1.5 miles later: 17.5 miles for the day! Now if I can also conquer this stupid stove. I had asked TnT earlier about their stove. “is it supposed to take 30 minutes?” I ask. “No.” Texas snorts. “Turn the gas all the way up,” Tumbler advises. So now, I turn it all the way up, and after ten minutes get little, pre-boil bubbles. Good enough. I pour and wait 5 more minutes. Take a bite. Yummy!

Bundled up in my quilt, I feel quite satisfied. I tolerated the pain, and made it farther than I expected. it’s a good feeling. I take one last peek out of my tent before drifting off to sleep. Still no TnT. They must have stopped at the other camp. I silently wish them a good night.

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