PCT Day 76: Flying Solo

July 3, 2022

Campsite at mile ~1107.9 to campsite at Five Lakes Creek, mile 1136

28 miles

I’m cold. I’m tired. And I do not want to get up. I ignore my alarm and the rustling of my friends’ quilts and the deflating of their sleeping pads until I’m guilted into moving. Platypus comes over to tell me goodbye because they’re doing a big day today and probably won’t see us again. It’s been so good to visit with them! Thanks for the fun couple of days, Platts!

Tribute and Jumbo leave before me because they’re packed and ready long before I’ve even emerged from my sleeping quilt. At first, it’s sad being left at camp, but then as I finish packing and start walking, I realize that the alone time is good. I love my tramily, but I spend so much time with them that I haven’t done much thinking or reflecting on my own. So I try to consciously enjoy the morning, its silence and peace. I pass some lovely mountain lakes and streams, then reenter the forest and move smoothly downhill.

I listen to my audiobook for hours. It’s all downhill for the longest time, meandering through the trees that are now marginally more familiar to me thanks to Platypus’s lessons yesterday: hemlock, Jeffery pine, lodgepole pine. It smells amazing and there is moss and the path is so soft and I’m just tottering along listening to this adorable story of a bookstore and people who fall in love with it. I like this. I’m feeling this.

I run into Tribute around 10:30. He’s sitting on a rock and already eating his lunch wrap. I’m tempted to stop, but I think I have more miles in me so I keep going. I pass by lovely Richardson Lake, where I see who I think might be Jumbo but all I can see is the bottom of shoes propped up on a log. I still don’t really want to stop yet, though, so I keep moving. There’s more downhill, and I pass a family with an adorable Pomeranian that makes me miss my own Pom, Emma, something crazy. There’s a creek at the bottom of the hill that I cross over, then I follow the trail up to a larger crossing with a campsite. It’s been almost 15 miles now and I’m pretty hungry, so I decide to take a lunch.

It’s underwhelming, just a tuna wrap with goldfish, but it tastes divine after a pretty impressive morning mileage wise. I listen to my book and stuff food in my face and feel very proud of myself for getting so far before lunch. Tribute and Jumbo both pass me, then I pack up and start working on the hill. It’s much less intense than it looks on Guthook, and I feel pretty good as I go upwards.

There’s a surprise pit toilet at the trailhead, which is incredibly exciting because I wasn’t expecting it and suddenly, I really need one. It’s even more exciting when I realize there’s a trash bag inside! Hiking, man. It makes you appreciate the littlest things. I talk with Jumbo for a minute when I emerge a while later, then we walk together for a bit until I peel away. His shin splints aren’t great, it seems, no matter what he says or how he’s acting. I know he’s in pain. I hope he’s not majorly messing up his legs by continuing to do normal mileage.

There’s an amazing view of Lake Tahoe at the top of the hill, and then we’re going down again. The trail is rocky sometimes and smooth dirt path at others. I’ve finished my book by now so I’ve moved onto music. Am I becoming dependent on audio content? Is this cheating somehow? I don’t know. But as the trail turns upwards yet again and starts switchbacking through thick stands of fragrant trees, I’m grateful that I’ve downloaded Butterfly 3000 and I’m absolutely rocking out to “Catching Smoke.” Why am I in such a King Gizzard mood on this trail? This album slaps so deeply and I can’t stop.

I’m starving at the top of the climb, and I also have to pee, so I take a good break and then continue as the trees thin out and the trail turns into a windy ridge with sunny golden views of Tahoe and ranges in the distance. The wind is annoying, but the vistas and wildflowers make it more than worth it. I love ridges like this. I love being able to see so far and know exactly how big this world is and how small I am. I pass a ski lift, then shortly after that, I’m going downhill.

It’s a relief to be in the trees again after the wind. They are such a deep green that is swaying in the breeze, and as I stare upwards, I feel them looking over me as though they are a group of benevolent caregivers. It’s easy to get caught up in the social element of the hike and the human drama that comes with it. But this is why I’m really here, and the trees are reminding me of my actual purpose. I close my eyes and breathe deep and try to be present. I feel so strong. I’ve come so far today. And there have been things I’ve been thinking through and managing that feel so small in comparison to these branches moving in the wind beneath blue sky. I feel God here, finally, and I love Them.

I run into Jumbo and Tribute not much after that. I’d started thinking that they were going to try going farther, but as it turns out, they’ve been struggling for the last bit and they’re ready to be done. I walk behind Jumbo for a few minutes and am appalled at how badly he’s limping. Tribute doesn’t look much better, walking in his sandals because the insoles of his shoes are irritating his feet. “Passport has the cheese!” Jumbo declares, seeing me walking normally. I deny my possession of cheese, but compared to these two, I feel like a million bucks. I cruise the remaining half mile to the creek, cross it, and then find a campsite and set up my tent. Dinner is couscous made more palatable with spinach and string cheese from J and cheddar from T. I brush my teeth and then sit with Jumbo talking for a while before I’m too cold and I crawl into bed. I’m exhausted. I think I’m going to sleep well tonight.

This is my longest day of hiking ever, and I feel so proud of my body and what it can do.

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