PCT Day 78: Rollercoaster

July 5, 2022

Campsite at mile 1153.8 to campsite at mile 1174.9

21.1 miles

We’d all agreed last night that we would sleep in today because we stayed up late for the fireworks. So when I wake naturally just before 6, no one is moving and it’s beautiful. Jumbo is still curled up in his quilt to my right, and Tribute is snoozing away on my left. I stare up at the trees and savor being horizontal. Then, when I start hearing the slightest Jumbo rustlings, I kick into hyperdrive and put on my hiking clothes, deflate my sleeping pad, and pack everything up in a few minutes.

Tribute goes ahead because he’s ready first. I eat breakfast and write some notes and wait for Jumbo. We end up walking together for most of the day. I’ve been enjoying my audiobooks and music and being alone for a change, but today I feel like walking with my friend. We fall back into our usual conversations and it feels like home. It’s rocky and sandy to start. At the first water source we see Veto and chat with him for a bit, but he’s on a mission and soon shoots ahead.

The trail goes up slightly and then down towards I-80, where it walks through a drainage culvert under the highway. At first it’s shallow, so I follow Jumbo in not taking my hiking shoes off, but at the second culvert under the westbound freeway, the water gets deeper. Like, knee-deep. We stop and change into our Tevas, take a swig of the wine I’m still carrying, and plunge ahead. The water is absolutely freezing on top of being stagnant and gross. It’s actually painful, on par with Bear Creek, and I’m on the verge of screaming by the time we get out. At least the acoustics would have been great. Um, why does no one talk about this culvert? I could have used some warning.

Once we emerge and regain feeling in our feet, we walk uphill a bit, then intentionally right through a creek to wash off the gutter water. Not long after that we take the spur trail to a highway rest stop, where the bathrooms, water fountain, and trash cans are excellent.

We keep moving for a long while after that. I follow Jumbo up another hill, a long one this time. We take a stop at the Peter Grubb hut, a very nice backcountry shelter hut owned by the Sierra Club. It’s cozy on the inside, with a wood stove and tables and emergency supplies. Jumbo is enamored. “This is so English!” He says he feels homesick, in a good way. At the hut we have a snack and talk to Pincushion, a hiker we haven’t met yet. He’s really cool. Too bad his pace is insane!

There’s a meadow and a gorgeous ridge. Then lunch is at the oddly named Unconformity Spring. (In J’s words, “This is anarchy water!”) I eat a ton because I realize I’m going into Sierra City in less than two days and I have plenty, and I follow it up with some cold-soaked instant coffee. Living!

For the rest of the day, the trail is a roller coaster. After lunch we go down and then immediately back up again. Rinse and repeat. Apart from uphills being tough, though, I’m loving this ride. In the valleys there are thick, fragrant conifers, and when the trees thin out as you go uphill, there are mules ears and lupine and so many good views.

At one point J goes to music land, but I catch up and go ahead for a bit. I gather water at the Snowbank spring, then, getting swarmed by mosquitoes, we continue walking. Most unfortunate is the fact that I have to sprint into the trees for a cathole just a few minutes later. It’s very mosquito dense and stressful. Oh dear. Ain’t that just the way.

I’m alone for a bit then, working up to a lovely rocky vista point. It’s so beautiful! For some reason I thought this section would be nothing compared to the sierras, but it keeps taking my breath away. The trail turns right back downhill and I feel great as I soar down it. Then I start to lose energy a bit. Is it time for yet another clif bar? I decide to give it a shot. It helps a bit.

I run into Jumbo three miles from camp. We hike more or less together down to a creek, see Cookie, who we haven’t seen since Mammoth, and start working on the last uphill of the day. J is suffering, which I know because even I can keep up with him on an uphill. I start feeling shaky so I pull over for yet another clif bar. Then we are on top of a ridge and everything is so alive and lovely and I’m fine with all the work I had to do to get here.

Tribute isn’t at camp when we finally roll in, but Jumbo and I are absolutely knackered and just can’t continue. We throw up our tents and cook dinner (couscous, obviously). Now I’m savoring being horizontal and nearly failing to keep my eyes open. That’s how you know it was a good day.

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