PCT Day 80: Sierra Butte-iful

July 7, 2022

Sierra City at mile ~1195.4 to campsite near Little Jamison Creek at mile 1216

20.6 miles

As I write, I’m hiding in my quilt from the cloud of mosquitoes that I was hoping really badly would go away by the time it got dark.

Reader, they did not go away.

They are dive-bombing my head net and hands and anything that might pass for a tasty blood treat. I could have set up my tent, but I’m trying to do some Big Girl Miles tomorrow, and it makes it easier to pack up in the morning if I just cowboy. Do I have regrets? Possibly. Am I going to get up and do anything about it? Absolutely not. If I can sleep like a baby between a public restroom and a concrete picnic bench, I can survive these jerks for one night.

That’s the theory, anyway.

It’s shocking how well I sleep in Sierra City. Even though there were street lights and what sounded like a guy having a really good time by himself blasting music in his house, I fall right to sleep and don’t wake up until the morning. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Machine did point out my sleep skills way back before Tehachapi, after all.

I wake up around 5:30 but don’t start moving until close to 7. I pack up, use the restroom (it’s so nice to wash my hands before I put my contacts in!), and sit at one of the picnic tables down in the garden to write. I am deeply behind, which I don’t love, but I enjoy going through my notes and putting together some posts while sipping on instant coffee. I’m waiting for the general store to open at 8:30 to get my box, then I’ll be making a trip to the Red Moose for breakfast.

At 8:30, the worker at the store lets me go into the back room and pick out my box, then I return to the garden, spread everything out, and reorganize it into my food bag. One of the best parts of getting my resupply box is seeing what kind of note or card my mom is going to leave in there for me. This time it’s a super cute one with chicks on the front. Aw, I love these little tangible surprises from home.

Breakfast at the Red Moose is delicious: two pancakes, two sausage links, and two eggs over medium. It’s a little small for hiker standards, but I enjoy every bite. I sit there writing and drinking bottomless coffee for ages, thinking of how Jumbo would be so thrilled when the server brings over the carafe for free refills. Despite this, I’m still glad I’m alone right now. It feels like such a needed reset. I haven’t been on a breakfast date with myself in… have I ever been on a breakfast date with myself? It’s about time.

I look at the clock and start mildly panicking. It’s well after 10 and I still have tasks to do. I go to the general store and buy a couple of candy bars for Tribute and Jumbo (“if there’s a stupid little 30-cent candy bar you know I haven’t tried, I’ll take that”), which gives me $1 in change that I take to the library and drop off for my book because I didn’t have a bill smaller than $5 last night. I use the wifi there for a few minutes, downloading music, and then cinch down all my straps, grab my poles, and start moving.

Just as I begin to walk on the road, a man in an SUV pulls over. “Need a ride?” he asks. I can see another hiker in the car already, so I feel comfortable enough taking the hitch. It’s a super short ride to the trail, where I thank my driver and then extend my poles. I’m ready.

I’m mentally prepared for this 8-mile climb up to the Sierra Buttes to be terrible, but it’s honestly not that bad. The switchbacks are mostly in the trees for the first few miles up to the campsite. I listen to Butterfly 3000 by King Giz all the way through, then start it over again. I think I’m going to break these songs. I can’t get them out of my head. Eventually I get tired of that and move to Bombay Bicycle Club, but I’m not really in the mood for it so I kind of zone out.

1200 miles!

At the three-mile mark, the trees disappear and it’s manzanita and views for days. The buttes tower above me and I stare up at them. I’m running out of words to describe things. It’s all just so beautiful and mind-blowing and AGHHHJDJFJFJ. Here, have another subpar picture.

The trail gets rumble rocky now, and this is extremely annoying so I tell the trail exactly what I think about the terrain. It doesn’t really care what I think. I tried. The good news is that I just keep getting amazing views with every turn of a switchback. I feel a little like some sad girl music, so I put on Sufjan and feel moody and edgy in a good way. My blue bucket of gold / Friend, why don’t you love me? Ugh. Heart-wrenching music for a heart-wrenching day.

The climb is never steep, but it takes forever. It’s after 2 by the time I’m finally on the dirt road at the top. I would stop here for lunch, but I don’t have water, so I continue down to Upper Tamarack Lake, nestled right below the towering peaks. I eat my wrap and stretch, but I don’t take too much time because I’m determined to get 20 in today even though I started super late.

After lunch I cruise downhill until I reach a surprise: a cooler set up right on the trail with cold sofas. What! Such magic! I reach in and grab a coke, crack it open, and nearly melt in delight. Why does soda taste so dang good? I drink it while I walk down to the forest service campground at the bottom of the hill, then recycle the can and use the very clean pit toilet before crossing a creek and heading uphill once again.

At this point I sort of enter a flow state where I just put on some music and keep my head down and go up. It’s rocky at first, then more forested and lush. I pass a couple of people and then it’s just me and the trees. I listen to Maggie Rogers, Taylor Swift, St. Vincent. Girl time, I suppose. I go up a steep hill and get an absolutely stellar view of a huge lake below. Then I realize I have service and see a text from Jumbo that they were at this spot I’m standing in at 1:00. Okay. So they’re really far ahead of me. If I want to see them before Quincy, I’m going to have to haul ass tomorrow. It’s actually kind of exciting. I still think I could use another day alone, but I want to see how far I can possibly go on this terrain in one day. We’ll see.

I’m tired as I work on the last two forested miles, but not too bad, all things considered. What I thought might be shin splints now feels like stress on the top of my foot where I’ve tied my shoes, so maybe those aren’t quite right or something. In general, though, I’m feeling pretty good. I go down a few switchbacks and see a tent that tells me I’ve made it to my goal site for the day. I find a spot I think will be good for cowboying, go down to the spring for water, then realize the extent of the mosquito presence when I cook my beef stroganoff. Oh well. Too late now. It’s time to lie in this mosquito bed I made.

They don’t seem too bad now, though, knock on wood. The moon is out and I’m ready for unconsciousness. Any bets on how far I’ll make it tomorrow? I’m shooting for a 30, but we’ll see.

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