July 27, 2022
Etna via Etna Summit Trailhead at mile 1599.7 to campsite at mile 1602.9
We wake up slowly. I love the feeling of not having to rush around to get to something or be on trail at a certain time. I do a few assorted tasks like throwing away my trash and cleaning my pot and spoon. Then, once we’re all ready, we head into town for breakfast at the coffee shop. I have a bagel sandwich with sausage, egg, cheese, tomato, and avocado, and my goodness, it is amazing. We also get drip coffee and naturally sit there drinking cup after cup for as long as we can stand it.
It’s resupply time after that, which isn’t too bad because it’s just a few days. I complete my purchases, then go outside to repack and, naturally, eat a yogurt. Jumbo and Tribute are both sending boxes ahead to Crater Lake because there’s not much of a resupply at the store there. So after we’ve packed up this stretch of food, we walk to the post office once again so that they can send their stuff. I also have a few small items to send home.
Then Jumbo and I go down the street to the Mountain Healing Spa for our ~hiker spa day~ appointment. It’s rather popular among this year’s hikers. For $25 you get two hours with a sauna, outdoor shower, and warm soak with bath salts. We get to pick out our salts, and I opt for lavender and lemongrass. The sauna is pretty unbearable, but the shower is nice, and the soak is absolutely divine. I sit there reading my actual physical book for what feels like ages, just enjoying reading a story and not moving, not having to be anywhere. It feels like the dirt and heat and grossness is melting away until I am simply a puddle of relaxed goo.
Unfortunately, two hours eventually ends, and we dry off and head back into the hot world. We meet Tribute for a late lunch at the Denny Bar Co, an amazing distillery. There’s an impressive cocktail list of drinks made with in-house spirits, and we each get a different type so that we can share. Jumbo gets their fish and chips, which actually lives up to his English standards. My chicken strips are crispy and tasty. Tribute shares some of his pizza with me and I sigh in delight. This is our celebration of 100 days on trail. 100 beautiful, dusty, adventurous, uncomfortable, magisterial days on this long thin line from Mexico to Canada. Cheers to that.
I’m barely holding onto reality by the time lunch is over because I’ve had a strong cocktail and a very strong beer. Somehow, we manage to score a ride back to the trail with the partner of one of the servers at Paystreak. It’s way less hot here at the trailhead than it was back in town, but it’s still a little muggy as we begin to walk what we planned to be seven miles.
However, we soon hit the 1600 marker, which isn’t particularly noteworthy except that it means we’re closing in on having less than 1,000 miles left, and it’s where we’ve chosen to have our 100-day shot, which we packed out from the gas station. We click our cute little cans together and drink to one hundred days. I’m even loopier after that. We giggle through the next several miles, until I look around, have that same sunset “oh no, this is going to end” sensation, and start bawling. Leave it to me to have three drinks and go off my rocker with emotion. Eh. It’s just how I am. I’ve come to accept it.
I come around a corner and see Jumbo and Tribute talking to a pair of super nice hikers named Manners and Brainstorm. Manners is from Lexington, Kentucky and is very familiar with Cincinnati. Apparently J and T have told him that I’m from Cincy, so when I show up, he introduces himself and then asks, “Skyline or Gold Star?” To which I reply with the obvious correct answer: Skyline. (Google “Cincinnati chili” if you’re confused, then get back to me with questions. It’s amazing, it’s life-changing, and I’d do horrible things for a Skyline three-way right now.) It’s really fun chatting with someone from my area. I feel like Jumbo is always finding English people to chat shit and commiserate with, and it feels weirdly nice to have a conversation so riddled with local references and regional jargon that no one else in the conversation knows what we’re talking about.
Not long after we meet these two, we stumble upon a campsite nestled on a ridge. It’s only three miles in, but it’s such a beautiful spot that it would be downright rude not to sleep here. We squeeze into one spot (with me in the middle, of course) for cowboy camping. As we’re setting up, I realize that I can’t find my tyvek anywhere. I guess I must have left it somewhere, either in town or at the trailhead. Annoying. I really liked that addition to my kit! As a substitute, I lay down my tent and set up my sleeping pad on top of it. There are a few mosquitoes, but the sunset is so beautiful that it’s breaking my heart, and I’m not actually that mad about it.