PCT Day 99: Nero to Etna

July 26, 2022

Campsite at mile 1586.1 to Etna via Etna Summit Trailhead at mile 1599.7

13.6 miles

We’re up and moving by 6. It’s not as early as some of the other people at this campsite, but it’s about all we can manage today. But it’s a town day, and there is a restaurant waiting for us in Etna, and my new shoes will be there! I am excited.

When we start hiking, it’s a rocky downhill interspersed with moments of steep up. Jumbo is just behind me, but since his voice is completely gone at this point, we don’t talk. Instead, I start yet another audiobook. It feels good to be on such a roll! I think this makes seven audiobooks so far on the trail.

The nice thing about the morning is that we’re on the shady side of the ridge, and it takes a while before the sun hits us. We stop for water at a little creek absolutely covered in orange leopard lilies, then there’s an uphill that looks gnarly on FarOut but that turns out to be not that bad. I just plod along listening to my book. There are some sweaty, exposed, rocky uphills, and then there’s a nice view of a lake down to the right, and then before I know it, the long descent to Etna begins.

It feels like it’s taking forever because it’s so hot and my feet hurt so badly. I keep checking FarOut thinking that I have to have less than a mile, but it refuses to go down. Argghhh. But I just keep walking, and eventually I’m close to the road.

There’s a massive group of what looks to be high school kids heading up as I’m coming down. I pull over to let them pass, and they ask me some delightful questions, clearly really interested in the PCT. There are even more of them when I finally get to the parking lot and join Jumbo under a tree. It turns out that it’s a church group. Ah, that takes me back.

While Jumbo is at the trailhead waiting when I get there, Tribute is not. I think he probably went to town already, but Jumbo is convinced that he would have waited. So we walk around trying to see if we can find him, but he’s not there. “I think he’s in town, dude,” I say, and we walk closer to the road to hitch.

There’s a big group of hikers waiting there already, but it doesn’t take long for a few folks to pull up and offer rides. We end up with a nice young guy who was just out here camping with his friend en route to his new job in Wyoming. Jumbo gets in the back of the truck while I take the passenger seat. It immediately becomes apparent that the truck has some issues when the guy can’t get it to shift into drive. Then he eventually does, but it doesn’t exactly seem like he has control as he flies down a hill and takes a switchback at a breakneck speed, going into the other lane. Oh god. It’s awful. I talk nervously and try to avoid watching the road. I just hope Jumbo survives in the back.

We make it to Etna more or less in one piece, but Jumbo is shaking when we dismount. We walk across the street to the grocery store, where we immediately get cold drinks and, in my case, ice cream. Then we check out the gear store, Etna Creek Outfitters, which is pretty small but has an amazing selection of little things like lens cleaning wipes, honey packets, and individual olive oil sachets. Tribute meets us there, then we go to the post office where Jumbo picks up his insoles and I get my new shoes and insoles. I’m so thrilled. The old ones were really beat up and it was well past time for fresh ones.

In the bathroom at the gear store…

The brewery, Paystreak, isn’t quite open yet when we pass, but there’s an older gentleman carrying drum gear from his car into the building, and Jumbo, seeing him struggle a bit, offers to help. This is how we find out that there’s going to be live music tonight once they open. Since we have half an hour until this happens, we get a quick snack at the bakery, which doesn’t have air conditioning and which has white seats that we inadvertently (though unsurprisingly) leave smears of sweat and dirt all over. So gross. I hurry to wipe it up with a napkin before we leave.

The brewery, in contrast, is pleasantly air conditioned. We’re some of the dirt ones in, and we grab a table with another hiker who introduces himself as Rogue Wave. All of us order and demolish the Rodeo Burger and several pints of beer. By the time we get up to leave, it’s packed. Gus, Sensei, Danger, Rolls and Royce, and heaps of other hikers are there. I’m loving the energy.

We go to the grocery store once more to buy tokens for the shower in the park, then Tribute leads us to said park so that we can get set up. Then we go on our laundry odyssey, which I didn’t realize would be such an odyssey. The laundromat is pretty far away, almost a mile, and I saunter there in rain pants and a bra because the idea of wearing my rain jacket on top is unbearable. There are tons of hikers at the laundromat, and because none of us wants to walk two extra miles for no reason, we all hang out there until our clothes are cleaned. There’s also a gas station across the parking lot, which comes in handy because it has tons of drinks, snacks, and condiment packets.

When we’re finally finished, we walk back to the park in the fading evening light. We’re still a little loopy, so we take silly videos and photos and laugh at basically nothing as we amble back to town. At the park, we take showers and then set up for camping. We weren’t originally going to stay in Etna for the night, but it’s honestly a great town, and there’s really no rush. We’re going to take our dear sweet time and enjoy it.

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