August 5, 2022
Campsite at mile 1784.8 to campsite at mile 1812.1
The question I’m contemplating as I pack up this morning is: “How much can I get done in here before I have to go back out into the mosquitoes?” The answer is, surprisingly, a lot. I reconfigure my system so that I have everything packed in except my tent. Then I get out decked in rain gear and hurriedly pack away my tent. Jumbo lends me some of his DEET, and then we rush out of there.
Down by the spring, we start hiking with a very friendly woman named Lemony. She got this trail name because, for a while, it seemed like a series of unfortunate events were following her around: accidentally dumping water into her shoe, puncturing her quilt with her trekking poles. She, Jumbo, and I walk together for a good couple of miles until she stops to take off her puffy. While we’re walking together, we see Ishay in his magical little tent and talk for a bit. He has just been diagnosed some kind of chronic problem with his legs, exertional compartmented syndrome or something like that. This translates to him having to do pretty short days. It really sucks, but it’s good to see him out here still.
A little while later, Jumbo and I pass a cranky Tribute, who is still wearing his puffy and head net due to the mosquitoes. “This is a death march,” he says dejectedly. We agree. I walk with the two of them for a bit, then out of nowhere I find some cheese and start booking it. I look at FarOut and the time and see that it’s just after 9 and I have a little over three miles before I hit 10 for the day. It’s going to be tight, but I think I can squeeze in a 10 by 10. I put in some music and absolutely cruise. It’s a little hazy down in the valleys, but there are lovely views and soft forests and I’m feeling it. I reach the 10-mile mark just before it turns 10:00. I feel amazing.
A little while later, I pull over in a small patch of shade in a burn zone and take a break. I walk down the blue blaze to on of the Snow Lakes for water, and when I come back up, Jumbo is there. We decide to huddle under a little tree and have lunch. Tribute joins, then eventually Ishay. Jumbo’s voice is still really raspy, and he makes a cup of herbal tea that Lemony gave him in hope that it will help.
For a while, the four of us walk more or less together. There’s a ridge with extremely impressive views, and when we turn around, we can see Mt. McLaughlin in the distance. The ridge continues with beautiful views on either side, then makes a sharp downhill turn below a rocky wall that overlooks a tree-filled green valley. It’s perfectly clear, no smoke in sight. It’s the kind of day that makes me remember why I’m doing this. “This really feels like we’re on the PCT again,” Jumbo says. We talk about how so many people are just missing this section because of the worries about smoke when really, it’s perfectly clear. We didn’t know what it was going to be like when we left Ashland, of course, but I’m so happy that we went and checked it out for ourselves.
I’m flagging a little, though. I feel kind of weak and tired. It’s a slow three miles to the next water source, and when I get there, I eat a lot of snacks in a small period of time. I feel better after that, and it’s another few miles to the last water of the day, a kind of slow-moving pond outlet called Honeymoon Creek that looks gross but tastes fine.
A few more miles puts us at the top of a climb. Jumbo is ahead, I’m second, and Tribute is behind me. I have a feeling that Jumbo is going to try to get this hill done before stopping for dinner, and sure enough, just as the trail starts to cruise downward again, I see him sitting on a log. We stop and eat our dinners there. Then the two of them continue while I duck into the woods for cathole time. Coming back to the trail, I’m struck by how lovely the light is and how at peace I feel. It reminds me of last summer and the Gallatin Crest Trail in Montana, that period of three days when I was alone in the mountains and didn’t see another human being, the night I had dinner at Windy Pass Creek and watched the sun set over a quietly gorgeous world. What is this life? How am I allowed to witness such beauty?
It’s an easy five miles through a burn zone to camp. I’ve decided that if you have to walk through a burn, the evening is the best time to do it. The light in the charred trees is a specific kind of beautiful. I listen to music all the way to camp, which is a clearing in the burn on the side of a hill. We finish setting up just as the light leaves the day, feeling like the happiest, strongest geese in the whole world.