PCT Day 128: PCT, But Make It AT

August 24, 2022

Rock Creek campsite at mile 2167.2 to campsite at mile 2191.4

24 miles

I have weird dreams about a new job and a computer virus. I procrastinate getting up to pee. I’m exhausted when the world starts to grow lighter. But it’s time to hike!

I pack everything up and then meet back up with Jumbo and Tribute on the bridge. We start walking together up the first hill of the day, a gradual but really annoying climb full of overgrown plants. There’s a blowdown at one point that’s just too tall for me to step over, and I end up sitting on a smooth crook in the tree as I would a horse. It cracks me up. I laugh and laugh while I try to get over the log, which makes Tribute yell, “YEE HAW!” and sets Jumbo giggling. Everything else about this climb isn’t fun. I stop for water at a stream but the boys go ahead, so I wind up alone, which is kind of how I like it when I feel a struggle coming on.

I finished the Sherman Alexie yesterday, so I start a new audiobook: Fox and I by Catherine Raven. It’s the memoir of a woman who befriends a fox and who tries to reconcile her training as a scientist, her sense that she needs a “real job” in the academy, and her preference for the non-human world to human company. It’s an interesting book, with a unique narrator who moves around freely in time as she tells the story.

I meet back up with the boys at the top or the climb, but I decide to keep going to a better spot to rest. Just as the trail starts to turn back downhill, there’s a dirt road that looks like a perfect place for a break. Jumbo joins me, but Tribute keeps moving. We have coffee and snacks before working our way down to Trout Creek.

It’s a surprisingly difficult downhill, pretty steep and hard to walk normally. It’s really hot and so far there really haven’t been many views. Very AT. Jumbo, predictably, is dying. But we have a really lovely little break at a campsite next to the wide, clear creek. I eat a Poshport, my new favorite: the Peak Refuel coconut chicken curry. Absolute swoon. I lay down for a little catnap, then Tribute heads on and Jumbo and I follow a bit after.

It’s flat for about five miles before Panther Creek, after which a massive uphill starts. But right before that, I’m walking through the thick woods when I see what looks like a car with a group of hikers gathered around it. My brain goes, Trail magic? But then it self-corrects, No, don’t get your hopes up. I come to the road and a guy with a dog waves me over.

“Want some trail magic?” he calls.

Heck yeah! There are cold drinks, oranges, and chips. Absolutely perfect. I down a Coke and then some barbecue chips and then a beer. Tribute, Jumbo and I sit there for probably about half an hour. Then I fight with the mossy earth to dig a hole and only partially win, and after that I can’t put off the hill any longer.

I cross the lovely creek on a footbridge. I start up the hill without music, but I simply can’t do it. I put on CHVRCHES for this climb, my old standby The Bones of What You Believe. It’s perfect. I rocket up the first 0.6 miles to the culvert where Jumbo and Tribute are still chilling after getting water. I drink half a liter and then load up with three, then I attack the hill in earnest. I listen to more of the album, then switch to Sleigh Bells, then Phantogram, then back to CHVRCHES. The hill isn’t that steep after the first three miles, but it is incessant and sweaty. There aren’t really any views, and although I have major cheese at the beginning, I cash it all in upfront and end up exhausted when I’m two miles from the summit.

Jumbo passes me, looking absolutely done.

“You okay?” I ask.

“I’m fucked,” he replies, not even bothering to stop or look at me.

It’s not looking likely that we’ll reach our planned camp, which would have put us at 26 miles for the day. We see Tribute’s pole stuck next to a short trail leading up to a flat spot on a ridge.

I gasp excitedly. “Are we done?”

“I am,” Tribute replies, a trifle testily.

I sigh in relief and plop my bag down. I really killed my Achilles on that hill, and I am so ready to not be hiking anymore. We’re treated to a nice little sunset as we set up for cowboy camping in a long line, head to foot, to maximize the flat part of the ridge.

When I wake up in the middle of the night and look at the stars, the Milky Way is splattered across the sky like paint. I feel held. I feel small and mighty at the same time. Damn. I love this trail. It beats me up and makes me exhausted, but I love it. I’m going to miss it so much when it’s done.

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