PCT Day 135: Books, Bounce Birds, and Blistering Heat

August 31, 2022

Mile 2317.4 to campsite at mile 2338

20.6 miles 

It’s already uncomfortably warm at 6:30. Uh oh. I think I had one day of cheese and now it’s done. I can already tell I’m going to struggle today. But the sky is blue and pink and I’m still out here in this amazing world. That doesn’t make getting up any easier. I’m starting to push it later and later. Who gave an inflatable sleeping pad and a down quilt the right to be this comfortable? 

No one can dissociate like Jumbo

Once I finally get moving, I walk with Jumbo and Tribute slowly while we warm up. There’s an immediate view of Rainier, Native name Tahoma, and it takes our breath away. It looks like an ideal mountain, covered in snow and glaciers and gray craggy rock. 

The miles do not come easy this morning, even the downhill ones. It’s already so hot. We’re trying to avoid lakes because the word on the trail is that the norovirus going around seems to originate or at least congregate at lakes and ponds. So we’re only getting water from flowing sources, which are few and far between today. The first one is about four and a half miles in. It feels too early for a break mileage wise, but I’m so thirsty and already so tired. We gather water and then sit in a little tent site eating snacks.

There are these birds around that we’ve decided to call “bounce birds” because of how they hop around energetically on branches. I don’t know what they actually are, maybe a Canada Jay? But that’s our name for them. Bounce birds. Anyway, Beetle had posted a video of him holding a rock and a bounce bird swooping down into his palm, checking out the rock, and flying away. We decide to put this to the test, mixing in dirt and needles occasionally. It works! The birds swoop down, land in our palms, and then fly away again when they see it isn’t food. It’s a very fun little game. 

Jumbo displaying his now-characteristic hair wing

While we’re sitting there, and not long after we’d been musing over his whereabouts, Ishay comes sauntering down the trail. We have our usual enthusiastic round of greetings, then he joins us on our break. I guess he had a rough day yesterday, getting dehydrated and falling asleep by a lake. It’s always so amazing to see him again, a little magical treat. 

There are a couple of painful uphills after that. One of them ends at Chinook Pass, a popular trailhead. It’s full sun and there are day hikers everywhere. One group of women give us a banana and then ask about what we’d like to see for trail magic in the future. Another hiker asks about the deep drumming sound he’d heard in the woods, and I tell him it’s a grouse. At the trailhead, we sit in a sad patch of shade, I use the less-than-ideal pit toilet, throw away some trash, and then eat a clif bar while lying on the sidewalk. 

We’re only gone seven miles and it’s still before noon, so it’s too early for lunch. We trudge back up to the sandy trail and start making our way up the second big hill of the day. It’s stupid hot. Jumbo seems to get some energy so he goes ahead, and I trudge not far behind. I put some music on, but I sort of went nuts with energetic music yesterday and now I’m a little burnt out. At the top of the hot, sandy, exposed climb, I switch back to my book, This is How You Lose the Time War. I do not have words for how much I enjoy this book. The writing is exquisite and delicious like handcrafted chocolate. So much happens without being directly stated. It’s shaping up to be my favorite book I’ve read or listened to this year, perhaps a new favorite overall. 

The words carry me across several hot miles. The views go on and on. Puffy white clouds trot across a deep blue sky over dry beige coniferous ridges. I trail maybe a quarter of a mile behind Jumbo and finally come to a stop when I see him pulled over on some rocks in the shade near an angled campsite. It’s not the ideal lunch spot we usually look for, but it’s 2:00 and well past time for a decent break. I’m just setting down my pack when an urgent feeling of dread hits me. 

“Oh no,” I groan. I race down the hill for an emergency cathole. Really? This again? Can my body just not handle town food? Worst of all, I have to climb back up a super steep hill before I can eat lunch. So irritating. But what are you gonna do.

I make a nice warm lunch of Mountain House biscuits and gravy. I resist the urge, however, to make a hot drink. I’ll have one tonight. There’s really good cell service here, so I use that to send some texts and do the social media thing. Once I’ve exhausted myself with that and eaten my food, I carry on.

I get so entranced in the world of my book that the next few miles just melt. I truly cannot get over the beauty of the writing in this book. I find myself stopping, rewinding fifteen seconds, just to hear a line again. I follow the ridge up and over a steep hill, down a gentle one and around a corner, over another hill, down, listening to the story and feeling the distance of the mountains all at once. 

I have a minute left of the novel when I finally reach the piped spring we’ve been walking towards all day. I hold off talking to Jumbo and Tribute until the book concludes, and when it does, I’m stunned. Maybe I’m being dramatic, but I think that might just have been one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s a little light on plot details, and there’s more that I want to know, but the characterization and quality of writing was out of this world. Highly recommend if you’re at all into sci-fi, time-related books, and/or unconventional love stories. 

I collect water finally, and then the three of us walk another three miles through the Norse Peak burn to a campsite in a stand of actually alive trees. It’s just short of our 21 goal, but today has been brutal. We decide to call it a night. We set up Cowboy Sardines, I make a dash for yet another urgent cathole (what did I eat that my body hates me for??) and then we cook a leisurely dinner at the ends of our sleeping pads. I splurge on a jasmine green tea. Soon, Ishay comes along and joins us. It doesn’t take me long to fall asleep. 

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