September 1, 2022
Campsite at mile 2338 to campsite at mile 2362.3
For once, I actually feel rested when I wake up. This might have something to do with the fact that when I woke up having to pee last night, I actually got up right away instead of lying there deliberating for an hour. In any case, I feel pretty motivated to get all my stuff packed up and have an actual breakfast of granola with powdered milk, honey, and peanut butter. It makes me feel very bougie. I only have a couple of weeks left out here, you know? I have to enjoy it.
When we start walking, I fall behind right away because I have to snot rocket. I know, I know. Too much talking about disgusting bodily functions. But you wanted an honest account of a thru-hike, right? That’s what it is. Anyway, I’m feeling pretty tired after how rough yesterday was. I pass Tribute, but Ishay and Jumbo remain pretty far ahead for the first five miles. I decide that I want to listen to the last scene of This is How You Lose the Time War again because it was just so darn beautiful. I do this, then I finally let that book rest for now and start my next one: Dune. It’s an ambitious 20 hours long, and I’ve put off reading this book for years because I know it’s going to be dense, political, and hard to follow. Having seen the movie, though, I think I have a pretty good grip on the basics of the plot. I listen to about five hours of it in total today, and I’m enjoying it so far.
The burn continues for most of the morning. After about five miles, there’s a water source, a piped spring near a few campsites with little shade. I join Jumbo and Ishay in settling in for a break. We’re making good time. We can afford it. I seriously have a problem with hot drinks now, I think. I make a cup of tea even though it’s already pretty hot. It’s just the idea that I CAN do it, you know? It’s like a little moment of comfort and relaxation before I go back to hiking.
I continue alone for a while after that, listening to Dune. The burn zone is hot and exposed, but there are purple flowers blooming everywhere along the trail. I like that contrast: the bright petals and the dead silver trees. Life and not-life. Soon the not-life ends and I am fully in the forest, the lush, green, mossy forest. The path is soft and spongy. I’m ambling along slowly, taking in the clean smell of the air and the storyline in my ears, when I spot a shelf of bright orange and yellow mushrooms growing from a dead tree. It’s chicken of the woods! One of my favorite edible mushrooms! I pick a couple of the tiniest little orange beauties, planning to have them in my lunch. It’s been ages since I’ve foraged, apart from berries, and I was wondering when I was going to see a familiar fungus in these woods.
Just as I pull over to admire the mushrooms, Tribute comes up behind me and I excitedly tell him they’re edible. A second later, Jumbo comes trundling along the trail. I tell him I’ve found chicken, but his mind is elsewhere.
“Passport!” he calls energetically. “Did you hear the news? King Gizzard is releasing THREE new albums in October and the pre-order is on September 7! I can’t afford it! And I won’t have cell service! But I’m getting them!”
“How did I get past you?” Tribute ponders.
To Tribute, Jumbo says, in a tone that suggests that the answer is obvious, “I took a massive shit.” Then to me, he adds, “I don’t think we’re going to have service when they come out. I told my mom and brother to brace themselves.”
“I mean. You could just wait?” I suggest.
“No, Passport! Then they’ll be sold out! I need them!” His huge blue eyes are just about popping out of his face in manic excitement. He has just about every existing King Gizzard album on vinyl, most of them very bright colors. He has photos of all of them and has made me gaze upon their glory. Naturally, he can’t miss these three just because he’s in the wilderness.
“Also,” Jumbo adds manically, “I just got recommended a new album and it SLAPS.” He puts an earbud back in his ear and starts motoring down the trail. Ok, bye!
I keep listening to Dune over the next few miles to the water source, a stream near the Mike Urich cabin. It’s an annoyingly long carry from here. What is up with these huge water carries? I don’t stop in the cabin because word spreading along the trail suggests that this is a norovirus hotspot, but I admire it as I walk past.
After a little while, I come upon the dirt road where we’d talked about stopping for lunch. As I get to the top of the hill, I spot a white canopy tent set up. It’s trail magic! Magic Man, whose daughter hiked the PCT, does trail magic once a year at this spot, and it happens to be today. I get a cold coke, some Starbucks instant coffee packets, a doughnut, and Cheetos. I don’t know why Cheetos taste so dang good out here, but they are the best. We sit in a shady spot on the road and eat our lunch. I cook my chicken of the woods by boiling it with water, True Lemon, salt, and pepper, then I pour them and the water into one of my bags of couscous. It’s almost too salty, but the mushrooms add a nice texture and flavor to the meal. I sit there with Ishay, Jumbo, Tribute, and Feather enjoying our lunches with trail magic drinks and snacks.
After lunch, I walk with Jumbo and Ishay for a bit.
“Okay,” Ishay says. “I have a game for you. I’ll play a jazz cover of a song, and you have to tell me what the song is. Okay? Want to play?”
We agree. This is a very Ishay game. Every time we run into him, he’s sitting under some tree listening to smooth jazz or some kind of chill funk. I get “Blackbird,” “Eleanor Rigby,” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and Jumbo handles all the Radiohead and Bowie.
“Wow, you guys did pretty good!” Ishay says approvingly.
We stop at the last water source for twelve miles a little after lunch. We’ve done almost 15 already, so we take another decent break. I make another tea because I have issues. Then I continue for a while, listening to more Dune. There aren’t a lot of views today, and the views we would have are obscured by smoke or haze or both. So I don’t really feel that bad listening so intently to this story. I pass Lemony picking huckleberries. They’re all over the place today, but I don’t feel like stopping.
Soon enough I come upon Jumbo as we’re crossing a dirt road. There are some locals there collecting huckleberries, and they chat with us for a few moments, excited. Then Jumbo and I walk together for pretty much the rest of the day. There’s a ridiculously hard hill, which might just be hard because I’m suddenly powerfully hungry. We stop at a junction and shove a ton of food in our faces, then continue up and over the crest of this tricky climb. On the way down to camp, we get on a roll talking about times we messed up at our jobs and funny-cringey stories of work-related struggle. By the time we’re halfway through a rant about people who bring up subjects after they’re well past them in conversation, we spot Tribute and Feather setting up camp next to a dirt road.
Jumbo and I opt for simple wrap-based dinners while Tribute and Feather cook. I set up my groundsheet right next to Tribute’s, and Jumbo overlaps his tyvek with my polycryo. It’s Sard Time, baby! Cowboy Sardines! Sardcore!
“You guys are one cozy tramily,” Feather says, observing how closely we set up. It’s true. And I have to be in the middle every time. It makes me feel safe and comfy.
I make another hot drink, a mango green tea. It tastes delightful while I sit in my cozy quilt between my friends, beneath the darkening sky.