PCT Day 137: Hot and Hilly

September 2, 2022

Campsite at mile 2362.3 to Mirror Lake at mile 2385.6 

23.3 miles

I don’t know what hits me this morning, but I wake up with an uncharacteristically large amount of energy. Jumbo isn’t even rustling around with his oatmeal packets yet, and Tribute is still in Slug Mode. But I have a deep urge to make coffee and read for a few minutes while everyone else is still chilling. I change into my hiking clothes and pack my sleep system away as fast as I can. 

“What is going on?” Jumbo asks, confused and maybe a touch irritated. The first person to move generally signals the fact that the day is beginning, which we all try to avoid. 

“I want to make coffee and read my book for a while. Calm down.”

It’s only a few minutes, but I savor this sweet moment of eating my peanut butter wrap, drinking coffee, and reading a couple of pages of this book I’ve been carrying since Sierra City. Soon, though, the boys and Feather are all packed up, and it’s time to move. 

Today’s scenery is, to put it in Jumbo’s words, uninspiring. The forest is pretty at first, and we stop to get water at the first source before carrying on. Tribute and Feather leave first, and Jumbo and I walk together for a few miles. We talk for a bit, then retreat into our own little worlds as it gets hillier and hotter. I resume listening to Dune.

Time goes on and there are no good break spots. It’s been over seven miles when we finally sit down on a shitty dirty road for a rest. I make a cup of chai that turns out kind of weak, so I add powdered milk and then wind up tossing in some granola and honey. It’s surprisingly good. 

We start moving again, walking together but doing our own audio thing. I pull over for water at a spring while Jumbo keeps going. I expect to see him stopped for lunch, but he’s nowhere to be found. Alright, I think, I guess he meant it literally when he’d see me at the next water. There are a few more steep climbs as the day goes on, and a few walks underneath power lines that remind me of the AT. 

I finally find Jumbo next to a little spring talking to Jukebox, another Israeli hiker. (He hasn’t met Ishay yet, though.) Jukebox and Jumbo bonded immediately just after Trout Lake when the former saw Jumbo’s Pinegrove hat and gave him a hug. The two of them talk while I virtually crawl over to the water and collect more. It’s so hot and I’m so dusty. How am I so dusty. People said Washington was beautiful, but so far I’m just hot and dusty in this dry forest. 

Jumbo and I walk another tenth of a mile to a campsite where we finally run into Feather and Tribute. We lay out our ground sheets and cook lunch, then lie down. It’s fairly late in the day now, but we’ve already gone 15 miles and just have seven miles left. We can afford to rest.

Once we start packing up to continue, I’m hit with a wave of sleepiness. Why does seven miles seem so doable in the morning and so impossible in the afternoon? Jumbo and I walk it together but hardly say a word. I don’t even listen to Dune for the first bit. I just dissociate. It’s so hot. There aren’t really any views. The sky is doing that thing where it looks like there’s a wildfire somewhere. I’m sort of just trudging at the moment. 

At the water source before the second to last climb, we load up about three liters because the next few sources are lakes or lake outlets, and we’re still trying to avoid lakes due to the noro scare. While we’re there, a group of three hikers comes by and starts talking. One of them repeats something he heard from another hiker: that the last fifteen miles before the Canadian border are closed due to a fire. 

Jumbo and I share the same look of concern. Not finishing the trail? Not touching the monument at the border? Being robbed of the California-Oregon border pales in comparison to even the idea that we might not get to touch the famous monument at the end of the PCT. But it’s still early yet. It’s just a rumor. We try to keep these things in perspective while we start up the hill. We simply don’t know what’s going on yet. We’ll double check it when we get to Snoqualmie tomorrow.

The steep climb ends, then the trail passes Twilight Lake and turns right back uphill again. My feet are absolutely done. They have had it. I only took two ibuprofen today, both in the morning, and I can feel every step. Another fun thing that’s been happening today is that my knee is sore. Now my hips and glutes are working hard to get me and my three liters of water up this stupid hill to the lake. 

Caramel apple pops really coming in clutch today

When we finally make it up, there are tons of what I assume to be locals set up with huge tents at every available site along the lake. Arghh! I’m exhausted! Why do you have to enjoy nature when I’m trying to enjoy nature! I know thru-hikers are not gods and the trail is for everyone, but dang, I want to be done. 

We finally see Tribute chilling in a clearing. He leads us down to a less-than-great spot where he and Feather are set up. He’s saved a spot for Jumbo and me. We squeeze in for two-person Cowboy Sardines. Feather has extra mac and cheese, which she shares with me, and it brings me back to life somewhat. Then I cook my dinner and have a green tea and enjoy the sensation of not being moving.

It was probably really dumb of us to take four days off and then have no zeroes for the rest of the trail, in retrospect. 21 per day isn’t much if you’re just talking about normal hiking days, but 21 repeatedly with no zeroes? That’s ridiculous. We should have known that we would need some time. But we’ve got a time goal now, and we’re working towards it steadily. One way or another, we’ll get there. 

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