Day 104: 7/21/14, PCT Mile 1138

Miles hiked: 17.4
Camped at: Five Lakes Creek with Firestarter and Cat Burglar

I adore meetings in the woods, planned ones included :). This morning, I booked it 6 and a quarter miles by 9am after getting a late start due to packing up a wet tent (ughh, I forgot how annoying that is) to see….Hemlock!!! As I approached the Barker Pass Trailhead, I saw someone sitting in the sun gazing at the mountains, and immediately a big grin spread across my face! So so happy to see her again, though it’s such a bummer that she’s having to take so much time off the trail for a stress fracture in her foot. Many healing thoughts your way, Hemlock! Thanks again for the wonderful trail magic of fruit, water, hard boiled eggs, and fig newtons! Ohh, and taking our trash away :). By far the best part was seeing you!!

Despite nearly running through the woods this morning eager to see Hemlock, I did appreciate the mist rising from the lake I camped at last night, the sun peeking out after so much rain yesterday, the plants and wildflowers covered in dew (which then covered me), and the delicious scent in the air after a storm. After a wonderful 2 hours visiting with Hemlock at the parking area, and entertaining the day hikers by drying out tents, socks and shoes, Barker Pass was a delight! Finally some good views of Lake Tahoe, more wildflowers, lush forest, and passing the aforementioned day hikers, which always tickles me when I’m in good enough backpacking shape to pass folks, who are carrying only a water bottle, uphill ;). After lunch, I climbed up to an unexpected ridge walk – stunning!! I caught up to Firestarter and Cat Burglar, who joked that today they were sitting on an exposed ridge watching the afternoon storm clouds roll in! Actually, it was a LOT cooler today, even chilly in the constant breeze on the ridge section in particular. Plus, no storms! No thunder rumbling in the distance (or right overhead) was such a relief. I stopped often to gawk at the scenery on the ridgewalk, including the cell tower and ski lift I passed.

While my energy was flagging a bit at the end of the day, if I had wanted to hike further miles I feel I could have eaten a snack and continued. This is reassuring to me – hiking still above 8000 feet at times today, and even with some decent climbs, I’m finally getting my normal hiking speed and endurance back in the easier terrain. I took at least 3 hours worth of breaks today, hiked over 17 miles from 6:30am until 4:50pm, and most importantly don’t feel exhausted.

I’ve determined that I’m really a section hiker at heart, doing a thru hike – I like to spend time in camp, don’t like to punish my body with constant high mileage days, and still want to see the whole trail this year. I’ll just take longer than the majority of thrus, and will have to flip about, to do so! Perhaps some day I’ll want the physical challenge of doing a fast thru hike, and at some point on this trip I do want to attempt a 30 mile day, but overall I’m pretty happy with how my PCT experience is working out :).

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