PCT mile marker 1729.5, Miles hiked today: 12
I’m not sure exactly when, but all of a sudden I was cognizant that the road noise had faded away, and the sounds around me were all nature: myself huffing and puffing up climbs, my hiking poles catching on rocks, bees buzzing, the wind blowing. The morning scene was made all more surreal by the fact that it was foggy, with mist blowing across the meadows that I simply can’t seem to capture in a photo. The slight scent of smoke on the air from a fire burning in Northern California – happily for me I’m hiking away from it. Autumn seems to be settling in here – the colors are all golden.
Only Day 2, and my shoes don’t look brand new any longer – nice and dirty from the western dust. My legs are even dirtier than I remember from hiking out here – I do love my baby wipe baths as part of my evening ritual!
Pure nostalgia assaulted me as one of the guys I camped with last night said “see you down the trail” as he passed me not even an hour in. Such a common trail send off, it was amazing to me on my first long distance hike on the Appalachian Trail how often I would see familiar faces when I thought they were behind or ahead significantly far – you just never know. Now, it is a common miracle to be reunited in the woods or town. Common, but never taken for granted.
Waking up this morning in fog, I was bummed thinking I’d be packing up a wet tent (never a fun thing). However, the air was otherwise so dry my tent fly was only slightly damp! I was pleased it remained misty and cool all morning (with droplets of water falling from the pine trees like rain) – perfect hiking weather for me, especially since I was feeling a bit dehydrated after traveling yesterday and needed to ration until the next water source. The trail does provide! In contrast, the thru hikers, all swiftly passing me, with their ramped up metabolisms, had puffy coats on, hats, and rain pants to keep warm. I remember when….
As I stopped for my morning break just shy of 3 hours in, my stomach making me remember what trail hunger feels like – “nope, your legs aren’t going any further until you give me some fuel!”. It’s so easy to control my eating out here – after all, I’m carrying it on my back! Maybe I should try that in everyday life. Or not.
Muscle memory is a strange thing. My legs want to go go go at a swifter pace, so today’s struggle was slowing down and doing baby steps on the climbs, as I most assuredly am not in great trail shape. My asthmatic lungs are also feeling the change in elevation (4-5K is a big difference when you live at sea level!) but as long as I don’t get impatient with my pace, no wheezing – yea! I still argue with myself when people pass me – I’m so competitive! I don’t want to be the slowest hiker out here. I tell myself I am so fortunate to be out here at all, and going slower allows me to see things I wouldn’t have noticed if I was trying to make big miles.
Overall, I’m happy with the 12 miles I planned and did today – don’t want to burn out. It was just right with the elevation changes, I feel like I’ll sleep well tonight, though I still felt odd getting to camp at 4:30pm. Tomorrow, I hope to hike around 15-16 miles. We’ll see! I’ll have to dry camp regardless, and lugging an extra 2L to do so (what I typically need) gets heavy.
A simple delight today: finding a pit toilet at the last dirt road crossing before camp! It was very clean, despite the bees outside. Even had a garbage bag – I gleefully dumped my trash.
A not-delight today: I got stung by a bee on the back of my thigh! Not terribly itchy yet, fingers crossed.
Hikers met: SOBO Walking Mantis (talked with at last pipe spring), NOBO Australian talked with at lunch, 4+ NOBOs passed me in addition to the 6 I camped with last night — surprising to see this many so far south in September! I’m surprised I’m camping alone tonight, but actually I think I may be stealth camping – the actual campsite listed could be up the trail – there is a bend directly beyond me. I only heard a few people go by after I got into camp.
Gear notes: had to haul out the needle and thread from my repair kit – got too close to my stove with my puffy at dinner :(. Repair kit is seeing a lot of use in just 2 days!!
A final bathroom break — which always takes longer than I think – get my puffy on, get out of my sleeping bag, unzip the tent and then the fly, get my sandals on, and actually haul myself out of my tent — and then sweet dreams. Addenda: the stars are brilliant tonight! It’s definitely chillier (I’m also about 800 feet higher than last night) – the fleece hat and down mittens have made an appearance!