Pacific Crest Trail Diary 8: PCT Day 62 (White Rock Creek)
Updated: Sep 21, 2018
This will be the first posting that I've written while actually on the trail and will be making publicly available. I wrote for three and a half hours on Wednesday beside the waters of Lake Aloha, but it is not possible for me to share those pages here. They are intensely personal and there are other matters that make it impossible for me to make them available. I'll discuss those things later if I can though.
I'm writing on trail today because it is absurdly hot. It's my understanding that much of the south west is experiencing the heat (Phoenix all the way up to 122 degrees), but for most people that just means staying indoors and enjoying the luxury of air conditioning. Neither my backpack nor my tent have air conditioning though, so I'm forced to be out in it. Adding to the pleasure of the temperature is the relative humidity that has brought in bugs. They aren't nearly as bad as I had to deal with in Yosemite, but they are quite a bother especially in conjunction with the heat. I'm soaking wet from sweat all day, and to top it off I'm constantly swatting bugs. I can see how this could get to some people. Ugh--this is probably the biggest physical challenge I deal with--being so wet and sticky and disgusting all day then going to sleep in it and waking up in damp clothes that will only become soaked within an hour of waking. I don't know what it is about being soaking wet and sticky that produces such misery, but it's a challenge to deal with. It drives me about as crazy as the bugs.
It's my understanding that a lot of thru hikers drop out at this point on the trail. They get to the 1000 mile mark and realize that they still aren't really even close to the half way point. That and the fact that they have made it through the desert of SoCal and the high Sierra and it just becomes too much. I've heard of several people who have quit this week who I had met or hiked with at some point along the trail. These factors have not really made me want to leave though; I don't really have any place to go other than the trail right now, so it would be hard for me to say, "I'm out" since there is nowhere to go out to.
I will say however that I understand the people who have had enough at this point. I am certainly looking forward to reaching the half way point later this week. It's not that I really want to be off the trail or done with it forever, but that I want to be done with it day after day after week after month. It gets exhausting. At the same time however it's really magical and there is really no other way that I can describe the whatever-it-is that makes this experience what it's been so far.
I am absolutely swarmed by flies right now and irritating to no end!
I unfortunately have to be very brief and vague in describing some of the things that happened since I've posted last, so please forgive my ambiguity or lack of clarity; it's largely to protect anyone else who may have been involved and to ensure that I'm not otherwise prevented from continuing my hike (I know, even this is vague, but Im working on ways that I'll be able to work it into the book that I'm writing with a bit more clarity).
As planned I left South Lake Tahoe with the friend I'd stayed with there at the Motel 6. I went to the Echo Lake post office where I received my resupply box, a new water filter cartridge, and a care package from my grandparents (grandparents sent it to celebrate crossing 1000 miles on trail earlier that week). I did not however receive a hand written letter from an acquaintance back home that had been sent over a week prior, so that kind of disappointed. I asked the post office there to forward it 100 miles up trail if it ever does arrive, but I'm not getting my hopes too high on this one. Luckily, this was about the only down side to that day.
We hiked out around Echo Lake and it was absolutely beautiful! One of the prettiest I've seen on trail. Then from there we arrived at Lake Aloha where we had planned to set up camp for the day. We wanted that day to be very short so that we could have some time to relax on the back side of the lake where other hikers would be less likely to set up for the night or go exploring. This worked out very well as we were the only ones back there that night.
We set up camp, and unfortunately this is where I have to be especially vague because it's also where things become the most interesting. What I can say is that the preceding afternoon and evening turned out to be one of the most important, defining, and reorienting experiences of my entire life.
I meditated by the waters for well over an hour and I made a small rock circle by the lake that I later destroyed, scattering all the pieces back into an unrecognizable mess. It was a night that was about life and death, birth and destruction, sadness and joy, and blacks and whites. It was about the coincidencia oppositorum. I looked out over the waters after sunset and had a completely new perspective on my entire life leading up to that moment. Specifically I realized how the extraordinarily tragic death of a young girl who lived next to me when I was a kid may have shaped the direction of the rest of my life. I cried a lot out by the lake that night. They weren't necessarily tears of sadness, but rather of understanding and appreciation of what it is that this life is for. I saw how terrible things always produce beauty in the end even if it takes years to see beyond the pain.
It was an afternoon that I'll never forget and I wish with every fiber of my being that I could share it with you all, but like I said, I must remain about that brief to protect both myself and others.
One other thing that I can say about that night however is that I made a real friend. After so much loneliness that I've felt on trail, it really meant the world to know that I'm not out here alone. I may be a solo hiker still, but I've made a companionship that could last for the rest of both of our lives. The next morning he gave me a prayer card that he'd been carrying for 10 years. A friend of his had given it as a gift after saving his life, and this friend of mine gave it to me in turn as a thanks for saving his life the night before.
ARG! How it's frustrating to be so vague!
I stayed up writing for three hours that night and put a lot on the page. I cried a lot that night too as I wrote, going over it all again in my head before it went to the page. The next day however I was very tired. The hiking was good, but being so short on sleep really took it out of me, and that was somewhat the case with what happened yesterday as well. Although I had a bit more rest yesterday, that's when the heat really started, so the miles were long.
THESE DAMN FLIES ARE KILLING ME!
Right now I'm about 30 miles from Sierra City and will arrive tomorrow. I don't think that the temperatures are going to subside in the next day or two, so I'll likely try to take it slow from 12-4 and do a bit of night hiking to have better temperatures.
Unfortunately I am desperately in need of new shoes and a new sleeping pad. I've sewn my shoes twice now and they are just barely holding together. They are beginning to really hurt my feet and produce some blisters. I've ordered new ones and they will be "here" in about 100 miles, but it's going to be a pretty major challenge to make it that far in these ones. As for my sleeping pad... Hard to explain. The baffles have separated so although it still holds air, it's basically like trying to sleep on a big fat balloon. It's impossible to not roll off, so that isn't helping with my trying to get caught up on sleep.
Life is good though. I have really adjusted to living on the trail and to be honest, I'm more scared of having to someday reintegrate back into society than I am of walking all the way to Canada. It's simple out here, you know? You just wake up and walk the trail. Always heading north. It is really simple and for that I love it. But at the same time it makes me really miss those out in the world who I don't get to see every day anymore. It's made me realize how much I will enjoy seeing you again.
Okay. The flies are to a point now where I am swatting them more than typing letters, so I'll end it here. Strange sitting here in the middle of the day to write though. The people who hiked by over the last half hour probably thought that I was texting. Oh well. That's life out here.
Will write again soon.
PS: Two months!