Day 3: 21.4miles, 8.5hrs
Devastated Forest Camp – Exhaustion Camp
Im so fucking tired. Stoked and tired all at once. Stopped myself well before real exhaustion. This fatigue will pass with some food and sleep. I know myself well enough to stop the effort before I reach the point of no recovery or return. These early days of a walk are the ones that dictate not just how far you get overall but more importantly the level of love for the hike.
I wake at 430 and feel surprisingly…awake. Nature called so I go into the devastated forest I offer the tobacco to the night before to do my business. I finish up and bury the poop and head back downhill to camp. Shit. Literally holy shit where is camp I thought it was here. Or there?! It’s dark and I’m in a forest that all looks the same. He headlamp shows trees down and dry and dead. Trees left standing are grey with rot and decay. There are no landmarks and I’m fucking lost. Fucking lost.
Dont panic. Stop. Think. Retrace your steps to that hole filled with drying poo you walked by and thought was odd when you saw it because you didn’t see it on the walk to where you dug your own hole and pooed. Should’ve realized I was going the wrong way but didn’t think and now…I go back slowly carefully through the broken branches and shine the headlamp hopefully around and see a twinkle in the distance walk that way and know for certain I found my camp. Which is when my headlamp craps out as if on cue.
Clara!! Or should I think, Redfeather!!! Be careful!! A lesson learned the easy way. This I know. For certain. I got off so easy and laugh out loud. I will never go into the forest to poo without my phone that has the app that gps ‘s me and can get me back to the trail. At least that!!
A few hours of walking I see two dirt bikes riding the remote dirt road beside me. They stop at the view take off helmets and I see it’s two women. Ladies!! We chat for a bit and look out at the smokey expanse that softens the sea of ridges in view. I talk to with everyone on the trail. Why not? We’re all out here in our own ways and have at least the being out in common even if some are powered by engines fueled by hat other than food.
I start think about the stuff in my pack. What do I want. What do I need. Everything seems worthwhile the carry except some magic herbs a friend has sent me off with. Not only the ‘magic herb’ but the coconut oil with the ‘magic herbs’ to rub on my knee if it gets sore. I think about this stuff in my pack and know clearly I need to ditch it. It’s just not my thing. Where do I give this/leave this/gift this???
An hour later I come around a turn in the trail and see three dark and dirty figures hovering in the shade drinking the flow of water cascading down the rock. I’ve been walking 4.5 hours, don’t need water but stop to talk when they smile at me and say hello hello. Young guys NOBO-ing their thru-hiking way north. They ask what I’m doing and I say I’m just starting the walk south, hoping to ‘just’ hike the bottom half of the PCT. They say cool, that’s not just a ‘just’ that’s legit, Redfeather!
One of them asks about Chester where I left and wonders what the chance of a guy finding a ‘floral arrangement’ in town. Floral arrangement? I’m thinking he has a girlfriend back home with a birthday and then he brings out his pipe ‘we’ve been smoking creosote for days, DAYS!!’ he says.
Oh oh do I have a gift for you….
Gasket and Flip, the two young dirty smelly stoked beyond belief North Carolinans say ‘Redfeather we’re dirty and smelly but can we give you a hug?!?’ Uhhh, no, and we do a fist pump instead. They dip their dirty fingers into the coconut oil and exclaim ‘it has fat calories, too!! The trail provides!!! You’re gonna have good trail karma, Redfeather, that you will have!!!’
I walk away laughing, happy in my own way with the lightened load. It feels good to give with no expectation of receiving.
The long climb begins. After the long long long decent of course. It’s fucking hot. A very long time later, I cut down a steep side trail to an ice cold creek that offers a little pool of rock lined ice cold water love below the flow. I dip into this pool and cool the soaring core temperature of my body. Instant relief. I drink my fill and pack my fluid carry for the following 1.5 miles to a dry camp I lounge in now. I’m water rich and full of fatigue. It’s only 4pm but stil I have dinner. I take my water bottle shower rinsing the sunscreen salt and dirt off my body. I don’t care that I make myself too clean to be hiking the trail. It feels good and right for me to do it this way and I feel rejuvenated though exhausted. I am happy. I’m asleep before 8pm. Tired but happy.
Day Four: 23.2 miles, 9hrs 35mins
Exhaustion Camp – A-Tree Spring Camp
Solar Eclipse Day!!
I’d say 8pm-4am is a solid sleep. Pretty stellar night of of z’s on the trail. Especially solo. Sometimes when hiking alone like I did the 1200 northern miles of the Appalachian Trail I sleep with one eye open and it’s. it so sound. But there’s more people and shelters and roads and stuff on that trail. The PCT is different and somehow I feel more settles and secure with less of all those things. So sleep is good and I’m ready to run not hike after eight solid hours of slumber.
Happy with my little Tarp Tent, my refuge that allows a feeling of calm and safe and secure in the forest which I walk. Any thought of ditching the tent and going with a small tarp in case of rain while cowboy camping is gone gone gone. This is my tiny home and it’s not for rent.
i am however beginning to question the rational of quinoa on the trail. Not sure it’ll still taste good after a few days. Perhaps I’ll go back to gluten filled pasta that does my gut just fine.
Feels good to start early and I cruise along. Decide I don’t need water the first 5.5 miles and I hike dry. It takes time to let go of the security of instant-having-every-damn-thing-you-want while walking, like food water shelter and a plan. A plan!! An itinerary!!! A place to get to that takes you away from the step by step and moment you can be in if you just let go of thinking you have to get somewhere!! This letting go takes time and already on day four it’s beginning to happen. I like this.
I arrrive at a spring where two tired grumpy NOBO’s do heir morning breakfast thing. I don’t judge nor talk nor intrude. I get my water and heard back up to the trail. I sit and smile at the rising sun and let myself be happy. Who knows what those two cracked hikers have gone through. I take my good energy away from their space because I know how damned annoying it can be to receive advice or just have that influence around from someone who’s only walked a few days. I totally get it and secretly enjoy the temper tantrum I witnessed down at the water. Not the girl but the guy had more fully cracked. He’s young and strong and yes the trail has brought him to his knees. I know for certain it will do the same to me. Many a time. It humbles the best and strongest and youngest and most capable of us all. No matter who you think you are your arse will be severely kicked by hiking. It will! Including me.
I walk further and and run into the NOBO section hiker ‘Still Looking ‘. His spirit is not just broken it’s shattered. He can’t comprehend the reality that 20 mile days is too much ‘I have to make it to Ashland!’ Which is hundreds of hard miles away. He’s set on getting somewhere and in the haze of expectation he’s tripped, falllen and almost broken his nose. His appetite is gone he’s exhausted yet all he can talk about is getting there.
‘Maybe I’m just too old for this trail?’ He sighs and looks down. I say no, no, no… let go of your stupid mileage plan! Take it day by day! No plan. It’s better this way. Hiking is hard. It’s hard!!
Not sure my encouragement registers as we part ways. I did get him to laugh a little and leave him with ‘ go easy on yourself, Still Looking, and you’ll get there. You will’.
I sit on a rock and put my cardboard solar eclipse glasses on. It’s starting!! Remarkable!! My friend Brian Nelson insisted I bring them and now I know why. I walk some more and keep checking on the sun with my glasses. I cry when I’m looking because it’s so damn beautiful and I’m on the trail in nature living from my little pack and happy. So happy.
Right when it’s gonna go full eclipse I stop one more time. Which was right about the time a big cloud and the sun collide. Denied. I laugh. It’s as it should be. Yes it is.
Hours later I stop for more water. Filtering through my Sawyer squeeze. I think about the water I’m filtering and how it’s better than much of the worldwide populations water they walk miles to access. I know because I’ve seen this in Africa time and again. Little tiny kiddies walking miles with jerry cans to get their dirty water to haul home. I think about the hundreds of remote First Nations communities in Canada that have no access to clean water and remain on boil water realities for not weeks nor months but years. And here I filter the cleanest water but it’s not straight from the rock or ground it’s not a spring so yes I free because I don’t want to get stomach issues. I am a walking example of not just privilege and a gleaning white one at that. I do have awareness at least that what I’m doing is not hard relative to what I just wrote and so much more. That this is a choice and gift to walk and the trail is magic in itself that it is there for those that make the time effort to take the steps NOBO or SOBO. That it doesn’t matter nor does anyone care if I ‘make it’ but that doesn’t mean it does not matter to me. I vow to not take myself nor this walk too seriously and focus on the experience the connection the way I can treat others and human connections along the way. That’s the least I can do. The very least.
I get get I tot the cold water again well below where anyone might collect water. I vow to get in water each day and be reborn.
I walk all up and up and up some more. Up to 7400 feet which is the Sierra Lowlands compared to what I know lays ahead. Then down to the pummelling Spring of A-Tree. I take my water bottles well away and rinse off so well. The ice cold water brings me to life. I set camp in the trees right on the dirt road junctions. Hoping no atv ‘s nor cars will come in the night. The only visitor is the sound of the barred owl hooting and howling and I am happy. So happy. I see only 6 hikers this whole day. Just as I hoped the trail would be.