Tanya comes in late, sets up by the light of her headlamp; I’m not bothered by it. I sleep like a baby, even without earplugs – my tent’s pitched just right, and I don’t mind the wind or the tossing and turning of my spotmates. Both remind me that I’m not alone.
People are already frolicking off by the time I poke my head out of my tent – early starters this morning, all of them. My spotmates are still abed, though Tanya pokes her head out to watch me go.
Steffen is just ahead of me, stopping at the super-well-maintained cache to read the tips about Wrightwood, our next town stop. There’s so much water – I shouldn’t have carried so much out of McDonald’s. Better safe than sorry1.
The clouds are hanging low, and I’m thankful for it – there are 15 miles of uphill to do today, and they’re not going to walk themselves. Plus, it makes everything really pretty.
I start out pretty strong, actually, passing folk and feeling good – but I was always better at sprinting than at distance. It’s not long before people start passing me, one by one, until it starts to get super frustrating. I mean, they’re very jovial about it, and I’m glad to have someone to talk to, if only for a moment, but then it’s this pained “woe is me for being slow” shit in my head and ugh. It’s just tiring that that’s my first response.
The frustration mounts after a while, so I have to sit and eat – it’s a little easier to get passed when I’m doing something productive. It’s also nice that, shortly after I move on, I pass some other people. Gentler on my ego that way.
I enter a burn, and suddenly there’s a note to my right: Dead PDB, 10 FT. I finally see poodle dog bush, and, turns out, it is actually not the plant I thought it was. Thus begins a section of being really careful, as PDB, dead and alive, coats this section of trail. I didn’t put pants on – this is all supposed to happen North of Wrightwood! I didn’t know! OGODHUAAAAI – and when there’s finally space to out pants on, which I do, it’s all over. Womp womp.
I lied at Scissors, up is not my favorite thing – it feels like my muscles are locked into the “up” position, never to be set free. The fifteen miles lasts so long that I’m chanting a bastardized version of the Portal wall scrawl:
The down is a lie
The down is a lie
The down is a lie
This, of course, starts me to singing “Still Alive”, the Portal theme song, and trying to fit hiking-related lyrics to it. And then hOLY SHIT – I round the corner into a cloud.
So now I’m bastardizing the lyrics to “I’m on a Boat” to fit “I’m in a Cloud”3, and leapfrogging with Rich, and looking at false summits and channeling my inner Admiral Akbar when I shout “IT’S A TRAP”. A brief interlude occurs when a two-horse team informs me they’ve taken care of the blowdowns from here to Mount Baden-Powell. And then they ride off into the fog.
I’m on my third or fourth false summit and my umpteenth break when I turn off airplane mode, see if I have service. I do, and Sasha has sent me a message:
I can hear her saying it in my head and suddenly the dam breaks and I’m laughing, so hard I’m nearly crying in the middle of the trail. It’ll all be easier from here.
Indeed, the down is soon not a lie!
I sit for a while and watch the cloud push at this side of the mountain while that side is sunshiney. The cloud is COLD. The sunshine is WARM. I think, not for the first time, that the art of thruhiking is the art of being slightly uncomfortable at all times. Then it’s off, off through the clouds and the occasional break into views.
The Guffy Campground comes up first, and there’s a sign:
I think it’s too cold for beer, but I chat with Raccoon for a while. He hiked last year, and just wanted to pay it back. This trail brings out the best in folks. I get cold sitting still, so Racoon sends me off with some red vines, and I’m on my way.
Soon enough, past the weird pools for the ski slopes and the chair lifts and the glorious views, the last road crossing of the day, and the Blue Ridge Campground, my home for the evening. I’ll only have two miles to go into Wrightwood in the morning.
I’m a little weirded out by the spot Rich chose; it’s right beside some folks who I’m not actually sure I believe exist – overly-stereotypical rednecks, with the loud country music and the yelling when close together and the glorifying of the manly act of chopping wood. Bitching about hikers within earshot. I eat my food barely able to hear myself over the ruckus, am vaguely concerned about bears, but maybe the yelling will scare them off. I’m happy about the chill of the night when it drives the loud ones into their RVs early – I was actually considering leaving, they were so loud – but then it drives me to bed, too. Bears, don’t, it’s too cold tonight, I think, before sleep takes me.
Start: 347.2 • End: 367.3 • Day: 20.1
Notable Accomplishments: Climbed for 15 miles straight • Was frustratingly slow and still made 20 miles • Confident that could have made it into town
 I’m in a cloud motherfucker take a look at me
Straight hiking through a cloud on the PCT
Bustin’ miles out, goin’ steady, feelin’ proud
You can’t stop me motherfucker cause I’m in a cloud