The first thing I notice after the silence of the evening is the loudness of the morning – a low-grade hum that seems definitely out of place. It’s definitely not hummingbirds. There are so many bees, and not the fluffy, bumbly kind. I stay in bed as long as possible, assisted by Meer donating some hot coffee to the cause, before running out and tearing down, bees investigating, but not stinging. I have to pee, but don’t want to expose my delicate ass to the bees, so I hold it and move on along.
It’s downhill to start today – the trees in this forest are pretty sparse and strange, gaps reminding me of the ghosts of the trees scattered about the forest floor. I noticed it last night, but it’s definitely more pronounced today, particularly when I try to find some cover behind which to pee. It continues as I cross over roads and by streams, until I’m not sure I’ll ever be free of it.
Nearly six miles into my morning, I stumble across another marker.
Most of the morning is downhill, taking us down, down into the Feather River valley – Spesh warned me about this, large drops and large ups that characterize most of NorCal. Oregon – supposedly flat and cruise-able – is looking like the next promised land, but it’s still basically 500 miles away. Gotta hang in there until then.
Down down down we go – Meer and Six pass me on the last switchbacks down to the Middle Fork of the Feather, and while it’s tempting just to cross the bridge and move on, the water looks wonderful – and there are a bunch of folk down there, and it’s time for a break anyway. So it’s a bit of scrambling down a bit further, to the rocks and a set of rapids people are using as a waterslide.
I haven’t had any experience with rapids ever, and there’s a point at which you can’t help but be sucked under – now is not the time, I think, to get my first experience with such things. Mozart tries to goad me into it, saying I’ll regret it– and maybe I will1. But the water is so cold and I’m not confident and if there’s anyone who’s going to mess something like this, something important, up, it’s probably me. So I opt to stick my feet in the nice pool that someone’s created, rinse my clothes in another part of the stream, and really, truly enjoy just relaxing.
It’s pretty fun to people-watch from my vantage point – I’ve got most of the slide in view and also the bridge, where folks are starting to trickle up the trail.
Soon enough, it’s time for me to make my own way up the other side of the valley. ohboyohboyohboy. Of course that’s when Pineapple makes it in – womp womp – but I sit for a minute and we chat about evening destinations before I go.
It’s the little things that get me through the climb, little things like trailside feathers and birdsong and the fact that I’m actually pretty happy to be under treecover because it’s so damn hot outside.
I’m pretty happy once I finally get up there, though, given dem views.
When the profile levels off – as much as the PCT ever levels off, particularly in NorCal – I find myself leapfrogging with a trio of ostensibly-section-hikers. Just after Big Creek Road, I sit before the coming uphill, and they catch me and start to chat. Reese, Pete, and Bruce are on the last hike of what has been a longstanding tradition: Reese has been section hiking the PCT for 35 years, and this year, this section he’s hiking right now, is the last section he has to do to complete his hike. The other two have been accompanying him for some years now, as he finishes up. I’m awestruck at the revelation. It’s one thing to take six months out of a life and run like hell for the finish, but quite another to come back year after year after year, putting down more miles, having to recondition yourself every single time. That takes a level of perseverance and dedication that I don’t think a thruhike necessarily shows. That’s incredible, I say, and mean it to my bones.
They head off before I do, but I find them not even a tenth of a mile further down the trail, setting up in a nice spot. If I were done walking, I’d want to set up with them, pick Reese’s brain, and fall asleep with the near-unfathomable concept of 35 summers on the PCT dancing through my brain. But I’m not done walking, and so I wish them all the best before I make my way a little further.
The trail yo-yos like hell through this next section, up and down up and down up and down, around into views and back into valleys, views and valleys. I catch Speedy Gonzalez, and we leapfrog for a while before he catches me at a large campsite, where I ponder setting up. I think I can make it to Bucks Lake Road, but I don’t quite want to camp by the roadside; I think there’s room in the profile for a tent just before the last descent to the road, so that’s what I aim for.
I’m nearly to that last descent before I hear my name called – Meer and Six are curled up in a tentsite, and there are more sites nearby, and there’s 4G service, so I grind to a halt. Close enough to where I was aiming for. I text Pineapple to tell her where we are, and get a text back saying to save her a spot. FABULOUS PEOPLE YESSSSSSSSSSS. The two of us end up camping about 6 inches away from each other, both amused by the prospect, and Pineapple and Six and Meer and I chase away the quiet of the night with laughter until it’s time for sleep.
Start: 1237.0 • End: 1265.0 • Day: 28.0
Notable Accomplishments: Watering hole! • Made it up that hill • Survived a long day
 Fast-forward to actually getting a chance to post this: I really don’t regret not doing it, particularly since I wasn’t even comfortable enough to get into the water in the pool.