It’s so easy to hit the snooze button on my phone, which I both like and dislike – by the time I accept that the morning has come, it’s already 5:30. It’s not too long before I’m actually ready to walk, but I push it back and back until it’s 6:30. Maybe I have a food hangover or something.
Slowly, slowly, I’m a turtle headed uphill this morning – it’s so strange to not have had a nice, mediocre day in a while. It’s either feast or famine; I am either a hiking machine or a sloth, moving in slow motion despite all efforts to the contrary. Today’s really pretty at least.
Pineapple’s behind me somewhere – when I stop for a break, she still doesn’t catch up. I could use some company today.
There’s so much more up today than yesterday, or at least it feels like it. Gotta earn those views, I guess.
Finally, at one of the water sources, proof of life: Pineapple comes down the trail, and it’s nice to sit and eat and chat.
We hike on and meet up again at the top of the drop before the Scott River – there’s internet here, and so we take a break. Pineapple confronts me; she’s frustrated with how much walking we’re doing without giving ourselves a real rest. She wants to stay the night in Etna. I respect that decision, but I’m not so sure that plan’s for me. I did some math last night, and I’ve calculated that with half-days into and out of Etna and Seiad Valley, and the nero into/zero at Ashland, and the nero into and out of Cascade Locks, we need to make 24.7 miles a day to make it to Canada by October 1st. That’s it. All the higher mileage we do is just buying us more time. The thought seems to reassure her, as it did me.
I take care of some more business while we’re up there: order shoes, respond to work emails, talk about packages with Spesh and my Mom. It’s hard to drag myself away from the connection, but I eventually do.
And then it’s onward, down the hill to the Scott River.
At least, kind of. What we think is gonna be many much down proves to be down and up and down and up and down. We pass a solo lady, who’s doing a section and is excited to see a “group” composed of only ladies. She tells us that the Perseids meteor shower’s supposed to peak tomorrow around 11pm or midnight, which could be cool if I can drag myself from sleep to see it. We’re left wondering, in an anecdotal sort of way, if there aren’t more ladies hiking without menfolk. Not that we’ve seen them, but there have to be. Right?
Down at the Scott River, it’s another break for me – another long one, as I try to get (and succeed at getting!) some more writing done. I feel accomplished, but at the cost of a fair bit of the rest of the day.
Up up up I go – and suddenly, my head breaks out into song. But not just any song. Cotton Eye Joe. Because my brain is a sadist, apparently. Over and over again, until I’m not sure where it came from, but I know where it can go: straight to hell. But it’s no use, and I’m left wondering how long this self-inflicted torture is going to last.
Finally, a respite: close to the top, there are chairs and a thruhiker named Vertigo and a trail angel who calls himself Mr. Callahan. The latter’s got a truck on the dirt road, which is carrying a bag for our trash and water and peanuts and yogurt, among other things; I think about walking on, but the prospect of cold water and a chair are too tempting. I sit for a bit, chat with the gents, watch Mr. Callahan do some flintknapping. He goes around and collects obsidian, and then knaps it into arrowheads. He gives me one, and it’s pretty rad.
A deer’s lurking nearby from all the peanut shells everyone leaves behind – it’s not exactly Leave No Trace friendly, but it could be worse, I guess. I’m thinking about leaving when Pineapple rolls up, drinks the last beer. I knew I’d declined for a reason. We all loiter until it’s time for Mr. Callahan to go and cook dinner for his wife, and we’re left with a climb to finish now and three more after. Feeling how I feel right now, 28 miles is gonna be a huge push, and I don’t know that I have it in me, but it’s still fairly early. We’ll see how things shake out.
Finshing the up we’re on is hard, and the one after is rough, too, but hey, at least there’re views.
Then it’s into the Russian Wilderness, where the landscape starts to feel like a bit of a throwback to the Sierra, what with all the granite about:
And at the top of our second to last up, there’s another Kings Canyon-looking viewpoint. Huh. Nobody told me NorCal was this beautiful.
From here, we can see the third up, snaking sharply up the mountain. It makes my feet whimper just looking at it, but it’s gotta be done.
My feet rebel on the down; the trail’s eroded through here, and while I’m trying to be careful with where I put my feet, my left foot slides down the mountainside. I stop myself before the rest of me goes, but for a minute, I’m stuck sitting precariously on my right hip, which is pushed up against my right ankle. I lean uphill to take some of the pressure off, and wonder how exactly I’m gonna get up. Pineapple comes back to help, but I slide my pack off and manage to wiggle my way back upright. I test everything, and while my leg feels scraped up, It seems okay.
At least, it seems okay for a little while – as I continue to walk, my ankle gets a little skeptical about this whole “walking” thing. It’s not the bone, because it bears my weight and I shouldn’t be able to poke a chipped bone without pain, and it’s not a bruise, since the poking doesn’t do much, which means it’s probably some sort of ligament/tendon/soft tissue that’s annoyed. Ugh. I tell Pineapple that I definitely don’t want to try to make 28 today, what with the whole argumentative ankle and the coming dark thing. If we stop a campsite early, we’ll have made exactly 24.7 miles today. How fortuitous. She agrees with me, and it’s onward and upwards towards camp.
We enter a burn area and, because Murphy’s Law is a thing, the sun that’s been hiding behind the clouds bursts forth to shine its light upon us. It’s as hilarious as it is sweaty – which is, to say, very, although I don’t know that the hilarity’s not coming from my brain cooking in my skull.
I’m hiking behind Pineapple both to have a goal (keeping up) and to provide moral support for her, but I often feel like I’m way too close, having to stop to avoid getting impaled on her trekking poles. I hope I’m not stressing her out, but I’m also pretty stoked that I’m keeping up, feeling the way I do: me in the desert would hardly recognize me now.
We get to the top and shriek our exasperated triumph to the canyon below. We’ve earned this moment. Then it’s (mostly) down, all the way to the campsite.
Said campsite is amongst a bunch of dead trees and amongst two other tents, where two older gentlemen are already set up for the evening. There’s some pleasant, lively conversation amongst the four of us as Pineapple and I set up, eat, grab icy water from the nearby trickle. After saying goodnight, we retire to our respective tents, where I spend a good ten minutes doing what I should really do every night: use my tennis ball to roll out my thighs, my IT band, my calves, my feet. I even throw in some ankle alphabets for good measure, given how annoyed one was this afternoon. Then it’s crawling into my bag to sleep.
I’m interrupted for a bit by someone rolling in late and using their absurdly bright white light to set up, seemingly unconcerned about the sleep habits of the people around them1. They’re loud, and for funsies they set a loud alarm that trills in the darkness, but then, finally, all is still and quiet.
Start: 1563.6 • End: 1588.3 • Day: 24.7
Notable Accomplishments: Pushed the envelope re: breaks • Zomg Russian Wilderness • Made the minimum number of miles we needed to make
 You can roll into camp at whatever time you damn well please, but if you’re gonna set up on top of several other people, it’s generally courteous to make an effort to be quiet and to use the red light setting on your headlamp. Or, in contrast to what The Police would implore Roxanne to do, why don’t you “PUT ON THE RED LIGHT.”