I wake up to my alarm at 5, poke my head out of my bag – it is both coldcoldcold and darkdarkdark. Neeeeeeeeeeewp. I wake naturally at 5:45, lay around for a minute – it’s still cold and dark, but at least consciousness isn’t physically painful anymore. I get up, Spesh gets up; he makes coffee, and I remember why people like chilling out in the morning. It’s not until 7:20 that we’re actually ready to go,but we only have to make 25 miles today. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Up up we go, towards the Mount Thielsen junction. It’s colder than it has been in the mornings of late; I’m still decked out in my puffy and gloves, and thankful that I can be. Even while climbing, it’s still too cold to consider taking it off.
At the junction to Thielsen summit, there’s a group of teens in a sleeping bag cuddle puddle and leaders cooking breakfast – they’re trying to work through their pancake mix, and offer us pancakes. If, then yes, so second breakfast is warm pancakes with syrup. This is luxury. We chat through mouthfulls of doughy goodness before we head down, down to Thielsen Creek below.
We take another break before we hit the creek, but I just don’t have it in me to fret about mileage today – it’s a beautiful day, it’s warming up, and I’m hiking with Spesh. It’s just so nice to exist, to just be walking, or not. This is contentment.
We pass their camp, full of even more teens and leaders, before we actually hit the creek, then take a break at the creek to rinse socks. The next water, Six Horse Spring, isn’t for another 16 miles, and then it’s nearly a half a mile off the trail. We enjoy the water – and the view the opening provides – while we can.
Then it’s up from the creek towards the “Highest Point in Oregon and Washington.” “Highest Point” because the Rim Trail manages to make it higher, but we’re headed towards the highest point in the two states that everyone hits.
It’s actually pretty flat right around the highest point, but apparently it’s right at this sign, standing sentinel in the middle of nowhere and getting weird light so it’s hard to take a picture. It’s all technically net downhill from here. Technically.
As we continue on, we see a campsite every twenty feet or so – Oregon is the flattest state on the PCT, but I didn’t know that meant it was basically one giant basically-contiguous campsite. We find one with a nice sitting log and not too much sun for lunch, lounge for like an hour, try to let Pineapple catch up. No such luck, though – maybe she’ll catch us in a bit.
Walk walk walk – Spesh is doing really well for basically getting off the couch to come and hike with me. I put him in front to set the pace, because I don’t want to stress him too much, but he seems to be moving at a leisurely pace and we’re making about three miles an hour when we’re walking. Even with the breaks, we’re making great miles.
Eventually, we arrive to the Six Horse Spring junction; since we’re dry camping tonight about 8 miles off from the next water, and I’m trying to save Spesh the extra miles, I head down with five liters’ worth of empty bottles. Straight down. I pass a couple of packs where hikers ditched them, pass the hikers coming back up shortly after. They give me the scoop on the proper place to collect, and it’s down, past the initial four tenths where there’s a pool of stagnant water, crawling over blowdowns and squeezing in between tree stumps to where there’s a nice, clear, ice-cold trickle to collect from. Five liters takes a while to fill, and it’s a lot to lug without a pack all the way back up the hill, but I make it back up without my arms falling off. I learn that Pineapple passed by while I was filling up – she’s hauling to meet her boyfriend, and I’m worried I won’t see her again. But that’s how these things go sometimes.
We discuss camp-ortunities for the evening, decide just to make a mile or so more to make sure Spesh doesn’t stress himself out with too many miles too quickly. But when we make the mile, Spesh wants to keep going. Okay. When we hit the next campsite on Halfmile, he wants to check around the bend for a better sunrise spot. Okay. When we find a good sunrise spot, we’re a half-mile or so shy of 25 miles, and he decides he wants to make 25 miles. Okay. When we hit 25 miles, we start looking for campsites, and despite the profile, things are either so overgrown or littered with detritus or burnt out that there aren’t really places to camp. Well then.
So we walk… and we walk… and we walk.
Finally, we find a passable one, but when I go to check for service, I find out that Pineapple’s stopped to camp just a third of a mile ahead. So what the hell. We pull into Windigo Pass and Pineapple’s presence, having just made a 27 mile day on Spesh’s first day1.
Pineapple’s trying to figure out which side of the road to set up on. She starts out on the close side, what with the car that’s parked across the way, but upon inspection of the stickers on the car – including one for ski patrol, one for bird watching, and another for harmonicas – I don’t think there’s much of anything to worry about, and the sites on that side are flatter. Plus, there’s a fire pit for us to eat around. We make the group decision to cross, and I start to settle in for cowboy camping while Spesh cooks.
I dig into the oreos in my pack while Spesh cooks mac and cheese with pancetta – holy crap this is amazing. I’ve been doing this food thing wrong this entire time. Animal Style pulls in while we’re eating and chatting, talks about trying to get a hitch into Bend from here. He’ll probably have more luck at the next big road, we think, as we munch on chocolate, trying to lighten our packs as much as possible before my next resupply in two days.
Then it’s bedding down for the evening, where I’m warmer and more comfortable than I think I will be. I watch the stars twinkle up above before I bury my face in my down and sleep.
 Which is definitely not an ominous name, newp.