I’m currently having one of those serendipitous days, where I keep meeting the exact people I need to.
This morning, it was Northcut. He’s an American fella out here on his first ever backpacking trip with two guys he used to work with (Scott and Paul).
Far out, I’ve got to give it all the people who seem to think the Sierras are a good place for a first big hike or camping trip. I’m betting that they’ve seen pictures and thought, “Wow, it’s so beautiful! I should go there first!” without actually giving consideration to just how flipping hard it is to walk out here and see the sights. It’s not a stroll, people.
Yesterday, I was the first of what’s left of our gang to take off from Tuolumne Meadows. The funky mood I was in made it pretty clear to me the best place I could have been was back on trail to walk solo for a bit.
I should have known better than to walk too far ahead – and by ‘too far’, I mean twelve miles. There was no sign of the others yesterday. No sign today either, and so I spent a good few hours hiking with myself and my music. I changed it up a few times between French podcasts, turning it off and tuning into nature, and listening through the entire Big Little Lies soundtrack, but nothing seemed to get me in a goodgroove.
It was after lunchtime/naptime when I met Northcut. He was crumpled under a tree halfway up a climb, so I stopped to talk with him for a few moments – he was the first person I was speaking to today, after all.
We had a small chat, and after his shock and disbelief that I had walked here from Mexico/was walking to Canada, he asked me what the hardest part about this is. Without hesitation, I replied: “It gets boring.” He laughed that he was relieved someone was finally honest with him.
As I left him at a stream and kept going, it sparked a thought: no wonder I’m feeling off. Geez, how can I get bored out here?
It’s crazy beautiful. It’s SO stupidly beautiful. How is it that I’ve slidden into an apathy where I don’t see that anymore, where I take it for granted and don’t particularly care?! Things to ponder.
The next conversation I had was a few hours later, nearing the top of yet another pass. There was a girl coming towards me, southbound. She caught my eye and as we neared each other and both paused whatever was pumping through our earbuds, I asked her straight out: “Are you a thru hiker? You look like you know what you’re doing.”
It’s funny, because you can usually tell the difference between a PCT thru hiker and a section/day hiker.
Our packs are smaller – almost ALWAYS. Ain’t nobody got time for lugging extras around anymore (which I can say now, because I got rid of my ukulele and nail polish).
We tend to have shorter shorts. It sounds silly, but it’s true for the most part. We just seem to rock less clothing.
We also rock bandanas, buffs, and gators – or some mixture of them all.
There are no satellite phones or solar panels hanging from our smaller packs. If anything, it’s just a GPS so we can call in a chopper when someone gets mauled by a bear or falls off a cliff. Otherwise, we’re fine on our own out here.
We’re generally wearing trail runners. I’d only need one hand, I believe, if I were to count the number of PCTers who hike in boots. This is really just a long, glorified bush walk; boots are overkill and kinda unnecessary.
Anyway, I’d pegged her right.
She’d started in Campo back in April, walked until she hit snow, hitched up to Oregon, was now walking south through the skipped section and will go back to Oregon and continue north from there. Another flip flopper. We swapped a few quick stories about what’s lying ahead for each other, and threw out names of people we both might know. Milkshake (her trail name) knows Speedy! And the Hong Kong 4! She met my people!
My few minutes with her lifted my spirits and had us parting ways both wearing big grins, with messages for our friends behind: she still had a couple behind her who I’d shortly run into, and I had some of the Hiker Biker Gang behind me.
Who needs satellite phones when there are SOBO’s?! (ie. southbound hikers)
I reached the top of the second pass, and spent a good hour and a half up there, wondering if the others would show, and making peace with myself (and them) if they didn’t. Walking by myself has been cathartic, and the trail always provides. If I need a friend tonight, I’ll find one.
A new player arrived with Shaman, Naps and R Kelly. He’s another sassy French man – we’re leaning towards naming him Baguette. I’ll keep you updated if it sticks. He started in Tuolumne and is only planning on going through to South Lake Tahoe, and he kept me company for the descent down to Smegdon Lake.
I was definitely absolutely planning on going further, but I was definitely absolutely not ready for how glorious it was … so another twelve miler it is.
If it’s snowing when I get to Washington, I’ll get some more thermals.
What’s the point in missing out on the goodness right in front of me for a ‘what if’ down the track?
I’m going to fight this apathy with intentionality.
I have to get back to that carefree, adventurous, throw caution to the wind and enjoy the moment Wizard I was when I first started this so long ago. I’ll get to Canada when I’m good and ready, full of stories and memories and rock hard calves.
And watching the sunset cast lights and shadows across the mountains onto the lake below from my bed under the stars tonight will be one of those memories I carry with me.