Sunday, July 29, 2012

Day 99-A Hug Good-Bye

From Lookout Fire Cabin at mile 1668 to mile 1701

The look out tower
At five a.m. I realized with a start that it was no longer light that early in the morning. I realized that no matter how hot the day, summer had started its long tumble to fall and somehow I hadn't noticed. The stars were still bright overhead while I packed up my sleeping bag. When I tied up my shoes the blackness of night had receded to the blue of dawn. When I ate breakfast sitting on the stoop of the burnt out fire cabin the sky had an orange patch of fire where the sun would soon show its self. When I was back on the PCT at the start of what would hopefully be a thirty mile day to Oregon the sun finally crested the ridge. 

Cotton candy clouds in the morning
The trail finished yesterday's climb out of Seiad Valley after a couple of miles. We passed No Amp still in her tent and stopped to say good morning. After the crest the trail stayed on the ridge ducking in and out of the cool morning shadows.

One goal of the day was to eat a lot. If we managed our thirty that would be hiking close to a day and a half of my usual miles so I wanted to eat about a day and a half worth of food.  So at the first spring of the morning I stopped for food, but didn't collect any water. Only a couple of miles later we stopped again. This time for both food and water and to chat with Scrambled Leggs who we had met the day before.

We continued down the ridge walking along the ridge of a blood red mountain. We met a fair number of day hikers-must be a weekend day.  Somehow there were no yogi opportunities.

We met up with Scrambled Leggs and Train for a late lunch. I made a pot of tea hoping the caffeine would speed me along. I tried to eat a large lunch, but my foodbag still felt heavy after my meal. Train and Scrambled Leggs left awhile before us-but they were almost done with their meal when we joined them.

After lunch my energy level crashed. The tea had the opposite effect:  my eyes kept sliding out of focus, they drooped close, thoughts were fuzzy. I could have fallen asleep walking. I stopped and ate some energy gummies that probably don't do anything, but they taste good just the same. Portrait had stopped to wait for me and said he was feeling just as tired.

We got underway, a little sluggish, but keeping each other awake by hiking together. I have found the trail, even 700 miles of desert, to be beautiful with something always worth looking at. This day, this last day in California, was not wowing me. If my California burn-out wanted to wait until the last 15 or so miles of the nearly 1700 mile state, I considered that pretty successful.

To combat the tiredness and the boredom Portrait and I told a long rambling story about a pirate in the round (I told a sentence and then he told a sentence). We told this story mile after mile, past springs, pausing for snack breaks and to admire the occasional view (while wondering if we were looking into Oregon).

Our time traveling drama about a pirate which is sure to be a best seller ended just 2.8 miles from the border. I missed our daring and dashing hero on those 2.8 miles of uphill to Oregon.

Those last 2.8 miles of California climbed up side hill, skirted through deer filled meadows, crossed over small footbridges, and were just lovely. I had the same feeling of anticipation that I had when I hiked to the 1,000 mile marker and the halfway point. There was an excitement that made my heart beat faster. It was a giddy feeling. A first day of a new beginning, everything is going to be wonderful, can't wait to be there feeling mixed with a little bit of hesitation. It was a one state down and no plans beyond Canada, reminder that summer is dwindling, fall is in the north hesitation that only pops up at the big milestones.

Once I rounded a bend in the trail, once I saw the collection of signs, once I took a step past the state line there was nothing but a calm happiness. A feeling of a job well done with so much more to look forward too. Canada and fall slipped away from my thoughts and left only Oregon.

We looked through the ragged collection of loose pages that made up the register. I added a nearly blank page from my Halfmile maps so Portrait and I could leave our messages. We took dozens of photos. With the failing light and a nearly full moon looking down on us we put our packs back on and started the walk to the spring about 1.5 miles into Oregon.

We passed a dirt road with a flat grassy field, but we had set a goal and wanted to make it to the spring for camp, so onward we went. The sky to the west turned ruby red with spindly pines black against the bright red. Watching the sky display such splendor I couldn't help but think I was going to like Oregon. Then my last once of consumed food fizzled out.  My straw was sucking the bottom of my stomach pulling up nothing but air. I felt sick, slow, to tired to be hiking in dusk. On the trail it never stop surprising me how quickly I can go from not starving to weak from hunger. Portrait gave me some jelly beans to boost me up the last half mile to the spring.

The camping looked bad even before we reached the spring. For the mile we had been in Oregon the only flat spot we saw had been at the road. To me Oregon was nothing but side hill and gentle ascent. There was nothing even close to flat at the spring. We didn't stop, not even for a water break. It was full dark at that point and it seemed unlikely we would find a spot to call it a night.

We finally settled on a less than flat piece of side hill in a sandy area. It was as close to flat as we had seen since the road, but it still had a grade steeper than a wheelchair ramp. With only a few snacks eaten I crawled into my sleeping bag knowing that my stomach (and the rest of me) was not going to be very happy with me in the morning. I was going to have debts to pay, but at ten o'clock I could keep the sandman happy by going to sleep on my Oregon slope.   

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