mile 37.6 – mile 52.6
i wake up grumpy & determined to never choose a lazy campsite ever again. it is so SO cold in the canyon where i camped & i wear my down jacket & gloves while i break camp.
creamsicle butterflies flutter ahead through the switchbacks which will take me in about four miles to mt. laguna. i hadn’t planned on stopping here, but it’s barely off trail & the only thing that i want right now is to spend some time on the internet writing & messaging the people i love. i wander, bewildered, through an endless & unoccupied campground & finally emerge at a little coffee shop where there are other hikers! and outlets! i spend nearly two hours writing & waiting for my phone to charge & talking trail with the other hikers. things take a turn to the intimate when people begin asking about portland. i tear up & one of the kind ladies says “oh no, are you homesick?” i can only nod. eventually i’m able to joke that my trail name will probably be cry baby because of how much i have been crying so far.
it seems like most of the others are staying in town for the night but it’s only noon & i don’t like the thought of it. i stop by the outfitter & scrounge some blister supplies from the hiker box & buy much needed nail clippers (how did i not bring nail clippers???) i call josef & he tells me he’ll be doing trail magic at scissor’s crossing on saturday. “you’ll probably be past there already, though,” he says. “yeah,” i agree tearfully.
leaving town i feel pretty good. i’m encouraged by all of the nice people that i met & grateful that i’d been able to convince myself to eat a babybel & a packet of olives. today’s terrain feels the best so far. maybe the elevation changes are less major? the trail makes me feel welcome & there is a cool breeze for most of the afternoon. i even get to see some amazing dogs out day hiking with their people.
i leapfrog up the trail for a while with a couple who both have impossibly long legs. near flathead flats we take turns taking each other’s photos. “how long are you out here?” they ask, “till canada” i laugh. they catch up with me a few minutes later. “we’ve been talking & we really want to do that, too” they say. we chat for some miles about preparation, emotional challenges, etc & then it is time for them to turn back. “you’ll make it there,” says the woman, “i believe in you”. i, of course, tear up & replay their kindness over & over until i reach my water source near mile 48.4.
i treat my blisters & filter water & suddenly it is 5:45. the sweet german girls who i ran into earlier had been planning on stealth camping at mile 52.6 which is *technically* not meant to be a campsite. if i want to join them i have less than two hours before dark. buffeted by both unrelenting wind & my own desperate hope to be near people, i fly down the trail, chasing the setting sun. my body feels goood & i feel like i have some hiking mojo at last. at 6:45 i pass a father & son duo & ask if they know how far. “maybe a mile?” says the son. “YES! see ya there, i’m afraid of the dark!” i laugh at myself as i speed away. i’m not afraid of the dark. am i? i check my watch as i roll into the picnic area. just before 7. i just walked 4.2 miles in an hour & fifteen minutes??? for reference i’ve been averaged about 2mph which ain’t bad for me but DANG.
anyway as expected camping is prohibited so, against my better judgement i set my shelter up on a windy ridge with three others. i weigh my tiny titanium stakes down with rocks but i still have some major doubts about this spot. i finally have an appetite but, ironically, the wind is too strong to cook so i eat the salami i’ve been lugging in my too heavy food bag like a banana as i write this. anyway SPOILER ALERT: this is not the perfect campsite! maybe tomorrow?