As is typical, I left camp before anyone else was even awake. I don't know how this happens, but it's impossible to me to sleep in, ever. Might as well get moving!
The trail meandered through a restricted camping area, where you need special permits. One of these was Shale "Lake", which in better times probably is really a lake. Now it's a stagnant puddle. Glad I hadn't made the effort to get a permit for that place, I continued on, spotting several intriguing lakes far below. A dog barked from the depths of the canyon, although I couldn't see any tents. A mystery.
The cool air that had blown out the smoke made for good hiking, but not for good lingering at breaks. A few thru-hikers passed going north, bundled in hats and looking miserable. At almost 20 miles, I turned the corner to encounter a tall man with an unusual belt--one I recognized.
"Um, are you a smokejumper?" I asked.
He looked puzzled. "Well, I was one. How did you know?"
"Your belt." Yep Yep was wearing an airlock belt buckle, one that smokejumpers use from old gear. We hiked along together for a little while, talking about the old days of firefighting. We hadn't overlapped--he had jumped in the 1970s and mid 1980s--but we knew a few common names. The trail is a strange and magical place, where you meet people you never would otherwise.
As the trail wound up over Three Fingered Jack, YepYep decided to go on ahead while I sat in the sun. At that point there were only seven miles to the trailhead. It seemed foolish to stop and camp; it was only 3:30. But then I found a perfect spot; it was foolish not to stop. With 21 miles done for the day, why not?
I've never had a lot of patience with people who say they get bored in camp; these are the same people who have to be doing something every minute and can't just be still. There is so much to do in camp. You can watch mountain goats:
You can read a book. You can look at your maps. You can explore your small stretch of real estate. I never get bored in camp. But I am pretty self-entertaining, a skill that I fear is being lost, even by me sometimes. So, it's always good to get practice in doing nothing.
The next morning I woke in a cloud. Stuffing a wet tent in the mesh pocket of my backpack, I threw on rain gear that I hadn't worn in months and headed down the trail. It felt like nobody else was out there in the fog, until I saw my good friend A headed in my direction.
|Foggy morning on the PCT|
She had come to provide me with a sign of celebration--almost finishing the Oregon section of the PCT.