Day Forty

Today's miles: 18
Total miles: 593

When I started the PCT I never thought I would enjoy cowboy camping. Something about sleeping in the dirt and potentially being visited by rattlesnakes in the middle of the night was not appealing. But since being on trail I've discovered that I really love it. The cool touch of the night breeze on your face, the moon rise and constellations turning slowly in the sky, and the thrill of waking up in the middle of the night to see the Milky Way blazing above you. Another added bonus of cowboy camping is waking up at first light when the sun touches your brow, and how easy it is to pack up your gear for another day of hiking.

And so we were awake at 5:30 and moving through the miles before the sun reached its zenith. My pack settled into my shoulders comfortably and didn't feel as heavy as it had yesterday. Sometimes the first days out of town were difficult, trying to get your body to remember the rhythm of moving. But once you're fully immersed in the outdoors, everything becomes second nature.

The terrain was friendly to us today and we made great time all morning. I was having a great time hiking with Rotisserie, Sansei and Focus. We were a rowdy crew and one of Sansei's favorite jokes was to tack "that's what she said!!" to every phrase that fit the bill, and soon it became a contest to see who could say it first. We beat the joke like a dead horse, utilizing it far more than was socially appropriate, but it had us in stitches every time.

By 9:30 we had hiked eight miles and made it to our first water stop of the day. It was a spigot flowing a very slow one liter per three minutes into a dirty cow trough. We spent the necessary time to fill our containers and then enjoyed the shade and trees that this water spot afforded us. We ran into a moral dilemma: we wanted to stay here for our afternoon siesta, but it was still very early in the day and we could probably get in another six miles before it got too hot outside. Then again, there was no telling that there would be shade in six miles, and we technically didn't have to do big mileage today since we were only going 43 miles in three days.

We decided to do at least ten more miles today, and that could easily be accomplished this afternoon, so we opted to stay in the shade. We ended up taking one of the longest afternoon siestas that I have had on trail yet, and one of the most fun.

Focus taking pictures of bugs (this is how he came by his trail name)

Rotisserie, Sansei, Focus and I rolled out our sleeping mats below a tree and Rotisserie got out her deck of cards and a bag of jelly bellies. We ate handfuls of candy all afternoon as we played a game Focus taught us called "500." It was a trump game, very similar to a game I used to play often called Euchre, so I picked up on it pretty quickly. Sansei and I played on a team across from Rotisserie and Focus, and Focus and I quickly discovered that we're both pretty competitive when it comes to card games. A lengthy battle ensued, in which we gained and lost points so quickly that a new team was in the lead with each hand we played. It was fun, and raucous, and a completely wonderful way to pass an afternoon.

Since we sat there so long, we were soon joined by quite a few hikers. Some stayed only to get water, and others joined us for afternoon siesta. Soon the wait for the water spigot was quite long, and it was reminiscent of a Dust Bowl-era food stamps line, with despondent looking hikers waiting patiently in the sun for their chance of filtering a few liters of slow-dripping water.

Papa Bear joined us with his new hiking companion, his son Chris, who was joining him for a few days on trail. We nicknamed Chris "baby bear" even though he was in his thirties and looked as though he had some sort of military background. Old friends Wocka Wocka, Giddyup and Sneaks also joined us, and soon the area around the water trough was full of lounging hikers enjoying a bit of shade.

At 5:30 we realized we had been playing games for eight hours and it was time to start hiking again. The next ten miles stretched through a burnt and exposed section of trail, so we were happy we hadn't tried hiking further this morning. We hiked into the evening and made it to a wide, open meadow just as it got dark. We set up camp, made dinner, and I told riddles to Sansei, Rotisserie and Focus, letting them solve them before we went to sleep.