Day Seventy Two

Miles today: 10
Total miles: 1516

First, I need to take a moment to inform you lovely readers how nice it was to have a little hiatus from thru-hiking life. Tanner brought to my attention that I "didn't adequately talk about how awesome it was to see him and how excited he was to see me," so for Tanner's sake I'd like to point out that it was really awesome to spend time with Tanner, who I hadn't seen in almost three months. There was lots of girlish giggling and hugging and eating ice cream on the couch while watching marathons of Castle seasons one through five. Unfortunately, this "real life" time came to all too quick of a conclusion, and the day arrived when I was (more or less) over my French-trip-jet-lag and preparing to, once again, hike the PCT.

For those of you gear heads out there, a few things changed for this section. I swapped out my 20 degree sleeping bag for a 30 degree bag which was a pound lighter in weight. I also bought a new Platypus water bladder (my old one was getting gross), swapped my Thermarest Z-lite foam sleeping pad for the more luxurious (and lighter) inflatable Thermarest Neo Air, and brought along my own tent this time - the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 2. Katie thought we may be going at different paces through this stretch of trail, so we opted not to share gear for the final 1,000 miles.

I contacted Katie and my other hiking friends and found out that they would be arriving in the town of Mt. Shasta, CA on the day I would return to trail. So I packed up my gear (I spent one whole day at home scrubbing everything down with a tire brush and soap in the bathtub.... everything was so sparkly clean again!!) and Tanner drove me six hours down to California. My trail friends were spending the night in Mt. Shasta, so we got a room near them for one final "town" day.

This morning we woke up at 8:00 and met Katie, Wocka Wocka, Giddyup, Sunshine and Sneaks (the group Katie had been hiking with since Yosemite - as it turned out, Sneaks had ultimately decided not to go back to school this semester so that he could finish the trail) for breakfast and I enjoyed the happy reunions I had with old PCT friends: Hitch, her boyfriend Olif, K-Pax, Toots Magoots (trail angel Aloha's wife), and Tears for Beers. I asked after more of our friends and discovered that Games, Reason, Lighthouse and Pimp Limp were a day behind us, Rotisserie, Sansei, and Papa Bear were two days behind us, and Focus and Dance Party were three days behind us.

Left to right: Olif, Hitch, K-Pax, Wocka, Giddyup, Honey Bunny, Bramble, Tanner (photo by Toots)

After breakfast there was nothing to do but hit the trail - I was excited to be hiking again, but it was obvious that the miles of Northern California had taken a toll on my hiking friends, and they were weary. Tanner and I said a sad goodbye at the trailhead and then he drove home to Portland. Meanwhile, Wocka Wocka, Giddyup, Sunshine and I got a slow start on trail and our original estimate of 15 miles quickly dwindled to five. We took a long break under the trees but decided we needed to go at least ten miles to make the days ahead easier for us.

I hiked last in line, completely shocked by the weight of my pack. Granted, I was carrying seven days worth of food, but I couldn't honestly remember when I had carried something so ridiculously heavy. Was I just deluding myself? Had my pack always been this heavy? Had my time in France with a light daypack made me weak? Whatever the reason, I was sweating and puffing along the trail and unhappy that I once again felt like a weary backpacker instead of a strong, hiking machine. I discovered that my friends had been pulling 25-30 mile days through Northern California and inwardly I wondered if I would be able to keep up.

That night we set up camp and the normalcy of trail life began to sink into my bones again. Pitch the tent, pull out gear, make dinner, dig a cathole, clean up and go to bed. It was nice to be among friends again. Sneaks and a new friend named Treekiller joined us later that evening and our campsite was soon full of laughing friends and old faces. As we ate dinner Sunshine raised his glass and yelled, "a toast to Bramble being back on trail!"

"Hip hip hooray!" the others yelled, and I smiled. Whatever the reason for putting myself beneath a 40 pound pack and hiking another 1,000 miles on the PCT, it would certainly be worth it in the end.