July 8th, Tuesday
1144 to 1155.5
I woke up that morning just as sweaty and sticky as when I’d fallen asleep, but I felt happy because today was my birthday (25 years)! What’s more, we’d be crossing a highway in a few miles and would probably be able to hitchhike somewhere to get some birthday lunch. The idea that we’d be near a town that wasn’t even on our resupply list was exciting to me. That hadn’t happened since the desert.
We had cell phone reception at our campsite (I was getting spoiled— was all of northern California going to be like this?), so I called my mom and we talked. Then Zach and I packed up and did a nice easy hike over the side of the mountain, winding our way down the opposite side under a brooding sky. It never rained on us, but it sure looked like it was going to!
Soon, ahead of us and down the wildflower-speckled mountain, we saw a couple ski resorts and other buildings, as well as the highway. The descent wasn’t too long, and soon we found ourselves at the highway. Despite us meeting several day-hikers on the way down, the parking lot and all the buildings looked deserted. We knew that the community of Soda Springs was close by, so we headed down the road a little ways to try to hitchhike.
A ski repairman, working outside his shop, called over, “Are you guys trying to hitch to Soda Springs?” When we said yes, he shook his head. “Go to Truckee instead. It’s much bigger and has a pizza buffet! Folks are nice here— you’ll get a hitch.”
We thanked him for his advice and crossed the road to hitch in the opposite direction. Within two minutes, a lone car drove by, and when I stuck out my thumb, it immediately pulled over.
It was a guy and his girlfriend, originally from New York and the Philippines, respectively. Their car was crammed with fishing gear and other outdoor stuff, but they shuffled it around to make just enough room for us to squeeze in with our backpacks on our laps. As they drove us down the mountain toward Truckee, they talked about what a nice town it was. When they asked us where we’d like to be dropped off, we mentioned the pizza buffet.
“Oh yeah, Round Table Pizza,” they said. “A lot of hikers are too snobby for that, though. They say it’s junky pizza.”
We laughed and assured them that any pizza was good pizza.
Truckee was a medium-sized town, certainly a lot bigger than most trail towns. They dropped us at Round Table All-You-Can-Eat Pizza, Twists and Salad, which was right next to Safeway, and wished us luck. They seemed amused by how excited we were about the prospect of a buffet.
Happy to be spending birthday money my parents had sent me, we grabbed plates and loaded up. I grabbed five pieces of pizza to start, then heaped a salad plate with romaine, spinach, tomatoes, beets, carrots, cheese, bacon, and peaches.
I bladed through all this very quickly, and went up for seconds and thirds without feeling the slightest bit bloated. As we ate, we watched the soccer game on television: Germany vs. Brasil. There was a huge upset, and Germany went on to the final game, but I was too busy eating pizza to really catch the finer points of this (apparently record-setting) game.
Once I had devoured several plates of food, I did finally feel stuffed. Zach and I practically waddled out. He went shopping for extra food while I called people at home. Soon Zach returned with yogurt and trail mix. We ate the yogurt for dessert, then decided it was time to head back to trail.
Finding a place to hitch was going to be a problem. With towns this size, with all the roads and highway traffic, it’s a bit hard to hitchhike without looking like a scary bum. (In small towns, everyone knows that anyone hitching is a PCT hiker.) We stood for a while by the busy road with our thumbs out. Zach was feeling really sick. I thought it was simply due to overeating, and felt a bit upset at him for it, but, as we later figured out, it wasn’t necessarily linked to how much he ate. He retreated to Safeway to buy tums.
After he returned, a guy originally from Ohio picked us up to take us back to the trail. He knew all about the PCT; he worked as a counselor for kids with autism, and backpacking/camping was one of his favorite activities to do with them.
He dropped us off and waved goodbye. We got a few feet up the trail, and Zach had to sit down. His stomach was cramping and he felt like he was going to throw up. We sat there for a while, looking out at the view, and turning down one person who offered us a ride to town.
At last Zach felt well enough to limp along, so we hiked slowly, passing between huge boulders that were begging to be climbed. Less than a mile later, we saw a nice campsite with a scenic view of the valley (if you ignored the power lines overhead), and Zach felt he could go no further. So we set up camp there.
We settled down, and by the time I had set up the tent, Zach was feeling well enough to read to me. As we read, gazing up at the darkening skies above and breathing easier in the cooler, drier air, I reflected that it had been a really good day! The moon rose above us, and rode in the clear skies over us all night.