August 9th, Saturday
1750 to 1770.4
I awoke the next morning to the smell of smoke.
With a gasp I lurched upright, staring at the smoke flying by in the breeze over our tent. For a moment I panicked… and then I saw that the sobos had built a fire in the fire pit.
Zach and I got a late start, and were as usual the last people packing up. Soon we were back on trail, winding through an arid pine forest.
We both felt tired today, and it was difficult to make miles as we wound through sparse trees, over open meadows, and into denser woods. At last I stole Zach’s phone and listened to miscellaneous Jonathan Coulton songs. The music made me feel better and helped me not notice the miles crawling by.
For camping that night, we decided to shoot for one of the only sources of water up ahead: a ski shelter with a pump about twenty miles from our starting point. When we arrived there, we found some people we knew, including Mad Hatter, who we hadn’t seen since the Saufleys’! Stumbles was also there, and we waved at her, glad to see a familiar face. There was also a middle-aged guy named Was, as well as some others. We sat at a picnic table near the shelter, read the trail register, glanced through the copy of Backpacker that was sitting on the table, and cooked food.
The pump turned out to be quite a source of exercise: Zach had to grab the handle and literally leap up and down, throttling the handle as hard as he could, about thirty times to make any water come out at all. All of us rushed to put our bottles under the flowing stream as Zach continued jumping up and down. The water tasted awful, but it was water.
Gray jays, a new bird that had showed up in Oregon, hopped from branch to branch nearby, looking for food scraps. When they flew, they flicked out their broad wings and glided— they always reminded me of pterodactyls.
We all sat around and talked about the things that dominate hiker conversations: trail stories, town stories, funny incidents along the way. Someone mentioned that he had found a condom in the Ashland hiker box, and had debated on whether or not it was safe to take it. Someone else said that the Dinsmores, the last trail angels on the PCT, had probably poked a bunch of holes in it and placed it in the box to make sure that fewer hikers could make it up to their place. “The hikers are dropping like flies, ‘cause they all got kids!”
We laughed and talked for a long time, and then all dispersed to set up camp. Zach and I camped a bit away from everyone, on a deserted jeep road. It was a warm night, so we left off the rain fly and stared up at the stars. I didn’t feel that tired, but I was out in minutes and slept deeply all through the night.