Friday, August 14, 2015

PCT 2014, Day 115: Many Partings

DAY 115
August 17th, Sunday
1904.1 to 1931.6

Predictably, we woke up late the next day. We oozed out of our tent and stumbled around the camp, murmuring sleepy “good mornings” to Trinket, Lobby, Happy Nomad, Butterfly, and Stumbles. We all packed up and shuffled down the road to the camp store, which was open for breakfast. Happy Nomad offered to buy us drinks, and after a bit of protesting, we gratefully accepted his offer. Soon Zach had a coffee and I had a hot chocolate (that’s a good breakfast drink, right?).
Stumbles, Zach (Tabasco), Happy Nomad, Angry Bird, and Butterfly

Now all the hikers were sitting around sorting their resupply boxes, and the usual trading went on (Butterfly was sick of tuna, so we took several packets). As we were sorting, a hiker with a fuzzy red beard hiked up. It took me several seconds before I looked at his eyes and recognized him.

“Angry Bird!” I exclaimed.

“Oh, hi,” he said, smiling through his beard. I stared at him, trying to remember that last time I’d seen him, somewhere in the High Sierra. His beard had grown out significantly, and he looked a lot happier than usual. I remembered seeing him on our very first day, on the bus to the Southern Terminus— he had seemed so distant, almost sullen. Now his eyes twinkled and he smiled broadly. He talked about how he’d gone off-trail to avoid the fires, hiked some of the Lost Coast Trail, slept in a redwood tree, then hitched back to Ashland. He showed us some pictures of sleeping in a leafy nest between three redwood trees. I’m pretty sure that’s illegal, but none of us were going to chide him for being so awesome.

At last all our stuff was packed up, and we were ready to hike out. We said goodbye to everyone without much ceremony. We waved at all of them— Lobby and Trinket, Happy Nomad grinning behind his glasses and Butterfly with her grave smile. We waved goodbye to Stumbles, who had been through the fires with us and always kept our spirits up. “See you down the trail!” we called. 

In retrospect, the moment should’ve had more import. It wasn’t the last we saw of Lobby and Trinket, but we never saw the others again.

It was nearly noon by the time we got back on trail, and we hiked through the moss-drenched woods again. At one point the trail crossed a stream, with a water crossing for horses and a log crossing for hikers. Zach said, “We should make a sign that says, ‘Official PCT’ on the equestrian crossing, and ‘Alternate Route’ on the log crossing, and see how many purists hike through the water.”

After a while, we emerged at Willamette Pass. We waited for the cars to pass (Holy cow, cars move so quickly!), then scurried across the highway into the woods on the other side past a huge empty ski lodge.

The trail was skirting a ton of lakes today, some of them large, some no bigger than a kiddie swimming pool. It was lovely to walk by them and see them open up the forest around us. As we hiked, he ran into a guy named Sock Pot and hiked with him a while. He said that his passion in life was providing citizens with more access to the government’s secrets and more protection from the government seeing their files.  

Curious, I asked, “So would you consider yourself an anarchist?”

“No!” he practically yelled, startled. “No, not at all. I just think the government should give the public more access to what they’re doing.”

Later, it occurred to me that most people think of people blowing up buildings when they hear “anarchist.” I just think of the anarchists I’ve met: pacifists in secondhand clothing who make really good vegan stew.

Soon Sock Pot pulled ahead of us, and we hiked along the lakes, watching the pretty woods slowly roll by.

Near the end of the day, we decided to shoot for Charlton Lake for camping that night. As we were headed in that direction, we passed a father and two teenaged sons. They were tromping along in heavy wool socks and huge leather boots, their bulging external-frame packs hung with various useless camping gadgets. They were sweating profusely, and didn’t respond when we said hi.

A mile or so later, we ran into an older man walking toward us without a pack. “Excuse me, did you see a man and two boys back there?” he asked. He said that he was the boys’ Boy Scout troop leader, and had invited them and their dad on a backpacking trip. “I’m already set up at Charlton Lake, if you want to camp with us,” he said. He was friendly enough, so we said we’d be glad to. Soon we found the junction and took a little side trip to the lake.

It was a popular tourist destination, judging by the echoing laughter from across the water (a group of teens was having a camp-out). Still, the place where we were was deserted except for the Boy Scout leader’s stuff. And the view was incredible: the lake stretched out before us, lined with trees on the far side, with a massive swath of thunderheads above it, tinged gold in the evening light. Through the course of the evening, the clouds slowly billowed and rolled closer and darkened, making for a truly incredible view— one of my favorites on trail.

Eventually the dad and boys and Boy Scout leader joined us, but they were very antisocial and didn’t speak, to us or to each other. I managed to get the boys to say that they were 11 and 13, but they looked deeply unhappy to be there, and took turns wandering around with the cell phone trying to get a signal. The Boy Scout leader sat alone and cooked a meal for himself, lost in his own little world. The dad, thoroughly sullen and looking to be in a lot of pain, unpacked his pack. We tried not to stare as he unfolded a tarp and a full-sized cot in addition to his tent. No wonder his pack was so big!

Zach and I stayed to watch the clouds roll in, then, with an awkward, “Have a good night” (only the leader acknowledged us), we retreated to a campsite around the corner, with a view of a different side of the lake. Here we set up our tent, laid down and read The Silmarillion. I listened, rapt, staring through the mosquito netting at the silhouettes of the pine trees against the sky. A cool air moved about us. Despite the odd people, it was a good night.


1 comment:

  1. Partings are always hard...your PCT family will always be a part of your heart and memories of the PCT...kindred spirits bonded by the arduous miles...together and shared.