Our destination for today was Big Lake Youth Camp, which was located on a slight detour from the trail. The camp had a reputation for being accommodating to hikers. Knowing this, we had all shipped resupply boxes there. Reports had filtered up the trail, however, that the camp would be closed for a couple of days, starting this evening. This week was an off-week for campers, so services for hikers would be limited. Namely, no meals would be served after today's lunch. We weren't about to miss lunch if we could avoid it.
The rain that fell last night quit after midnight and no more rain followed. The extra patching I had done on my tent the last few weeks seemed to help because not much water leaked inside. After the rain cleared there was a noticeable change in temperature. It dropped lower than we’ve been used to lately. Later, I learned that we only caught the outer edge of a storm. Hikers north of us, including Dave, were hammered by a severe thunderstorm when we only got a couple of light showers.
Let’s face it. When you’re hiking a 2,650-mile trail, every mile isn’t going to have spectacular scenery. I said yesterday’s section could be described as monotonous, but that may have been a little unfair. The trail contained many long stretches through a forest of similar character, but repetitious might have been a better word to describe it. For much of the day, the trail lacked views beyond the surrounding trees. That didn’t necessarily make it boring. In contrast, today’s section was varied. It seemed that a different kind of trail was encountered with every turn.
As I mentioned yesterday, the mileage I hike per day needs to start picking up if I’m going to complete the entire PCT before winter arrives. By the time I finish hiking today, I will have finally reached the halfway point of my hike. With today being my 94th day on the trail, if it takes me another 94 days to finish, that would push my finish date well into November. That’s too risky for me. There’s too much chance of snow falling that late in the year. Keeping the weather in mind, I’ve calculated I should try to finish by the last week of October. That's assuming snow doesn’t force me off the trail sooner. Even with the change in plans I made to hike a double flip-flop with Sunkist and Bluejay, this is still cutting my chances close. To put this in perspective, I’ve averaged 14.1 miles per day in the first 93 days on the trail, including zero days. To finish the last week of October, I will have around 80 more days on the trail, and that will not only include zero days. There will also be extra travel time required for flipping back and forth between trail sections. This means I need to average more than 17 miles per day. In other words, unless I’m hiking into a town or taking a zero, I will need to walk more than 20 miles a day for nearly all of my remaining time on the trail.
Alhough Bluejay and Sunkist had already enjoyed the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet at Timberline Lodge yesterday, they did not hesitate when asked if they wanted to go there again this morning. I was glad about this because I had heard this was one of the best breakfasts on the PCT and I didn’t want to miss it. We left Huckleberry Inn at 5:50 a.m. to catch the first bus to the lodge.
Today was an unnecessary zero day. I just took one four days ago. There wasn’t anything ailing me now, so I didn’t need another break. I didn’t even need to shop for my resupply because Kim had sent a box to me. Nevertheless, it made sense to stay an extra day in Government Camp. Bluejay and Sunkist could then catch up to me, and I’m hoping we won't get too far ahead of Dave, who has returned home for a couple of days.
I like to think of myself as even-tempered. I’m not prone to peaks and valleys of emotion. I don't whine and complain, and I dislike people who do. Although I have had a few moments before yesterday when I doubted myself on the trail, something physical prompted those feelings. The day I quit my AT thru-hike, then un-quit 20 minutes later, is one example. I fell three times that day as I struggled with a sprained ankle on a difficult, rocky section of trail. There haven’t been many of these circumstances, though, and I quickly got through them all. That’s what made yesterday unusual. I spent much of the day in self-pity and dejection, without any physical complaints.
Though I was able yesterday to set aside my negative feelings about being on the trail, they didn’t take long to come running back to me this morning. We left camp at 7 a.m. and before long, I began to think about the trail ahead. I wondered if I still wanted to hike it. If I were to finish all of the PCT, I still had about 1,400 miles to walk. At first, during this conversation with myself, I was simply doubting myself. I questioned whether I had it in me to complete that many miles before winter arrived.
I have known John, Erik, and Ryan for several years. We normally only see each other once or twice a year at work-related events. It was enjoyable to not only spend time with them but to do so outside of the hectic schedule of a conference. They were generous, helpful hosts, and I was glad to have a zero day to spend with them.
Today was the best of all possible zero days. Besides hiking zero miles, which is the true definition of a zero day, I did almost zero activities. My hosts, John and Erik, allowed me to sleep in as long as I wished. They were also available to shuttle me anywhere I needed to go to prepare for the next part of my hike. I was grateful for their kindness and generosity.
HOB and Chickadee mentioned last night that they are late risers and politely asked us to not disturb them when we prepared to leave this morning. Dave and I did our best to tiptoe around the campsite as we packed our gear. Nicely, though, they awoke just before we left, so we were able to say goodbye and wish them well on their hike.
Dave and I didn’t keep with our normal departure routine this morning. Instead of leaving camp 30 minutes after Sunkist and Bluejay, we didn’t leave until nearly a full hour later. There wasn’t any reason for this. We both just seemed to be a little less organized than normal. Or to put it another way, we weren’t organized at all.
You can tell the group of hikers you're with is becoming a tramily when you begin to make plans together. The first sign of that is consulting each other about where to camp at the end of the day. Sunkist, Bluejay, Dave, and I quickly reached that point. Today’s hiking goal was to walk about 21 miles and camp near Trout Creek. We could tell this would be an easy day. The climbs ahead would be short and the long descent would not be steep.
One detail had me worried last night about where we camped. The campsite was far enough off the trail that I would be unlikely to see anyone walk by. This was a concern because I knew Just Awesome was not far away. I feared my friend from the Woohoo Crew would pass the campsite without me seeing him. I didn’t want to miss a chance to see him again.
When I decided yesterday to cowboy camp on the lawn next to the Trout Lake General Store, I hadn’t calculated a few possible drawbacks. For one, the location was a little noisy overnight, but of course, the sound wouldn’t be any different if I were sleeping in my tent. The real problem was dew. When I woke up this morning, my sleeping quilt was nearly soaked from the moisture it had accumulated overnight.