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.
|Date||Sunday, July 28, 2019|
|Weather||Clear sky and warm with a high temperature near 70|
|Trail Conditions||Some steep ups and downs before leveling out |
I was one of the first hikers to wake up, which became an advantage for me. As soon as I realized how wet my quilt was, I sprang up from the ground and nearly sprinted to the laundry room at the rear of the store. I wanted to make sure I got my quilt in the dryer before anyone tried to do a load of laundry and tie up the machines.
The timing worked out well for me. Within 20 minutes my quilt was fluffy dry and I was ready to begin packing my gear. A few other hikers realized the need for drying their bedding and did the same.
One oddity about camping at the store was how three ducks ran loose around the grounds. They even did that for a while at night, though it was mostly during the day that they would — almost always together as a threesome — quack their way in a meandering route around tents and hikers.
It was as if they were the store's security detail on patrol.
Dave and I had hoped to get an early start on the trail. We walked down the road a short distance to a diner attached to the only gas station in Trout Lake shortly after it opened. The food wasn’t fast but it was good.
I was beginning to notice this village has its own rhythm and it isn’t fast. Besides waiting for our meals to be served last night and this morning, we waited a long time before anyone could figure out how we were going to get back to the trail. Apparently there is a loose organization of residents who share responsibilities for shuttling hikers. It usually fell to one driver, but no one seemed to know where he was today or when he would pick up hikers.
In the meantime, Dave and I did what any two old guys would do in a small village. We sat on the porch of the general store, watching people go by and making occasional comments to each other.
The store's owners normally prefer that hikers do not sit on the porch, but this was a Sunday morning and they didn’t have any business yet.
Besides, we were old, or at least I was. I think there is some kind of expectation that old guys sit on benches outside of general stores. Otherwise, why would benches be put there?
The extra time we had to wait for a shuttle gave me a chance to make plans to visit my friends John and Erik. They had offered several months ago to host me for a zero day in Portland, and in four days I will be close enough to do that.
Dave planned to meet his family when he got to Cascade Locks, then go to his home near Portland for a day or two. He kindly offered to drop me off at John and Erik’s house, which was on his way home.
After a few text messages with John, my zero day plans were set.
When Dave and I learned we had still more time to kill before our ride to the trailhead, we walked back to the cafe and ordered the cafe’s specialty drink, huckleberry milkshakes. The huckleberries were locally grown, and the shake was made thick and heavy with vanilla ice cream.
Finally at 11 a.m., our driver took us back to the trail. Dave, Breezy, Carrot, Bogwitch and I rode in the back of his pickup truck for the 14 miles to the trailhead.
When we arrived 30 minutes later, the road opened a narrow glimpse of Mt. Adams. We were now walking away from it, so there wouldn’t be many more views of this mountain to come.
The trail climbed steeply from the start. I didn’t get far up before I began to feel lightheaded, which was an uncommon feeling for me.
I couldn't figure out why I was feeling this way. I had a good breakfast and many more calories a couple hours later in the huckleberry shake.
Then again, maybe I overdosed on lactose. It was a big shake.
I didn’t feel any better on the descent, so when I reached the bottom I stopped for a break. A Payday candy bar and some water seemed to do the trick, and I resumed walking without any more trouble.
After a late lunch break with Dave, Bluejay, Sunkist and Carrot, the trail got easier. Carrot left early, but the rest of us were in no hurry to leave. We then agreed on a spot for where to camp tonight, which was only about five miles away.
The rest of the way the trail was easy, except for the nuisance of many flies. They were most noticeable where the trail was overgrown on both sides with thick weeds and shrubs.
I’d rather have flies than mosquitoes, I suppose. Still, the flies were annoying on this warm day.
I arrived at the campsite at 4:30 p.m. It was a nice site with the added amenity of ripe wild blueberries bushes nearby. Despite its name, we didn't find camping just a tenth of a mile from Mosquito Creek to result in many of those pesky insects. There only a few more flies, however.
Besides Dave, Bluejay, Sunkist, and me, a NOBO section hiker named Nolan and Santa camped here tonight.
Santa was a trail name, of course. He was a German with the real first name of Klaus, and he had hiked all of the trail north from the Mexican border without skipping any snow sections.
Santa wasn’t in a jolly mood, however. He appeared exhausted and ready for his hike to end, and said as much.
He told us getting through the Sierra was brutal. In fact, most of his hiking friends had to drop out because of frostbite.
I had a mixed reaction to what he said. I couldn’t help but admire his will and determination to push through wretched conditions in order to accomplish something that was important to him. On the other hand, he seemed totally miserable.
Thru-hiking isn’t always fun. I know from my own experience there are occasional bad days. Nevertheless, if I was as unhappy as Santa seemed to be, I might rethink why I was still doing the thing that made me unhappy.