July 14
Mileage 25
Mile 1227 to mile 1250.5 (plus 1.5 miles for water)

Crash crash crash, CRUH-CRASH!

It starts right as I’m falling asleep.


The sound is coming from the other end of the clearing, where some people are camped who I don’t know. Some sort of big animal, stomping around in the woods around their tent.

A bear?


Oh. The bear has gone away.

I’m about to drift off when it happens again, this time closer.

CRASH! CRASH! CRASH! Shuffle shuffle shuffle. Step. Step. Step. CRASHCRASHCRASHCRASH!

The animal is circling the clearing now, behind the tents.


The animal is coming closer to my tent.

Shuffle. Shuffle. Step. Step. Step.

What the f*ck is that?

I pull out my headlamp and shine it through the mesh of my tent. A huge brown mass crosses the dark gulf between two trees, and disappears.


It’s a deer.

Just a deer. I lay back down in my sleeping bag and shut my eyes.

CRASHCRASHCRASHCRASH! Goes the deer, as it circles the clearing. Step! Step! Step!

The deer is coming closer to my tent. The deer is circling, moving into the clearing. The deer is not afraid.

The deer is insane.

“Go away, deer!” I shout. I just want to go to sleep. The deer startles and runs into the trees.

CRASH. CRASH. CRASH. The deer is coming closer again.

Step. Step. Step. The deer is approaching my tent. I roll over, determined to ignore the deer.

Slurpslurpslurpslurpslurp. The deer is eating the sand where I peed.

Salt. The deer wants salt. The crazy deer wants salt.

CRASHCRASHCRASHCRASH. The deer runs into the trees again.

Crash. Crash. Crash. Crash. The deer is circling the clearing. And circling the clearing. Again, and again, and again.

Oh my god, I think.

The deer does not go away but eventually I do fall asleep.

In the morning I’m bleary-eyed and tired.

“Crash crash crash!” I say to Toyo, who is packing up his tent. “Crazy deer!”

“What is this, deer?” Says Toyo. I put my hands on my head like antlers.

“Animal! Crazy!”

“Ah, yes,” says Toyo. “Crazy!”

It’s hot and I walk slow, stopping often. The water sources are all off trail today, little wooden signs nailed to trees indicating such-and-such a spring, at such-and-such a distance, often with a note tacked below from a hiker saying how much elevation loss and whether the water is in fact worth it. The note itself is usually written on a bit of one of halfmile’s maps.

I’m at one such spring, a “seep” actually, crouched in the alders coaxing water into my gatorade bottles, when Spark arrives. A minute later NoDay, MeHap and Instigate appear, and the gang is reunited once again. We hike slowly all morning through the dim, scratchy third-growth, leap-frogging each other, popping out of the woods now and again onto a ridgetop blanketed in mule’s ears, the earth sweeping away into forever.

In the afternoon there’s a steep descent, long switchbacks on slippery pine needles down, down, down to the feather river. At the bottom we find smooth granite bowls filled with warm aquamarine water, everything running deep and all into one another like a sort of swimminghole dream. We pull off our clothes and play like otters in the deep water until the sun sets and then we spread our groundsheets in last year’s oak leaves to sleep. This is where we live, I think. This is the way it always will be. Right?  






Big rock candy mountain!



The feather river

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5 thoughts on “Day 85: CRAZY DEER IS CRAZY

  1. Carrot,
    I found myself yelling at my laptop, “Riffraff? Don’t you realize you are shooing away Carrot Quinn, the talented author and blogger??!!”
    I discovered PCT blogs last summer and after following a few I have been religiously reading your blog and Muk Muk’s this year. You two are so different and convey such varied aspects of the trail. When you actually both met up and wrote about each other it was kind of like those stories that combine the characters from one book – like The Three Little Pigs and they meet up with Goldilocks! I don’t know why, I just wasn’t expecting it! I am addicted to the accounts you both provide and I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to give us these little gems, almost in real time.
    I was inspired to read your accounts of riding the freight trains. I must say I never paid too much attention to trains in the past except the trains that run along the highway in Mojave. We are always stopping for gas, either in the early morning light or late, late at night, as we try to squeeze every minute into our trips out to the Sierras. I would wonder where they were going and what would happen if I just ran over and hopped on. Now, I will always picture a girl like you nestled in one of them. I never thought to think of the people and the stories contained in those cars. This has led me to many questions. I am so curious how the experience of riding the trains compares to the PCT. It seems like you camped in some really scary spots and faced some potentially dangerous situations. How did you live with the anxiety of never knowing when you might get caught or even where you were going? Maybe you were just so young. You are still young, but I remember when I was in my twenties I didn’t know enough to be afraid. I dodged some bullets and I bet you did, too. On the PCT you seem less brash. Is nature a tougher challenge? You don’t have to answer these questions, you have enough to write. Maybe just something to ponder as you walk.
    You write with such clarity, vulnerability, emotion, and an eye for the little things. Sometimes the mom in me wants to reach out and give you a big hug and tell you not to be so hard on yourself. I was going to tell you to get some new shoes and I am pleased to see you have.
    Again, thank you for allowing us readers along for this trek of a lifetime. Your unique perspective is a joy to read. Your beautiful words (and your feet) will take you far in this life. I look forward to reading…

  2. What are we going to have to look forward to after this hike is over? You have so many of us addicted to your blog that you’re going to have to keep taking up new adventures to keep your audience reading. Could you post the names of Muk Muk and Spark’s blogs. I’ll follow them too.
    Keep on Keeping on!

  3. Dangerous Deer Invade Campsites! I’ve had deer circle me like that on several nights. It’s quite fun. They’ll stand just out of sight in the dark, snorting and stomping the ground, apparently pissed that I’m in their territory. I did get a bit worried one night when hiking after dark and I apparently startled a small herd. They took off in every direction and I was a little worried one might run into me.

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