Day 101: the calm before the storm

July 30
Mileage 28.3
Mile 1551.7 to mile 1580

I dream I’m resupplying in New York City, but also trying to find someone to date. Only no one will date me, because I’m wearing my dorky hiking clothes.

I climb all morning in the smoke-hazy heat and eat lunch by myself at nine-mile spring, sitting in the shade watching water trickle out of the ground. So many springs in Northern California- will it stay this way into Oregon? Oregon! We’re almost to Oregon. They say that Oregon is the fastest part of the whole trail, and people do big miles there. But why? We joke that as soon as we cross the border in Oregon there’ll be a moving sidewalk. “The moving sidewalk of Oregon.” We can just stand on it and pick huckleberries as we’re propelled north.

I find Spark and Instigate posted up in the shade next to a paved road. There are a couple of shuttered RVs there, and some camp chairs lined up in the dirt.

“Trail magic?” I say.

“Not yet,” says Spark.

I pull out my nutella jar of instant refried beans and a bag of broken tortilla chips.

“I’m making my own trail magic,” I say. “It’s called lunch.”

Spark reads his book and Instigate naps in the dirt. The RVs remain still and lifeless- there are no hotdogs, no coolers full of cheap soda. No enthusiastic trail angels with homemade soup.

“Oh well,” we say after a while. It’s time to hike again.

I’m exhausted after lunch, and my stomach hurts. My stomach’s been weird lately, sort of lurchy and off. The other day I filled up a water bottle at a stream and then forgot to treat it with my steripen- I wonder now if I caught something. Spark and Instigate have magic stomachs that allow them to drink untreated water without getting sick- it’s like a superpower. But I know that if there’s a waterborne parasite within a mile of me, I’m likely to catch it. I unclip the hipbelt on my pack as I climb. Ouch, ouch, says my stomach.

I reach the saddle where we’re camping right at dusk, a pretty little sandy spot looking out at everything, green mountain ridges fading into smoke. The last of the light seems to pool on the bare ground here, and I pitch my tent and sit inside, eating my dinner and watching it fade into night. Tomorrow we’ve got just twenty-six more miles to the highway where we’ll hitch to Etna, our next resupply town. According to Yogi, Etna is one street long and “consistently ranks as everyone’s favorite trail town”. What does that even mean? And then there’s the smoke, which grows a little thicker every day, a little harder to ignore. How many fires are there now?

As if in response, lightning streaks across the eastern horizon. Boom! Goes the sky, but there isn’t any rain.

My stomach gurgles audibly, its own sort of thunder. What does the future hold?

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