Mile 1220.5 to mile 1251.5 (plus .5 to water)
The mosquitoes arrive just before bed- big fat swarms of them, bumping up against our faces, whining like little single engine planes. I pull my mosquito headnet over my face and try to sleep- the mesh on my shelter is busted and I’m going to send it into zpacks for repair (thanks, zpacks!) but I haven’t gotten around to doing it, yet. The mesh headnet falls against my face and I can see the bugs, bumping up against it. Their whining grows louder and louder. And it’s hot in here! It’s hot tonight, and I’m all the way in my sleeping bag. How am I ever going to sleep?
Later after the stars come out the mosquitoes go to sleep, and so do I. I tear the mesh off my face, breathe the good night air, and fall into peaceful slumber. Until just before dawn, when they reappear- and so I’m awake, curled on my side with my headnet over my face, wishing, so badly, that I was asleep.
Being awake’s not so bad, though, when you think about it. Sitting in the dirt on my deflated neo-air, happily eating granola in protein powder and water like a little kid eating fruit loops in chocolate milk. Then it’s time to hike- we set out just after 6, per usual (except for the days we start later) and all day we’re walking on the ridges or just below the ridges, in the dry, cluttered forest there. The doug-firs are big and their bark is bright with neon green lichen, the path is dusty and hot. The water sources are springs a half mile off the trail, magic water bubbling up from the earth.
It’s hot in this section! It’s hot in Northern California! My feet feel tender and gritty, I’m sunburned in strange places, I have a touch of chafe. My throat is dry, I keep running out of water. What is this, the desert? Then I’m hiking with Twinkle and we’re switchbacking down, down, down, to 2 thousand feet elevation, the lowest we’ve been since the desert. Down to the middle fork of the Feather River which, if I remember correctly, is the best swimming hole of, like, the entire trail.
We reach the footbridge over the river at 6:30. It’s lush down here, green plants, mossy oaks, the air is thick and muggy- real summer! Notachance, Mack, Woody, Wildo and Big Sauce are here- laying like drowned rats on the sun-warmed rocks next to the swimming hole, which flows from deep granite pool to deep granite pool, just cold enough to be refreshing.
I pick my way along the rocks, strip off my clothes, and jump in. I’m swimming against the current, I’m swirling around, I’m climbing up and over the warm rocks. The water is clear and deep and it’s making me new again. I’m a seal, I’m a little animal, I’m a river otter. The dust is gone, my chafe is gone, I’m free. Swimming holes like this one are proof that the universe loves us.
We camp in the soft campsites next to the river, the mosquitoes go to bed, the white noise of the river is all around us. The stars come out. We sleep.
Photos on instagram.