Day 62: weary climbs and a storm’s a-brewin

June 25
Mileage 30
1289.5 to mile 1319 + .5 miles to water

I wake up in the dark bedroom to the sound of someone vomiting. After a moment I realize it’s Wildo- did he have too much to drink? Most people stayed at the bar in Belden later than I did. There’s the sound of splattering on linoleum and I remember that the light in the bathroom is broken. Maybe he can’t find the toilet? Poor Wildo.

I wake again at 5 a.m. in the dark, a full half hour before the alarm. Why does this always happen? This is why I can’t set alarms. Ever. Brenda Braaten is shuttling us to the trailhead at 6:15 so I lay in bed for a bit and then get up, pack my things away, fix a bowl of granola in protein powder. The others are sitting up in their sleeping bags, staring off into the distance. Sherrif Woody is eating fruit loops.

“Are you ok Wildo?” I ask.

“Yeah,” he says in his British Accent. “I think I have a fever.”

Random sicknesses of the PCT! Poor Wildo.

The climb today out of Belden is serious- fifteen miles and 4,700 feet. At the trailhead I sit to put the velcro for the gaiters on my new shoes (new shoes! They feel like clouds!) while Twinkle chugs a mountain dew.

“I’m gonna start hiking,” he says. “I’m gonna hike fast.”

“Ok,” I say. I want to mosey up the mountain at my own pace. Twinkle and Jr. Sr. head out and a few minutes later I follow, picking my way up the trail. The trail leaving Belden is wild- full of rocks and sticks, overgrown with scratchy bushes and poison oak. It looks like it hasn’t been maintained in years. After a few miles the trail enters a dim forest and the switchbacks end- the trail is still climbing but now it just sort of wanders here and there through the trees and brush, up and then down, as though patterned after the flight of a startled deer. What even is this? I think. I’m super tired today- it’s just not my day for 15 mile climbs. Notachance and Mack pass me, then Woody and Big Sauce. I’m gonna 2 mph my way up this mountain, I think.

I am so slow. I am the slowest of slow. I’m setting a new personal record for slow climbs. I’m postholing my way up Pinchot.

It’s hot and muggy and I stop to rest next to streams, wave my hand lackadaisicaly at the mosquitoes. Everything feels hard this morning. I wonder if Twinkle is waiting for me at the top after running all the way up, jacked up on mountain dew- if so I feel sorry for him. He’ll have to wait a good hour and a half before I catch up.

I reach the top at 1 pm. As I’m cresting the last ridge I see Twinkle and Jr. Sr, walking to the trail on a dirt road. I call out to them and they turn, startled.

“I thought you guys would be way ahead of me,” I say.

“We just bushwacked up from the trailhead,” says Twinkle.

Turns out they never got on the PCT at all. They took the wrong trail from the trailhead, when I was busy with my shoes, and that trail ended a mile and a half later, after winding through an old cemetery.

So they bushwacked up. Five thousand feet. To a ridge, which they followed for many miles.

They look exhausted, and they’re covered in soot from bushwacking through a burn. They also assumed that I would be ahead, and were prepared to book it in order to try and catch me.

We talk about how wild it is that I found them at the exact moment that they reached the PCT after their long journey- trail serendipity! And then we all sit on the mountaintop and stuff our faces with snacks. It’s good to be reunited.

We ridgewalk for the rest of the afternoon, dipping in and out of the forest. We catch up with everyone else and make a plan to camp at an off-trail water source (Carter Creek) that will make for a 33 mile day. It’s wednesday and I’ve got to get to the post office in Old Station, 90 miles away, before it closes at 4 p.m. on Friday, so I’m planning on two 33 mile days and then a 24. I hiked slow all morning but now I’m pushing over the ridges, watching as the sky curdles and a storm rolls in. At the water source 2 miles before our destination we find a note telling us that Carter Creek is dry- which makes no sense whatsoever, as it’s a reliable year-round source- but we decide not to risk it and walk down to the spring, poke around for a place to camp. The wind whips around and the air darkens as the clouds pile up. Twinkle sets up his tarp in case it rains, which is big enough for both of us- my shelter’s in the shop, sent back to zpacks to have the zipper mended. Woody and Jr. Sr. set up their shelters too. Mac, Notachance and Big Sauce are ahead, supposedly at the creek. I hope there’s water there for them.

I’ve got a 35 mile day tomorrow, since I stopped early. But I aint worried. I got this.

Photos on instagram.