Mile 1482 to mile 1506.5
I’m tired and groggy in the morning from tossing and turning in the heat but you know what? It doesn’t matter. It’s town day, motherfuckers. We’ve only got 24.5 miles and after an initial 5 mile climb it’s downhill the rest of the way.
A few hours into the morning we reach the Squaw river, and stop to eat food on the granite ledge overlooking the water. There’s a beautiful, still deep swimming hole there, and I climb down and cannonball in. So many good swimming holes on the PCT. What is this life I’m living? Who even gets to do this?
Afterwards Twinkle and I hike seperate for most of the day- he powers up the mountain to reception and I pass him while he’s instagraming- and then he catches up to me three miles from the bottom, where I’ve wilted against a log in the heat.
“It’s hot as balls,” I say.
“It’s not that hot,” says Twinkle.
“It’s the humidity,” I say. “Dry heat is one thing. The humidity is what makes it so bad. How hot are balls, anyway?”
“I don’t know,” says Twinkle. “Ninety-six degrees?”
“It’s hotter than balls, then,” I say.
We hike together the last few miles, talking about the usual things. Food we want to eat, random stories from our lives, funny things that have happened on the trail. We’re running out of material for trail conversation, we need new material. We miss our friends! We talk about who’s ahead of us, and wonder whether or not we’ll catch them. The few southbound section hikers we’ve met have told us we’re 45 people or so from the front. We started April 25th, and we’ve passed all but 45 people! 1300 long-distance permits issued this year, and we’ve passed nearly everyone. What happened to all of those people? It makes me a little sad. I don’t remember meeting them. Did we pass them in towns? So many brilliant, interesting, friendly people. Who knows how many gems in there. I would’ve liked to meet them.
At least our friends will catch us in Shasta. I feel lonely today!
We reach the pavement at 5 p.m., stick our thumbs out as we cross a beautiful river (with another swimming hole! I think longingly) and a woman driving a pickup stops and offers us a ride to Castella, 2 miles down the road. We gratefully accept- Twinkle has a box there and we thought we would have to walk. Castella is just a mini-mart and a post office and we find Diver there, sitting at the picnic table in front of the mini-mart, powering through a half-gallon of icecream, into which he’s poured rootbeer. Bigfoot is there too, readying his pack to hike out.
“Hike out?” I say, looking at the hazy sky. “In this heat?” I don’t envy him.
Cars are pulling up to get gas, and I start asking people if they’re headed to Mt. Shasta. After a few minutes a couple of nice dudes say yeah, they’ll give us a ride. They’re younger dudes, in their thirties, and they’ve been at the river all day.
“I’m a little intoxicated,” says the driver, as we’re putting our packs in the car. “You still want the ride?”
“Yeah,” I say, thinking- he’s probably had a drink or two. And he’s honest, so that’s awesome.
We pull onto the interstate and that is when it becomes apparent that he is actually quite tipsy. Speeding past other cars, semi trucks, swerving as he turns around to talk to us in the back seat. I clutch my trekking poles and try not to panic. I look at Twinkle, but I can’t read his face. In any other situation I’d ask the driver to let us out A.S.A.P. But it’s only a few miles to Mt. Shasta. We’ll make it, right? I close my eyes. Why am I doing this? This is stupid.
They really are nice dudes, though. People we’d be stoked to meet in any other context. They drop us off in front of Base Camp, the outdoor store, and we walk to the Travel Inn, where I got a room last year. Same woman working the front desk, same lecture about room stacking. Same small, dim room, same tiny towels. But it’s cheaper than the rest, and it’s within walking distance of everything we need. Hallelujah! We get a text from our friends- they’re hiking in the heat, they’ll get in tomorrow. Yay!
Shower, laundry, and then I’m finally at the Black Bear diner, staring down a giant plate of pot roast. Twinkle gets a burger and a massive chocolate malt. I eat until I can’t anymore and then fight sleep on the walk back to the motel. The streets are warm, the traffic is light. Mt. Shasta looms above everything, bathed in pink light. It’s so good to be here.
Photos on instagram.