Day 72: castle crags of enchanted magic

July 5
Mileage 27
Mile 1510 to mile 1537

It’s hot and I can’t sleep, again. Why is my sleep so bad right now? Maybe because the sun is out until 9:30 p.m.? I miss the days in the desert, when it got dark at eight. So easy to go to bed at eight p.m. when it’s dark, and there’s nothing else to do. You know?

I sleep eventually, and wake at 6. I feel awful- super tired, my stomach a pit of despair. I get ready slow, eat some breakfast, poop my brains out in the woods. Twinkle hikes off- he’s trying to do big days all the way to Ashland, and since I’m sick I’m not sure if I can keep up. I might not see him for a while. Last section it was just the two of us, but now the rest of the group is behind me. They’re trickling out of Mt. Shasta this morning. So I’ll have people to camp with no matter what, even if I’m sick and slow.

There’s a long climb this morning in the hot sun, and I feel majorly slow. I eat some dark chocolate and rock out to my music. I can do this, right? Hike? On the plus side it’s wildly beautiful here, in Castle Crags state park. Maybe the most beautiful section of northern california. Granite peaks, green meadows, wildflowers for days. Views of the whole earth. I don’t remember it being this nice, but last year there was also lots of smoke.

At some point in the morning I start to feel strong. My legs are rested from the double zero, it feels good to hike. And I’ve only pooped a couple of times- I feel pretty good, actually. I reach the top of the climb and sit next to a spring, soak in the magical view, eat an entire bag of salt and vinegar chips. Butterflies are fluttering all around me, landing on my pack. Hiking! I love hiking. I can do this!

A few miles later I get reception and a string of texts comes in- Woody and Guthrie hitched to a trailhead up the trail, skipping 25 miles. They’re camping at a lake, and Twinkle will meet them there. I feel pretty good, but damn. That would be a 33 mile day for me. Not today, with my gut. I feel sad- maybe I should’ve skipped too? But I’m not sick enough to justify that. I’m not too sick to hike!

Suddenly Mack appears, carrying his broomstick. Friend! Chance is right behind him. We hike together through the afternoon and in the evening we reach Porcupine Lake, a real gem of a lake set in a granite bowl above the trail. It’s still and quiet there and somehow, magically, there are no mosquitoes. We’re dusty and overheated and we jump in the lake, paddle around, squish our feet into the mud. I spread my bedroll in the sand behind a boulder, gather my things around me. I fall asleep before it’s even dark, feeling more peaceful than I’ve felt in a long time.

Photos on instagram.

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