Mile 1571 to mile 1597.5
The mosquitoes come out right when we’re going to bed, but only a handful. Four? Five? I wonder how many are buzzing around my face. I’m in my sleeping bag, down jacket on, hood up, mosquito headnet over my head. It’s my mosquito protection system and it’s awesome, except for in Northern California, the only part of the trail where it’s warm at night.
I’m fucking roasting in all these layers, with my bag zipped up. I try to sleep. Whine, whine, whine go the mosquitoes. I watch the stars come out. I can hear Twinkle snoring. Why is he such a good sleeper? He even takes naps. I can only take naps if I’m so sleep deprived I can’t form sentences. I turn on my side but it messes up my headnet system, and a mosquito becomes trapped between the headnet and my face. Fuck!
At eleven p.m. I wake up Twinkle.
“Twinkle,” I say. “Will you set up your bug net? I’m sorry.”
“Yeah sure,” says Twinkle, always the good sport.
In the bugnet I’m finally able to sleep. Thank god for that. Someday I’ll get my shelter back from zpacks- there was a problem with the way it was shipped from the trail angel’s in Belden, and it should just be getting there now. Someday I’ll have my own mosquito-proof shelter!
I wake at five, and watch the light slowly saturate the shadows through the mosquito mesh. I close my eyes and drift in and out until Twinkle’s alarm goes off at six. Still I’m slow, and by the time I hike out it’s 7:30. Twinkle left a half hour ago, while I was pooping like crazy in the woods.
It’s hot today. Another heat wave is coming in. I can feel it coming up off of the rocks as I tool my way up the ridge. The world is incredibly beautiful tho- more granite peaks, enchanted meadows trickling with springs, the blue ridges of mountains nested against each other. And I’m way on top of it all, hiking the ridge, surveying the earth. This is definitely the best section of norcal.
I leapfrog with Twinkle all morning, feeling strong and crushing miles, until afternoon when the world turns into an oven and the heat wilts us. Suddenly movement seems impossible, we’re wading through hot ramen. There’s lots of climbing today and we drag ourselves up the ridges, roasting in the sunshine. My face is burnt, my arms and legs are coated in black dust. My armpits are chafing from my pack straps. And there are no swimming holes today, no swimming holes anywhere. Time turns to mollasses as the hot yellow sun sinks further in the sky, angling right into our faces.
An hour later we’re walking through the forest when we see a bear! It’s a big cinnamon brown bear, ambling along on the trail just in front of us, stopping to munch on plants and things. We follow it for a couple of minutes, stepping carefully on the soft trail, before it finally sees us. It sits on its haunches, bewildered, and then tears away down the trail, kicking up dust. That’s the longest I’ve ever been able to watch a bear in the wilderness. So cool!
At seven p.m. we stop to eat at a loamy, shaded campsite in the woods, next to a little stream, and when we try to get up we can’t.
“We could camp here,” says Twinkle.
“Yeah,” I say. We’ve only gone 26.5 miles, which feels like failure, but my brain is melted. Mack and Chance show up, and it isn’t hard to convince them to stay, too. Then Woody, Guthrie, Bearclaw and Dirtmonger. The whole gang is here! Everyone pitches their shelters against the mosquitoes, gnats and biting flies, of which there are a billion. There is much laughter, much camraderie. Only 9 miles to the highway in the morning, where we can hitch to Etna for resupply. And then Oregon only a few days after that!
Photos (and a video of the bear) on instagram.