I rolled out of the sleeping bag a little after seven, my usual wake up time. Packing up pretty quickly, or so I thought, the girls still beat me by 10 minutes. We were on the trail by 9:19 am. What took us so long to get out of camp every morning? I have no idea. We didn’t even make coffee.
I blamed my equipment. A nineties camping museum, all of it was old.
My Lowe Alpine Attack 40, one of the lightest backpacks REI sold back in Cheryl Strayed’s day, weighed 1.9 lbs. It was a good basic pack, still holding strong after 20 years, but without all the big, stretchy, useful, exterior pockets the newer packs have.
I packed my sleeping bag in plastic, on the bottom. Above that sat the bear can full of food, taking up most of the cavity space. I stuffed my bulky old fleece around it.
There was a brain pocket on the lid where I shoved the rest of my random necessities. The lid didn’t close quite right with the rain jacket smashed on top, so it sometimes touched the back of my head. Outside it looked like a yard sale, with various items lashed and clipped on all sides. We’re talking hobo central.
My double-sized tent, the Sierra Clip Flashlight CD, was super classic, around 4 lbs including the poles, rainfly, guy lines and the 16 stakes required to set the whole thing up. When I told Fish Nugget what it weighed, her eyes popped out of her head.
“Momma,” she said. “That’s heavy! Mine’s only 2 lbs.”
I confess I had a serious case of tent envy at this point. The girls both had the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1, and let me tell you, these were sweet little tents. They popped up in a flash, didn’t require staking to stand, and packed down easily into tight, little, lightweight packages.
My tent, however, lived in a big sack, took forever to put up, take down, and all those stakes—sooooo painful to deal with at the end of a long day. But as long as it worked, I could hardly justify spending $300 on a new one.
I took tons of pictures today with all the change of scenery. Rocky outcroppings morphed from dark gray to light to red to brown. With gentle downs, some ups and quite a bit of level walking, the trail was kind again today.
Fish Nugget and Squarepants passed the 1000-mile marker today, which was huge! Can you even imagine what it feels like to walk that far? I made them take goofy pictures to commemorate the occasion. When I asked how they felt, they said tired.
I think I was more excited than they were.
Another PCT hiker arrived after we did. I told him congratulations. He said, for what? I said, for walking 1000 miles. He said that it was only a small part of a 5000-mile journey, but thanks. He didn’t seem to want to talk.
Contemplating the stones that formed the milestone for a while, he took a selfie of his foot above the marker, sat down on a rock, pulled out a tortilla and rolled up some kind of mystery food for lunch. He seemed tired. Solemn, even.
In fact, between the three of them, a sense of heaviness hung in the air. Or maybe it was just awe mixed with exhaustion at having come so far. I didn’t know, but I suspected it was something only a thru-hiker who had gone the whole distance might understand.
It seemed appropriate at that moment to go on ahead and give them space to reflect.
Walking today, I felt stronger. Though pain persisted in a lot of places, it felt less intense than yesterday. I’m still waiting for my magic hiker legs to kick in.
The terrain became a little drier and more volcanic on the approach to Kennedy Canyon. And, man, it was hot today! Like in the nineties. I had to dunk my shirt into a stream to keep cool. Freezing, screaming cold at first, it paid big dividends further down the trail as the blazing sun beat on me for hours.
I met a group of older hikers at the junction to Leavitt Lake. Two couples from Reno, they were wrapping up a long weekend hike and had stopped for water at the creek. We talked about our trips, equipment, the mountains—they were super nice, like Northern Nevadans often are. Part of me missed living there.
As the older crew departed, Fish Nugget joined me.
We talked as she filtered water, about friends, anxiety and whether or not to finish the trail. Afterwards she wanted to meditate by the water, so I went on.
Squarepants had seemed a little blue today, Fish Nugget, too. I hoped they’d both feel better soon. The girls had their young people angst, while I had my oldster angst. The human existential dilemma, universal, across the ages, throughout history and time, here on the PCT.
Later the girls passed me. We leapfrogged for a while, then hiked together toward the end of the day. We made good time, doing 8.5 miles in less than six hours.
At Kennedy Creek, we decided to camp early and do the 11 miles to Sonora Pass the next day. We’d have to contend with a big, uphill, ridge section 10.4 miles long that had no water and a reputation for being somewhat treacherous due to lingering snow. We figured it’d be better to tackle it in the morning.
We located a nice, established campsite across the creek, a little too close to the trail, of course. I deferred to the girls on that issue and tried not to obsess about it. Setting up camp just after four o’clock in the afternoon seemed sinful, but it gave me time to collect firewood for our first campfire of the trip.
Camp that night marked my hundredth mile on the trail, yay me!
Squarepants joked that it took them 1000 miles to finally make a campfire. For me it only took 100. Fish Nugget entertained us with her one-of-a-kind stories, quite the show. I have no idea where she gets all her crazy ideas.
After dinner we looked at our trip photos on my phone by the firelight. We laughed at ourselves and took a few badly lit selfies to commemorate the day.
I think my pants are getting loose.