PCT Day 17: Whatever You Give

Last night the wind blew noisy and cool. It felt like fall. I hesitated to get out of bed this morning for the first time ever on this trip. But, the trail won’t hike itself, I thought, and so I go on.

I woke up pretty early at 6:30. Not surprising, as I’d been in my tent snuggled in bed since 6:30 last night, exhausted. Packed and out by 9:00, we had an 11-mile day ahead.

A Mule's Ear meadow to start the day.
A Mule’s Ear meadow to start the day.
No more granite, it's all crumbly volcanic views now.
No more granite, it’s all crumbly volcanic views now.
Looking back, maybe there's a little granite still around.
Looking back, well, maybe there’s a little granite still around.

There wouldn’t be any water till one mile out, so I took care not to waste what was left. The girls hiked ahead. I planned to take more breaks to minimize foot pain.

The trail was pretty but different today, with more meadows, wildflowers, ridges and piles of volcanic rock. A slight headache accompanied my every step, I suppose due to over exertion, or dehydration. Still waiting for hiker-super-strength to kick in.

Even old guys pass me. I must be the slowest person on the trail.

I paused to give thanks for the little horse pillows underfoot, aka horse poop. They’re so soft to step on. They saved my feet from the unforgiving ground, and really, when you look at them, they’re not even that gross, just bits of regurgitated grass. It’s not like stepping in dog poo, or a cow paddy. So I stepped on them whenever I could.

Lots of meadows in the distance today.
Lots of meadows in the distance today.
Heading up the mountain to that saddle ahead.
Heading up the mountain to that saddle ahead.
Attraversiamo, I cross over.
Attraversiamo: where I crossed over.

Speaking of pet products, I missed my kitty treats. I thought I’d sent some to Sonora, but I guess not. I’d bought Friskies Party Mix in Mammoth and actually ate all of them, before the cashews even. Cat food is fantastic on the trail—lightweight, protein-rich, snackable—I’m surprised more people don’t bring it out here. Nom, nom, nom!

Today I had time to let my mind wander.

When you head out on a long hike like this, you think you’ll have all the time in the world to ponder the universe and discover the meaning of life.

The truth is, the first couple weeks, your thoughts are completely engrossed by not getting lost, not dying, finding the next water source, filtering, eating, resting, organizing your stuff, improving your systems, catching up with your people, avoiding bears, setting up camp, breaking down camp, dealing with the poo situation, fending off bugs, nursing the many incarnations of pain, getting from one point to the next in one piece without running out of food—I think you get the point. That was my experience, anyway.

But today, I passed a mental milestone. All the above receded into my subconscious, allowing other thoughts to bubble up to the surface.

Fish Nugget hanging out with new friend Brenna.
Fish Nugget hanging out with new friend Brenna.
Fish Nugget checks out Squarepants in yet another of her amazing chill spots.
Fish Nugget checks out Squarepants in yet another of her amazing chill spots.
Looking back up at where we came from, through the low side on the left.
Looking back up at where we came from, through the low side on the left, I think.

Walking along that scenic ridge, having walked alone most of the day, it occurred to me that the meaning of life is whatever you give it. Nothing more, nothing less.

That was easy. Now what?

I thought about The Hubby and wondered how he was getting along with his couchsurfing adventure.

I thought about bills I needed to pay and hoped he could bring my laptop to South Lake Tahoe, as it seemed time to look at those.

I hoped my dad was doing okay.

Another glorious, territorial view in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness.
Another glorious, territorial view in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness.
There were flowers everywhere, I just didn't get many good pictures of them.
There were flowers everywhere, I just didn’t get many good pictures of them.
Cool tree.
Cool tree.

I caught up with Fish Nugget in the early afternoon. Lounging in the dirt under a patch of windswept pines at the top of a windy pass, she seemed to be having a great conversation with another hiker, a girl in her twenties.

Her new friend, Brenna, a nurse from the Bay Area, was on a four-day trip.

Hiking solo with a ginormous pack, she was doing the section from Highway 4 to Sonora Pass, where her dad would be picking her up. Fish Nugget admired the fact that she had a real job, an apartment and a car, like, serious adulting.

Fish Nugget had cooked a meal and been hanging out for a couple of hours under those trees as hikers came and went. She even met Back Again, who was out updating the Halfmile maps. That’s like meeting PCT royalty.

A few hundred feet beyond, I found Squarepants napping on a ridge with glorious, top-of-the-world views. That girl always found the most amazing places to chill.

Really interesting rock formations.
Really interesting rock formations ahead.
Dramatic canyon views as I hobble downhill toward the end of the day.
Dramatic canyon views as I hobble downhill toward the end of the day.
In the canyon, looking northeast.
In the canyon, looking northeast, wondering if I should load up on water.

During the final part of the day, I took a lot of breaks to save my poor feet. A stunning canyon descent helped distract me from my many discomforts, but it was tough going. The girls hiked ahead, waiting periodically for me to catch up.

Water had sometimes run low today, probably feeding the low-grade headache.

We slogged uphill for a mile before finding a good place to camp. I’m pretty sure I whined like 2-year old toward the end. Every step hurt.

But the campsite had a pretty canyon view.

And, no mosquitoes, yay.

30 Days on the PCT
Day 17: July 19, mile 1047
Our view from camp, taken the next morning.
Our view from camp, taken the next morning.