PCT Day 19: Trail People

Icky came over to chit-chat at camp last night. Talkative and entertaining, she didn’t ask me a single question. I find that so odd. Like, how can you have a conversation with another human being and not ask them anything? Am I that boring?

I got up and headed out onto the trail ahead of girls, but they soon passed by. We had a lot of rocky terrain today, with amazing views.

I wondered if that was Grover Hot Springs State Park down below. If not, it certainly was an incredible piece of ranch property, an expansive valley meadow surrounded by forested mountains, the perfect prepper retreat.

Today we headed for The Nipple.

My feet felt okay, a little better, still waiting for those proverbial hiker legs/feet to kick in. It’d be nice not to hobble into camp at end of day after only 10 miles. Just once.

I caught up with Fish Nugget, who was talking to The Hubby, aka Daddeo, on a rocky knoll ahead using Squarepant’s phone. She handed him off to me so that I could say hello. It was great to hear his voice.

Heading out on the trail today, a nice, cool morning.
Heading out on the trail today, a nice, cool morning.
More cool rock formations.
More cool rock formations.
I just love these top of the world views.
I just love these top of the world views.

He was staying in some amazing house in Incline Village that belonged to a work buddy of his and gushed about it for several minutes. Tomorrow he’d be moving to another friend’s house in the area, part of his sleep-around, couchsurfing extravaganza.

I suggested he get a hotel room in South Lake Tahoe and meet up with us one night. I said the kids would camp wherever, which was Fish Nugget’s preference since being around us both made her extra anxious. I told him to bring my laptop, so I could pay bills. He seemed to like the idea and said he’d look into it.

I hung up, fantasizing about a hot shower, a fluffy bed and restaurant food.

The trail was gentle today, with lots of down, then up and down, then up, but generally gradual. I didn’t see the girls for most of the day.

The Nipple in the distance, center left, our destination for the day.
The Nipple in the distance, center left in front of the far ridgeline, our destination for the day.
Looks like a perfect prepper paradise in that valley down below. Gardnerville is in the distance beyond.
Looks like a perfect prepper paradise in that valley down below. Gardnerville is in the distance beyond.
Cell phone reception, a special kind of trail magic. Squarepants letting Fish Nugget borrow the phone to talk to Daddeo.
Cell phone reception = trail magic. Squarepants letting Fish Nugget borrow her phone.

Remembering back to Sonora Pass, that evening we’d arrived, we stood on the side of the road trying to figure out where to camp. The girls said they’d scout ahead as I waited, dead tired as usual, sitting on a rock.

While there, a shiny, topless, red Jeep came over the pass, quickly pulling over onto the shoulder to let other cars pass. A hardtop white Jeep pulled in behind. Packed to party, they reminded me of the weekend caravans on the mountain roads of Puerto Rico.

My mind raced. Should I run over and ask for a ride?

More importantly, would they throw me a beer? I imagined them to be trail angels, admiring my hiker anguish, tossing me a frosty, cold, dark beer.

But alas, no beer. Once the other cars had passed, they pulled back onto the road and continued on their way. Yet that fantasy never left me, cropping up time and again at every future road crossing.

That might be Death ahead on the trail, but I'm not sure.
That might be Death ahead on the trail, but I’m not sure.
A lovely level trail.
A lovely level trail.
Another gorgeous meadow, I never get tired of these.
Another gorgeous meadow, I never get tired of these.

Hiking in Toiyabe National Forest, I heard a motor at the first dirt road crossing I encountered. I couldn’t see what was coming, so I waited, thinking about that beer wielding red Jeep I so desperately wanted to see.

It turned out to be a motorcycle. The rider, a guy in full motocross gear, pulled over, and we chatted for a bit about the trail. It was nice to speak with someone who actually asked questions. He was out for a morning ride, camping with the family for a week.

I doubted he had any beer in his little Camelback. Sigh.

I hiked on, stopping to hang out at Lily Lake, taking pictures, snacking and resting. It was a lovely spot, and the mosquitoes weren’t so bad after applying a little eau de deet.

Back on the trail, I met a man and his son doing the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail from Meek’s Bay. He had the personality of a game show host, one of those big-talker types, kind of a know-it-all. I gave him some information about camping at mile 1058, something he didn’t know about, but forgot to mention the cell service. Oops!

Further down the trail, I met some nice PCTers, Papa Squat and Cloak of Chillness. Papa Squat’s name had nothing to do with poop. He just squats everywhere he goes. Cloak of Chillness, which has to be the coolest trail name ever, carried a backpacker’s guitar all the way from Mexico. He cheered me on, which endeared him to me forever.

More mules ears.
More mules ears.
Typical boring trail, there's a lot of this between pictures.
Typical boring trail, there’s a lot of this between pictures.
Lily Lake, my late lunch stop for the day.
Lily Lake, my late lunch stop for the day.

Four miles from our target campsite, I loaded up on water because sources looked sketchy ahead. One side of my brain, backed by my feet, grumbled about the extra weight. The other side reasoned it was worth it to not run out of water and told the first side to stop whining. So go the head games in the great outdoors.

I met up with girls soon after, and we hiked on to mile 1067.

Of course they were both out of water. A sketchy puddle nearby was the last known source for the next five miles, so we debated whether to stay or go three more miles to another potentially sketchy source.

Squarepants wished she’d bought the Guthooks app, which had added information about water. I remember downloading it on my phone, tried to launch it, but couldn’t due to some missing files. I should know better—test before going out on the trail.

Another view of Lily Lake.
Another view of Lily Lake.
Saw this big frog by a stream where I stopped for water.
Saw this big frog by a stream where I stopped for water.
Check out this giant candy corn rock!
Check out this giant candy corn rock!

Standing there, we hailed another hiker coming up the trail and asked if she had Guthooks. That’s how we met Poppins, who had the app and helped us sort it all out.

We ultimately decided to stay, too tired to trudge up a hot, windy hill for three more miles. Nine for the day was still respectable, and Squarepants thought she could filter enough water from the murky puddle for tonight and tomorrow morning, when it’d be cooler hiking anyway.

We all stood on the trail, talking for a while.

Poppins was from the Bay Area. In her thirties, she’d quit a career job that she’d loathed for years to hike the PCT. She’d figure out what to do afterwards toward the end.

Poppins was running low on food and hadn’t resupplied since Tuolumne, so big miles were a must for her. She’d been obsessing about Zachary’s Pizza in Berkeley for days. We talked a lot about food.

She also recommended reading John Muir’s book: My First Summer in the Sierra. After she left, the girls summed her up as cool and hip. I think they admired her joie de vivre.

More lovely trail.
More lovely trail.
I'm liking this lichen!
I’m liking this lichen!
Crossing highway 4. Bummer, no beer tossing trail magic for me here, either.
Crossing some road. Bummer, no beer tossing trail magic for me here, either.

I was happy to camp at mile 1067. Tired, I set up my tent, organized my habitat and laid down on my sleeping bag, enjoying the last rays of sun. I’d met a lot of interesting people that day and took notes in my journal so as not to forget.

I’d actually seen Poppins earlier that morning when I fell in a creek right in front of her. We’d exchanged pleasantries as I got myself back up. No big deal, everybody falls.

At that same creek I met Death.

But I didn’t know that was his trail name until later when I saw Fish Nugget talking to him. She’d had a hand in picking his name. They were in a group, sitting around the desert somewhere, and he was the only one without a trail name, so they started making stuff up.

They finally decided on Death because it just sounded cool. Oh look, here comes Death. Apparently Death is a really nice guy.

There was another guy at the creek too, but I didn’t get his trail name. I call him Sushi Buffet Guy because he talked on and on about some sushi buffet in South Lake Tahoe that was cheap and legendary. I got into it too because it did sound good, even though I don’t eat fish from the Pacific because I worry about radiation accumulating in the oceanic food chain from the continual supply of radioactive water dumping from Fukishima, still, to to this day—a problem so big, most humans ignore it.

The Nipple, up close.
The Nipple, up close and personal.
Squarepants takes a break, looking comfy.
Squarepants takes a break, looking comfy.
Fish Nugget resting on the trail.
Fish Nugget resting on the trail.

In hindsight, I wished I’d asked everyone their trail names and gotten all the stories behind them. I loved hearing people’s stories.

Fish Nugget and Squarepants were in good spirits tonight.

Maybe that conversation with Poppins had pumped them up, or maybe the shorter day and a chance to enjoy some late afternoon sun in their tents put them in a good mood.

We learned a new trail term from Poppins that we hadn’t heard before: LASHers = Long Ass Section Hikers (or Lazy Ass) That’s so us… :)

At the beginning of my hike, I’d felt like a faker, a wannabe in the thru-hiking world. But ever since crossing Sonora Pass, I felt more like the real deal. So I’m slow, big deal. I’d gone more than halfway on a 250-mile journey, still a respectable distance.

And I met some really interesting people along the way.

30 Days on the PCT
Day 19: July 21, mile 1067
The end of another beautiful day.
The end of another beautiful day.
You are here.
You are here.