Day 37: Cue the Proclaimers!

Trite, I know, but it still makes me laugh! Because 500 miles!

Five-hundred miles. Five-hundred miles of the PCT. Who would’ve thought?

I’m in my tent (at mile 501), and I happens to grab a signal. I was just looking at new packs online. Today was slow, and it was slow because I was carrying 6 liters of water, and if I have any hope of doing the 25s after the Sierra, I need a lighter pack. Period. Bit maaaan… I do NOT want to go ultralight. Too much discomfort. I could drop $400 and save 2 pounds in about 2 months’ time, when the pack would be ready.

But then the saner part of me chimed in with the voice of reason. Will I still be on trail in 2 months? Who knows? Can I afford $400? No. Did thru-hikers have 27-ounce packs in the 1970s? No. Does your gear get you to Canada (or wherever)? No.

No, I think I have to content myself with lower water carries. I don’t think a big gear restructure at this point is going to increase my stamina. I just can’t hike from sunrise to sunset, and I can’t make my legs any longer.

How did I get off on that tangent?

500 miles, yo! I’m eating Skittles to celebrate! (Thanks Beth and Bernie!)

I couldn’t leave the hotel until after 8 AM (that’s when you can turn your key in, or they charge you 20 bucks). I’ve lost a lot of weight, so I need to be better with the town food, so I got breakfast, too. It was after 9 before I hit the road–literally. I had another 6 miles of roadwalk to get to a side trail for 2 miles to get to the PCT–the end of the fire closure. (I think that’s the last one–pending new fires later in the season, of which I hope there will be none.)

I made it a mile before I had to find some bushes. It’s one thing to poop in the woods. It’s something else entirely to do it stealthily in a neighborhood or near a highway intersection. I found a spot, though.
And it was the last viable spot I saw, which had me concerned, given that I’m at the tail end of the ‘thing.’

I made it another mile or two on the shoulder. The speed limit was 50, and the cars and trucks (not many of them) were going faster–like, 12 parsecs. I was starting to appreciate the magnitude of the stinking endless roadwalk, when a car pulled over. “Want a ride to the trailhead?”

“I love you!” I said. And got in the jeep.

It was the same guy who gave me a lift yesterday! ‘Not all who wander are lost,’ said the Jeep, on both sides.

He’s a retired LA fireman. His wife died four years ago, and he said he’s pretty much just killing time now. He’s 87. So sad! That’s the third widower I’ve met on this hike. The loneliness is palpable, even though they’ve been cheerful men.

I love hearing the one-on-one stories from people. I don’t like the vortexes or the parties… but it wrings me out to hear this poor guy, a fireman for 45 years, just marking time until he can join his wife. Killing time by driving end to end across town and giving lifts to hikers.

He dropped me off at the trailhead. The connecting trail was forested–very green and pretty, with the scent of a stream but no water. Today was pretty much woodsy! Probably the last forest-type environment we’ll see for a long time. There was a lot of poison oak around in the morning (it’s a prettier plant than poison ivy), but the trail climbed steadily (damn you, 6 liters of water, which nobody else is carrying!) and the poison oak thinned, then vanished.

I didn’t see many hikers today. Only two, in fact. An insanely cheerful guy named Gray Squirrel who started on May 8. He’s super tall and all leg, so it was easy to see that he was chewing up the trail. It’s all in the stride length! Stubby legs are a big disadvantage.

The other guy was somebody I met at the Inn. Spidah. With a ‘dah.’ I don’t know the story behind the trail name. He started the 12th but took a week off.

The Sierra resets everybody.

I was trying to get to 508 so I could avoid the reportedly creepy Hikertown, but the hills and the water killed me. After the 500 mile spot, the trail started to climb hard. I finally found this little spot in the dense growth, but it’s my worst pitch of the trail. Not enough room. And possibly windy, but we’ll see. There was a Guthook spot in 2 miles, but I’m trying to avoid those, after the powerline incident the other night. I left them for the people who don’t know how to find a spot on their own yet.

So here we are! I’m going to end up at Hikertown tomorrow night, even though I wanted to avoid it. What can you do? If things were supposed to be different, they’d be different.

Also, I declare myself 90% cured of the ‘thing’! But there was a guy at the hotel who’d just come down with it. Good luck, guy! May the Force be with you!