You can’t give up! If you give up, you’re like everybody else. – Chris Evert
The sunrise, of course, is spectacular. All orange and pink, mainly because the sky is cloudy. I wonder if it will rain. I got my fill in Washington, but rain likely helps keep wildfires under control.
I had a strange dream that I was on air with several people sitting around a table observing me. The person in charge did not give me any information – including the station’s call letters – and complains that I plugged too many electronics into the sockets. None-the-less, I make my best effort to be creative. Any dream interpreters out there want to tell me what’s going on in my subconscious, I’m all for it.
My sleep wasn’t superlative because I didn’t quite make my space flat, but I linger over breakfast and enjoy my view before heading down to the little town below. This walk is also stunning and I see Shasta now, a hump above all other humps in eerie light.
The loud, nasally voiced man who told me to shhh when I mentioned someone was sleeping while he was droning on one morning, passes me. I learn he calls himself ‘Backtrack’ and he loudly tells me how he’s in a big hurry to get to Saied Valley, in fact, he’s always in a big hurry. I tell him not me, I’d rather savor things as he disappears around a bend. Then I sing “Pokey, Little Puppy” as I continue down, out of views and into overgrown scrub, where I take a spectacular fall on a stump right into the dust. That’s what you get, smug sauntering hiker!
I’m not hurt, just filthy dirty and happy to find a piped spring near the road where I can rinse my hands, though my pants will just stay dirty. I think about what I wrote yesterday concerning the ‘unsent letter.’ When we’re able to spew everything out in writing, we physically release it and can have at least some satisfaction and emotional cleansing removing those churning emotions spinning in our heads. But, by not sending the letter – and not having ‘the last word’ – we force ourselves to create our own closure with the situation, without any help from the person who harmed us. It’s hard work, but it can make us so strong because we free ourselves. We don’t really need the other person to give us permission to move on. Wanting to tell them off just keeps us engaged. The hurt the ‘receiver’ of my unsent letter caused me does not define me. This walk I am taking right now does – except not the recent fall. And so do a lot of other cool things like Richard and my family and friends.
I arrive at the road, but feel a bit confused as to my next move. My map did not load all of the details, so I am just following a red line towards a symbol of a town. I try to hitch, but everyone speeds by. A man in a red car races past and stops at the gas station. I say hi, and he apologizes for not picking me up. I tell him it’s ok but where is the cafe, which turns out to be directly next door. I feel a bit foolish.
Though, to be fair, the cafe offers wifi and I still can’t fully load the map – or upload any of my blog. I see lots of friends here, it’s actually overrun with dusty, dirty, smelly hikers, our backpacks all in a row outside and phones plugged into a power strip.
I sit down at a table with a young man with a plate of three massive pancakes in front of him. He looks a bit ill and I realize he took the Saied Cafe Pancake Challenge – eat five, one pound pancakes in one hour, and you get the meal for free. I can tell he’s going to have to pay this time. It turns out ‘Milk Jug’ is 18 and hiking the trail as part of his gap year. He’s a delightful person and after I order an omelette and one of the famous malts, I try some of his pancakes. They’re awesome, but very filling.
Eventually he moves on and a young woman sitting at the counter smiles at me. She then asks if we met on the trail. It’s Kate, the section hiker! We didn’t recognize one another because she showered and changed and my hair is down. I will pause here to say I am extremely lucky with my hair. I just wet it and comb it, and the curls take over. Another hiker asks if I showered because I look so good. I repeat, I am very lucky!
Kate is totally cool. We talk about the last four days and how beautiful it was, also how easy it was to walk lots of miles and how easy it was to miss the water sources, which sadly she also walked past. We also talk about how the trail has changed with big groups walking together now, the intense focus on a destination and how loud it’s gotten. The drunk Aussies who gave me a beer for a hug arrived at her site at 11:00 pm singing at the top of their lungs. When she poked out of her tent, they saw her, but kept right on singing. Is the PCT getting ruined?
We also share how cool our husbands are to let us go and hike, talk careers or lack thereof, then I say goodbye and buy a few items for the 50+ mile walk to the next town. Everyone is really accommodating in Saied Valley. I’m sure we get on their nerves, though we do bring a lot of business as the trail is on the road at this point. I leave a massive tip for my waitress.
I see G-Punk picking up her package of food and she tells me she’s weirded out by the town. This area is part of the ‘State of Jefferson’ a kind of split-off idea from the rest of California. There’s history with forestry and the feds going back a century, but right now, everyone has signs reading ‘No Monument.’ A guy wearing an ‘America, love it or leave it’ shirt I meet on the road tells me Obama wanted to make this area a monument and the citizens object because they want to use it to hunt and fish. I don’t argue with him – or accept his ride to skip the road walk on the ‘Bigfoot Scenic Highway’ – but it does seem these folks need less Limbaugh and more facts. Turning the federal land into a monument wouldn’t keep them from hunting and fishing, it would keep multi-national extraction companies from destroying it. And what power does Obama have now anyway?
I don’t have a bad feeling at all here, but I can understand how historically a rural place like this would mistrust the government. The trail comes way around the Klamath River so hikers can use the road bridge to cross. Apparently some hikers try to cut a few miles by fording the river, and the landowner has put up dozens of No Trespassing signs and barbed wire to put a stop to that. Turkey vultures glide in circles over the river, coming close enough for me to see their warty red necks.
The houses along here have cars and car parts in the yards, lots of barking dogs but also kitchen gardens. At one house, a well used double Lazy Boy rests at the curb with a mountain of moving boxes, one marked “Shamel bronze statue.” Three hikers straight out of central casting approach and pose for me on the road.
Soon, I hit a campground and use the pit toilet before heading up Grider Creek canyon on a trail that winds in and out of ravines, undulating up and down but mostly moving up. It’s beautiful in here – fluorescent green moss on boulders, huge magnolia trees, their bark peeling to reveal soft fleshy wood, shrubs with giant leaves and the gorgeous creek of many pools.
The river bed is covered with fallen trees and debris – more a river to see and hear then to visit. But I’m ok up here, crossing many rushing side creeks. As I reach an area that’s overgrown, it begins to rain. A few drops are not a problem, but I can see mist ahead, so put on my rain coat just as real rain comes down. I sent my rain pants home before Oregon and I’m wondering if it might have been worth carrying them 500 miles for this moment. It’s like a car wash as the wet plants slap against my legs. Within minutes, I am soaked to the skin.
But I press on, passing some very focused, very damp, northbound hikers coming down. It’s not cold and my core is dry, so I just start singing a little march to get me to a side creek I planned to camp near. I see Milk Jug, as well as a few others heading up. I cross a bridge thinking, “At last, my final two miles!” only to realize there are three bridges.
But the creek is gorgeous to look at, so different from any place I have walked on this trail and I’m soaked through, I can’t get any wetter, no need to rush. I see Jay ahead sitting under his rain poncho/tent and he welcomes me to California. He is a study in how to be relaxed, knowing water is nearby and will fill up when necessary. It is indeed nearby, only two minutes away, and I find a single spot right next to a private double waterfall. The rain stops long enough to set up and have dinner, and now the tumbling torrent lulls me to sleep.