A surplus of effort could overcome a deficit of confidence. – Sonia Sotomayor
I’m up before dawn, the wind is playing a song in the trees and Good Luck blasts his headlamp all over the campground, but mostly in my eyes. He says there’s only one setting. Note to self: keep looking for solo camp spots.
The sky is orange as we set off. I’m sitting on a rock looking at the crags when he approaches and sets a rattler rattling. What a glorious sound that is – a continuous, frothy kind of trill. But it’s a warning, so we get away and fast.
It’s just a small jaunt through the woods to a wide open space of Shasta and Castle Crags lit up by Mother Nature’s brilliance. I make coffee against a rock and have a few bars. I ask Good Luck why people don’t think I’m thru-hiking and he says because I don’t smell and I’m still in a good mood by the end of the day. I laugh. I am in a good mood; I love what I see and what my body can do. What puts me in a bad mood are crabby or show-offy hikers. Maybe I just need to walk during the off season.
I head down once the sun peaks over the horizon, the trail right underneath the crags. They are a splendid jumble of huge walks and spires, begging me to climb on. Maybe another time as I work down through thick manzanita growing right into the trail and over my head. Someone did a good job clearing out plants wanting to establish themselves directly in the trail, as I trip over a few leftover stumps.
I say hello to a hiker getting water at a spring, and he hurumphs. When I get confused at a junction and ask if he knows the way, he is even more aggressive. Is it me, or are a large number of PCT hikers generally just unpleasant asses? I guess I am going to need to redo my expectations because this is getting ridiculous. The sunrise was sensational, the views stupendous, the air and sunshine divine and someone acts like that when a stranger says hello?
A woman calling herself ‘Solar’ and married to ‘Lunar’ catches me. She seems nice enough and shares all about their three year adventure selling everything to travel. South America is next hitting every highlight and next, they’ll walk the Continental Divide Trail. It’s all fascinating, but I’ve heard enough so take a break for a second breakfast and a view of the crags.
I think about a word from my former life, a value to orient myself of ‘generosity.’ Sadly not one that translated upwards. I’m not wild about the word, to be honest. It’s freighted with childish association, something parents tell their young ones to adopt, usually when it comes to how to act with their siblings. I prefer values like decency and consideration, ones requiring someone to show by example rather than fiat. Being generous is sharing your toys. Being decent and considerate is a living a soulful life.
On I go with the massive rock wall to my left and Tchaikovsky 6 as an accompaniment. The trail dives deep into the forest where gnarled Pin Oak cling to the rock, leaving behind a carpet of thousands tiny brown leaves. Lizards run in and out of the trail and gnats dive bomb my eyeballs.
I come to a sylvan glade at Sulphur Spring, where the water cuts a series of pools stair-stepping down a ravine. The rock is smooth a toffee. I meet Lunar and Solar again and ask for information on a hostel. She tells me they will meet the host at the road. I ask if she might wait for us and she seems hesitant, suggesting other people can be called. I promise we’re right behind them. But I still make a bet with Good Luck they won’t wait for us.
I haven’t hiked with him until now, but follow close behind for nine miles as the trail actually goes up steeply in the intense sun before finally heading down. I drink a lot and feel better once in the shade, walking on a foot massage bed of pine needles. At the road, it appears they did wait, but more due to circumstances as they arrive just as a man is dropping off hikers. One of them knows Good Luck and they embrace after not seeing one another in the desert months ago.
The driver is named Mark and offers to take us wherever we want to go. Can you imagine such kindness? He’s retired and just interested in helping out. Solar and Lunar are very interested in themselves, so we head to a market for their packages and then to drop them off at the hostel so they won’t need to wait for our errands. When they leave the truck, I ask Mark if I might camp in his lawn – and he says yes. Good Luck comes too and we leave the hostel for a different adventure.
Town trips are mostly about food and washing, so it’s the store for resupply, a package pickup, then a milkshake before heading to his lovely home in McCloud for a shower and laundry. I notice I’m developing a bulge of fat in my back around my bony frame where the pack rubs. Thru-hiking is not making me beautiful, that’s for sure. Mark’s wife Lori is fun to talk to and I get lots of fur therapy from the dog, Azul and alison-therapy in a hammock.
Mark joins us for a Mexican dinner in Mount Shasta. So much food, but likely just what I need and the margarita is a kind of preamble for the finish line in Campo. I mention my frustration with the unpleasant hikers and both men pounce on me, saying it’s me that’s the problem and how I react. It shuts me down and makes me cry, even more frustrated. They’re 100% right that I can choose how to react, but it doesn’t mean that there aren’t a good number of unpleasant people here and that it isn’t a cause for concern.
The dinner basically ends at that point. The men laugh at me then carry on their conversation as if I’m not there. I call Richard who first ensures I’m safe, then tells me in the future, just get a hotel. But he also tells me these people know nothing of my life. They don’t know I can’t move my fingers properly so lost my performance career. They don’t know my second beloved career was yanked away from me only months ago. They don’t know what it feels like to be a middle aged woman out here alone and sometimes spoken to patronizingly. And they don’t care about me. Why should they? They don’t know me and don’t owe me anything. Mark has been incredibly generous taking me in and helping me get done what I need to get done. Richard points out I simply must be gracious and thank him, but I need to be on my way without blame or anger. I don’t know why someone would make me cry then do nothing to help me feel better. But I, too, know nothing about either man or care about them.
Perhaps this cold and hard reality is what I am called to face in this moment on the trail. There are far more Scrooges in this life than Bob Cratchetts and I may need to adopt a more cynical attitude, allowing the Cratchetts of the world to surprise and delight me and assume all those Scrooges will require my swift and professional maneuvering around them. And in that way, I will have the power to react as I see fit and to allow things to affect me as much as I choose, including tonight’s incident.
It’s late and I will continue my hike tomorrow, a bit wiser for the wear? I hope so. Good night.
Resident bear visits as I cuddle in.