From emigrant wilderness to boulder creek
It’s morning! I’m happy to be here. I slept well. There are no mosquitoes. It’s brilliant and blue and I’m still tired but maybe – maybe – I can do this. I’m probably going to starve to death before getting to South Lake Tahoe for our next resupply, but maybe that will be ok too.
J and I hike over and around the volcanic peaks, luxuriating in the refreshing change in lithology. “Whoa!” exclaims J, as he leans over and picks up a rock from the slope next to the trail. He holds up an anethyst, glowing purple in the morning, big as his finger.
“Do you think it’s from here? Or that somebody dropped it?”
The crystal is dirty, with some big flaws – it doesn’t seem like something that’s been carried around. Hard to say though. We find a rock with nearly microscopic crystals inside a vug, but nothing else like the amethyst. “The universe is rewarding us again!” I declare. J rolls his eyes.
The kaleidoscope of volcanic rocks is putting a serious crimp in J’s pace. We find an area of rock where the volcanic vesicles have been infilled with quartz. The little quartz nuggets have weathered out and lay all around like tiny dinosaur eggs. We’ve caught up with our friend Aloha and we point it out: “check out the cool rocks!”
We chat for a bit, then he asks us if we’re planning on getting off at Sonora Pass to hitch into Bridgeport.
“No, we’re going all the way to South Lake Tahoe,” I reply.
“Maybe we should though,” adds J. “We don’t really have enough food.”
“I’m getting off at Sonora Pass,” says Aloha. “I have a ton of extra food. Do you want it?”
Offering food to another thru-hiker is possibly the very definition of generosity. “Wait, are you serious?” we ask. “You can use the food on your next leg.”
“I’m actually getting off trail,” he explains. “It’s time to get back to my family.”
“A thousand miles?” I ask, then add, “what a way to end your trip.” We’re wandering among volcanic spires and meltwater lakes, rocky slopes of wildflowers, sweeping vistas of before and behind, incredible skies, sheer dropoffs.
Aloha smiles, “not too bad, huh?” We agree to meet him at Sonora Pass, then continue on. Two day hikers coming up the trail tell us that there’s trail magic at the pass. “Trail magic?” J and I yell excitedly. We’re starving. We haven’t been eating enough for days. We take off running down the last two miles.
That lasts about thirty seconds, then, panting heavily, we walk very quickly down the switchbacks. Sure enough, where the trail crosses the highway there’s a sign welcoming PCT hikers.
The trail angel Mack, gets us Gatorade and chips, then looks at us. “Two hot dogs?” she asks, holding up two fingers. My heart plummets. I could clean out an entire hot dog stand right now. One lonely little hot dog would just be a tease! Mack looks over at J and says again, “two hot dogs?” She holds up two fingers on her other hand, then puts her two hands together – “so four hot dogs?”
“Yes please!” we chorus. Hooray! Mack tells us she does trail magic here every year, for just one day. Today is our lucky day.
Aloha shows up at the pass, where his partner is waiting for him. He loads us down with nuts, snacks, and an entire armful of clif bars. (I’ve never been so happy about clif bars in my life. Eat them for a couple months then see how YOU feel about them.) After re-provisioning us, he tosses something small at J. “What’s this?” J asks, as he unzips the small pouch. It’s a mosquito net. A nine year old with a new xbox on Christmas morning couldn’t have smiled wider. “A mosquito head-net!” he laughs. “But how did you I needed one?”
Aloha had remembered a passing comment I made to him several days before about mosquitoes.
Trail angels come in so many different forms and appearances, but all are tied together with the generosity and help they provide for hikers – for a bunch of smelly people who probably don’t deserve it. I’m racking up a serious tab with the universe.
Heavy clouds, building all morning, are threatening us. Mack tells us that the rain up here, this time of year, comes from the monsoons in Arizona. Monsoons! Thinking about home and the beautiful summer rains makes me homesick.
Back on the trail. This isn’t the end of the road for us, not yet. Back to the mountains and views and flowers, so, so many flowers! It starts to drizzle, so I repack my pack with my trash compactor bag liner. We run into another hiker and – holy smokes – it’s the annoying man. The one we ran into twice in Kings Canyon! He’s here again! He doesn’t remember us, and we proceed to have the exact same annoying conversation with him that we’ve already had twice. There’s some sort of trail rule, where the people you love you never see again, but people who drive you crazy will pop back up, over and over again. There are exceptions, but in general…
The landscape whirls from volcanic rocks to granite again, stunning and familiar. The walking becomes instantly harder – it’s just so much harder on your feet.
I wanted to do 24 miles today, but settle for 21. I just can’t do it. My feet are excruciating. My hipbones are backsliding into bruises and open sores. I’m exhausted. The optimism of this morning seems impossibly far away. Did I really think I could do this? One day at a time. I’m so glad I’m not hungry anymore.