Day 72
Miles: 24
From boulder creek to Pennsylvania creek

Up at a reasonable hour – it’s a relief every time I manage this. The trail takes us away from the creek, through sunny meadows heavy with scented, green air and yellow light. J stops and points at the ground, “bear”. The scat is black, looks fresh.
  “Good thing we’re still doing bear-hangs. Maybe we should take them more seriously.”

We’re still in granite country, but a huge basalt dome pops straight out of the ground next to the trail, rises up to a peak. We stop and stare, puzzled, then argue about how it probably formed for a while. I like to make up outrageous (but plausible) scenarios, then stand by them, hell or highwater. J does not approve.

Wildflowers and mountain peaks, whatever. I’m exhausted. J and I bicker about something or nothing – the sun is hot – the trail is steep. Lunchtime and a rally.

The granite whirls back to volcanics again, spires and ridges like the castle of an evil sorceress. When we’re almost to Ebbetts Pass and the highway crossing, J says, “do you think there will be trail magic there?”
  “Ha, if only every highway crossing we get to, there will be a taco truck and cooler of ice cream.”
  “Shouldn’t get my hopes up. I probably shouldn’t just go around expecting for strangers to give me things.”

Even so, when we get to the highway and there’s nothing, we’re both terribly disappointed. We sit down on the side of the road to feel sorry for ourselves and eat some snacks. We sit for a while. We’re thinking about getting up when a truck stops in the pullout. “Do you think the back of his truck is full of strawberries, and he’s coming to give us some?”
  “Uh, no,” J replies.
  “Are you sure? I think he’s coming to give us strawberries.” But when the guy gets out of his truck and starts walking towards us carrying a box, I’m as surprised as anybody.

  “You want some V8? Is this a good place to leave it, do you think the other hikers will find it?”
  “Uh, yeah. Of course!” We tell him, a bit surprised.
  “I was out volunteering for the death ride today, we have all these extra V8s. Thought you might enjoy them.”
  “Yeah, we can always use more vegetables. Thanks!”
  “No problem!” the guy says add he leaves.

“Ha! How about that! You asked for trail magic, and the trail delivered!” I say to J. “And is it that obvious that we’re thru-hikers? He didn’t even ask. Are we that dirty?”
  “I think we are.”

The guy went back to his truck, but he’s coming back. “Do you guys drink beer?”
  “Yes!” Says J.
  The guy takes out three beers from a small cooler and tosses them in the box with the V8s. “Drink what you want, or leave it for the next hikers!”
  “Thanks man!”

He takes off, we sit and laugh, drink V8s till we’re silly. I don’t even like V8. When we’re sloshing with liquid tomatoes we get up to go. We’ve only made it 100 yards when we find a cooler, marked: trail magic. More trail magic! It’s stocked by Meadow Mary, with sodas, cookies, apples!
  “What?” I yell. “MORE trail magic?” We laugh and laugh, eat apples and cookies and drink Coca-Colas till we’re mostly liquid, full of vegetables and sugar and bubbles, then slosh down the trail.

We slosh past beautiful lakes that we can’t stop at – too many miles to go. We slosh past more spires and towers and rugged peaks – too many miles to go. Past wildflowers and cedars on cliffs and sunsets, pass, pass, pass. My feet feel like they’ve been beaten with hammers and my hipbones scream, but we keep going. Thru-hiking, man. It’s making me crazy.

We stop at the first water in a while, where another thru-hiker is camped. She introduces herself as Blue Butterfly – a solo female hiker, 67 years old. This is what tough looks like (unassuming, in quikdry clothes). We talk about the trail for a minute. She didn’t see the bear scat today, just the bear! Then we commiserate about the toll it’s taking on us. We are both so discouraged, so tired, so worn down.
  “Hold it, hold it, hold it!” J interrupts. “How many miles did you hike today,” he asks, turning to Blue Butterfly.
  “And you’ve done twenty-four,”.He says, turning to me. “Of course you’re tired! You’re hiking crazy miles! But you’re doing it! You both need to cut this sh*t out!”

Blue Butterfly and I look at each other sheepishly. He’s right. We’re tired, but we’re doing it, doing this, this thru-hike. Maybe we should just be proud of ourselves…

We leave Blue Butterfly to hike another mile to the next creek, where we find a beautiful camping spot, all to ourselves. We finally did the twenty-four miles that I wanted us to do all the other days. It feels good (and even better to be sitting down). Tomorrow is my birthday, and although we won’t make it town, we’ve decided to do a birthday challenge: twenty-nine miles for my 29th birthday. The crux will be getting up on time. Maybe I’ve got this.


Bear scat



Getting water




Wildflowers are off the hook!


Trail magic



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