From past Fowler Creek to Lookout Rock
All those miles at the end of the day yesterday still feel like a bad idea this morning. I’m sweaty, groggy, and hurting. We meant to get up early to have time at the Middle Fork of the Feather River, but we don’t.
Instead of pines, pines, pines, the trail takes us down through oak groves today, dappled and green. I spend some time wondering why poison oak has to always company the real deal. Nobody likes it. It should just go away.
We do the five miles to the river, and it’s a gem. It’s designated as a ‘wild and scenic waterway’, which it is. Leaving the switchbacks, we go down a side trail which takes us to a smaller tributary, with lovely pools, a nice bank, and beautiful trees. Packs – ditched. Clothes – off. Time for a swim.
I’ve been struggling a lot lately to figure out what my philosophy/goals are for this thru-hike. Now that we’re hiking faster, I feel like we should be using the time to hike more miles. J thinks we should be using it to better enjoy our lives – you know, stopping at some of the amazing places we walk past, swimming in the creeks, fishing in the lakes. “Life is not about enjoying yourself!” I tell him. “It’s about misery!” But he insists that this trip is pointless if we’re going to just walk past all the nice bits.
I can’t really figure out why I feel like I need to feel miserable, or at least uncomfortable. Habit? Feeling competitive with other thru-hikers? Wanting to prove something to myself? Maybe today I’ll try enjoying myself.
We spend three hours at the river. It’s nice to spend some time with J when I’m not exhausted, when we can talk without one of us constantly yelling: “huh? What?” at the other’s back. (It’s hard to converse and hike, turns out. Your ears point the wrong way.)
Same boat as yesterday though, we’ll have to walk hard from now until dark to hit our mileage goal. Uphill for ten miles straight, too.
Things are looking possible for hitting our twenty miles today, when we finally finish the ten miles of uphill and look out across a sweeping vista of green mountains. A look at the map tells us that the views will probably not be as good after this, and there’s a rocky fin jutting out, with enough space to cowboy camp on top…
“Ah, forget it. Let’s enjoy life today,” I say to J. And we abandon the last five miles we had planned, put down our packs, and watch the sun go down over our mac’n’cheese. We’ll suffer tomorrow, but for now, well, life is beautiful. Living the dream…