From four miles past cold springs to soldier creek
Cowboy camping seemed like such a good idea last night. It’d be a little bit cooler, we’d be able to see the stars, we’d get up earlier, and there were no bugs to bother us.
The bugs were just waiting for us to relax our guard.
The ants came one at a time. The mosquitoes descended as a horde with the descent of the sun. They were waiting for it to cool off too. Sleeping bags pulled over the head kept the mosquitoes at bay, but the ants always found a way.
I don’t know that the mosquitoes even bit me – but that unbearable whine! The ants definitely bit me. On top of all that, I’ve had a muscle knot in my back that bothers me when I lay down, so I tossed, turned, pulled ants out of my pants and my hair, flailed at invisible mosquitoes, and did it all again. If I feel asleep, J was flailing around instead.
Too tired to fix the situation, not quite tired enough to sleep through it – it was a horrible night. Dawn came, and my alarms as well, and the mosquitoes finally left. We meant to get up in time to get to the town of Chester tonight – maybe get a motel room, eat out – we sleep instead.
“Tonight, we use the net-tent,” declares J, when we do get up. Too bad tonight is such a long ways away.
The first part of the day takes us out of the dense forest onto an open ridgeline with crunchy, volcanic rock outcroppings. We can see Mt Lassen to the north, some reservoir to the east, green mountains everywhere else. J and I are both exhausted.
We stop to water up at Little Cub Spring. I don’t know if it’s meat stick from yesterday sitting wrong, or perhaps one of the springs we drank from and didn’t filter, but my stomach feels awful. J is having problems too. We eat plain tortillas for lunch, then lay dejectedly on the ground for a while. But these miles don’t walk themselves…
We’ve come up onto a ridge again, looking north at Mt Lassen again, bit this time it seems to be exploding?? There are big cumulus clouds building too, but there’s definitely a plume – and growing fast. “Couldn’t be,” says J in disbelief. “We would’ve heard it.”
“That thing is definitely not a cloud.”
“No, it looks like a freaking plinian eruption. Do you have internet service?”
“Nope,” I reply, after checking. “Looks like we’ll just keep walking towards it.”
It’s still a long ways off. We’re not worried, merely baffled. Besides, if there was a volcanic eruption, and we ended up having to skip a section… I can’t say that I’d mind.
When we can see the mountain again, we’ve moved a fair bit to the east, so we can tell that their plume isn’t coming directly out of Mt Lassen, but to the side of it. It still doesn’t look like a cloud though. “Maybe forest fire?” suggests J.
“Most likely…” I reply.
Back down in the trees. My severe foot pain is back – not the tired foot aches, the shooting pain up my heels. I put my audiobook on and spend some more time in the French Revolution. I’m so caught up in it I almost walk past it – the halfway marker on the PCT.
(The best happy we can fake for the camera.)
Halfway! Three months to do it, to the day. I’m not sure I want to do this for another three months, or even for two (which we’re aiming for). Not if my feet are going to hurt like this every day. The trail register is full of hikers talking about lighting up in celebration, but we settle for just eating twice our day’s ration of fun-size candy bars. The other topic, especially for hikers right in front of us, is about needing to speed up, or deciding to skip ahead, then come back and do Oregon later. I guess I’m not the only one getting worked up about finishing.
We keep going. Less miles to go than we’ve already done… my feet hurt, and I cry. (Luckily, we’re going downhill. When I cry on the uphills I always end up hyperventilating, which is embarrassing, and makes it hard to walk.) Maybe I’m just exhausted and not feeling well, but I want to go home. At least, 49% of me does. The other 51% is morally opposed to quitting. All the percents of me that were having an awesome time appear to be on vacation somewhere else.
The water at soldier creek, when we get there, is cold and flowing well. There are campsites. I sit down next to my pack in order to feel sorry for myself more effectively. “You want to just camp here?” asks J.
“I wasn’t planning on going anywhere,” I tell him.
“Good,” he says. His feet hurt too. He’s exhausted too.