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PCT day 4: ploddling along OR Hart’s Pass 2: The Return to Hart’s Pass

We wake at six but take our sweet time breaking down camp and eating breakfast. I’m still not hungry, but I find a couple hot chocolate packets in my food bag that sound kind of appealing, so I mix them up and sip on that while Backup eats his oats and drinks his coffee. “I’m not going to carry more than two liters of water at a time today,” I announce. 

I set off down the trail around eight, with Backup a bit behind me. My feet are still a little sore from yesterday, but I make pretty good time, and it takes Backup a while to catch me — I see him coming up some switchbacks below as I’m chatting with a couple section hikers. 

My left achilles tendon is bugging me. That’s the bad news, but the good news is I’m finally hungry! I eat a bunch of snacks and even manage to convince Backup to stop for a longish lunch break so I can make some hot food and lay my sleeping bag out in the sun to dry out a bit; it got a bit wet from condensation last night. 

I’m not feeling super great about our Hart’s Pass goal; that seems really far away. But after lunch we keep on trucking. We hike a bit together but mostly I go ahead while Backup communes with butterflies (I’m trying to get him to start insectsofthepct dot tumblr dot com) or he goes ahead when he gets impatient with my slow pace. We set meeting spots at creeks or tent sites a mile or two in the distance and leapfrog our way there. 

I spend a lot of the day focused on my achilles, trying to figure out how to step so I don’t aggravate it. Using my poles effectively and placing my feet carefully helps a great deal, and for a big chunk of the day I’m not in any pain at all. 

Five miles or so from Hart’s Pass, the wind picks up something fierce. We run into a hiker who warns us that the barometric pressure is dropping, and Backup is worried about a storm coming in. We try to pick up the pace, but right about now the front of my left ankle starts to hurt. Yesterday at one point I told Backup I was going to “ploddle on”… an accidental combination of plod and hobble, or possible waddle? In any case, I do a lot of ploddling in the last few miles to Hart’s Pass.

My stakes are right where I left them at our campsite of a few nights ago, three and a half miles from Hart’s Pass. Hurray! We grab them and head on. 

As we get closer, Backup says that he thinks of distance — i.e., x miles — in terms of his usual run around the Portland waterfront — i.e., the distance from the Steel Bridge to his apartment. So I ask, “could you give me the play by play? Are we going under then Burnside Bridge yet?” He watches the fractions of miles tick by on his watch and keeps me updated: “We’re at the fountain. We’re going up the ramp to the bridge.” When he stops to fill up at the last creek, I ploddle on, and when he catches up again, we’re turning onto his block. 

We’re camped at the established campground at Hart’s Pass tonight, reveling in the luxury that is a picnic table to cook at and a pit toilet to shit in. The front of my ankle all the way up onto my shin feels sore and tender to the touch. Maybe this is shin splints? It’s either that or my extensor tendons. I told Backup I want to sleep in and have an easier day tomorrow.  

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