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PCT day 9: how to be butterfly strong

One of the workers at the bakery yesterday told Backup that the post office opens at eight this morning, so at eight I trot over there and find a sign indicating that it opens at ten. Oh well! I kill a couple hours carefully packing my pack (everything but food) and checking on the new books I downloaded to my phone — I finished The Martian yesterday. 

At ten I trot over again and pick up our resupply boxes. Much to my chagrin, they have been labeled by the postmaster with their weights. Backup’s is ten pounds, ten ounces, and mine is ten pounds, 13.5 ounces. Yikes! Gonna be a heavy carry starting out. 

We take over a couple of picnic tables outside the store and spread out the contents of our boxes. I have leftover food from the last leg, still, so I have a little leeway in what I need to take and what I can leave in the hiker box at the post office. Even after some finagling, though, six days of food is kind of ridiculous. 

Backup decides to keep his bear can, but sends home the tent he’s been using to make up for it. We’ll just share mine. I send home my bear can, stuffed with a few miscellaneous things, a priority mail label slapped right on top. 

From the post office we start walking towards the bakery, a couple miles up the only road in town. A mile in, we stick out our thumbs when a couple drives by in some kind of off-road golf cart, and they pull over, laughing, to pick us up. 

The bakery smells just as good as it does yesterday. I settle on a pesto-and-onion homemade hot pocket thing, plus a bottle of chocolate milk. I already bought and ate a cinnamon roll the size of my head when we were here yesterday. After we’ve been munching for a while, Paint Your Wagon shows up just off the town-bound bus from High Bridge and greets us enthusiastically. Then a guy across the bakery greets him enthusiastically — they met back in April at Lake Morena at Kick-Off. “I was just thinking about you the other day!” the guy tells Paint. “I was recounting a story you told us, about the scientists cutting butterflies out of cocoons.”

“Oh yeah,” Paint remembers. “It doesn’t work. The struggle pushes fluid into their wings. They need to struggle to break the cocoon to be strong enough to fly. Strength comes from the struggle.” 

It’s past two when we finally catch the bus back to High Bridge, and three when we hit the dusty trail. 

I’m a little sad to leave town. I’m having trouble getting into any kind of groove as we stumble over roots and rocks and push through heavy overgrowth. Backup makes conversation by coming up with creative meanings for the PCT acronym, and we trade them back and forth. Pockmarked Cranky Traveler. Potential Cougar Territory (maybe a bit too on the nose, that one). When we pass by a huge downed tree, he says, “I bet that one used to be a Peaceful Canopy Tree.”

“But now it’s a Prone Cadaver Tree.”

“Well, at least it didn’t get the Particleboard Chemical Treatment.”

We lapse into silence with a few miles to go. I gotta admit, my morale is not high. I have deep dark thoughts about having bitten off much more than I can chew. I’m afraid of the dark. I’m afraid of being alone. I’m afraid of Backup and I driving each other totally batty. I’m afraid my feet will never stop hurting. I’m afraid my shoulders will always ache. 

One footstep at a time, I guess. 

We make it nine miles to a campsite near the creek we’ve been following for much of the afternoon. Tent set up = great, dinner made = great, bear hang = not so great. Our food doesn’t fit yet into my Ursack and Backup’s bear can, so we’re hanging a stuff sack as well. The third or fourth time Backup tries to throw a stick, tied to the cord, over the branch he’s aiming for, it crashes down and hits me in the head. The cord keeps getting caught on sticks and plants on the forest floor. We’re frustrated and cranky, it’s getting dark, and I just want to crawl into the tent and blog and read my book.

Well. Mama didn’t say there’d be days like this, but I kinda knew there would be anyway. Guess I need the struggle to get the strength to fly. Shoulda known what I was getting into, choosing a trail name like Fledgling.

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