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PCT day 18: all creatures great and small

When I wake up, my ankle/shin/whatever is much improved. What a relief! It still hurts a little when I flex my foot, but I can walk without pain. I intend to take it pretty easy today, though, to give it a rest just in case. I have a leisurely breakfast and a cup of hot chocolate before leaving camp around 8.

I walk the forested trail beside Timothy Lake and then further south. Three or four miles into my day, I cross Forest Road 42, which I must have biked down on my short bike tour in September 2015 — I remember the beautiful PCT arch across the trail. On that trip I noticed every PCT trailhead or marker I passed, thinking I’d be getting back on trail when I got to the Sierra.

Shortly after the road is the junction for Joe Graham Horse Camp, just off trail. I’d heard about trail magic here from a few nobos, and indeed there’s a little laminated sign at the junction. When I arrive, trail angel Connie shows me the little pop-up tent she’s got set up with a sandwich bar (including vegetarian deli meat!), chips, and a cooler full of sodas. Awesome. I sit and eat and chat with nobos. After a while it occurs to me to ask Connie for an ice pack or some ice — she not only has an ice pack, she also offers me some menthol analgesic pads, even putting some in a little ziplock for me to take with me. I don’t know why some folks are so nice to dirty hikers, but I sure appreciate it.

My shin continues to feel pretty okay as I hike on, but I do get some pain, off and on, at the inside of my ankle, where my posterior tibial tendon attaches at my accessory navicular — the injury I had fall 2016 – spring 2017. All the more reason to take it easy today.

I descend towards Warm Springs River. A bear runs across the trail downhill from me. “Hi bear! Bye bear!” I call after it. I turn around and there’s another sobo behind me. “Oh hey! I just saw a bear!”

“Neat!” he says. We exchange trail names (his is Walkabout) and then he pulls ahead — I’m moving a little slowly.

There’re several nobos hanging out at Warm Springs River, which despite the name is very cold — perfect for soaking tired and sore feet. I spend 45 minutes sitting on the log bridge across the river with my feet in and out of the water. Just as I’m getting ready to leave, a very bold or very stupid chipmunk runs right over my pack, which I’m currently loading with filtered water, and nearly up my leg. I yelp.

The next water is nine miles away; the next campsite is six and a half. Uphill. So, loaded with water for dry camping, I climb through the forest to Pinhead Saddle, where I find a campsite and pitch my tent. On the way up, a garter snake slithers across the trail in front of me and startles the bejeezus outta me. So today I’ve been scared by a wee snake and a chipmunk, and I just waved at a bear.

I’ve been snacking a lot today, and I’m feeling too lazy to cook dinner. I eat a few hundred calories worth of hazelnuts instead, finally finishing off the little bag of them that I’ve been carrying since White Pass. Nuts always seem like a good idea when I’m buying food for resupplies, but I never really want to eat them on trail for some reason — but they’re too expensive not to eat. Sunk cost!

I check Guthook — I hiked 18 miles today; so much for an easy day. Easy by thru-hiker standards, but I’m no thru-hiker. My feet are sore, though only, thankfully, in a general way. Tomorrow I’ll hit Olallie Lake in just 12 miles and change — and maybe I really will take it easy tomorrow, and stop there.

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