slow glowing » glowing, slowly

PCT day 20: everything was beautiful and (almost) nothing hurt (or, jefferson park!! or, just put a big ol’ star next to this day because it was one of my favorites)

I wake up at 6:30 or so when someone’s dog barks loudly. I pack up my stuff while J. wakes up, and then he sets about making pancakes. Sweet. I eat pancakes and jam and a cup of hot chocolate with a splash of coffee. I take my time about leaving — I’m planning on another short day, 14 miles or so, so I can set myself up to cross Russell Creek, which I’ve heard (from Guthook comments and a few section hikers I spoke to yesterday) is a difficult crossing, tomorrow morning, early in the day when the water level is lower.

I set out around nine. The trail leads through shrubby forest, past pretty lakes. Lake after lake, gnarled dead white trees, plenty of green ones too, blue sky. It’s hot and dusty, but what else is new? I’m used to be being sweaty and dirty — it doesn’t bother me.

I meet a backpacker with a beautiful husky and give the dog a scritch behind the ears. He asks me, “are you looking for a sexy guy with a spoon?”

“Um, no?”

“Oh, he said he had a friend coming down the trail this way.”

I shrug and wish him happy trails and continue on. A mile or so further, I check my phone for signal and get a text from J.’s InReach asking if I’ve passed the Breitenbush Lake trailhead yet. (He’s planning on starting a run from there, south on the PCT — we’ll probably run into each other again today.) I reply that I haven’t, and he texts back, “ok, I have your spoon.” Oh!! I must have left it at Olallie Lake — J. had been using it to flip pancakes. I hadn’t realized yet that it was missing.

I walk less than a quarter mile and there he is sitting on a rock and admiring a view of Mount Jefferson. He’d walked in from the trailhead, spoon in hand. “Oh hey! That guy you talked to thought you were sexy.” He laughs. He hands me my spoon and we walk out together; I stop at his car to refill my water bottles from his gallon of water and drink one last La Croix from his cooler. The car next to his has a dusty sticker on the back reading “Let’s Advenpurr Through The Meowtains.”

J. runs ahead and I follow the trail as it climbs through more scrubby forest, past more pretty lakes. There are some melting snow patches, lots of green covering the ground, wildflowers, and that blue, blue sky. It’s so pretty! I try my phone again and whaddya know, I have some data signal for the first time since Timberline. I sit next to the trail, lean against my pack, and take a little time to check my email and call my mom. Weekend backpackers and day hikers pass by; one asks me if I’m okay. “Oh yeah! So good!”

When I walk on, the trail just gets better and better. The trees thin out and there are more patches of snow. I love alpine environments so, so much. I am giddy every time I turn around; there’s Mount Hood in the distance, stunning as always. A red cinder cone a little closer, and closer still the trail winding its way up, through beautiful rock formations and across snow patches and around small ponds and under little rivulets of water that sparkle and shimmer in the sun. I am so happy.

Then I crest the top and there is Mount Jefferson, suddenly huge and close. A beautiful bowl down below between me and the mountain, full of trees and meadows and lakes and streams. I grin and start down into it.

More wildflowers, more trees, more beautiful lakes and streams. I’m moving slowly not because I hurt but because everything is beautiful. I follow the path set before me and enjoy every goddamn step.

…At least until the heat rash on my back makes itself known. My pack jostles against my back just a tiny bit with every step, and suddenly it’s excruciating. When I touch it, it feels like a bad sunburn. I put some salve on my fingers and reach up under my shirt and bra to spread it every where I can reach; then I decide to just take off my shirt and hike in my sports bra for a while. My shirt has some cotton content and is soaked with my sweat, which is certainly not helping the situation. The salve and a bit of air on my back do help somewhat.

I meet J. towards the end of my walk through the beautiful bowl; he’s been lingering because he wants to take a detour on his way back to the trailhead but didn’t want to miss me. He gives me some beta on the couple miles ahead of me, and we solidify plans for tomorrow. I have this idea that I’m gonna do a 30. A 30-mile day, that is. That would get me just about to Santiam Pass, where J. is planning to park tomorrow for a run around Three-Fingered Jack. If I can make it, I can get a ride from him into Sisters or Bend.

I walk just a little bit further to a pretty, milky stream and follow it to a largish tentsite. This is where J. suggested I camp tonight; I’m still about a mile from Russell Creek, but I’m just about to enter a burn area and there aren’t really any good spots to camp. The tentsite here is already occupied by a couple nobos; there’s room for more tents, but I spend a few minutes looking around nearby before I ask them if I can share. They’re happy to share; I find a spot and lay out my groundsheet and pad and sleeping bag to cowboy camp — I figure that’ll make it a little easier to get going in the morning.

I wash my sports bra in the stream and hang it to dry; hopefully that will help remedy the heat rash and chafing and make me more comfortable tomorrow. I make dinner. A few mosquitos come out around dusk; I’ll sleep with my headnet on. I chat for a while with a nobo section hiker, Dash. Then I head to bed. I’m gonna set my alarm for 5 tomorrow morning. Here goes nothing!

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