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PCT day 6: forest noises

I wake up in the still-dark of early morning with a terrible headache. I rummage around in the mess strewn around the room — the contents of my pack, disgorged — for my first aid kit, and take a few ibuprofen. Then I sleep a few more hours and wake feeling much better. I think I let myself get a little dehydrated yesterday.

I sort my resupply, repack everything, and cook some oatmeal and hot chocolate with the last of my fuel (I’ll have to buy another canister before I leave town). I put the rest of my leftover food in the hiker box at the back of the store, along with the trekking pole piece I found. Then I spend a few hours sitting on the porch of the grocery store, alternately working on my blog and chatting with locals. One older gentleman volunteers another to give me a ride back to the trail; I ask him if he could and he nods genial assent. Wonderful!

First, I want some lunch. I wander over to the little Saturday market in the community center across the street, and find a woman selling one-pound bags of fresh blueberries. Yes, please. That counts as lunch, right? I buy some cheese and a bottle of chocolate milk from the grocery store and call it good.

Gary, who drives me to the trailhead, used to be a Forest Service wildland firefighter, and he tells me stories about his travels all over the country. Then I’m back at the trail and walking south, alone now. This section will be my first solo trip longer than an overnight. How long, I wonder, before I stop convincing myself there are cougars stalking me in the woods?

The mosquitos aren’t too awful, but they’re bad enough that I put on my headnet and test out my new bug spray. It seems to do the job okay, or else I’m getting a little more tolerant of being bitten. I walk through the woods. The trail is mostly smooth duff; the trees are big conifers. It feels familiar, very Pacific Northwest — the species in the undergrowth vary here and there, but I could be in the Gorge. And I suppose I will be, in a few days.

I meet a few northbound section hikers, including a couple who turn out to live in Portland just a couple miles from me. They say the mosquitos get bad just south of Mosquito Creek. I’d figured they’d get bad way before then — I mean, Mosquito Creek! — but if I can delay the inevitable a little longer, I may as well stop for the night at the tentsite just north of the creek, so I can maybe stand to cook dinner outside. That’s ten miles for the day, anyway, and I didn’t get started until 2ish.

I set up camp, cook dinner (the mosquitos are present but bearable), do my camp chores, and then lie in the tent reading and listening to the forest’s strange and inexplicable noises. I get up after dark to pee, and then spend several minutes pursuing and killing the mosquitos that follow me back into the tent. I’m pretty sure there’s one more I can’t find — I hear it buzzing. But there’s nothing to be done. I turn out the light and lie alone in the dark.

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