I get out of camp around 7 and start walking south. I almost immediately encounter some fairly fresh, definitely-not-herbivore poop in the middle of the trail. I wish I knew a little bit more about tracking so I could narrow it down a bit more than that… or maybe it’s just as well.
I’m walking in forest again, but the land is obviously volcanic — I assume from a long-ago eruption of Mount Adams. The trail curves around big mounds of jagged rocks, collapsed caves, dark holes in the ground. The trees are shorter and the forest feels more open — and then the trail begins to skirt denser forest on a hill to the right, full of big, tall, impossibly straight trees. A few are dead and look exactly like telephone poles, deposited incongruously into the woods.
There are no mosquitos. None to write home about, anyway. It is an enormous relief. I am so excited to dawdle all day. To stop for breaks to enjoy views or rest my feet. To filter water leisurely.
Indeed, the first time I stop to filter water, I sit on a log near the spring for much longer than necessary, unable to tear myself a way from Ancillary Mercy. I walk away with four-ish liters of water. The next source is Panther Creek, over 10 miles away. I’m hoping for another 20-mile day, and I’ve only hiked 5 miles so far, but there’s a spot on the outside of my right foot that’s really sore, and I want to make sure I’ll be okay if I need to camp before the creek.
The trail climbs and descends, descends, descends. I stop to pee at a pretty overlook with a view of Mount Hood. I turn off airplane mode on my phone to check for signal, and just a moment later my phone rings — a call from Ben. I pick up just as he hangs up. He calls back a moment later: “Did I just call you?” He’d accidentally called just as I happened to be available, holding my phone! Serendipitous. We chat for a few minutes and I tell him about how much better everything is without mosquitos. It’s true! The forest is lovely. The views are lovely. The hikers I pass occasionally are lovely.
My feet are sore, though. I take another break a few miles later. I lean against my pack and finish Ancillary Mercy. I’ll make it to Panther Creek tonight, but likely not beyond.
The hill down to the creek is long and hot and never-ending. I count the switchbacks on Guthook, but the long stretches between turns drag on and on. Finally, I hear and then see the creek. I cross the bridge and wobble down to the water. I pull my feet out of my shoes and sweaty socks and put them in the cold, cold creek. I sit there on a rock for a long time, soaking my feet in the water, pulling them out, putting them back in again, before putting my socks and shoes back on and ambling slowly up the trail to the campsite Guthook promises is right around the corner.
The forest here is beautiful, lush, full of big trees with exposed roots, dripping with moss. Huge ferns everywhere. I feel like I’m in a fairytale. I find my site, tucked away from the trail behind a tree. I pitch my tent and pull out my food bag.
I’d had a bit of signal last night and texted J. a complaint about my stove; today he sent me several messages about how the fuel I have really should work, and maybe I should just make sure the stove is seated correctly and try again. So I do — and nothing. Gas escapes when I crank open the stove (I can smell it), but the stove doesn’t light even a little bit. Oh well — either the fuel is wrong, or my stove is broken. Guess I’ll try cold-soaking. I pour my dinner into my mug and add water, but I don’t really have enough patience to let it completely rehydrate and soften. Good thing I kinda like crunchy pasta.
After dinner I crawl into the tent to blog and read and stretch out my feet. My toes tingle. The sore spot on the outside of my right foot complains when I flex my toes and ankles. Hmm.