Miles: 9 (all uphill)
Finally back up in Sierra City, Stephen and I sit in the rental car at the trailhead parking lot, making sad faces at each other. “I could just come to Portland with you,” I propose, though we both know I will head back up the trail, alone. As we are saying goodbye another car pulls up, a second couple hugging teary goodbyes in the forest on a hot afternoon. Two strong women of the PCT; one with a dog, the other alone. Both leaving the men behind.
The first day back on trail after a zero is always a challenge; I have been dreading what it would feel like after five days off, as much as I have been craving it. Especially since the trail zigzags up a three thousand foot mountainside directly outside Sierra City. And by directly, I mean you can look down upon the roof of the store and the church far, far below.
But up I go, pack all fat with silly things like food and water. I carry more of both than usual, the water report is back and the sources increasingly scarce. And I have seen this week through the eyes of others, just how thin I have become. I give myself permission to go slow, to just get up the massive hill today and let the rest work itself out.
Clouds dull the full brunt of the afternoon sun, but as always bring the threat of yet more storms. I stop for break, resting my head on my pack, and doze off, sitting right on the gravelly trail. I wake and the sky is dark and grumbling at me to move.
At the spring, I have a chance to properly meet Unicorn and her sweet dog Charlie, united by our concurrent goodbyes earlier in the afternoon.We join forces for last few miles, in a search for somewhere to camp. Preferably not right on the exposed ridge with the storm closing in, dark grey clouds sneakily billowing over the hill behind us. We pass up a great view site, for the rather relative safety of a trail head parking lot.
There’s a tent trailer here, occupied by a pair of mountain bikers. There’s an invitation to share a fire, offers of cold beer in glass bottles (Stone IPA woot!) and cookies. Complete with a brilliant sunset backdrop and a friendly deer posing to the side, the scene is enough to erase any doubts about why I have come back out here.