I sit eating breakfast in my sleeping bag and calculate for fun how many miles a day I have to do to get all the way to Canada in the 18 days I have left to hike: “Seventy-four!” I announce, gleefully. “What’s the problem?” replies The Better Half.
My hike is all mental games these days, with remaining time before the new job slipping away so quickly. One minute I am getting off for good in Chester, the next moment making it to Oregon. These commitments tend to align pretty closely with the difficulty of the terrain. But today I discover Music. Specifically that I can listen to it while hiking. I have not needed this before, content with friends and scenery and generally being in my own head. But the afternoons have been tough lately, the forest somewhat monotonous and it is time I spend some time in the heads of others. I walk cheerfully up the Hill of the Day, with Cat Power and Grimes for company.
The path flattens out and I push through leg-scratching branches of Manzanita doing their best to take back the trail, hiding it completely in places. And then, in a partial clearing beside some otherwise quite unremarkable trail, sits a modest post: the halfway marker. I walk past it, to take a break on the Canada side. “Once more, with feeling!” I write in the trail register where many others have mused whether the trail is half empty or half full. I try to decide if I am halfway nowhere or somewhere, before settling on halfway everywhere – equal distance form Vancouver and San Diego.The mood is cheerful, despite all the miles left to go. I chat with No Boundaries, an avid gardener who has been carrying a cherry tomato plant since Bishop. He’s hoping for trail tomatoes.
After pushing through some after-dinner miles, I cowboy camp in a meadow not far from the road to Chester. I need to hitch to town tomorrow as I am out of fuel, in need of cash and craving fruit. I am leisurely browsing the internet (instead of blogging, sorry!) when I hear pitter pattering drops. The nearly full moon is bright and the sky mostly clear, so it takes a minute to recognize that it is actually raining. I wake Milkman who is cowboy camped nearby, and we scurry to set up our tents. The soil is baked hard in the cow-trampled meadow, and rocks are strangely absent. Finally I find one for a hammer to ease the struggle of setting up shelter in the dark before everything gets soaked.
Of course the rain has stopped now, maybe thirty minutes after we set up tents. But so it goes.