How strange it is to begin in the middle of things. Burney Falls flowing just like I left it, sun shining, summer tourists sauntering, store workers as surly as ever. My pack is the same, my clothes too except for the new shoes and gaiters.
But it also isn’t the same. The crowd of familiar faces is missing, and even this year’s herd is weeks back down the trail. It might be too early to see any hikers at all with the normal Sierra snowpack and late melt (excellent water news for California). I might see hardly anyone this stretch and am pretending to be totally OK with the prospect of solo camping for weeks on end.
We drive up to the Visitor Center, me and Stephen and our dog, and there they are! Thru-hikers sorting resupply boxes at the picnic tables! I am practically shaking with excitement. Maybe I won’t be totally alone out here after all!
I introduce myself to Atlantis and K2, two of the very first (like first five) hikers to make it through the Sierra this year. These are the fast kids, doing 30 mile days at this point. Though I won’t likely see them after today, since I am planning to do an easy first week of sub 20 miles days, I get to introduce myself as Fixie for the first time in forever which makes me feel kind of glowy inside.
I want to know everything – all the trail gossip, this year’s best trail name stories, what it was like walking so far across an almost completely snow-covered Sierra. But I need to do some of my own (slow) miles too. So I say my sad goodbyes to Stephen and to Onyx and walk toward the bridge that reconnects me to the PCT.
Back on trail, I keep stopping every few minutes, to greet the flowers and take photos of trail signs. And yes, foot selfies. Look! My feet are on the PCT! Look! Only 1232 miles to Canada! The fast dudes soon pass me, and I manage to keep up for only a short conversation that despite its brevity manages to included getting asked a) if I am carrying “man spray” b) if I have seen wild and c) if I am a secretary at the university. Otherwise super nice guys, but it seems like the front of the herd needs to meet more women hikers and move past the game of 20 gendered questions.
I catch up with the fast dudes a few miles later where they are setting up camp on among the trees. But I choose venture out on my own to the next site. Which I am under the impression has a lovely open view, which seems like a fine place to spend solstice. And not just any solstice, but the first one to coincide with a full moon since something like 1948, and event that only happens every 70 years. Learning this makes me feel a little sad and very mortal. But still, an auspicious day to restart a grand adventure.
Just down the trail, I pause to grab a bar from my pack and discover my first minor mishap. A very melted chocolate bar that somehow was not in the ziplock and is now smeared all over my ursack. Chocolate everywhere, but water miles away. What to do? I try licking only to end up with chocolate smeared hands and face. Then I sacrifice two of my precious wet wipes (I only carry one for each day at most) which doesn’t quite do it either. Meanwhile the mosquitoes have discovered me and so I am crouched mid trail licking what is now wet wipe flavored chocolate off plastic bags, swatting like a madwoman. Oh trail life, I missed you!
I reach camp, which is among nondescript NorCal previously logged forest and disappointingly view-less (though very flat). Not exactly watching the sunset over Evolution valley from the top of a waterfall with new friends like last year. But it is nice in its own way, alone in my tent listening to a faint breeze whisper in the treetops and hoping to catch a glimpse of the solstice moon.
*Note: This year’s blog posted are labeled by PCT the mile mark where I begin each day. An excellent suggestion from Skippy that lets me keep the continuity of what I have accomplished without making it seem like this was all the same season.
June 20, 2016
PCT Mile 1425