I try to sleep in after hiking so many evening miles, but town excitement means I am wide awake by 5:30, though I refuse to leave my sleeping bag until 6am. We’ve heard nothing but the best about Big Lake Youth Camp and are so excited for proper meals and showers and laundry.
The ten miles to camp are uneventful; downhill and then flat through yet more burn but the trail is clear and the tread soft. I pass the 2000 mile mark, though not even sticks are arranged in its honor. I am some eighty miles short at the moment anyway, because of skipping around. Still I use the landmark to dream up trail magic, imagining a cooler of beer and box of silly hats for a party like it’s 1999 cache.
Big Lake Youth Camp is the perfect picture of a summer camp; villages of tidy A-frame cabins, shiny-happy camp staff and legions of grade school kids marching off to swim, play soccer and ride horses. Unfortunately, the power is off for the day because of repairs so no showers or laundry or charging or wifi until this evening. With chatting and resupply and eating from a bountiful hiker box, time flies anyway. Around noon, and who cruises in? It’s SPEED! I get a hug and then a barrage of questions about trail conditions north. Speed waits anxiously for lunch (paper bag style today but with fresh baked bread, cookies, carrots and fruit), I manage to snap a picture of us before he rushes on.
The power returns ahead of schedule, and with it come showers and laundry (done for us!). Paul and Laurie arrive, the last people to see me before I ‘quit’ at Crater Lake, with word that Shuffles and Dribbles should make it here by dinner time. And they do! I run across camp to surprise them with a big hug and silly smile. A short but sweet trail family reunion today! I can’t believe we get to share meals and camp together instead passing on trail and having to immediately hike on our separate ways.
Dinner is mac and cheese, but with vegan and gluten-free pasta and sauce options too. Did I mention that all the food is veggie here? This is really my happy place! There’s fresh salad, and green beans, and invitations for seconds. All of this on a by donation basis that is not pushed at all, and neither is religion. The camp is even building a hiker hut where we will have our own showers and laundry. And there’s an entire staff member, Noah, dedicated to taking care of us and all our mountains of packages and stinky clothes. I don’t think anyone wants to leave, and I am grateful that spending time with S&D gives me an excuse to linger over for breakfast in the morning.
Ever so content, we camp lakeside, a baker’s dozen of tiny hiker tents tucked all close together on a sandy spit along the lake. We watch the best sunset of the hike this year, retreat to our little homes, and fall asleep listening to the crickets chirping, the ducks laugh-quacking and hikers snoring, a little wild chorus in the dark.July 20, 2016
Miles: 9 + 1