When I wake just before dawn, the mosquito chorus is already there, whining at my door. I pack quickly and take off down the trail, mosquitoes in pursuit. I am so over this buggy-flat forest without views. Without friends. I come up with a list of reasons to go home: the dog is sick, my blister is infected, the mosquitoes. But really, I am content with what I have done this year, I tell myself, I am ready to leave the trail graciously and move on to other adventures for a while and to responsibilities. Like the job I am currently being paid to do (that is not hiking).
Ten miles from Shelter cove, I get phone service and call Stephen and ask if he can drive down to pick me up. Working out the details is taking too long, and as I wait, standing still so as not to lose the precarious signal, the mosquitoes have found me. They are biting my shoulders through the supposedly bug-proof shirt, crawling through the gaps between my button holes, working their way up under my head net.
Then, only a few miles after I make the call to bail, the mosquitoes magically dissipate, even as I walk past the string of perfectly sparkling Rosary Lakes, waters a tropical blue (note to self: come back here some day!). Instantly, I regret making the call. I regret caving in to the bugs on a bad-mood day. But the blister, I try to reason, not quite convincing myself. But such are the dangers of section hiking to close to a home base.
At Shelter Cove hiker friends gather in the shade of a tent beside the store. Autumn Leaves is here, and Sarah and Zach too. A hundred miles, gritting my teeth and plodding through the mosquito-lake-forest alone and the others were mere miles ahead the entire time. Stay, they plead. It’s only a few more days to Crate Lake and finishing the section. Nah, I say. I’m good. I’ve tried this section from both ends, thwarted once by snowstorm and a broken phone, and again by too many lonely days with a fishy-blister in the swamp-forest. And to make my point, I ceremoniously dump my filthy, hot, ineffective “bug” shirt into the trash. In some ways, I really am content. I have walked 600 miles in a month. I have reached my personal 2000 mile mark of the PCT. Through freezing rain and snowstorms, heat and poison oak. Across treacherous snow bridges, and vast lava fields. I have woken up beside sparkling lakes, above the clouds. Stuffed myself with sweet purple berries, and terrible cheap hiker box ramen. And while some days doing all of this alone is enough, in the long-run it’s really about sharing things with others. And so I go, with my partner and our dog back to the city, at least for a while.
July 23, 2016
Miles: 19 + 2 To Shelter Cove