I wake at 5:30 and I listen to Carrot and Bogwitch sleep. The dogs stir in their little beds. Carrot sighs a small sigh and rises to take them out.
With this, the wheels of the day are set in motion. I open the curtains and we start to pack our bags. I have a meticulous system: sleeping bag in its own trash compactor bag, in case it rains. Another trash compactor bag with my food bag, which contains my pot, stove, and spork, then my shelter and neoair, my bag of clothes, my ditty bag full of electronic things and toiletries. I stuff one hip belt pocket with sunscreen, SPF chapstick, my ziplock wallet and my headphones. I stuff the other with bars and a small baggie full of Wavy Lays. I drink a lot of cold brew and eat a vast bowl of Chex and almond milk and banana. We all do a lot of this and that, and then we are ready to go.
I feel strange on the drive back to Hart’s Pass. Do I want to hike the whole PCT? I’m still not committed to anything past Washington but I feel a lot of pressure to make a plan, figure it out, shit or get off the pot. I’ve never once played anything by ear and I don’t love the process, but what can you do? I have no idea what plan will guarantee the best combo of fun and personal growth! But who does really?!
Carrot drives us to the bottom of the road to Hart’s Pass and we try to hitch our way up. The road is sketchy and also crowded so why NOT avoid putting Carrot’s van through the ringer again? Not too much time passes and some old climber guys let us in. They’re going to Hart’s Pass too, going to bag a peak.
The men ask too many questions and I start to feel tired. The drop us at our ridge, where we see a huge group of hikers around a roaring fire, all talking and drinking tea. Broken Toe, a PCT hiker of yesteryear is set up there, with a van he built out and firewood and an entire custom made drawer full of tea. He tries to convince to stay, but I know if I sit down we’ll never hike. We wave goodbye and I feel a little wistful. He’s making roasted vegetables for dinner tonight. Hiking is sometimes all about denying myself things.
We climb up and up and up into the misty cascades. I am stunned and I am also thirsty, because I forgot to check guthook and there’s very little water in the first ten miles after Hart’s Pass. Bogwitch and I hit an actually large and slippery snow patch and I use my microspikes for the first time. I listen to the news, hear stories of Customs and Border Patrol running a Facebook group that hosts memes that depict Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sucking President fuck face’s stupid dick. The Fourth of July is just around the corner and I couldn’t feel less patriotic.
6.4 miles in, we finally gather water and I eat vegan cheese it’s on the bank of the river. I am sad while I clean my chafe, a well of grump while I try to ground into the Earth, feel myself strong and solid like a tree, like a rock, like a forest creature, all welcomed and warmed in the late afternoon summer light.
We descend over 1000 feet in 1.5 miles to our campsite ten miles in. I make a pot of bean and noodle soup, explore my Guthook app, see that tomorrow we’ll need to go 21 miles. I feel dismayed. I remind myself that though it’s early in the journey, I can totally hike 21 miles, that Carrot has graciously agreed to make us dinner at rainy pass just as soon as we arrive.
I hunker down into my shelter, blow up my neoair and burrow into my quilt just as it starts to rain. Myself and my gear are 100% dry, and I am grateful for our timing, so happy we didn’t push longer today to make tomorrow shorter.
21 miles will be just fine I think. 21 miles will be just fine.
📍This section of the Pacific Crest Trail is on unceded Nlaka’pamux, Syilx/Okanagan, and Columbia-Wenatchi land.