I sleep poorly and wake up with a pounding headache. Next to me is a gently resting Carrot, soft shirt draped over her eyes. She’s awake too, and she’s trying not to be.
Eventually, Carrot springs into action. She makes me coffee and heats me leftovers from the night before, both of which she serves me in bed. I eat cookies while she cooks. I’m so hungry, I can’t wait.
Carrot and I talk about miles and speed. She reminds me that this time last year, I took my very first backpacking trip. When I attempted to hike Washington, I’d roll into camp at eight PM, exhausted and weeping. I’m a much stronger hiker now, and I feel good about that fact.
Bogwitch, Carrot and I move slow, lazily driving ourselves 1.7 miles down the road, because it gives us a shorter day and because it’s good to keep ego about mileage right sized. Once we get there, we walk two miles with the chihuahuas, passing group after group of young teens on a trip with leaders in their mid 20s. Their packs are huge and one of the smallest ones falls over with the weight.
Carrot turns back, we’ll see her at Steven’s Pass, in just about a week. Bogwitch and I forge on, our plan to go about 13 miles today, to camp at the last listed campsite before Stehekin, to shuttle in the following morning for a nero, AKA a day where one hikes hardly at all. We could go to Stehekin tonight, but it’s the Fourth of July, we don’t know if the shuttle is running at all, if there will be enough campsites, if we’d even make it considering our late start and how generally shitty I feel today.
We walk. We walk and we feel bad, Bogwitch with a sore tendon and a tender ankle, me with whatever weird sinus thing I have going on. Is it an infection? Allergies? I’ve had a consistent headache, a face stuffed full of cotton, a throat that just feels weird. I don’t have a runny nose or a cough or itchy eyes. I’ve felt just 10-45% not good since I started hiking, never bad enough to stop but never great enough to feel awesome.
Bogwitch gets ahead of me and I’m hiking at a snail’s pace. I put on an audiobook, check my GPS track, put on some music, check again. Each time I check it feels like I’ve been hiking for eleventy billion years and it turns out I’ve gone less than a mile. I’m mad at my slowness today, but I think again about that whole right sized ego thing. Maybe this is fine I think. Don’t want to get too big for my britches.
By 3:00PM I’ve see a bear, a growse, and a snake, but almost no PCT hikers. The small bubble of hikers around us is mostly middle aged men, dudes I’ve seen mansplain and take up too much space and tell woman after woman to “be careful” as if we’re not hiking the same fucking trail, as if the PCT were truly dangerous. I am not interested in them, but in their absence I feel lonely. It’s a holiday. People are with their families. All the hikers have probably hitched to Winthrop or booked it to Stehekin. And here Bogwitch and I are, hiking grumpy and alone.
We hit camp at 4:00 PM and I feel such a sense of profound emptiness I could cry. We check our Guthook app, just for fun. We toy with the idea of busting our asses to get to Stehekin tonight. We’re not sure we’ll make the last shuttle at 6:15, if it’s running at all. We worry the campsite will be full, crowded with tourists or fireworks. We consider that we’re both tired, exhausted really.
We want to go anyway, and so we do.
Bogwitch and I hike those five miles as fast as we possibly can. They fly up the hills and I fly on the descents. I shovel chips into my mouth as I walk, letting the dust of the crumbs give me a gentle yellow beard. I pant. We race. And somehow…we make it.
At 6:15 we’re on the shuttle. At 7:30 we’re in Stehekin. by 8:00 we’ve picked our campsites on the lawn in front of the ranger station. By 10:00 we’re ready to be asleep.
📍This section of the Pacific Crest Trail is on unceded Nlaka’pamux, Syilx/Okanagan, and Columbia-Wenatchi land.