PCT Day 69, ridge above Belden to Middle Fork Feather River, 25 miles

You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute. – Tina Fey

I can’t sleep. The view from my tent is to smoke glowing hot pink above the mountains, the sky a deep velvety blueblack. Klaus mentions it might get cold before falling asleep, and when I agree he tells me, “I don’t care if you get cold,” with a big laugh. I’m stuck on the “I don’t care” part and feel lousy. At least it’s a magnificent sunrise, right in front of me as I pack up and have breakfast.

He takes off before me and I wonder if he’s mad because I suggested he not let out a huge Tarzan yell from the ridge last night. He argues it’s how he expresses joy, like yodelers. I’m concerned I have a double standard wanting quiet for me but condoning exuberance from friends. We never quite agree on the behavior and now I have a sleep deficit. It’s only walking, how hard can that be?

The trail is right at the ridge edge looking out to blue mountains, smoke settling in the valleys. The rock is granite with lakes nestled in glacial bowls below, reflecting rows of trees and the pink sky. We definitely picked the best spot to camp with such a wide view.

California is more open to the sky that Washington or Oregon. The air is fresh with sage and pine sap. The sky is blue, but slowly getting overcast and hazy. I reach a water source and Klaus appears to have immersed himself in it. I don’t need water yet, so move on, both of us silent.

Heading into forest, the trail crosses a road with a trail register. I sign ‘Singet’ but add Alison since few know my new name yet. I follow a wet meadow, wall-to-wall carpeting of fat orange Indian Paintbrush plus a large leafed swamp plant. Bees work hard in the bright sun.

The trail certainly amplifies our personalities. Bill Cosby had a routine about drugs having the same effect, but the question is what if you’re an ass? I come to a gorgeous stream with a pool to wash my feet. I can’t emphasize enough that the dust is adhered to the skin like a paste. I can’t just rinse off the dust, I have to scrape it off. Don’t ask what the toenails look like. I’m cleaner, but more important, my feet relax and become more supple, any swelling disappears

Klaus arrives outgoing and friendly. I tell him I feel bad he doesn’t care and he hands me a cookie. It’s a really good cookie – two held together with a sweet filling. It’s really hard to stay too mad when a hungry big-miles hiker shares his food, especially his best food.

But I still decide to move on and head towards Lookout Rock. I meet ‘Hans SOBO’ and ‘Jukebox’ two hikers I haven’t seen since Goat Rocks, feeling elated they’re still hiking even after a knee issue that took them out a few weeks and a few hundred miles. I’m mostly in woods now just sort of cruising along on a kind of autopilot. I still get giddy seeing my cones and really thick, crackly, lose-a-hand bark on old trees, but honestly, the forest goes on and on. There are so many trees. I sometimes wonder how many have never been seen by a person. Most of them is my guess.

It’s really hot at the Lookout as well as a bit hazy, though nothing too dense to cause wheezing or obscure the view. I place myself on the beautiful rock itself, burnt sienna lichen with a glorious clingy feel under the fingers. Klaus finds me and we try to eat lunch, but the heat is enervating, so we eventually leave, crunching on tiny, broken pieces of granite that turns to forest floor, soft with needles.

I’m absolutely exhausted from my poor sleep, moving down for about seven miles and in and out of dry ravines as though I’m sewing the mountainside. Maybe it’s not the smartest strategy, but I simply walk with only a pee break and a drink break for over three hours. It boggles the mind to think I am capable of doing this.

At the bottom, I cross Bear Creek on a sturdy bridge, then go right back up. It’s not a hard up on that long ramp my little self in this giant wood putting one step in front of the other. Finally I spit out at a dirt road and head right back down to a very loud river.

It’s early and I could move on but I’m tired and the next section is uphill on switchbacks with few flat spots to pitch. Better to stay here and listen to the rushing water in my dreams. I choose a spot on sand tucked way off in the corner. Klaus arrives and is uncertain about swimming in rapids over giant smoothed stones. I tell him this is just where we camp, we swim in the big pool under the bridge.

We cross this magnificent bridge high above and come to a landslip of boulders and work our way down to a jungle gym of heaved slabs of river-smoothed – but not slippery – white rock, brushed with black and rusty lichen and odd slashes like cuneiform. Perfectly shaped holes have been drilled by giant river rocks, the water’s force spinning them into pockets where they now laze about, quietly awaiting next spring’s high water. This rock takes on a Henry Moore insouciance, dozens of dragonflies dancing nearby above the waterspray.

I, of course, go in the water, deep and dark emerald. I can sit on a tiny shelf where several boulders sit as well. The water is not ice cold, but the current is strong, so I stay close to the edge. I dunk under several times and scratch my scalp and dusty toes. All of the hard stuff of the day is left in that lovely pool and I am renewed.

I climb around this glorious place until the sun sets, noticing more shapes and cuts and curves. Bright green algae waves at me from a rock at the center of the biggest falls. Klaus swims too, but no other hiker comes down to explore. What a shame. My advice is to always explore, at least a little. When will I ever return?

I need to have dinner and sleep through the night, so I give my hair a good squeeze and head back to the alicoop, waiting to wrap me in my Moroccan blue quilt and dream of tomorrow’s surprises.

Reader Comments

  1. Beautiful. Stunningly beautiful. Your words create vivid pictures in my head of what you might be seeing. It is an adventure and journey for both of us! Thanks for doing the hard work!!!

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