PCT Day 72, Highway 49 to Mules Ear Creek, 16 miles

These things are ours, for God creates within our soul a mystic sense of wonder that we may hear allegro tunes among tall swaying cattails. —Gwen Frostic

Indeed, sleeping in a bed is absolutely wonderful. My legs splay akimbo, the covers are warm, swaddling my body, the mattress gives my muscles, joints and bones just the right support. I stay in my nest all morning with the river rushing musically below. I work on visual audio essays of interesting people I have met, sipping coffee and luxuriating.

By the cut off of 10, when Susan wants to clean the room, I’m finished. I am a good sound editor and work well on deadline. I come downstairs and Klaus still needs more time, so I catch up on email, call Richard, plan a visit with our amazing new friend, Mark from McCloud and set a date for my hiker friend to join me on the final weeks of this epic walk.

Klaus already has picked up a package I helped forward here from his long time friend. We share the food, maybe taking too much for the coming days but I am getting used to a heavy resupply, knowing by day two, I’m famished all the time. His friend Jeff adds a couple of small plastic wine bottles – a heavy, but delightful indulgence.

I can’t overstate how perfect this stay is – a ‘nero’ in trail parlance of not quite a zero mile day, bit a rest none-the-less – at Susan’s River Haven. I lounge on her outdoor couches, wearing loaner clothes including two flannel shirts. She gives me free reign in the kitchen and I make a rice dish for brunch from leftover hiker food. It’s so relaxed and beautiful here with her garden in full bloom. I mention I’m getting cold and want to take the flannels. She is attached to them, but offers me another long sleeve which fits perfectly. The stay is just what I need.

I sit next to Klaus and he has his phone volume up all the way with a crying baby. I snap, “Headphones!” and he snaps right back not to be so selfish and only think of myself. It’s a tense moment. He’s calling home and is anxious about getting a good connection both on wifi and personally. He leaves the room to call, but returns apologetic. I am too. I am so bothered by too much noise and too much inconsideration, but I don’t want to be that ‘persnickety middle aged lady’, always complaining. The best part, though, is we work it out and he has such a good call, he’s happy and ready to walk on.

There’s always too much to manage in town. Jeff has sent several food parcels plus warm clothes, but they’re all behind us now. The post office will forward them, so we cross the street and I help manage things. Sierra City is no city, not even a town, really, just a village on a main street carved out during the Gold Rush. But it does have a post office and a guy named Rick manning things. He gives me his life story emphasizing how hard it is to live in town, population 100. You definitely can’t be anonymous. Winter is very rough with so much snow and everything closed except the post office. They’re often trapped for days.

Next store is the general store with a similar picture of hard scrabble on display – locals hanging on the porch and the owner wearing many hats. I love my short visit, though could I live here? I need my orchestras and museums, and I might be like the postman and enjoy the anonymity of a city.

Finally things are sorted out when I spot Colleen, so happy to see ‘the machine’ on the move. Pacemaker arrives by hitch and yells out, “Singet!” My name appears to stick. The driver of his rodd happily returns us to the trail snd we set off early afternoon with black clouds building. The trail crosses the river on a lovely bridge and heads up into the woods following a rushing creek. But not for long as it breaks out onto a balcony walk with views back towards the Sierra Buttes. Thunder rumbles above.

We come upon Chef who stayed in town as well, arriving to gunfire, discovering locals were trying to scare off a mountain lion walking right down Main. We all walk in a line for a time, up a rocky ledge, but his pace is far too fast and I lag behind.

Only misty drops fall, not enough to put on my rain coat. It’s so lovely here as I come to big reservoirs reflecting a weak sun trying to penetrate the gloom. I lose the men entirely, calling down to a spring with no answer, assuming they are going up to the final water and campsite before a high ridge.

I pass a campground and briefly walk on road before heading up, views opening of the Buttes far in the distance and lakes below. I come onto a ridge just as the sky begins to clear, the low sun casting an orange glow, anvil shaped thunderheads evanescing in the coolness. Cowbells clunk far below as I climb into rock outcroppings framing the view, wind-shaped ponderosa dot the ridge, intensely fragrant with sweet sage. I sing ‘Happiness’ from the musical Scrooge as I rise up to the top and the almost-full gibbous moon greets me. What on earth did Klaus’ friend mean yesterday telling us we would be walking in trees today? This is wide open and one of my favorite moments walking.

I come to the spring, hearing the water and voices. Chef, Klaus, and the other man who stayed at Susan’s, ‘Going Home,’ are all here. I find a single spot, slightly apart and set up as the sky turns orange, collect water to purify and drink my wine to toast this great day. Klaus gave me a compliment last night, telling Susan what he likes about me is that I still have energy and a smile after a long day of hiking. It’s true – and these last few days, I have really found my rhythm. I never thought I could set out and just walk an afternoon for sixteen miles, but here I am.

And now, it’s getting cold and time to burrow into down.

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