It’s mile 1166, the others have left after their quick breakfast. A quick look up and I see Ebo. We lock eyes, he smiles (at least I think he smiles), we nod at each other and resume our hiking rhythm from the previous day, steps unbroken.
He’s tall this morning, his hair is definitely scruffier but he seems like he wants to hike. I cast his lack of clean lines to the back of my mind and join him up through the scrubland.
The PCT is broken up in to a number of episodes, each different to the last but still beautiful in its own way. Having been tamed by the deserts and wowed by the high sierras, this northern Sierra section is a little more subtle, the gentle undulation of the trail matching the balanced serenade for the senses.
With very little company, it’s easy to contemplate the unspoiled serenity of the wilderness. I’ve found myself getting more appreciative of the simple and natural things available, which then lead on to a smugness and a wankyness to my writing style.
As we enter the darkness of a small patch of woodland, Ebo disappears amongst his friends. The option of hiking alone is one of the highlights of hiking in a group, fully aware that I’ll see everyone again soon, it’s a nice time to recharge the introvert batteries.
At midday, Ebo has physically shrunk and is hiding almost literally below me to escape the sun and we meet the others for lunch. The 20 miles out from the Peter Grubb Hut is a nice section with some solid climbs and gentle descents, but it’s hot, and cool water isn’t as plentiful around here.
They say in the desert that if you think about water all the time, you don’t have to worry about it. The constant streams of snow melt in the mountains put us out of practise, but we need to start thinking and drinking again in order to stay hydrated.
Grace’s pride at chugging a litre at a water source adds a competitive edge, but she can’t know I think like that, because most things we do are a competition already. We argue fiercely (within a passive conversation) about our personal philosophies, agreeing but disagreeing on topics about which we have very little clue.
We’re busting ass in the afternoon as Sierra City is just beyond the horizon and we are all dreaming of having eggs for breakfast. Elie is out of sight of every rest stop before I’ve even put the trail mix back in my pack, she’s quiet about it but she wants this one more than anybody, maybe one day she’ll tell me why.
At 6pm, Ebo and I have the trail to ourselves again. We’re climbing in and out of shallow valleys, the higher switchbacks offer views of far away reservoirs and breezes to chase off the biting flies. We can’t stop until we see the girls and, if Elie’s resolve is anything to go by, that isn’t going to be for a while.
Finally the sun drops and the shadows lengthen, Ebo is all but gone for the day as he stretches out in to a hazy outline of his afternoon self. We’ll probably hang out again tomorrow.
What has happened to me? I’m feeling grateful for the past, positive about the future and joyous about the present. I guess my feet hurt, but so do everyone elses, we’ve earned it. The pain is a reminder of the experiences so far, as is the case in any walk of life.
And if so, then this is our history that is proliferating as we hike, accruing a minute at a time and which will be grasped better by our future selves than it will ever be by us at the moment.
Hopefully by the time I write my next blog, I’ll be a cranky old man again, this is far too optimistic and content for someone with 1,500 miles yet to walk.