PCT Day 78 – Zen and the Art of Food Rationing

Started: 08:00 @ MM 1,048.9 Sherrold Lake (Elevation 8,769ft)

Finished: 16:30 @ MM 1,067.0 Stream and Camp (Elevation 8,559ft)

Miles: 18.1

Elevation Gain/Loss: +3,221/-3,469ft

Food: Oatmeal, Clif Bar, Kind Bar, Cheese & Crackers, Protein Bar, Beef Stoganoff, Starburst, Snickers, Gummi Bears

Health & Hygiene: 0 Blisters, Days since last shower 3, Days since laundry 3

I was awoken abruptly by a very unusual sound. There was some kind of liquid dripping on my tent. My very first thought was that it couldn’t possibly be rain. The weather had been monotonous in its perfection … cloudless blue skies persisting day after day. I feared that it was sap from the pine trees above, but no it was in fact rain. However, when I emerged from my tent just a few minutes later it had stopped and there wasn’t even any sign of a cloud. I thought this very weird and actually began to wonder if I’d dreamt the whole thing.

Hard to know where the rain had come from!
Well, whatever had happened it had served to get me up early and for once I was not the last to leave camp. I told Stretch that I planned to stop for lunch after about 10 miles and he agreed to meet me there. As with Chance in the desert, Stretch and I had fallen into an agreeable pattern of hiking alone but traveling together. Unlike Chance, Stretch didn’t have an obsessive desire to walk 30 miles a day and his pace was more in tandem with my own. I liked Stretch!
The day’s hike was just as it should be. For the most part it was very agreeable, there were a couple of challenging climbs, the ocassional patch of sketchy snow (which called for a little navigation), a couple of creek crossings that required focus and attention and some spectacular views. All in all it was pretty perfect and yet, much like the weather, it was also oddly monotonus in its perfection. I relieved the monotony with more podcasts. It seems that I am not alone in this need for entertainment and distraction, I noticed that more and more hikers were now plugging themselves in to something or the other. I had to confess to feeling a certain disconnect from the trail, but walking for hour upon hour along a 18″ strip of dirt that doesn’t really change too much is incredibly tedious. I suspected that the mental challenge of the trail was beginning to take shape.

I’d covered the first 10 miles before noon, Stretch showed up about 20 minutes later. We discussed our options for the rest of the day and finally settled on playing things by ear and seeing how the water sources were looking. We hiked and played leap frog with Dragon, Neon and Turtle for much of the afternoon. Turtle seemed to be holding her own, while Dragon and Neon had slowed down as niggling over use injuries began to manifest. This seemed to be a common theme along the trail. Hikers would try to push harder and cover more miles, only to find themselves debilitated and broken by shin splints or plantar fasciitis … the two most common over use injuries on the trail. Thankfully my slow plod had thus far kept me both blister and injury free.

An early camp … Yes please!

By 4:30 the tedium had finally gotten the better of me and I convinced Stretch to camp close to a small stream, rather than press on and dry camp further along the trail. I, like most other thru-hikers, disliked dry camping. Having to hump all that extra weight to camp was a right royal pain in the butt and something I avoided doing whenever possible.  Our chosen camp was not on any of the maps and so unsurprisingly we were alone for the evening. As we prepared our uninspiring dehydrated dinners we discussed the monotony and mental challenge that the trail now posed. Stretch it seemed had his own (but by no means unique) solution to this problem. He produced a sizeable bud of weed and suggested that we “get a little buzz on”. I didn’t need too much persuading and before long we were both stoned and giggling. The intensity of the initial high faded into a relaxed and mellow sense of well-being. I was content to simply sat on a rock and assimilate the wonder of my surroundings. For the first time I felt still!

Hollywood looking a tad dazed & confused!
As the light started to fade the mosquitos made their presence felt, rousing me from my meditative state and compelling me to hide in my tent. The pointless little bloodsuckers were a constant source of frustration to me. I hoped the woman back in Yosemite was right and that they would suddenly vanish at Tahoe. I tiffled about in my tent for a while, moving my meager possessions around from corner to corner, before eventually deciding that I was absolutely starving! I raided my food bag, consumed just about everything that was even remotely sweet and then, as I lay there in my sugar induced stupor, reflected poignantly … A little weed might be very “Zen” but the munchies were definitely less than conducive to the art of life-dependent food rationing!

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