I honestly got the biggest shock this morning when I discovered the year had ticked over into August. The year’s almost over and I’m still on the trail, in fact I’m still in California! Is it possible? I haven’t had phone signal for three days and the frustration of not being able to get messages out to the real world finally got the better of me. I had to take a deep breath and give into the mercy of the trail. We’re completely surrounded by mountains and I haven’t felt this isolated since the Sierras. ‘No Signal’ is the only message I receive at the top of each mountain. I needed to give up hope as I’m not sure I’ll even have signal in Etna.
I bumped into Songbird and Banana Ripper this morning about 2 miles down the trail. They told me they coincidently bumped into Sharon, the woman who I recently met on the trail with her friend Patricia who has a fear of heights. Sharon overheard a conversation they were having in the grocery store with a staff member regarding the laundromat in town which has closed down. She kindly offered to clean the girl’s clothes, and took them in for the night and cooked them dinner! Thanks for being a wonderful trail angel Sharon!
After this much time on the trail my mind is suddenly starting to think of life after the PCT, and I’m wondering more and more about what my friends and family are up to. I have only spoken to my parents once and one of my best friends Katie when it was her birthday. Other than that I’ve been completely isolated from my ‘off trail’ life. I think my mind and body are so used to the hike that now I have more head space to dedicate to other thoughts. It’s blissful when my mind drifts into thoughts other than miles to the next water source or what I’m going to eat for lunch. It’s even better when the thoughts float in and out without too much effort on my part. Sometimes I completely forget what I’ve just been thinking. I thought my memory was bad off trail but it’s gone to complete mush out here. I can’t even remember names anymore.
The little black flies have finally left me alone but now I find myself being swarmed by bees when I eat lunch. The other day I had about 10 circling me and I had to pack up and leave because they were freaking me out too much. I had a grasshopper bounce off my lip today and about two days ago I startled a small snake and it literally threw itself off the trail, dropping about 3 meters and bounced off the ground. It looked hilarious!
This afternoon a hiker who I call the lepricorn was coming towards me and when I asked how he was doing he said he’d turned around because of the smoke of the nearby fires. He said he couldn’t go on because it was burning his throat. I asked what mile he turned around at and he couldn’t tell me because he doesn’t carry any maps. He said he turned around 1.5 hours ago. I could see the smoke in the air but wasn’t convinced it was impassable and decided to go ahead and see how bad it really was. If I hadn’t bumped into him I wouldn’t have given the smoke a second thought as the fires seemed pretty far away, but I got more nervous as I went on, as I was trying to decipher where he had run into trouble. I went as close to the smoke as the trail took me before it swung back in the opposite direction. I didn’t experience any issues with the smoke at all and was relieved that I had kept going.
I’m camped 9 miles from Etna and arrived at camp at 7pm. I had a cold dinner of cheese and salami before Banana Ripper and Songbird showed up. They also bumped into the lepricorn and had the exact same thoughts as me regarding the fire. I’m going to aim to get to Sawyers Bar Rd, the road to Etna, by 11am tomorrow and hopefully be back on the trail by late afternoon!