Hitting the Brakes
While zeroing in Lake Tahoe, I took the opportunity to buy a plane ticket home. Running the numbers, it became clear that I could slow down a lot and still make it on time. Up until Lake Tahoe, my average distance had been almost exactly a marathon. After two days of 45 and 40 km immediately after leaving South Lake Tahoe, mostly to get ahead of the crowd, what had previously been my average would be greater than my longest day.
On my first shortened day, not only was I on the receiving end of more Trail Magic, but stopped in at a local brewpub that offered thru-hikers one free beer of considerable size. What remained of the day made for an entertaining hike, to say the least.
Due to the shortened distance, a typical day now had me start hiking at 7:00 AM, as opposed to 6:00 AM prior to Lake Tahoe. Not only was it nice to get an extra hour of rest, but it also meant the sun had made the air a little warmer by the time I got out of the sleeping bag.
During the day, I now had time to do more non-hiking activities. Just because I could, I began washing my feet in a stream and changing my socks midday. I was now washing my socks and putting on "clean" ones twice a day, quite the luxury during a thru-hike. I would've done the same with underwear, but it's more risky to change those while standing in a creek on the trail.
One day, during late morning, I made it into a town called Sierra City. I was running low on food, but not completely out. The next town would be five days later. A modest amount of resupply would be necessary.
I got into town at about 11:00 AM. The general store still hadn't opened, but did shortly after I arrived. There had been about 20 hikers sitting on the front porch waiting, and now almost all of them were opening packages they had mailed to themselves. Before going into the store and buying anything, as always, I checked what was left behind for free in the hiker box. Not a lot of good stuff, but just enough to get me to the next town.
As I was consolidating my new loot, a new hiker with a man bun appeared on the porch. he immediately approached the girls with the largest resupply packages and started yogi-ing them. "Hey, whatchu got there? That's a lot of stuff! Did your mom make those? Even if you can't carry them, you can't throw them out, they're homemade! Ohhh, those look good..."
After a few minutes, perhaps after he realized he wasn't getting a handout, his tone changed. "Most of what hikers eat is sugar and trash. IIII only eat vegan organic food. That's how I can go 240 miles without resupplying. Anything else doesn't give you anything, it's just garbage that fucks with your system."
After he had gone through a laundry list of food he eats that's Superior to what everyone else eats, I asked a question, "So if you go 240 miles, in 10 days, without resupplying, and you just resupplied in Soda Springs," (less than 40 miles ago) "what are you doing in town? Especially at a store?"
"I stop in towns along the way to experience them, and I buy food while I'm there, or go to restaurants, or take things from hiker boxes. I was just in Sierraville on Friday..." (a town so far off-trail no one had heard of it).
"OK, so in between resupplies, it's not ten days like you said, it's more like 13 or 14."
"Well, it's ten days of hiking..."
"And the idea that you go 240 miles without buying food is false."
"No it's not."
"You just admitted to three sources of food you use in between."
"I go 240 miles without resupplying, but I eat food in town."
"As long as you're in a town and buying food, why not buy some to take with you?"
By now he had lost most of the crowd, so he went back to yogi-ing other hikers. I'm all for taking free food where you can get it; over half the food I've eaten has been from hiker boxes. But I draw the line at trying to persuade your fellow hikers into giving up their own food.
Just as I was leaving, I overheard him say, "I'm the only hiker I've met that hasn't left the Sierra for a break."
Now that's a laugh. If that were true, he's now met one more.
"Hey, when was it you got off-trail? At what town? Wasn't that just a couple days ago?"
"Sierraville. It's in the Sierra."
"Oh, so it's not a day off if there are pine trees around." I slung my pack on.
"Leaving so soon, Coyote?" someone asked.
"Yep. Got what I need. Let's go hiking!"
"You're not gonna stay in town for a while?"
"If your favorite thing about hiking the trail is getting off trail and going into town, I wonder why you don't stay in town and not bother with the trail? You'd probably be happier."
As I left, I overheard Man Bun calling me an ass. I wondered if he was in fact hiking the trail at all or, instead, hitch-hiking around and begging for food. Like a homeless guy on vacation. Or Rowdy. Or Cheryl Strayed.
On the way up the big hill out of town, a height with a young woman named KegLegs. She and I appeared to share a kindred spirit.
"I had to get outta there," she remarked, "too many people. And the wrong kind."
"Yeah, I know what you mean," I replied. "I just got called an ass for saying essentially that."
According to KegLegs, the main bubble was right behind us, and partially for that reason, she was trying to do big miles to get away from it. Also, she was trying to do 300 miles in the next 11 days so she could meet her sister at Mount Shasta. With that knowledge, I decided to pick up the pace myself.
from PCT South