August 17 (~07:20 – ~20:30)
Between Lookout Rock and Bear Creek – before Mount Etna (27.0 mi / Total: 1230.6 mi)
Total PCT miles: 2137.0
Weather: Warm, hot, luckily there’s shade in the forest.
I wake up around 2 in the morning to dry branches creaking under heavy hoofs. I know it’s just a deer, but it sounds like the biggest deer that’s ever set foot on this planet, and when it comes close to my tent I turn on my light and move on my pad, causing it to squeak – and the deer runs.
It doesn’t come back but I hear it walk around in the distance for hours to come. When it finally turns to morning I can actually see where I set up camp in the dark last night, in the middle of the forest, a clearing big enough for all the animals to hang.
Once I’m off the route continues through the forest. It’s the same as it was, apart from the trees – there are ample trees that are not evergreens, and it’s a nice change.
Unfortunately, that’s about the highlight of the day. The trail is another continuous uphill with some negligible descends throughout and it doesn’t take long for me to thoroughly dislike today, and thoroughly dislike being a southbounder. Yet another day of uphill slog, over and over again. The entire morning black flies and mosquitoes swarm around me, trying to fly into my eyes and mouth, making it difficult to breathe, and I wear my headnet, but they’re still there. The rest of the day I spend tripping over rocks in the path and subsequently yelling at said stones, furiously. I’m exhausted, and I have to restrain myself from dropping down next to the trail and giving up for the rest of the day, or the rest of this entire Northern California section. All I want is for it to stop.
But it doesn’t. It just keeps on going. I walk uphill through the forests, and that’s that. There are no views to speak of, and apart from the few older hikers I meet at the start of the day, I see no one. When I spot a sign directing hikers to trail magic close to the end of the day, I know immediately the sign is old, but I still find myself investigating anyways. I walk in the direction, peeking around the corner in faint hope. There’s nothing, no people or cold drinks or pleasant chats, all I have is more uphill – it’s early evening and still I’m ascending, and I almost burst out in tears.
I’m only trying to hike 28 miles today, but it’s late and I’m losing light before I get there. I walk faster now, a little desperate – will I make it to my tentsite tonight? Will I make it before the darkness spooks me too much? Why am I so slow? Why can’t I just do this? Then I hit the last few miles of solid uphill before I can camp, and I rise above the trees and the horizon turns pink and orange and red. Finally I have a view but I’ve lost the light. I walk, I’m close but never close enough. I’m still going up, up that bare mountain. I look out for spots to camp – it’s either this or the tentsites next to a dirt road a little lower down, and then I see a hunched tree and a little space underneath and that’s it. A little closer to the Sierras.