August 26 (~07:30 – ~19:10)
After Lost Lakes – after Ebbetts Pass (22.0 mi / Total: 1046.8 mi)
Total PCT miles: 2308.6
Weather: Windy and fresher in the morning, but then the heat comes back.
Unfortunately, the wind that began to play up last evening only increases, and as the night unfolds I listen to the fabric of the tent flapping dangerously, the guy lines only in place because of the many rocks places right on top of the stakes. When I wake in the morning the wind hasn’t eased, and the noise is overwhelming. When I look outside my camp spot is still quite spectacular, but the wind is insane. Packing up becomes a bit of an ordeal, but the one positive is that it means the temperatures are a little cooler, and it’s nice and fresh when I continue along the exposed ridge for another few miles, until I descend into the rocky environment where I was supposed to camp last night.
As I glance across the expanse of rock, I notice an animal – perfectly camouflaged in light grey, stalking away in the distance. Just as I spot its carefree yet calculated movement, it stops and turns its head, gazing at me. When I try and locate it again a little later, the same thing happens. It’s as though it knows that I’m looking at it. It’s my first coyote.
I spend the rest of the morning moving through a rocky forest, and nothing else much interesting happens. I decide to balance my day with two breaks, and it’ll be a leisurely hike again, with only 21 miles to go. I have my first break on a big boulder with great mountains in the background, and when I get back to walking, everything starts to change a little.
A collection of short ups and down begins, and the intense sun returns. All at once I lose my energy, struggle to go uphill and barely make it down either. I don’t know why I feel like this – am I tired from the long, noisy night, do my muscles ache from all the walking these past few months, is the heat too overwhelming, or is it a combination of those? Either way, it’s all too much. I feel like I’m sleepwalking, and I follow the trail in a completely dazed state. I rest against a rock every ten minutes, then collapse in the grass and almost fall asleep right there. I remember feeling like this in Washington, and I don’t know how to make it go away.
For now, all I can do is struggle forward, and I climb up the dry mountains, into scenes of drooping volcanic rock strewn everywhere, then obscure scenes of clay-like shapes resembling formidable castles, some seemingly chalked with pastel colours.
Then for a moment the trail moves through a large meadow, a beautiful plain and level path, until the hills begin to roll again. It’s already 16:40 when I realise I still have 6 miles to go. I can’t believe I only have 21 miles to do, and I still fail at finishing within a decent time. I’ll be walking until late again. Now there’s no time for a second break, although to be honest, I’ve been breaking pretty much constantly. I filter some more water, try not to fall asleep and continue, up and down and up and down.
It’s not until the final 4 miles that I manage to speed up just a little, which is probably because I pass two guys on a backpacking trip and now I need to stay ahead of them. I still move with difficulty, but now I have to keep on going, and so I do. I wonder if today is just a difficult day, and sometimes difficult days happen, and that’s okay – it won’t always be like this. I just hope I’ll feel differently soon.
I’m relieved when I find my tentsite in a mountainous stretch, looking out over sun kissed crests, a quiet spot with no one else but me.