Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Day 32 : Beelzebub and Darkness

20 miles today
2165 miles to go

Road walk today. The powerhouse fire closed a section of the PCT. I awake at four thirty am again. That seems to be the standard. I lay around until it's light enough for me to see without using my head lamp. Packing is becoming routine and easier. I know exactly where everything goes. I vacate the magic forest and bring my pack down to the front of the house. Trail Angels are there making coffee. I wait my turn for pancakes then eat them with the other Thru-hikers. We do the group photo thing. Everybody who stays at Casa de Luna does the group photo thing, it's one of the things that makes that place unique. I sneak a bandana away without having to do the dance and head off down the road. Down then up. Back up the two miles that bring me back to the PCT. I continue up. Up the road with the speeding cars. These people must be commuting to work as they seem to have the routine down. I nervously don't have this routine down and walk on the left against the traffic as far from the lane as possible. Sometimes it isn't possible as the bushes are so close to the edge of the road. I wait and peek then dart around the bushes when the coast is clear. It is a curvy road so some of the darting is quite exciting.

I make it over the pass and down into the community of The Lakes. That's what the sign said anyway. It reminds me a lot of Clear Lake, California. A resort town fallen on hard times. The difference is the The Lakes has no lakes. They have a couple of white lake bottoms. The golf course is golden brown. The trees look sad and forlorn. Some are dead. Off to the west where the closed PCT is you can see the remains of charred evergreens. Everybody seems to want to store all their stuff in their front yards. The weather has taken its toll on a lot of it. I feel sad for these people. There are a lot for "for sale" signs. Looks like a buyers market. I walk down the main road as cars continue to whiz past. At least here the road has relaxed and straightened out. I can see cars coming a long way off. It's important too because they are moving at freeway speeds. I note a side street called Peekaboo Road. Not to be confused with the skier Peekaboo Street. Peekaboo road requires the cars to sneak out from behind the bushes, “peek-a-boo”, if it's clear, floor it! 

If The Lakes is forlorn, Lake Hughes is angry. The place has a strange vibe, a hidden hostility to strangers. It's feels like the residence are peeking out from behind their curtains at you. It's probably just me. Oh, and my experience and the general store. If you want ice, it'll be fifty cents. Never mind then, I don't really need ice. But I am buying an overpriced SoBe, you'd think they'd throw in a cup and some ice. The owner probably has difficulty making ends meet like everyone else. I pass the Rock Inn. It looks like a big stone fort. It's got iron gates and iron fencing on every opening. Sort of looks like a jail. Very strange. I hear bikers (Harley riders, not ten speed riders) frequent the place. There is only a single Harley in front right now, the rest of the frontage is taken up by an enormous beer delivery truck. There are hidden pockets of ‘nice’ streets with happy flowers and shrubs. Houses well maintained, with views of the white mud flats where the lake used to be. I imagine those people are angry too. Paid good money and expected a lake view. Passed another inexplicable place called The Painted Turtle. The only place in town with water features. Beautiful cattail lined fishing lakes, green manicured lawns. A huge barn looking building and a bunch of dormitories or class rooms. The signs said, PRIVATE PROPERTY KEEP OUT, NO TRESPASSING! So I stayed out. I have no idea why they have the water, how it's funded. Hughes Lake is a weird place.

I make it past the town without getting shot. The commuters are all at work now and the road is empty and quiet. I walk on following other thru-hikers spaced about a quarter mile apart. They stop and explain they are road walking all the way the Hiker Town. I am not. I am getting off the road as soon as I can. I am watching for road marker 4.54. It's also supposed to have three orange posts. The next road marker say 2.10. If those are miles I have a ways to go yet. The road begins to gently climb out of the valley it's been in. With the slightly higher elevation comes a breeze. The temperature is close to one hundred degrees, but it's a dry heat. Still hot. The breeze cools me because of my sweaty shirt. I see a resident up ahead walk in his dogs. Three of them. They seem in no hurry. He has three leashes in his hand but the dogs are just sort of meandering in the road. He keeps looking back, presumably to make sure a car doesn't come and run over his dogs. When a car does come he herds them all to the side. He's walking slower then I am so eventually I draw even with him. “Do the dogs bother you?” He asks. “Only if I bother the dogs, do I?” “No” he says. “Dogs like stinky things, so they should really like me.,” I say. As if they can understand me the dogs all gather around me and we walk in a pack up the hill. “Yea, I think they like you.” “So, I'm taking pictures of Thru-hikers with this dog Tiger Wiggels. are you ok with that?” “Uh, I guess so.” We continue walking. I notice the mile marker 3.25. We walk as a pack. He asks me my name. “No Skip,” I say. Emphasizing the “P”. Apparently I don't enunciate very well and people hear No Skin or No Shim or something else and I have to explain. It's easier just emphasizing the P. “Ah,” he says knowingly. I'm not sure what he knows. “That's a good name. I don't like some of the hikers names. One girl said her name was Cowgirl. I told her that's not a good name. Another girl had the name Braveheart. She wasn't skipping either. She didn't seem the type to be named Braveheart.” I think he was stuck picturing the Mel Gibson movie. “I think it's a great name because of her story.” I say. “Yea, I heard her story, I still don't like the name.” We talk about various reasons why people hike. We get into a little discussion about rationalization and how many hikers choose to ride instead of walk. I explain to him that I'm not a purist. I have my reasons for walking, other Thru-hikers have other reasons. I ask him his name. “Kenny, not many people ask me my name. Braveheart asked me. That's kinda cool both of you are like self-aware and focused.” We chit-chat some more and I see mile marker 4.54 coming up. Kenny stops, “ok we should do the photo thing cause your turn is coming up.” “What are you going to do with the plots?” “I'm posting them on Instagram under Tiger Wiggels’ account.” “Oh okay, can we add another hashtag?” I told him Shelly's story and how I'm raising money for ALS research. I told him how Shelly and others are watching that hashtag to experience the PCT. He takes my picture. Then I take his. “You don't mind if I post this do you?” I ask. “No, are you using the same hashtag?” “Yes.” He asks if he could use it when he takes pictures of other hikers. “Sure,” I say. Kenny then tells me about the pipe spring near the cave. “You can't miss it.” 

I leave the road ahead head up the trail following Kenny’s instructions. Sure enough there was the pipe with clean cold water coming out. I climbed the hill to retrieve some water. That's when I discovered the flies. Beelzebub, the lord of the flies must live in them at cave. His minions swarm my face. Buzzing around my eyes, trying to get past my sunglasses. They're just flies I say to myself. It takes all of my self control to stand there holding my water containers under that trickle for five minutes each while flies attack my sanity. I collect my water. Five more liters, enough to get me to Hiker Town, I hope. Then I skedaddle up the trail towards the PCT. The flies follow me. Tormenting me taunting me. Laughing at me when I inadvertently knock my sunglasses all ahooey. They mock me, they threaten me, “wait till you meet our cousins in the Sierra, we only buzz, they bite.” I feel my sanity slipping away. The trail is steep and I want to huff and puff through my mouth, but I don't want a mouthful of flies, so I have to slow down. Switchback and switchback. I think I am escaping. Then they come back again with their incessant buzzing and insistence on landing on my face and trying to crawl under my sunglasses. I reach the PCT. I celebrate oh so briefly, then I move on. Must, escape, tormentors. I walk and walk. At times the breeze pushes them away and grants relief. The breeze ends and they return. “I don't care, I'm keeping the water,” I think. I reach Sawmill Campground. This is my goal for the day. I quickly setup my tent and throw my stuff inside, diving in behind. I remove my shoes and start zipping the tent. “Any of you who want to live should leave now, it's payback time,” I warn. With the tent zipped I enact vengeance on those who chose to stay inside. Now the hunters become the hunted and I extinguish their tiny miserable little lives one by one with my wet pack towel. And I enjoyed it!

Nap, sweet restful undisturbed bliss. The others bang and bounce against the netting of my tent. Who's laughing now? It's early and I managed to set my tent in what looked like shade, but was mostly sun. Rats! It's hot in here. “Come out and play.” The miserable flies say. “Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin.” I say. I unzip my legs from my pants, making them shorts. I remove my shirt. I towel the dust off my legs and feet with my fly killer. Then I lay back, and put it over my eyes to block the sun. If I don't move I can pretend it's cool. 

I lay still for hours, I sleep. When I awake the sun is setting and its cooling down. The flies go, then I emerge from my shelter and cook my dinner. The sun is setting and I am rushed. Darkness settles on me as I sit at an isolated picnic table. No Thru-hikers here tonight, except me. My dinner is a bust. I don't wait long enough for the vegetables to reconstitute. I shouldn't have added the chicken flavor packet from the Top Ramen package. I eat as fast as I can trying to beat the dark. The dark wins. My only consolation is that this campground has a garbage can so I don't have to carry my inedible meal. The flies are gone but so is the daylight. The wind swooshes through the treetops. The colors of the sunset fade. I retreat to my tent, having performed all the pre-sleep time rituals. One last wet-wipe bath and it's sleep time. Morning comes sooner the later you get to bed. I hope it cools down a bit more so I can sleep on my sleeping bag.

1 comment:

  1. OMG your fly fight was I know it wasn't at the time, but thanks for the laugh!