Monday, July 11, 2016

Day 72 : Eating My Way Through Buck's Lake

30 miles today
1382 miles to go

Up early, eating in the semi-darkness has become on of my favorite things. It's hard to get up. I'm all warm and cozy in my sleeping bag. I slip my arms out and it feels cold. So I deflate my air mattress and lay on the hard ground. When I finally do get up a few minutes later I find its not really as cold as I thought. I boil water under the vestibule for coffee. I still use too much fuel and it boils a few minutes longer than it needs to. My tent fill with steam and the temperature goes up a couple of degrees. Almost out of food. I only have snacks for about six hours today.

I start down the trail early. My favorite time to hike. It's cool, I love early mornings. The sun sparkles through the trees. I'm going down, way down. From about fifty three hundred feet I'm dropping to twenty nine hundred feet to the Middle Fork of the Feather river. Down long switchbacks so long that I forget they are switchbacks. Maybe a mile each way. Down through different ecosystems. Down to where poison oak grows. Down to a bridge that saves me from having to go down the last fifty feet and having to ford this deep river. The bridge is an amazing steel arch bridge that must have been helicoptered in. This is one of the remotest places I've been yet. I'm here and I don't see anyone else. I know if I stood on the trail without moving I'd see other Thru-hikers, but I don't stop. I see no one else. From the bridge the only direction is up. Back up to fifty eight hundred feet. The climb up takes hours and hours. It was seven miles to the bottom, but to get back up the other side is ten miles. It climbs on and on. One of the positive things is that it passes by a number of clear cold streams. At one of them I rinse my socks and my pack towel. I get to wear ‘clean’ socks tomorrow and clean up with a ‘clean’ pack towel tonight. I reach the top about the time that my right knee starts to do its thing. I am more aware now of what it happening and I think it's the muscles of my leg spasming and pulling on the ligaments and tendons of my knee. Time for a break, time to stretch. I don't stretch, at least not enough. But I do stop and sit down. I've been walking at a consistent fast clip for the last seven hours. It feels good to sit. My loose shoes have been bothering the backs of my heels, creating hot spots. I examine my shoes. There is a lace strap from the forward most eyelet that crosses over that bone on the widest part of my foot. I unlace my shoes down to the front most eyelets and tie a square knot keeping the laces forever loose on those eyelets irrespective of how tight I tie the rest of my shoe. I lace them back up and tie them snug. No pain, yet. Let's see how this works out. 

I also examine my maps. I see there is a Bucks Lake Alternate that adds about two miles more and requires a six mile road walk. My leg could use a road walk, and besides it passes by a store. The store will have ice cream. The ice cream sold it for me. I'll all on roads and walk two miles further if I can eat ice cream. I come to the road and turn left. Down the road I go. It's beautiful and not a very busy road. I look at the cabins and wonder what it'd be like to own one. It's a long way to drive to get to it. Some of them are huge. Four car garages and big. Others are tiny hovels from a different time, dilapidated and about to fall over. The road turns sharply and there's my goal a store. I buy ice cream, a pint of coffee ice cream. I also order a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. I sit in the shade out in front and eat my ice cream until my sandwich is done. Then I sit and eat both. I finish the sandwich first and then eat the rest of my ice cream. This is so, so wonderful. It's warm, it's perfect in the shade. I sit in a chair. I talk to the stores patrons and the PCT. It's wonderful, I know I said that, but I could stay here for the rest of the day. Big Hunk, Obiwan, and Heaps show up. I past them way earlier while they were packing up. They go inside and buy stuff. My ice cream is gone. I need to eat more. I go back in and get a Gatorade, a Reese's Peanut butter cup, a Butterfinger, and two snickers bars. I come back outside and sit in the shade with the other Thru-hikers and eat. Calories, wonderful calories to replenish the one consumed climbing back out of that canyon. I save the snickers for later and resume my tour of Bucks Lake. I come to the Bucks Lake Lodge. They have a sign welcoming PCT Hikers. I'll need to check this out. I look at the menu, a half pound burger! I need one of those. I walk inside the saloon door because the restaurant door was closed with a sign that said enter in the saloon door. I leave my pack on the front porch. I've learned that is the proper thing for a hiker to do. In the saloon the only word I can get out of my mouth is “burger.” The bartender says, “you can order that here.” I sit down at the bar. They have Blue Moon on tap. “I'll have a Blue Moon too.” “You're on the PCT?” I nod. “Then the first one’s free.” Woo hoo, I rarely drink beer, so one will be plenty, and it's free. It comes with an orange slice in it. I sit out on the front porch waiting for my burger and sipping my ice cold Blue Moon. If the store was wonderful. Then this is wonderfuller. It that even a word? I don't care. I sit watching for my friends, they'll want to know about the free beer. I probably should wash my hands before my burger shows up. Wow, running water, a real toilet, wow! This place is fancy-shmancy. Can't pass this up. I make it back outside in time for my burger to arrive in front of me hot, with all the fixin’s and a huge pile of fries. Wow! Awesome. There's got to be at least two thousand calories right there. I wolf down the burger but the fries are not coming with me. I eat as many as I can, finish my Blue Moon and pay my bill. I still have to get back to the trail. 

I walk out Lakeshore drive. Such a pretty walk along the shore. Cabins and homes line the shore. People sit on some of the decks overlooking the lake. Wow, that would be nice. Just to sit and read a book, or write a book. The sitting part is what a currently find so attractive. Just to sit and stare at the lake. I can't, the snow is coming to Canada and I have to get there first. So I move on, someday I'll sit, and I'll really enjoy it. I will understand how pleasant and wonderful it is just to sit. I've taken sitting for granted my entire life, not realizing what a blessing it is. The road leaves the lake and climbs. It's a few miles back to the trail, by now a few miles is not that big a deal. What is a big deal is I am out of water. Out of water while my body is trying to process all the food I just ate. It's pretty warm out too. My mouth is dry as cotton. My lips stick together. Oh, how good it would have been if I'd ordered a tall glass of ice-water with my burger too. I love ice water. So cold water condenses on the outside of the glass. This is torture, I'm torturing myself. Stop thinking about coulda-woulda-shoulda. You didn't, get over it. Focus on getting to the trail. It's hot, but a cool breeze comes from somewhere else and blows gently on my face. Ahhhh. That feels so good. I'm still thirsty, but that feels great. I climb. Some in the sun, boo. Some in the shade, yay. The shade feels cool. The sun will melt me into a puddle of waterless dust on the side of the road. Climb on, don't stop, don't become waterless dust. The trailhead and the summit has pit toilets. Definitely a luxury item I hate to pass up, but I don't have enough water in my system to enjoy the pleasantries of the pit toilets. I look at my map, one mile to water. One mile all up hill. I can do this. Visions of water dance before my eyes. Mirages? Water is something I take for granted too. It hasn't been since the desert that I've been this thirsty. I think about the fact that I am now caring a microfilter so I will be able to filter and drink water almost immediately when I get there. I am so excited. Water soon. Up the trail, sun, shade, doesn't matter. The trail is wide and well groomed. I appreciate it, thanks for all the work on the trail, but what I really want right now is water, preferably cold, but I'd take a warm languid puddle of water to drink from right now. I hope it's cold, cold water would be best. I climb and I can hear water happily splashing below. The stream is just ahead. I turn the corner, the stream follows in a channel across the trail, well-groomed also. I drop my pack and grap the squeeze bag for my filter. I fill it with a liter of ice cold water from upstream. I am almost shaking with anticipation as I watch the clear stream of water from the filter slowly but surely fill my bottle. Almost, almost, done. I drink full and long. It's got to be one of the best things in life, cold water to a thirsty soul. Life, liquid life, it's unbelievable how good it is to be able to drink until satisfied. I stand and savor the moment. May I never forget this. This is one of the beautiful things in life, let me not take this for granted, I am so blessed to be able to drink cool clear clean water. Thank you God for water. The walk to camp is easy and anticlimactic. I walk the walk of a fortunate one, one who has had water to drink, and has more water. I can drink as much as I want. Oh what a wonderful feeling. Camp is a pleasant site high on the ridge blocked from the wind. Cool, comfortable, I set up my tent. I'm not cooking tonight. I eat one of my snickers. I complete my chores and climb into my tent. A few minutes later Stopwatch shows up. I met her in Sierra City. She offers me a snickers and a clif bar. She has too much food. I accept. I'll now have enough food for the forty two hundred foot descent into Belden tomorrow. My feet feel good. I clean off and get into my sleeping clothes and bag. Life is good.

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