Awoke with the very first dimness of dawn, and was out of camp before anyone else. The morning was much cooler than usual, and their were small bits of cloud-stuffs scattered across the sky. When the sun rose they turned the color of rose petals littered against a backdrop of azure blue – gorgeous! But ominous.
Fireman passed me within a couple miles. Everybody hikes faster than I do, it seems. We hiked together for less than an hour, then he moved on at his faster pace. I stopped at the top of Koosah Mountain on an outcropping of rock and ate the orange the Trail Angels had provided. It was delicious, even though a little dry. The view was breathtaking – Middle and South Sisters looking straight at you, with patches of snow still clinging to their flanks.
This western side of the Three Sisters is the same area Brandon and I had
hiked about 7 years ago, and I couldn’t help but think about him again, and grieve his loss. It seems the grieving should pass at some point, but out on the trail with so many memories of him, it just keeps being recycled. We had seen the Sisters Mirror Lake together, and crossed the Wickiup Plains in a snow storm in our race to the rig at the end of our hike back then. Now I was crossing them again, slowly on a sunny and cool morning. Same space, different time. So odd that he’s not here with me.
“Drugstore” caught up to me at the creek just before Mesa Creek – had met him at Elk Lake Resort. Apparently he earned his trail name because his “coffee” was a caffeinated pill he took in the morning to get going – not the real McCoy powdered coffee that many through-hikers sprinkle on their cereal.
He drank the water from the creek without treating it, and it had been running across a large meadow before the spot where we were collecting it. I offered to let him use my SteriPen, and showed him how. He used it and it ended up flashing RED and quitting – I think he must have inadvertantly re-pushed the button while he was holding it in his water bottle. It always works perfectly for me, and continued to do so all the way to the end of this hiking section at MacKenzie Pass. He took off and the next creek was Mesa Creek – an incredibly beautiful area that Brandon and I had enjoyed very much.
At Mesa Creek I stopped and took the Tevas off – I’m now hiking in the Tevas
as the boots are just too painful and hot for my feet – and soaked my feet in the ice cold creek. Ate a little snack of nuts and dried cinnamon apples and enjoyed the surrounding beauty, and just as I was packing up a through-hiker I had met at Elk Lake Resort strode up. He had hiked this trail many times before. I put on my pack and as we hiked along, I noticed that his hands were in his pants in an odd way, and that his zipper was down. He finally commented on it, letting me know he was too hot in his crotch and that was his way of staying cool. As we approached a couple people on the side getting water, he immediately zipped up his fly, but after passing them he unzipped it again. It was strange and I’d not seen that behavior on the trail before. His conversation was about
negative experiences and littered liberally with “f… this” and “f…that”. Not the type of trail experience I was interested in. Suddenly he said he was going to stop and take a break, and he dropped his pack right on the trail on an incline against the dirt hill. I passed him by, saying if I stopped now in the early afternoon it would be difficult for me to get going again. I thought I would get at least a 10 or 15 minute lead on him and hopefully not have to share his presence again, but about 15 minutes down the trail I looked back and saw him only 100 yards or so behind me! I couldn’t believe it! And now he was hiking bare chested from his waist up, with his hands in his pants and his fly open! I started hiking as fast as I could go to maintain the lead I had on him, and thankfully the trail was dipping and winding through the forest so I could stay out of sight most of the time. Finally I saw two giant trees growing out of the
same trunk just 30 feet downhill from the trail which would provide adequate cover…I scampered down, the pine cones and needles crunching beneath my feet and hoping the sound wouldn’t be heard from his distance, and ducked behind the trunk with my pack. In a couple minutes he passed on the trail above, and I stayed behind the trunk for another 15 minutes. Finally I slowly climbed back up to the trail, and slowly continued the hike. I was in no hurry now, as I did not want to see him again. Thankfully, I got my wish.
At Separation Creek I was passed by “Dreams”, a handsome young through-hiker from Davis, California. We talked a few minutes and he shared with me that he had lost his female black lab just over 4 years ago, but that he has still wept about her a little along this trail. I showed him the picture of Brandon on my bookmark, and we both agreed our dogs would love this landscape – water and meadows of wildflowers. He was very sweet and sensitive, and was even carrying his dogs ashes with him on this hike in his backpack! I am so grateful he shared his continued grief over his dog’s passing with me – it made me feel better about being such a blubberpuss about Brandon on this trip. (Thank you, Dreams. You really helped me.) He was trying to stay ahead of someone who wasn’t too far behind, so we said our good-byes and he pulled ahead just as we arrived at Lakelet.
I walked over to Lakelet which is very small and was a spot Brandon and I had swum at years before. There was a group of about 6 young people and a couple of adults camped out on the rocks above the lake, so I ducked around the shoreline to get to the area where water gathering is easiest. Jumped into my
swimsuit and strode out into the lake to chest level to dip my water bottle below the surface down deep into the cold…lifting it up full of water and checking it against the sky to see if there were any floaty things visible. The SteriPen only works in clean unsedimented water. It was crystal clear. I would’ve stayed longer at Lakelet but the group of people was noisy and all over the place – making the experience there not at all peaceful. I pulled my shorts and top on over my wet swimsuit and was off.
Around Linton Meadows Trail I met Luke heading south. He was a well-dressed young man from Yosemite. Not long after Luke passed, “Hurricane” caught up to me. He is a through-hiker from New Zealand who
had never hiked a day in his life before attempting the PCT. He slowed down a bit so we could talk as we hiked, and he shared with me that he had had a lot of friends dying lately at young ages which had stimulated him to get out and start living. He said he planned to get out and do something big every year now, like hiking the PCT. He had lost 35 pounds and was feeling quite fit, but was very much looking forward to returning to New Zealand. Loud thunderous claps were rolling across the sky, and rain started to splatter on the dry soil – he took off, and I stopped and got out my rain jacket and pack cover.
The rain was minimal, not drenching, and it felt great to hike in it yet be all protected. It let up a bit so I took the rain gear off, and then of course it decided to hail! I had to put it all back on again. It was surprising to see the large comet-like incoming hail balls making streaks through the air before they landed! When they landed on my rain jacket hood they sounded like a hit with a hammer! BONK! The noise resonated loudly in my head.
The hail had let up by Obsidian Falls, and the falls themselves brought back another load of
memories of Brandon’s and my earlier adventure through these parts. I had forgotten he and I were here …the names on the the map hadn’t rung any bells, but arriving at the locations sure did. A little further up the trail is where he and I had camped next to the creek in the meadow – a most beautiful memory. When I snapped a photo of it this time, I saw a yellow tent and a beautiful dog outside it nestled in the trees just back from the meadow – someone else was creating wonderful memories with their pooch.
The sky was growing darker again and the rumblings were getting more insistent. I arrived at a place along the PCT that overlooks a meadow and creek up to a glacier, and thought it was the trail juncture I was looking for. Went down and crossed the creek and found a campsite on the other side. Set up camp with the roaring of thunder all around, and just as my little haven was all ready and soup/tea water was boiling, the heavens unleashed and rain, lightning and thunder commenced at a grand scale! It was a wonderful feeling to be all safely tucked away under tall thick pine trees on a bed on soft pine needles while the world around was going through major drama. The intensity of brilliant flashes and the crescendos of roaring thunderclaps was a spectacular performance of Nature that I had not experienced in a long time. I snuggled into my sleeping bag and wrote in my journal by headlamp. Deep into the night the storm raged on, and I slept like a warm, protected, loved little baby, dreaming that Brandon was barking at me from the sky, telling me he remembered our area and that he missed me and still loved me.