Thursday, September 1, 2011

Day 88 (8/13) Making it Work

I had only two goals for today: letting my feet recover, and making up for missing the post office yesterday. So I started out with a shower then used one of the loaner bikes here to go over to a nice diner for breakfast with Goodness and Zm. Like in every town the goal was to make up for my caloric deficit on trail, so I pretty much ate for two. I think the strangest part was having endless coffee, since I haven’t had any for probably about a month. After breakfast we had spotted a bakery, but unfortunately they were redoing the interior this weekend so they were closed. You can imagine how crushing that was... To lift my spirits I made my way over to the old fashioned soda fountain where I enjoyed a nice cold malt. It was neat to see how they made another couple’s root beer floats - they have the pop syrup and then manually add the right amount of carbonated soda water. Definitely something I didn’t expect to see when I came out here.

After taking care of my immediate need for food, I had to figure out what to do about my food for the last leg of the trip. From Etna I’ll be hiking to Castella, exactly 100 miles away. That’s going to take just about 4 days, and then I’ll be on my way home. I had maybe a day worth of stuff leftover from the last leg, which leaves me about 3 days short. The post office here doesn’t have Saturday hours, so if I wanted my box I’d have to wait until Monday. That just wasn’t going to work, because that means I don’t get home to Chicago until Saturday, and school starts on Monday. No dice. Actually, around noon I found out I was wrong, and for PCT hikers if you knock on the back door between 9 and 10am on Saturday they are there sorting mail and will let you pick up your package. Unfortunately, I didn’t find out until noon, at which point that opportunity was long gone. I just had to laugh at my unlucky streak with this particular post office. Fortunately for me there is a Ray’s Food Place in Etna, and it was a decent sized grocery store with more than enough options for food. This would be the first time all trip I try to resupply on trail, so it was a little bit different.

First of all, since I have a full selection of whatever I want from here, I decided to mix things up a little bit. I picked up a half pound of cheese for the first day out of town, along with some pepperoni and summer sausage. Then I picked up three apples as a first day treat, before finally getting the standard fare of pasta and instant potatoes. I think there have only been 2 or 3 nights all trip (88 days - nights in town) that I haven’t eaten instant mashed potatoes on trail. And somehow I’m still not sick of them. Same thing goes for Snickers bars, and despite everyone’s warnings that I would come hate them as the trip progressed, I still enjoy that gooey caramel mess (they ALWAYS get crushed in my pack). Loaded up with $50 of food, I headed back to the hostel to finish the rest of my chores. My clothes hadn’t had a real wash since Crater Lake, so after two weeks, they were bad news. Fortunately there was a washer and dryer I could use for $3, so I piled them all in and went about planning my trip back to Chicago. I figure I can hike this section in four days, and then theres a midnight train from Dunsmuir (5 miles from the trail) to Sacramento, where I can catch a flight home the next day. Leaving tomorrow that puts me on the train Wednesday night and home on Thursday. Sounds like a good plan to me. I did realize though that I’d have to cut my hiking short on Wednesday if I wanted to hitch to Dunsmuir, and I’d lose some time tomorrow morning hitching up to the trailhead. Losing a few hours on both ends made it a little tighter, and I started to wonder if I shouldn’t just give myself another day. Then I realized I could get out there tonight, just hike up a mile and get a full day tomorrow. I decided to go with that plan because I really did want to get home as early as possible so I’d have a few days to re-acclimate to the world before being thrust back into grad school, research and classes.

I went ahead and booked the flight, then while trying to book the train I found out I needed to have my Amtrak ticket mailed to me. But I wasn’t going to have a way to pick it up... I called Amtrak and they said if I booked less then 3 days in advance I could get a boarding code and pay on the train. Okay, so now I had to call from the middle of the wilderness to book my seat on the train. Fantastic. I called home and arranged a backup plan with my Dad so that if he didn’t hear from me by Monday evening he’d book it for me. My only concern through all this was my feet. I struggled mightily yesterday with some blister issues, and it wasn’t clear that a single day had been enough to heal everything. I was still walking gingerly, and that wasn’t over rocks and uneven terrain, so in the back of my mind I had a slight concern. I looked at the map and spotted an early exit just 40 miles from here, so if I couldn’t make my miles I could bail and hitch to the train station from there. With that everything was settled and my mind was at ease, so I packed up my gear and went down to the local brewery for a quick dinner before heading out.

The Etna Brewery was FANTASTIC. There is no doubt in my mind that if I wasn’t concerned about my timing for the trip home, I would’ve hung out here all evening with the other hikers enjoying all of the great beers they make here. As it was I had to cut myself off at two, after savoring both their stout and a porter. What a wonderful last town stop, more than making up for the mess I made of my resupply at the post office. I made quick work of a burger and salad (once again two normal meals), then went back to the hostel where I called Keith for a ride to the trail. I apologized for the mixup last night (he came right away, waited for 20 minutes then left, and I got there about 40 minutes later...). We chatted on the ride up, and it turns out he’s a 85 year old guy who’s done just about everything imaginable. I think he said he’s held 62 jobs during his lifetime. Now he’s retired and living out here he enjoys meeting the hikers and helping them get to and from the trail. For the 20 mile round trip he only asked for $5, which was pretty amazing considering what a steep and winding road it was.

Sunset from the trailhead right after being dropped off
We arrived at the top around 8:15, and there was another hiker waiting for a ride, so it worked out perfectly for all. I can definitely tell the days are getting shorter because I witnessed a fantastic sunset around 8:30 and shortly thereafter it was getting dark enough I started considering breaking out my headlamp. Instead I decided that I didn’t need to push too hard tonight and that my half mile was plenty. I’d be up bright and early tomorrow for a full day, and that was all that mattered.

Miles Today: ~0
Trip Mileage: 1254
PCT Mile Marker: 1606

No comments:

Post a Comment