Sunday, September 4, 2011

Day 89 (8/14) The Final Push

Today is Sunday. My last day of hiking will be Wednesday. Its surreal, and I’m really not sure if I’m ready for this hike to end. It hadn’t really set in until now, when I’m on the final leg of this summer journey. I lay in my sleeping bag reflecting on everything I’ve experienced, drifting back to sleep for a short while before finally getting up and moving. I was super excited about my food today since I had packed some treats coming out of town. Breakfast was nothing special, but after that I had some great snacks. Three apples, a big pack of pepperoni and a block of cheese to keep me energized throughout the day.

I didn’t make it far this morning before I was in for a surprise. I came around a curve and right in front of me was a massive snow drift, obliterating the trail and extending for hundreds of feet.
I'm STILL finding snow in mid-August!
And as I surveyed it to find my best way across, here comes a northbound hiker, Happy Whale, working his way up to Etna for a nice day off. I on the other hand had a full day ahead, so I didn’t spend too much time chatting. Its currently August 14th in CALIFORNIA, and I’m still coming across snow. What a crazy year. After making my way across, I tried to pick up the pace and start making some miles. My feet held up pretty well through the first 5 miles when I took a break for an apple. What a fantastic thing to bring out for the first day from town. I’m glad I did this on the final section, otherwise I might’ve tried carrying out perishable treats like this every time I left town, and I didn’t need the extra weight. One big highlight of the morning was a closer view of Mt. Shasta. I first saw this mountain from a lookout at the Crater Lake rim, and now after two weeks of hiking I’m due west of it. For the next few days I’ll be curving back east, coming to finish just south of it in Castle Crags state park. This is one of the curious sections that goes every direction as it weaves around mountains and valleys, so that while I’ll hike 100 miles on trail, it would take only 60 miles by road, and 40 miles as the crow flies.
I'm closing in on Mt. Shasta, my final destination this summer

The weather today was absolutely perfect, though it was another slightly nerve-wracking one. There was a ton of cloud cover which gave me a reprieve from the heat and cut down my need for water since I wasn’t sweating nearly so much. I did sweat the fact that there were some massive clouds overhead, and some of them were in fact grey and menacing looking. But, to my great relief, none ever took the next step of dropping rain or shooting lightning. The most curious thing was that all of these clouds from the north to the south all came together around Mt. Shasta, and I would surmise that it plays a major factor in the local weather. No thunder or lightning came from the clouds over there either, so I guess conditions aren’t quite ripe for a storm just yet. Hopefully it stays that way through Wednesday, after which I don’t really care what happens.
Russian Wilderness Sign w/ Hammer & Sickle
My hike today brought me through the Russian Wilderness, one of the original wilderness areas set aside by Congress when they created the national park system. I really enjoy how stark and rugged it is, as opposed to some of the gentler more rolling hills I saw around the Ashland area. I did get a good laugh at the wilderness boundary sign where a hiker had made a hammer and sickle out of rocks next to the trail. We only spend a dozen miles in the wilderness itself, but this whole area is really cool. Coming from the Marble Mountains before Etna, to this, and then I’ve heard the Trinity Alps are another great spot just ahead.

Throughout the day I came to realize that my feet, having recovered somewhat, were not yet ready for a big push. My heels have mostly repaired themselves, but the ball of my right foot is still very tender and hasn’t yet formed the protective layer I need. I’m always amazed by how well we can control technology and everything else, but for our own bodies, so many things happen automatically and are beyond our control. I can’t just command my body to build up leg muscles, or lose weight, so instead we’ve learned how to indirectly cause those things to happen by learning which actions produce the desired results. If we want to build muscle, we exercise those muscles and our body reacts by building muscle. If we want to lose weight, we have to change our lifestyle to burn more calories than we consume. But those are very crude ways of achieving the actual goal. The brain controls all body function, and yet the conscious part isn’t able to communicate with the unconscious part to achieve the desired result. In my case right now, all I wish is that I could somehow convince my body to put callouses over the raw spot on my foot immediately, rather than waiting a few days or weeks until it gets around to it. In fact, I wish I could’ve told my body to do that days ago before this turned into a big problem for me. Funny how it doesn’t quite work that way. (*Fittingly, just before I was to post this I saw a comic strip that highlights this very point.

As it was, my feet kept my pace down all afternoon, and by the early evening it was clear that I wouldn’t be hitting my 25 mile goal for the day. If things shaped up, I could probably do 30 tomorrow to get myself back on track. If not, I would hit that road sometime tomorrow and could call it quits from there. I really don’t want to do that, but I’m even less excited about the idea of missing my train & plane, paying fees to rebook those travel plans, and getting home a day or two later. This last section is shaping up to be a little more of a physical challenge rather than a nice easy coast to the finish, but at the same time its fun to push myself, and I look forward to my day tomorrow to see if I can push myself and make up some miles from today.

Forested Valley in the Russian Wilderness

Miles Today: 19
Trip Mileage: 1273
PCT Mile Marker: 1587

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