Day 23: Nary a Moist Footsie in Sight
Day 23: 22.3 Miles
It is cold this morning, so I pull out my tiny stove and make my last packet of bulletproof coffee. I found the pouches under the bridge in Cabazon, and it’s been a real treat. Things only thru-hikers and hobos can say, amiright? For breakfast I decided to give a protein cookie one more try, after being wholly disheartened by the chocolate and peanut butter flavors. But today I am pleasantly surprised by Snicker doodle. It is a nice breakfast in tent city, the sky a wash of pale pinks.
I begin hearing the alarms of others around me and know it’s time to get into gear. I want to leave before the groups. I lick the cinnamon-sugar mustache from my upper lip and start the process. Stock snack pocket. Change into walking clothes. Deflate sleeping pad. Stuff base layers and sleeping bag into dry bag. Arrange small items outside of tent. Adjust necessary water carry. Pack all items into pack.
I’m a little slower at this today because it is cold enough that gloves are preferred, and there is frost on my rain fly. This means I’ll have to pull my tent out to dry on my longest break today. I keep my puffy on to hike, the first time I’ve needed to on a PCT morning. I reach to put on my trekking gloves, and find that I forgot about the clementine in the same pocket, and now everything is covered in juice. When the sun comes out I’ll rinse the gloves in the stream and hang them off my pack, but I’ll wait for more warmth.
I switched to insoles yesterday, and my left foot has a strange and somewhat painful sensation. Hopefully this is normal. I think it is. I’m going to pretend it is, for now.
I walk and think about my family. My sister, my mom, my dad. I think about the amount of food I have and wonder if I can push all the way to Wrightwood and skip Cajon Pass. It’s 83 miles and I have almost four days of food. It could be close.
Heat starts to creep up my collar and I stop to remove my down jacket. The sun has illuminated the landscape, morning beams playing with shadow and light. And then it occurs to me. Today I will hit 300 miles. Three hundred MILES. This is exciting.
I walk on at a comfortable place, not rushing. I wonder how far I’d make it today if I kept with this leisurely vibe. I decide to give that a shot, listening to the choir of rushing stream and gentle breeze. I come upon a water crossing, a man hitching up his trousers in the center of the trail.
“Excuse me.” He greets me cheerfully and watches as I evaluate the best spot to cross.
“Over here,” he says. I bristle at the direction. If you try to mansplain this stream crossing, I will be displeased.
“Nary a moist footsie in sight.” I shake my head internally, realizing this man is a middle-aged dork. The things people say out here… We’re a weird bunch.
I mosey down the trail and have done eight miles by 10 a.m. A private beach is calling me, so I take an early lunch to bask in the sun for a while. I am having a really nice solo day, chilling to the maximum. I strip off my layers, revealing the white glow of all my covered skin. I only stay this way for 20 minutes, and then I dress, pack, and walk on.
I listen to interviews with Carrot Quinn, and consider how to use my passions for progress. Eventually I come to a wider river, a wooden bridge high above it. I stop and make conversation with another hiker named No Point, wading in the water and snacking. I press on, determined to make it the remaining eight miles to Deep Creek hot springs by evening.
The hike to the springs is the highlight of my day. The overcast sky of late afternoon opens up to bluebird skies. The heat of the day has passed, and a delicate breeze remains. While my body is beginning to grow weary, the canyon carved by Deep Creek is luminous in golden hour, wildflowers of yellow, deep violet, and soft lavender cascading down the rock walls.
This feels like Robin Hood. Like I’m going to meet my friends in Sherwood Forest, a safe space only we are invited to. Lots of the PCT feels like this, more so each day as I learn its secrets and rituals. I am living in a delicate subculture that runs the length of the western coast, fostering escapism from the brutal state of reality. Here, we eat candy and cheeseburgers, and realize the true value of what it means to share a space with another human being. In a land of made up of wood, stone, dirt, and grasses, each human encounter offers an opportunity to connect with another of our species.
So, when I arrive at the springs, there are more humans than I’ve seen in one space outside of a town since I started the trail. Some are soaking, partially clothed, others lying in hammocks staring at the sky. I seek out a spot for my tent and go to gather water. When I return, the hikers from last night are milling around, looking for spaces to call home for tonight. I invite them to be my neighbors, and they accept.
We sit in the dirt together, making dinner and laughing well past the blue hour and into darkness. One by one, each person retreats to their tent until I am the only one left, staring up at the blanket of twinkling stars. I look at our camp and think about how small we are, just a few specs of recycled dust, collected into individual human forms, craving the company of other dust assemblages. Maybe out here in the dirt of our making, we’ll remember who we are. And that we are, indeed, each other.
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.