Whitefish Horse Camp to Maidu Lake
Desert Juxtapositions: freezing cold in the morning, scorching hot all day. Dry everywhere, water is life.
Our sleepover in the Whitefish Horse Camp host’s tent made for a restful night’s sleep. The camp hosts had still not come home by the time we collected our things and cleaned up, so Brianna left a ‘thank you’ note and made a quick breakfast before hitting the trail.
I’m not sure why, but the energy of this morning’s hike was very uninspired. Slept well, but didn’t feel rested. Excited to see Crater Lake in a few days, but a few days felt forever away. If you’re on a break next to a beautiful lake and feeling sluggish, there is a problem in need of a remedy. I did the only two things I could think of, mixed us some Celsius energy drinks, and reserved a room at Diamond Lake for the following night. Nothing gets you going like looking forward to hot showers.
The trail out of Whitefish Horse Camp was much like the trail in, steep and sandy. I hiked behind Brianna with my NCT buff over my face to filter some of the dirt clouding behind her every footstep – it worked! Unfortunately, even the gaiters we wear over our shoes to stop dirt from getting in weren’t enough for this kind of trail. It’s great for horses, less so for hikers.
This PCT section is the first time Brianna and I have had to plan water carries strategically. A water cache (where trail angels leave large amounts of water to help hikers in dry stretches) greeted us at Windigo Pass, allowing us to fill up for our last 12-mile march. Water caches are a great treat, but they cannot be relied upon in the same way a steady-flowing stream can, and even some streams are seasonal and dry up. If you get to a spot that has a cache, awesome, fill it up! If you get to a spot you were hoping would have water and there is none… you better have a contingency plan.
A lunch break became necessary after the long hike out of the horse camp. Brianna and I took a seat on the south side of the trail, on the far side of a dirt road from the water cache. There were about a dozen northbound hikers encircled next to the cache when we arrived, all hanging out and having a good time. In the hour we took to chill and eat lunch, a dozen more must have showed up and none had left.
Remember those slime ball toys from the 80s & 90s? You could play with them, squeeze them between your fingers, but would eventually pick up too much dirt? The water cache was the slime ball and it was slurping up dirt-ball hikers at a high rate. We passed more hikers today than any day before.
(This is not meant as an insult, I am also one of these dirt balls.)
Our day ended at Maidu Lake. It was a 21ish-mile day that took 13 hours and zapped all of our energy. With all the hikers we passed today, we were concerned that arriving late to the lake would mean there would not be any campsites for us. Much to our surprise, not a single other tent was down by the lake when we arrived or any time after. Mosquitoes were minimal and we got to watch a family of baby ducks at play while eating a chicken stew dinner as the sun went down.
Joy and peace, non-permanent states of being, two things that always are we seeking.
I have come to the conclusion that for me, joy is akin to taking an epic photograph. The 1-in-1,000 photograph that perfectly captures a moment in time like none of the other 999 managed to do. The feeling of joy is often so overpowering that I do not realize it has happened until it has already gone.
Peace is usually a longer-term state of mind that happens when I feel that I have come to terms with an event. It’s the not forgetting, but it’s not far from it. Some life events can not be resolved nor let go of, that is where I seek peace.
Hiking introduces vulnerabilities into you mental spaces: hunger, thirst, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, I could go on. These vulnerabilities a hallway with a door at each end. One door leads to moments of pure joy. The other door unearths memories of the past, breaks the peaceful fallacies. These past few weeks have me remembering things I have not thought to think on for years, decades.
Having the time, space, and vulnerabilities to reflect on those which should not be forgotten is good a good thing. Hiking is kind of like a penetration test for the soul (for non-IT people, a penetration test is when company A pays Company B to find network/infrastructure weaknesses). The older we get, the more we have to reflect back on. Whether it’s remembering the people we’ve loved and lost or attempting to better understand the good and bad events that have OR SHOULD HAVE shaped us.
Thoughts from a tired mind.
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