Day 5: Cinnamon sugar sweet potato fries of my DREAMS

8.1 miles
PCT 1764.7 to Fish Lake Resort (2 miles off the PCT)
Total miles so far: 84.5

The first few hours in my sleeping bag are really just me talking myself off the anxiety ledge about the many wild animals that might or might not be interested in eating me as a midnight snack. As a child, I was always told that I had an active imagination in a way that made it sound like a compliment, but right now I would do anything to trade this imagination for some peace and sleep.

Finally, just after 1:30am, I drift off, and I don’t wake again until 6am. Sleep! Glorious sleep. My best night of rest on trail so far. Well, okay then.

I pack my things away and absentmindedly shake out my shoes. I leave my shoes just outside my tent’s door at night, and I’ve been told to turn them upside-down before putting them on to make sure I’m not about to shove my foot into a spider-filled shoe or anything. Ugh, even the thought makes me cringe.

I shake out my shoes, and lo! They are not empty. Friends, something has pooped in my shoe. I repeat: SOMETHING HAS POOPED IN MY SHOE.

Maybe the tiny forest critters are tired of me using their home as a bathroom and have decided to reciprocate?

Thank goodness for all the trail blogs that mentioned the necessity of the morning shoe shake. Just thank goodness for those folks.

By 6:50am I am back on trail, and it will only be 8 miles until I reach Fish Lake Resort. 8 miles! That’s it! I slept for more than four hours last night, the sky is bright and clear, the temperature is soft and cool, and I am ready to crush these 8 miles.

For the next two hours I hike through the trees with morning sunlight filtering through at every angle, and occasionally the trail winds out of the woods and through piles of shimmering black lava rock that stretch endlessly into the distance. It’s gorgeous, just gorgeous, and I am filled with a kind of elation that I cannot process. Everything is perfect – the trail is perfect and the trees are perfect and the lava is perfect and I’m singing Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah as loud as I can, tears of joy running down my cheeks. I am having a moment. Everything is perfect forever and ever, amen. That is how I feel this morning.

At 9am I reach the junction to Fish Lake Resort, and turn off to hike the two mile trail that will take me directly to both a hot meal and a hot shower. Oh my god: showering. I love showering!

Fish Lake Resort is everything I wanted it to be. Battery Camel is still here, my resupply box has arrived, I have a small cabin rented from now until tomorrow morning, and I am able to do laundry for the first time in five days. I explode my pack all over the cabin floor, strip off my clothes, and wonder about the best way to do laundry when you don’t have a change of clothes to wear while the dirty clothes are being washed. Plot twist!

Fashion icon extraordinaire

I put on my jacket, wrap a borrowed towel around my waist (towels, motherfucker! Fish Lake Resort people: THANK YOU FOR THIS TOWEL!), and decide that this is as good a laundry outfit as any. And thus begins my day of doing laundry, paying $1.50 in quarters for a three minute shower, updating Instagram, calling my people, resting my blistered feet, and eating basket after basket of sweet potato fries.

A quick word about these fries: They are covered in cinnamon and sugar. Do you understand the sublime glory of hot, greasy, waffle-cut, cinnamon-and-sugar-smothered sweet potato fries after four days of hiking? Even as I am devouring them I know that no other fry-eating experience will ever compare. “Appreciate this!” I tell myself. “These are the fries of God!”

As the sun sets, Battery Camel and I sit at a picnic table between our two small cabins and look at maps of the upcoming section. Tomorrow we’ll climb over 2,300 feet, and we’ll enter an area that is known in July as “mosquito hell.” These mosquitos are the reason I chose to do my hike in August, and we wonder aloud if August 8th is August enough for the little blood suckers to have moved on. Our plan is to meet at 6:30am tomorrow and head out together, so I guess we’ll see!

Back in the cabin, my sleeping bag spread over the mattress, I luxuriate in being surrounded by walls and a door, and in the resulting absence of fear. Nothing is going to eat my face tonight! I can finally just sleep.

And as the last of the light fades out the small window of the cabin, that’s exactly what I do.