Day 6: “Chapstick my deep thighs”

21.5 miles
Fish Lake Resort to PCT 1790.2
Total miles so far: 106

Seven hours. Seven! Uninterrupted! Hours! That is how much sleep one can get in a small cabin after four nights of fear in the woods. After the fumes I’ve been running on, this seems like an almost obscene amount of sleep. Who do I think I am, sleeping so much? Not being tired? Who even knew a person could feel this good!

I am so well-rested that nothing phases me this morning – not the 2 mile road walk back to the trail, not the fact that my pack is heavier than yesterday now that I’ve resupplied, not the possibility of mosquito hell, nothing. I am Tinkerbell, I slept for seven hours, I have a new hiking friend, and I am ready to fuck shit up.

All morning, Battery Camel and I talk and hike, hike and talk. It is so refreshing to spend time with another human, discussing God and Harry Potter and free will, addiction and personal growth and the wonderful mess of being a person in the world. I thought that I enjoyed being alone, and I do, but being alone while being both afraid and in pain for four straight days leads you down some pretty dark mental spirals, and the chance to step outside of myself is a treat that I do not take for granted.

By noon we’ve reached Christi’s Spring, rumored location of extreme mosquito hell, and it looks like we’ve been spared. We drop our packs and follow the small side trail to the spring to collect water, and there are hardly any bugs at all. Soon we’re lost in the relief of sitting down, sharing stories, and eating delicious snacks, and it’s with great reluctance that we stand up to get back on trail at 2pm. I keep trying not to take such long lunch breaks, but time expands and contracts in all sorts of weird ways out here and I can never seem to get myself going again for at least two hours.

I heave my pack onto my back and hear Battery Camel say, “You might not want to watch this. I’m about to chapstick my deep thighs.”

He has been chafing badly, and his solution is to methodically rub his small tube of chapstick all over his inner thighs. I don’t know why I think this is the most hilarious thing I’ve ever heard, but it is, and “chapstick my deep thighs” is now my new favorite phrase.

For the next mile I keep turning around to Battery Camel and yelling things about chapsticking the deep thighs, but since he is the one suffering from the deep thigh chafe, he is not nearly as amused. He’s having a tough time on this hike in general – his feet are even more of a disaster than mine – and after another mile he tells me he needs to slow it way down. We make plans to camp together at mile 1790, and all too soon I’m alone again.

It’s nice, actually, going back and forth between having company and being alone, and I find myself lost in a good mood.

It doesn’t last long though, because soon the trees happen.

Throughout the morning we’ve been occasionally encountering downed trees blocking the trail. Some trees were easy to step over, some we had to crawl underneath, and some required a precarious climb and shimmy maneuver to get to the other side. But they were relatively infrequent, we had each other’s help, and it was okay.

Battery Camel’s first tree crawl

Now, though, these downed trees have gone from being a sporadic occurrence to being all over the trail, one after the other, in a seemingly endless line. At first I pretend it’s some kind of ninja warrior trail challenge, and I count the trees as I conquer them. 10 trees, 20, 50, 75. After 75 downed trees my morale is bottoming out, and I stop counting.

WHAT IS THIS. That’s all I can think, over and over on a loop in my mind. WHAT IS THIS. WHAT’S HAPPENING. BE CAREFUL. WHY WHY WHY.

whhhhyyyyyyy

My only moment of mental sanity comes from deciding that these trees are the price of admission for not having any mosquitos. I ask myself if I would pay that price if I had been given the option. Would I choose the tree gymnastics over the mosquitos? The trees are awful but yes, yes I would.

So now the loop in my mind goes like this:

WHY WHY WHY. Shhh, price of admission. Better than mosquitos. BUT WHY. IS IT ALMOST OVER? Shhhh, better than mosquitos. It will end at some point. It will not be like this forever. Better than mosquitos. Better than mosquitos. Better than mosquitos.

At 3:45pm I sit down for a short break. I am involved in a heated debate with myself at this point, about whether or not I can climb over any more downed trees. The dark side of my brain is very skeptical, like “Girl, please. You cannot heave your body and your heavy pack over one more tree. There’s just no way. You just… can’t.”

But here’s the thing about being alone in the middle of the woods: short of a search and rescue situation, there aren’t any other options. And it’s in this way that I am able to stand up after 10 minutes and keep hiking. What else am I going to do? Sit on the side of the trail forever? Eventually it will be dark. Eventually I will run out of water and food. So no, there is no other option. I must keep going.

The next hour and a half is beautiful. The trail is a soft shade of brown, flanked on one side by different shapes of rocks and stones and boulders, with a steep descent of bright green growth on the other side. The sky is a perfect blue, with fluffy white clouds, and by the time I reach the clearing in which we’ve agreed to camp I must have stopped for photos at least 15 times.

The Oregon Section of the PCT: You Might Impale Yourself On a Downed Tree, But At Least The Photos Are Good

I set up my tent as I wait for Battery Camel, thoroughly enjoying the flip flops I purchased at Fish Lake Resort. I didn’t think I would need camp shoes, but the glory of taking one’s shoes and socks off and not having to walk barefoot on the ground is incredible. These flip flops are purple, with hideously tacky flowers glued to the part that goes over your foot, and they are already well worth the $5 price tag.

I sit on my little foam pad in the last of the sun, eating my cold-soaked beans and vegetables with handfuls of greasy tortilla chips, and I wonder whether Battery Camel will make it this far. Is he okay? Will I have to camp alone?

But no! There he is! I’m more relieved than I want to admit, and am so grateful not to be camping alone. The wind is picking up, we’re up here on this exposed ridge, and we hurry into our shelters.

Fierce wind on an exposed ridge – this is new! I pull on my fleece hat, burrow into my sleeping bag, and wait to see what happens next.