Day 13: The rollercoaster

6.6 miles
Shelter Cove Resort – PCT mile 1909
Total miles so far: 224.5

The first thing I do when I wake up is check the time. The little store opens at 7am, and I am already fantasizing about buying another carton of blueberries. How many berries can one hiker possibly eat? More than you can ever imagine, it turns out.

As I pack up I think about my hunger level. I’ve been feeling increasingly hungrier over the past few days, but it hasn’t yet reached what’s known as hiker hunger – the gnawing bottomless pit feeling that apparently sets in at some point on a long-distance hike. My hunger is still manageable, for now.

At the store, I splurge. I buy the blueberries of course, plus a bag of bagels, a jar of peanut butter, a jar of jelly, and a hot tea. I pull two bagels out for myself and share the rest with the other hikers. Sharing food is a precious gesture out here, and a few of them cannot believe that a woman they’ve never met is really gifting bagels for no reason. But what am I going to do with all these bagels? My food bag is stuffed; I have everything I need.

I decide to take it easy today, to rest my leg this morning and hike out around 2pm, and it’s in this lazy manner that I complete my remaining chores – I clean the screw top container I use to cold-soak my dinners, I backwash my water filter, I charge my external battery, I make phone calls. Periodically I re-read the love letter that Paul included in my resupply box, and I smile.

I head down to the lake and stretch out on a picnic table in the sun. When’s the last time I literally didn’t have anything to do or anywhere to be or anyone expecting something from me? I can just… lay here. I can feel the heat of the sun on my face and just be.

I meander back to the store around noon, feeling restless. The hiker area is filled with new faces now, people who have just arrived, and they are having an animated conversation that goes like this:

“I’m not showering for all of Oregon.”

“Oh yeah? That’s nothing. I’m not showering until Canada.”

Uh, you guys? You’re doing it wrong. Showering is the best! And it’s in this moment that I know it’s time for me to hike out, even though I had planned to stay until later this afternoon. I just can’t sit amongst the non-showering dude bro hikers who are drinking beer and loudly trying to outdo each other in regard to who can be the dirtiest.

I set out toward Roasary Lakes, just six and a half miles away. It takes me 30 minutes to get from Shelter Cover back to the trail, and my stomach feels off the entire time. Did I eat too many berries?

Back on trail I’m forced to drop my pack and run into the woods for an emergency poop situation. Yes, too many berries. Oh well, it was worth it.

The hike from there is hot and slow, and I can’t seem to find a good rhythm. My shin is still tender, my feet are still blistered, and I am filled with a melancholy feeling that what I am doing doesn’t matter and that in fact nothing matters. Trail depression? Who knows.

I reach Rosary Lakes around 3pm, and it’s beautiful. I’m glad to sit on the ground and drink water, but I can’t shake the sad thoughts. I’m lonely again today. Should I camp here? There’s water, which is a nice change from all the nights of dry camping, and it’ll be an easier day for my legs and feet. I’m strangely super tired, so stopping here is appealing. But on the other hand, it’s so early! I’ve only covered 6.6 miles! I’m anxious to get to Elk Lake and meet up with Paul, and if I stop here it’ll mean bigger mileage the next two days.

I have to decide, and yet I am unable to decide, so instead I sit on the dirt and let my bad mood crash down all around me. Hiking is stupid. I am so lonely. I wish I were done already. These thoughts play through my mind on an endless loop. I miss Paul. I want to be done. Everything hurts.

At 5pm I give up and pitch my tent. The wind is picking up, and no matter which way I position things the tent is flapping away in the gusts of wind. Will I even be able to sleep? Is it safe here? I am uncomfortable and afraid.

And yet, even in the midst of discomfort and fear, there are still things that need to get done. I filter water for tomorrow, eat dinner, plan out my mileage for the next two days, and get everything ready to go so that in the morning I can just HIKE. I climb into my tent to get out of the wind, and I cry. At this point I don’t even know why I’m crying. I just am.

Two older men arrive as the sun starts to set – they’re hiking south and they are going to camp here too. I’m not alone anymore!!! The mood boost is immediate, especially after they tell me that tomorrow I will pass Charlton Lake, which is the halfway point of the Oregon section of the PCT. I am almost halfway done! Suddenly I am filled with a feeling of airy lightness and joy. Oh, the emotional rollercoaster of long-distance hiking. How do people handle this??