Day 8: Too dumb for everything

9.2 miles
PCT 1809.6 – Crater Lake Mazama Village
Total miles so far: 134.6

My eyes pop open at 5:30am, and I cannot believe how well I slept. My best night on trail so far, no question, and it’s interesting that the two nights where I camped completely alone, the nights when I was the most afraid, I wound up sleeping the best. I don’t understand how that could be, but then again nothing makes any sense to me out here.

I feel overwhelmed with gratitude, because sleep heals most things. I am still incredibly sore, and I am still lonely, but I am well-rested enough to have some perspective, to realize that my intense emotional discomfort stems from the week-long beating to my ego. We all say that we want to be humble, but the process of actually being humbled is excruciating.

It’s 9 miles to Crater Lake’s Mazama Village, and I spend the morning fantasizing about what I will find when I get there. How hot will the shower be? Which foods will they have at the restaurant? Will my resupply box be there? I even consider taking a zero tomorrow, and just lounging around Mazama Village. My knee is still bugging me, and I know that I could use the rest both mentally and physically. I hadn’t planned on taking a day off this soon into my trip, but who says I can’t do it anyway? Who cares what the other hikers are doing, how strong and fast they are. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to not hike for a day, and to just read and eat for hours and hours?

As the morning goes on I start to feel an uncomfortable burbling in my stomach. Immediately my mind goes to the last time I filled up my water bottles, at stagnant Honeymoon Creek, where I accidentally dropped my entire water filter into the pond. I washed it off with clean water the best I could, but maybe all of the water I filtered afterward got contaminated? That’s just what I need, to acquire some kind of water parasite. That will make this hike easier.

I reach Highway 62 at 9:15am, and feel proud of my 3mph pace. That’s super fast for me. Maybe I am getting better at hiking??

I follow the highway for about half a mile, and then climb down a steep side trail into Mazama Village. When I get there the parking lot is filled with cars, and there are at least ten dirty hikers sitting at the picnic tables in front of the general store. They seem so comfortable with themselves and each other, laughing and talking, sorting their resupply boxes, charging their phones, completely confident after 1800+ miles of hiking.

I, on the other hand, am utterly overwhelmed.

What am I supposed to do first? My chore list seems endless – shower, do laundry, eat, resupply, find the hiker campsite, set up my tent, make phone calls, decide if I’m taking a rest day here tomorrow – and all of the sudden it is all just too much. It’s too much. There is too much to do, I am too worn out, there are too many other hikers here and, nice as they seem, I am paralyzed by an intense feeling of imposter syndrome. What the fuck am I doing? I do not belong here.

“Don’t cry,” I tell myself. “Just don’t cry.”

I hurry inside the store, away from the hikers that I am convinced belong here more than I do, and I wander around looking at the shelves of chips and ramen and candy and snacks. What do I want? Do I even want anything?

I am completely overwhelmed.

Eventually I buy a box of Saltine crackers and a bottle of apple juice, and I sit on the ground outside, in a secluded corner away from the picnic tables filled with thru-hikers, and I eat every single cracker, one by one. I barely even remember to remove my pack; it feels like my brain has just… stopped working. I am too dumb with exhaustion at this point to make any decisions or take even a single action. And so I sit on the ground for two hours, wasting valuable chore time, eating a snack that is as flavorful and nutritious as cardboard.

By noon, I start to panic. There is so much to do! And I am not doing any of it! I still haven’t decided the best order in which to handle my chores, but I know I must do something. So I pay 75 cents for a 4-minute shower, after which I dress in my rain jacket and tights while I stuff everything else into a laundry machine. I charge both my phone and my battery pack. I pay for the store’s slow wifi, pick up my resupply box, poke around on Instagram, text my husband, and drink more apple juice. Strangely, I am not hungry. “Do not think about your potential water-borne parasite situation,” I say. “Just do not even think about that right now.”

Battery Camel arrives in the early afternoon (hooray! friend!) and together we make the long walk down to the free hiker/biker campsite. It’s crowded, but we each find a spot, set up our tents, put our food and toiletries in the bear locker, and finally head over to the restaurant in the lobby of the expensive lodge.

Remember when I said I wasn’t hungry? Hahaha. The waitress brings my veggie burger and I all but maul it, followed by two plates of fries and more water than I thought possible to drink in one sitting. Why didn’t I do this when I first got here this morning? Food makes everything better.

Back at the campsite we sit around a fire and I share the big bar of chocolate I sent myself in this resupply box. I’ve decided to hike out tomorrow – there’s just something about this place that I don’t really like, and I can’t imagine that a rest day here would be very relaxing. The conversation over the fire turns to mileage, as it often does with hikers, and two dudes at the campfire are sharing their plans to take the shuttle from the store up to the Rim Village. It cuts off a few miles of steep uphill hiking by dropping you right at the rim of Crater Lake, and as one of them tells the other, “No one will know!”

I think about this as I settle into my tent, about how even though other hikers are taking the shuttle that I will do the steep lonely hike instead. Because sure no one would know, but I would know, and I want to be someone who does what they say they’ll do, even if no one else is there as a witness.

As darkness comes, conversation dies down throughout the campground, and I sleep.