Thursday, July 19, 2012

19 July - Day 89 - Old Friends

From McArthur-Burney State Park (Mile 1423.5) to Logging Rd (Mile 1444)

Total PCT Miles hiked today: 20.5

Pan here.

The night last night was warm and humid. Uncomfortable - but at least we were out of the mosquitoes and off the dirt for a night. The romance of the wilds has long since given way to hard-eyed realism. We love the trail - but not for fantasies of wilderness. For its reality. And sometimes that reality likes a break, a respite.

Rain clouds! Wow. First time since May 25 that we have seen them. The past several days we've had clouds moving by and puffing up beautifully, but not precipitating anywhere. But all we got was scarcely enough sprinkle to settle the dust -- and the dust in a volcanic landscape is considerable.

This is our sink, our fountain, and our bathtub. Everywhere we go now.
Landscape moved from one kind of volcanic (more or less recent) to another (old). The old stuff is fertile and richly growing with woods and flowers. What a list we could write here of all the old friends we are seeing in bloom. Many of these guys I learned 30 years ago from the reincarnated St Francis of Assissi, the magnificent Rev. Ernie Zoerb. He was 49 years older than I, and much I learned from him (including a sourdough hotcakes recipe he learned from old Pacific Northwest loggers in the 1920s, who themselves brought the recipe from the 19th century, where they had learned it from old prospectors). These flowers were his hiking buddies whom he greeted with laughter and delight whenever he saw them - and so I learned, and now so do we all. It's a form of literacy to be able to read the natural history of the life around us in the wilds, and it becomes an entry point for deeper engagement and embrace. Old buddies like Twinflower, Starflower, Claytonia, Pyrola, Pipsissewa are bringing back memories of long hikes with Ernie in the Bitterroots and the Montana Rockies. Niiiice.

Leopard Lily, I think. A new buddy of the trail.

Exhausted Dionysus napping against a pine tree during a break, next to some small grand firs.

As it was getting dark we still hadn't found a campsite, so we stepped off the trail onto a logging road in the deep woods high up in the mountains. A logging parking lot (we presume) -- a dirt flat spot cleared in the trees for logs to be piled and then loaded up -- served as our campsite. We cowboy camped under the stars, and the night was warm enough that buzzing and whining flying things pestered our ears and faces throughout the night.

Mosquito-netted Pan reading in bed.

Wide-awakes in the night while thru-hiking is not uncommon. So many aches and pains. And there the stars are above us. Seano and I remember how we "told time" by the stars wheeling during our long trek with Tuaregs across part of the Sahara. We had 12 hours of night then. You spent a lot fo time with your face to the night sky. Here, too, we pay attention to the stars. We try to doze, try to sleep, then roll over and check the sky to see how much time has passed. Word of advice: don't trust the Big Dipper or Little Dipper to tell you much. That's like watching the hour-hand of a clock to see if time has passed. You have to keep an eye on Taurus or Hercules or Cygnus. Those are the minute hands. They'll tell you the truth about the night. And this night we had the flash and zip of meteorites streaking on and off. I guess they're the second hand of the clock. They, also, don't tell you much -- but what fun to watch.


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