Day 50: Couples therapy…

Day: Monday, July 18th 2016

Miles: 1027.8 – 1041.3

Remote Camp 1027.8 – Eagle Creek Remote Camp 1041.3

The herd is an interesting term. It’s colloquially used to describe the main body of Pacific Crest Trail hikers, a grouping that occurs due to preferred start dates, the bundling effect of towns and places like Hiker Heaven as well as humans natural preference to group together along the way. The herd has always existed to some degree, but its something that has hugely increased in relative size with the surge of interest in the PCT due to Wild, along with the general increase in thru-hikers (just like on the Applachian Trail). In some places the herd causes problems of contention and overuse. A surge that towns and business struggle to deal with. In other cases its something people try to actively avoid. In my case, due to my later start date and the two week hiatus in June, I have always been well behind the herd. Blissfully enjoying the pick of tent sites and solitude of living in the shadow of the mad rampaging herd of thru-hikers. In reality the herd isn’t that big, but given my recent mileage and ramp up, I firmly collided with the back of the herd in recent days. And that’s where the solitary nature of the trail gives you a good ability to critically analyze things. In my case I haven’t just reached the back of the herd, I’ve reached the layer of couples who started early and have sunk to the back of the herd due to pace, or from what I could see, general levels of unhappiness with each other, everyone else and basically everything around them. The couples myself and Nelson bumped into over the past few days were all positively miserable. In an endeavor to escape the sludge of unhappiness we fell into, we aimed for more miles and the hope that our theory could be proven out by getting us to the happy-couples section of the herd, and maybe even graduate to the happy-solo’s of the herd (with time of course).

The morning routine followed, I hit the trail very early around 6:30AM and followed a pleasant morning of even terrain, there was lots of up and down but everything was evenly spaced and it was pleasantly sunny but cool as I swung around a number of cinder cones, my favorite of the small volcanic features dotting the landscape for the last few days. The terrain went from supremely arid to a verdant green valley that aligned with my expectations of Washigton more than volcano country in California. Throughout the morning I met many people and did the usual repeated “hi” “howdy” or “howrye” exchange with the same people and some new people. Struck with the amount of couples about, I was pretty happy to be launching through the day solo as I had miles to make up! I lunched at Wolf Creek, ominously named but beautifully cool between the exposed sections. Thankfully  for me nobody has thought to reintroduce wolves to California (yet).

The initial pass that I was aiming for was little more than a gap in a set of hills, but the wind was quite incredible, enough to roll my pack a few times and necessitating some solid bracing as I paced a pleasant English couple up the ridge. It gave access to a secluded valley of meadow grass and alpine flowers with valley walls of volcanic rock and snow fields feeding waterfalls dripping from the edges. It was idyllic and seemed like a private space just for the eyes of the intrepid thru-hiker!

Once I crossed the pass, the view ahead also showed some of the new high-terrain that I would be hitting on my way to Lake Tahoe, more snow capped peaks and some interesting formations of lava-cones and twisted rocky crags.

With another east-west road pass ahead, named Evers Pass, the trail dropped before aligning to a unique and incredible set of crags that looked like a set of cities in the skies ahead. The winds were quite furious in this space, jammed between the inner central plains and the eastern desert in Nevada, a freight train of wind that never seemed to cease. The views were incredibly stunning however. As the light faded, I found myself in a landscape so stunningly different from that which I  in this morning that I cannot quite grasp the immensity of it.

After a long day of hiking I settled on a spot at Eagle Creek to camp – the busiest spot I have camped in to date with around 15 other hikers with quite a number of couples. It was a pleasant sociable spot hidden from the wind. A large group of us enjoyed dinner together, with varying stories, suggestions of podcasts, recipes and new uses of Cheetos being the main order of conversation. A pleasant evening after yesterday’s snafoo. Settling in to the sounds of banging winds overhead, I couldn’t help but wonder when my luck with the weather will eventually run dry!

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