Mile 1018 to mile 1026
In the morning Spark and I are the last ones left in town. We get coffee at the “coffee cafe” across the street, which is crowded with pottery cats and scrapbook art. On the counter is the flyer for Bridgeport’s “151st annual fourth of July parade.” There will be a turkey shoot and a greased pole race. Outside, marching band music is piping from the beribboned courthouse.
At the post office I ship away my bear canister and bounce ahead my stove and some of my warm clothes. I’ve got a nutella jar for soaking my dinners and I’m gonna try and go stoveless for a while, just to see if I like it. If I go stoveless I won’t have to carry a stove, or a pot, or a windscreen, or a stand, or a bottle of fuel. And my dinners will be fast- just mix it in the jar with water and carry it until it’s time to eat. Instigate has been stoveless since the start of the trail, and she’s always spooning lentils out of her little peanut butter jar while I slave over my popcan stove. I’m feeling inspired.
After the post office I go to the burger barn and order a burrito bowl.
“I’m excited for the turkey shoot,” I hear some locals say.
The sky curdles, thunder cracks, and suddenly there’s rain. I eat my burrito bowl outside under an overhang, watching the bits of trash blow across the road. Spark texts me- he’s holed up at the coffee shop, reading sci-fi.
“Maybe it’ll blow over,” I say. “And then we can hitch.”
The rain stops and we stand on the roadside with our new, tinier packs, trying to catch a ride. I can’t believe how small my pack is and I keep looking at it and sort of smiling to myself. A pickup pulls off for us, an older man and his daughter, headed somewhere or other for the holiday. They take us halfway to the trailhead and then drop us, right in front of the Marine Mountain Warfare Training Center, which is a bunch of tough-looking, windowless bunkers clustered up against the mountain. It has begun to rain again and we stand in our rain jackets, staring at the empty road. Every now and then a marine in a honda civic with tinted windows will pull out of the center, but they are always going the other way and they wave and then drive off, mufflers rumbling.
Jared is going the other way but he’ll take us to the pass anyway. He’s a marine who’s worked at the center for a while, doing some sort of tech job. He’s section hiked parts of the PCT and lately, he’s been seeing hikers hitching from Bridgeport back to the pass. He always gives them rides.
At the trailhead there’s a bright spread on the long picnic table- pluots, strawberries, american flag cake. Beer. It’s a trail angel named The Owl, set up for a week doing trail magic. We stand around drinking beer and eating cake and watching the rain taper off. At last, full of beer and sugar, it’s time to hike.
The smooth trail winds up through meadows of false heleborne and yellow mule’s ears. Every mile or so a clear little stream burbles out of the earth. After an hour and a half we’re standing on a rocky outcroppong on the top of our last ten-thousand foot pass, looking down over everything. Our last ten-thousand foot pass, I think. I can’t believe it. After this we won’t go above nine thousand, not for the rest of the trail. Elevation sickness, schmelevation sickness, I think.
I feel great.
The trail is flat and fast and easy after the pass and we hike till 8:30, camp next to a little stream. I eat my rehydrated instant pinto beans from my plastic nutella jar. They taste amazing.
The good life.