Mile 835 to 813
In order to bag another pass I face a long Sierra day. At least 21 miles to get to a campsite on the other side. It is a long yet beautiful slug up the 12,047 foot Mather Pass. The marmots at high elevation are like big fat house cats. They chase each other, but not too fast. When startled they hide behind a rock and peek out like a cat hides behind a piece of furniture when someone new shows up. You just want to scoop them up, cuddle them and scratch them under their chins.
Bay to Breakers is a semi-serious race/parade/party in San Francisco. People dress up in wild costumes. Some appear in nothing more than running shoes and green hats. One group I love dresses up as salmon and runs the race upstream, against the normal flow of traffic. The last few days I have been feeling like those salmon.
I have officially found the PCT herd. I am heading south against the flow. When flowing with the traffic you only see an occasional PCTer. But now I am knocked off the trail by one every few minutes. I also realize I have become a PCTest. They all look alike to me. They sport trail runners, dirty girl gaiters, shorts, quick dry shirts, floppy hats, bright colored sun glasses, tiny packs with Zrest pads strapped on and oh yes they are rocking a ZZ Top beard. The only difference with the ladies is they are more likely to wear a skirt and their beards are not as full. Watching them one after another, they no longer seem real. They seem like criminal artist renditions of what a thru-hiker is purported to look like.
In this section of trail the PCT and John Muir Trail (JMT) overlap. PCTers tend to go north. Most JMTers go south. Heading south I am often mistaken for a JMTer. You can sense an arrogance and pecking order from the PCTers. Day hikers are the lowest. Section hikers are slightly more respected. JMTers are more legit than section hikers, but really just PCT wannabes. Occasionally someone picks up some kind of vibe, or smell and says “Are you a PCTer? But you’re going south?” At times I am embarrassed to be associated with the snobs, so I pretend to be a JMTer.
The campsite I had targeted is packed with tents. I decide to go further, but the stream crossing is blocked by a naked woman. I return awkwardly to some other women to wait out the bathing. One woman mentions tomorrow is hike naked day, so she guesses this is just an early freebie. For those that don’t know, there is a thru-hiker tradition to hike naked on the Summer Solstice. When my sister first heard of it she offered to be a trail angel providing sun screen, but only the spray on kind. Luckily for everyone I am not one for this type of tradition. Other freer spirits however may make for an interesting tomorrow.
I eventually find a private site. Settled into my tent, I really need to go to the bathroom, but the cloud of mosquitoes convinces me to hold on until morning.