Mile 1518 to 1534
I wake in the night and exit my tent to pee. In the darkness I notice the outline of a tent. I have a new neighbor. It can’t be Senior Whiskers as he typically uses a bivy, which is pretty much just a water proof cover for his sleeping bag. Whoever it is, at least I am not alone.
I quickly return to my dream state, only to be woken by an unexpected show. Apparently the good Lord remembered I had not had the opportunity to observe any of the Fourth of July pyrotechnics, so he gathered up all the left overs and detonated them directly over my head. The lightening storm is amazing with single, double, and triple flashes followed immediately by thunderous roars. Some of the roars last so long I am certain the thunder machine has broken and that a repair crew will need to be called in.
Up on this very high ridge I am quite pleased to be near a small clump of trees. If the lightening decides to touch ground I hope it will chose one of these trees and not my Benjamin Franklin combination lightening rod / trekking poles that are currently holding up my Tarptent. After an amazingly climactic crescendo, I hear a polite round of applause, which turns out to be rain on my Tarptent.
Deciding when it is safe to exit is a tricky game. Just when I conclude the inordinate time is inordinate enough, there is another flash bomb, resetting my game delayed clock. I eventually decide to defer to the better judgement of my neighbor. When he or she decides it is safe to hike, so will I. After all, the stranger is likely to be taller, providing me an extra measure of safety.
Eventually, lightening or no lightening, my body informs me it is time to exit the tent and dig a 6 inch hole. Once my duty is complete, I return to discover my neighbor’s tent has been struck by lightening. How else do I explain its sudden transformation into a large arching log, clearly in the shape of a tent? I slowly begin to question the wisdom of deferring this decision. I clearly need to find water, the neighbor not so much. After a lengthy discussion we agree to separate. We promise to write each other, but both know we never will. After packing up and heading out, I refuse to glance back, afraid to discover it is no longer even looking at me.
As I hike this razors edge ridge, it is clear this is no place to be during a lightening storm. Looking around I see no one. Without a mirror I cannot see the only idiot out here. This trail is my only reminder that other people exist. I will follow it toward Highway 3, Terri’s pick me up location.
At a spring I am surprised to find Senior Whiskers. He did not have the patience to zero in the Castle Crag State Park. He left a few hours after I did and camped a few miles behind me. He apparently passed my camp very early without either of us knowing. He was hiking during the lightening storm and was actually knocked to the ground.
We hike together to Deadfall Lake. After a rest, he pushes on to get more miles. I am doing the opposite. I am slowing down so I don’t have to sit all day at Highway 3 waiting for Terri. I swim in the lake, rinse clothes, and relax.