Date: July 26, 2017
Miles: 26.4 miles (42.5km), from North Creek to Milton Creek at mile 1,190.7.
Health: Trouble staying motivated.
I had my alarm set to 5:30 am but couldn't wake up at that time. Granted, last night I got to camp so late that it was a bit too early to get up. I wake up at 6:45 am and as I get out of my shelter, all the tents from last night are gone. I quickly pack my gear and I'm on the trail little past seven.
The morning hike goes well, for some reason I can get up to my full speed right out of the gate, which never happens. I'm usually captain slow-mo for the first hour in the morning until my body fully wakes up.
I climb up from the valley we slept last night and get up on the ridgeline. As I climb I walk through fields of beautiful yellow wildflowers and clouds of butterflies that fly along the trail and all around me. This must be Northern California at its most gorgeous.
I run into few southbound section hikers but no more PCT hikers. Strange.
I keep rolling in the miles fast but can't help but feel demotivated. This has been going on for a while now. I'm not sure if it's the fact that I'm hiking alone, or the realization that there's still so much of the trail left, or that now that I've seen the Sierra everything feels underwhelming.
I struggle to find the spark I had, and at times I seem to find it, but then I lose it quickly. It sucks to say this but I'm not enjoying hiking now as much as I have up to this point. These past few days have been more of a mental struggle, not as much a physical one.
Even with all that, I'm soon done with the first 15 miles and it's time for lunch. I find a nice, shaded spot close to a stream and make my lunch. While I wait for the pasta to soak I work on some upcoming blog posts. I'm trying to get everything ready so that tomorrow when I get to Sierra City I can upload everything and get a couple of blog posts out.
As I’m waiting for my lunch to soak, Knock On Wood and Honeybuns walk by. It’s good to see familiar faces. We chat for awhile while they get water from the stream but they soon have to head down the trail.
After lunch, I get up and keep hiking. I feel even more sluggish than I did in the morning. Damn you, head! At one point, trying to think positively, I say to myself "well, at least my shoulder and knee are healing nicely". Wouldn’t you know, less than twenty minutes later I feel a pop in my left shin and feel the familiar pain of starting shin splints. Oh, come on!
I limp for a while and find a big log to sit on. I sit down, bury my face in my hands and start crying. I feel like I’m completely breaking down, both mentally and physically. Soon I start laughing through my tears because of how absurd the situation is. I must be really tired.
I look around and the forest looks so peaceful and beautiful. Why do I feel so down while surrounded by all this beauty? I shake myself out of the self-pity and open my pack to take out the compression sleeve and put it on my left shin. It's not as good as the shin guard I used earlier but it'll do.
I sit on the log for a while, massaging my shin, and then get up and keep hiking. The massage and the compression sleeve seem to help. After the breakdown, I feel much better and more connected to the nature and everything around me. I feel like everything is beautiful again. I think I’ve been too focused on not getting the miles done I’ve wanted, and forgot to enjoy the actual journey.
I remove my headphones and just enjoy the quietness of the surrounding forest. The trail is soft and feels great under my feet. Instead of hiking fast and trying to do miles, I slow down and just marvel the massive trees around me. I'm in no hurry, I'll easily do the miles I need to do today.
While walking without my headphones, I hear a big noise about 100 feet to the right and up from where I'm walking. I see a large animal scrambling away from me and hear the noise it makes as it pushes through the thick underbrush. A bear? Or a mountain lion? It was light brown, like a mountain lion, but it didn't have a long tail. Also, I don't think I could've sneaked up on a mountain lion like this easily. Must have been a lightly colored bear. Shame I didn't get a better look at it.
For the rest of the way, I hike lightly, not to stress my shin. The trail starts to slowly drop down to a canyon and I avoid putting too much stress on my knees as well. While crossing a small stream I see Knock On Wood and Honeybuns again. They’re having a dinner before getting to camp. It’s smart not to eat at your camp to not spread the smell of food and attract unwanted visitors. I know it’s the proper thing to do in the bear territory but I’m just too lazy. They mention a beautiful spot coming up and it sounds like a great spot for camping. We decide to meet up there.
I soon reach the spot we talked about. It’s right next to a river, in a gorgeous canyon. Sadly there’s not enough space for camping here as there are already two other people camping here. I leave the last spot for Knock On Wood and Honeybuns and keep on walking. I cross the bridge next to the camp spot and find another spot just 100 feet (30m) down the trail, just on the other side of the river.
I set up my tarp, wash myself and my socks in the river and get to bed early. Tomorrow I have a short walk to Sierra City, a town day!