June 14, 2018
One never knows who will come around a corner of the trail. Here I am, hiking along, utterly absorbed in my own rhythm, when suddenly the trail takes a little jog, I look up, and …
the trail is guarded by a charred dragon! Perhaps he became overly enthusiastic as he breathed fire upon some hapless hiker.
I manage to negotiate around this apparition and continue my merry way. But a half mile later, a forest dinosaur rears up to greet Jay and me!
With a respectful bow in his direction, we press on, entering deep forest, with towering evergreens cutting the light into attenuated glowing sunbeams. Needle-carpeted trail silences my footsteps. An atmosphere of reverence steals into my being as I proceed slowly through nature’s cathedral.
“RAUK-Kak-kak-cac!” The strident screech of a Stellar’s jay breaks the stillness. I laugh, and continue.
A contrapuntal duo of chickadees taunt me with reminders of impossible lunch options.
But we haven’t even had breakfast yet! We come to a fantastic view on the edge of a rocky cliff.
“How about breakfast here?” I seat myself on the edge, legs dangling.
“Too rocky,” Jay is interested in more comfortable ‘furniture’. He snaps my picture, and we continue, my stomach grumbling at the delay.
We come to a sunny spot, with an appropriate slope for sitting. Hurray, breakfast! (Yes, sardines, raisins, cheese, nuts, chocolate. Over 700 miles hiked, and we haven’t tired of our trail meal yet!)
As we’re eating, two hikers appear! Boyscout Wheelchair and Sunrise Chardonnay, from France, are the first PCT hikers we’ve actually seen on the trail since we left Walker Pass.
“Please, tell me the stories behind your hiker names,” I beg.
Boyscout Wheelchair laughs. “Do you remember Casa de Luna? They give you a bandana, right? I tied mine on like a boy scout. Then they told me I had to dance. I don’t dance! ‘Just do the wheelchair motion real fast,’ they said. So I did, and there is my name!”
I turn to Sunrise Chardonnay. “And your name?”
She smiles. “Sunrise because we get up early, to try to get through the snow before it gets soft.”
“It doesn’t work,” Boyscout Wheelchair interjects.
“And Chardonnay because it sounds like my name, Charlotte. And I do like Chardonnay!”
I look at this young woman and think, ‘yes, with that beautiful pink top and engaging grin, Sunrise Chardonnay fits!’
The whimsical nature of the day continues after breakfast. We pass a huge stump which begs me to climb.
A butterfly flitters across the path, whizzing around Jay’s head, then heading away. Unexpectedly, she turns and comes wavering back towards us. I hold my breath, willing her to stop near enough for a good look. Jay snaps a picture as she rests on a green tendril.
(Wikipedia later tells me this butterfly’s name, California sister. ‘What an odd name,’ I think, so I read further, and discover that sister refers to the white markings on the wings which some long ago lepidopterist thought looked like a nun’s habit. Talk about imagination!)
Just as he crosses a small stream, Jay suddenly stops. I approach slowly, and see a mother grouse on the trail!
“Her babies ran ahead of her into the brush,” Jay whispers.
I fumble for my camera. By the time I’m ready, she has followed her babies off the trail. I hide behind a fat hemlock trunk, determined to get a picture. But, in keeping with the capricious nature of the day, my only photo has a sapling bisecting the mother grouse! Ah, well.
Jay looks it up and tells me that we’ve most likely seen a sooty grouse, which eats fir, hemlock, and pine needles in winter, while dining on fresh greens, berries, and insects in the summer. We all need occasional variety in our diet!
In the afternoon, we come to the California/Oregon border. “Wow!” I exclaim. “We’ve actually reached the border! We should take a picture!”
“Why bother?” Jay asks. “This imaginary line has no meaning in our hike. It’s not like we’ve hiked the whole length of California yet.”
Nevertheless, I did want a picture, and Jay agrees to join me in my selfie attempt.
I open the lid of the metal box holding the trail journal, and laugh out loud at the first thing I see.
Yes, the playful nature of the PCT is in full force today!
Near the end of our day, a determined snowdrift encroaches upon the trail. Jay skirts the edge of it, but naturally, I gracelessly end up giving the icy blanket a quick hug as I lose my balance halfway across. Whimsy reigns once again!