Day Twelve: Nero and Night Hiking

Mile 109.5 to mile 114.5
5 miles

Today is lazy on purpose. I’m taking a nero, which is like a zero but you hike a little bit – Nearly a Zero! I sleep in and don’t plan to hike out until it’s cooler, so I have until 4pm or 5pm. A bunch of other hikers have this same plan. I’m getting used to all of this – the trail, the routines, the zero/nero chores, the other hikers. It’s day 12 and I’ve been on the trail almost two weeks.

I get up and try to find a ride to the post office. The sheriff in this town does early morning shuttle rides to the post office, which is adorable, but I’ve slept in too long to score one of those rides. Apparently there’s a trail angel parked in the lot giving out beer and potato chips. It’s a bit a early for me to have a beer but I am always down for chips. I saunter over in my silly laundry outfit from yesterday because I like it so much and want to keep airing out my body, specifically my butt. Will I ever not be thinking about my butt?

I’d texted Carrot about my butt chafe issues and she texts me back today:

It turns out that the trail angel giving out beer is a hiker’s dad/husband – two hikers, Jordan and Trudy, just got in today, and they’re from San Diego so their dad/husband drove to see them and bring them resupply stuff. It’s so sweet! And…there’s Diet Coke in the cooler!! Trudy tells me she loves Diet Coke so she requested it and I should help myself to as much as I want. Jordan says once they hike out his dad will give me a ride to the post office and then bring me back. It’s only a mile away but I’m expecting three boxes and really don’t want to walk more than I have to today. I’m very grateful for the offered ride and I wait for him to be ready. It’s so simple for life to be good.

The post office is easy. I heard it was busy earlier but now it’s 11am and empty. I walk in and retrieve my three packages and then ride back to the community center. Jordan’s dad leaves and wishes me luck and I head inside to open my boxes.

One package is from my mom, one is from my friend Jess (who is also hiking the PCT this year and started just a week or so after me!) and one is from myself/Susie. People do all sorts of hybrid resupply strategies on the PCT; I am sending myself some boxes, but not too many. For context, some people send zero, and Cate and Mike are sending 30. I am sending 6 in California and will decide what I want to do for Oregon and Washington later.

Anyway I filled my boxes with food and the maps I’d need for this section at Barb and Susie’s place before I left, and now Susie has a document that indicates when and where she should mail each box. I imagined the resupply job would be a huge pain for whoever did it, but Susie is literally the sweetest human in the world and assures me that she finds it fun. She’s decorated my box with art and poetry from We’moon, the feminist astrological datebook she and Barb help create with a team of other women and that I used to work for, and she’s stuffed sweet notes inside. My mom decorated my box with flower stickers and a giant pink bow and wrote me the sweetest card, and Jess wrote me an encouraging letter and sent me a bunch of hard candies, in response to me complaining about dry mouth a few weeks ago.

I’m so fucking touched by the energy and love and care everyone is sending my way. I almost cry sorting through my resupply loot. I have way too much food and even more good vibes. I carefully go through the food I’ve sent myself and my mom sent me and decide what needs to go in the hiker free box and what I will carry on this next stretch. I tuck the love and positive energy away in my heart to pull out when I’m having a hard time. I can’t get over how many people are cheering for me, how lucky I am. Thank you, I think to myself. Thank you, I text Mom and Susie and Jess. Thank you, thank you.

The rest of my time in “town” is a blur. I’ve heard that town is stressful and I didn’t think I would feel that way but I do. There’s so much that could be done but no time, it seems. I try to be efficient. Call Mom. FaceTime Alley. Buy more o-rings for my filter. Stop in at the cool gear shop in an airstream that lives at Warner Springs and chat with the folks that work there. Clean my stupid pot. Soak my feet and re-tape my blisters. I’m gonna be the last person hiking out of here, I think. Raw Hide left at 4 but I wasn’t ready. Everyone else left too. It’s almost 5. Sigh.

Before I go some exciting things happen. Claire and Hannah, the mother daughter duo I haven’t seen since Mt Laguna, show up! It’s Hannah’s last day and I’m so so glad I get to see them.

And then I recognize Lion Heart, a woman I’ve followed on Instagram and her blog for more than a year! She’s hiked the PCT before and has done a lot of other long distance hiking and I admire her a lot. And then! Toby! I forget exactly how Toby and I connected but I believe his girlfriend found my Autostraddle article and the Alley found his blog and then I found his blog and I dunno, he’s a queer person hiking this trail and I’ve been hoping he’ll catch up to me! And he has! I’m actually so disappointed to only see him and Lion Heart for a minute, but I’ve got to hike out tonight. They’re fast. They’ll catch up.

Finally, finally, finally, I leave. It’s 6pm now. I’m going to be night hiking tonight. Alone. I think I’m okay with that.

The hike out is easy. It’s still hot but the sun is setting and the fields are flat. I’m happy but a little anxious about night time hiking. I’m only aiming to do 6 miles or so. Everyone else who hiked out today was aiming to camp at mile 115. We’ll see.

I keep walking through the field and then! Cows! Oh! In…the middle of the trail. Wow, okay. There are like 15 big black cows just hanging out on the trail. Neat, they’re hiking the PCT too. I’m not thrilled. I’m totally alone and about to face off with some large heavy animals. Um…

I approach slowly, not sure how to proceed. Ugh, it would be so annoying if I died on the PCT in a cow stampede. Like, super anti-climactic, ya know? The cows are interested in me. I hold out my trekking poles and try to avoid eye contact. “No!” I say forcefully. “Stay! No! Goodbye!” They let me pass. Whew.

But not 100 feet later, there is another group of cows! Good grief. These ones are more interested in me and refuse to move. I detour off the trail into the tall grass to avoid them, doing my same move with my trekking pole and strong voice. “No! No! No!”

I must look absurd, I think. One more group of cows ahead. I’m tempted to stop and take a million photos but I remind myself about now wanting to die in a cow stampede on the PCT. I make it past the last group of cows with my signature trekking pole/firm voice move. Soon I get to a livestock fence and gratefully open and close the gate behind me. Bye, cows! Gotta go. Whew.

I feel really solo again, like I did when I hiked out of Mt. Laguna. I can’t tell if I feel more confident this time. My feet definitely feel better.

I get a little lost in a dry river bed where the trail makes a weird unmarked fork, but I realize quickly and am able to get myself back on track. It spooks me a little but is ultimately fine.

The sun starts setting as I climb up up up and I make peace with the idea of night hiking for real. It’s fine, I tell myself. I’ll just hike until I don’t want to anymore. The sunset is beautiful and I continue to enjoy being by myself. My own pace, in my own head. It’s good. Everything is good.

Soon it’s dark and then it’s dark dark and I’m slightly less happy about my choices. I’ve put my headlamp on in anticipation of the real dark night and am glad I have it. The stars are coming out, and a sliver of moon. I feel scared but try to calm myself and see the beauty. It is beautiful. I chant to myself as I walk: “I am safe, I am brave, I am magical.” I say it out loud, over and over.

I haven’t seen another human for a few miles, and I’m weirdly not scared of animals. I try not to be scared of the dark. I remember Susie’s note to me in my package today: “V, if the path beats you down in the daylight – remember to let the stars and grandmother moon heal you in the night!” I call in my mom’s magic, my late grandma’s magic, my own magic. I am safe, I am brave, I am magical.

I get to mile 114, one mile short of where I was aiming for, and stop. I hear the stream rushing and think about how much I don’t want to cross water at night and how nice it would be to wake up to water.

There’s one other tent here already – I hear women’s voices speaking in French from inside and assume it must be the French girls, Camille and Juliet. Their trail name is The Mermaids. How funny to have a shared trail name. How fitting for them to be camping by water.

I make peace with stopping here for the night and quickly get my tent up. I can’t remember if sleeping near water might cause condensation in my tent but I suppose I’ll find out in the morning. I eat a cold dinner – just a combination of snacks, really – and get ready for bed, trying to be quiet so as not to disrupt The Mermaids.

I want to plan for tomorrow but I’m so tired. I want to write but I’m exhausted for that, too. I take some brief notes and promise to catch up when I can. Blogging on trail is hard. I set an alarm for 5am. It’s nice to be back on the trail. I fall asleep to the sound of rushing water and frogs croaking at the creek.

7 thoughts on “Day Twelve: Nero and Night Hiking

  1. Joy de Beyer says:

    Thank you so much for sharing another beautiful day. I can imagine its hard to blog – so generous and lovely of you. This blog reader is very grateful.

  2. stacia says:

    Zinc oxide is really good for healing butt chafe! Butt chafe is basically diaper rash, so diaper rash ointment with zinc helps a lot. Burt’s Bees makes a great one with zinc and almond oil. In a pinch you could maybe use zinc sunscreen; I’m sure you or some hikers nearby have some. Put it on after you clean things at night, then clean again in the morning. For prevention / during the day, I recommend cyclists’ chamois cream if you can get your hands on some. Good luck! I’m enjoying following your blog. Happy trails!

  3. Eva says:

    Just read the entirety of your PCT blog so far–thank you for sharing your experience with city-dwelling strangers like me! I’m so looking forward to the rest of your hike. Oh! A few posts back you mentioned cleaning the oatmeal pot…sometimes out of laziness I’ve been known to pour water directly into the packet and eat from there 😉

    Happy trails!

  4. Schrauf says:

    Love that you told the cows to STAY, and love that you are not scared to hike at night. It takes some people weeks or years before they feel okay doing that. And generally it’s totally safe.

  5. Karvari says:

    Really enjoying reading all of your adventures and thoughts. You are seriously inspiring me to put this trek on my bucket list, but even if I never make it, your description is so vivid, it’s like I am right there with you. Looking forward to the next post, whenever you catch up with them 🙂

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