Somehow the dew fist came crashing down (with the magic gentleness only a dew fist can muster) last night, and though I slept quite warm, my tent was soaked both inside and out and my sleeping bag was a dampish mess. I was up at 5:30 and packing carefully, trying to keep wet things appropriately compartmentalized to prevent sogging up my dry things. I climbed away from the Pasayten River, out of the endless burn, and immediately the forest looked different, looked more ‘west’ of the Cascades, almost as though the Pasayten were the dividing line. The forest was greener, lusher. There were more firs and fewer pines, and the undergrowth was more broadleafed plants and less grass. The trail was decent though overgrown and littered with blowdowns, which slowed me down as I climbed from my camp at 4200′ to meet the Pacific Crest Trail (only at 5800′ but I had to go over a 6800′ pass first).
From the second I got on the PCT, meeting it only a few miles south of its northern terminus, I started seeing people in numbers almost unimaginable only yesterday. None were thru-hikers, but many were section hikers, people working on the trail on section at a time. None had heard of the PNT for the most part, unless they ran into Beth, Dan, and Stefan who had apparently been through this morning. One exception was a couple who are hiking this section of the PNT, the first such folks I’ve met (and likely the last?) I ended up walking most of the day with a woman who was out for a week backpacking trip, and between chatting with her and with all the other people I met on the trail, I feel almost over socialized. I can feel in my body the impact of having my attention be so outwardly focused, in contrast to how it is most of the time on the trail: quite inward. I didn’t drink enough water today or stretch enough, I wasn’t listening my inner flow of wishes and thoughts and anxieties that are ever-present every day here. It was really nice to talk so much anyway, to feel like I’ve dipped my hand into the seething pot of humanity just a little. Sometimes it can get a bit lonely out here.
One mildly amusing part of the day was the incessant warning coming from everybody I passed about the washouts on the trail where the PCT cuts across a steep east-facing scree slope. ‘It took us an hour to go a quarter mile’ or ‘It’s really bad and really dangerous’. Of course, by PNT standards it was nothing at all, but then PNT standards are in another language altogether. It was interesting being in the PCT again, realizing how much of the trail I didn’t remember (like the part I went through today, which had some jaw-droppingly spectacular scenery but I think was obscured in clouds when I went through on the PCT in 2005), and reflecting on how different a trail that is from the PNT. It’s a much easier trail, but I doubt PCT hikers realize how plush their experience is. I certainly didn’t. And yet, less than a quarter mile off the PCT onto another trail (the one I’m on), the tread is disappearing and the blowdowns are piled on like toothpicks. And for the PNT, that counts as good trail.