Day 82 – Racing the Dark

Pineapple and I are up at the usual hour, but we take it slow this morning, enjoying the inside of the Peter Grubb Hut and the company of Six and Meer and the section hiker therein. We’re an hour later than usual before we convince ourselves to get a moveon, head out, do the thing.

Outside the walls of the Hut, it’s another day in paradise, if there’s a relatively steep climb to start.

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The downs and ups are even today – down into the forest, and up into some views.

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In the middle of the morning, I get a strange combination of things: snowfields and motorcycle noises. The latter are seemingly too close for comfort – there must be a road or seven nearby – and I don’t know that I’ll ever get used to seeing snow in summer. It’s a bit surreal.

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Up and down, up and down, trail it leads me up and down, sun it shines on field and town, trail it leads me up and down.

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I run across two people without packs, in civilian clothes, and wonder where they came from; soon enough, I’m on a road, where I spy a group of cars perched a ways away from where the trail splits from the road again. There’s a group of people, too, and while I’m curious about what they’re doing up there, they don’t wave or try to get my attention. They have other things to do.

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Mulleinnnnnnn. It’s an invasive species in Colorado, and it’s notoriously hard to uproot.

They’re making enough merry that I almost head up anyway, but I spy Pineapple’s blue hat on top of Pineapples khaki shirt in the distance, and head over to her instead.

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Pineapple and I chat for a while about how pretty it is out, how nice a day it’s been, how nice it is just to sit. We agree to meet at mile 1187.0 to camp, a little over 26 miles from where we started our day. She wants to sit a little longer, so I make my way on down the trail.

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Today’s just so nice – the ups have views for days, and the downs are full of green, not only of the evergreens, but also of the moss that seems a little out of place in what’s supposed to be a desert.

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Some of the forests here have been selectively cut, ostensibly for the health of the other trees in the area. I wonder why, make a pledge to learn a little more about forestry when I get the chance.

There’s also more volcanic rock here, which I expect – we’re getting closer and closer to the volcanic cascades, and the land is changing to match.

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I get to the agreed-upon, enormous spot at about 6:30, and there’s no one there. Bummer. I wait around for Pineapple, but I don’t put my pack down; my feet are itchy, and I want to move – there’s still another whole hour and more of daylight left, and there’s a campsite near Milton Creek in less than 4 miles, which is pretty much entirely downhill from here. After 15 minutes of dancing around, trying to decide what to do, I leave her a note just to the side of the trail saying I’m going for it, and I leave a stick arrow in the trail that points to it. I hope it doesn’t blow away, and I set off up the tiny up for the down.

The down is long and arduous, switchbacking a million times, kissing Milton Creek and running away, giggling. The dark is coming, closing in quickly as I descend into the valley, and I’m skipping over rocks and trying not to break my ankles in an effort to get to camp quickly. I wonder if Pineapple is behind me, and if so, how far. I didn’t want to lose her – maybe I should have stayed – but my blood is singing in my veins, and anyway I’m sure I’ll see her in Sierra City tomorrow.

There’s still light in the sky when I roll into camp, where there are people: a thruhiker couple and two section hikers, who’ve brought camp chairs with them. They’re letting the thrus use the chairs, and the two look like benevolent monarchs, reigning over the conversation, slouched in the pinnacle of comfort. I find a spot to set up, find another spot for Pineapple, and then set up in the worse of the two – if she comes, she’ll have done her first 30 today, and I want her to sleep comfy cozy if that’s the case.

Sure enough, less than a half-hour later, here she comes, and I howl and cheer her into camp, much to the amusement of the other occupants. We eat side by side, swap stories for the day, and then roll into bed, to dream of tomorrow and Sierra City.

Start: 1160.8 • End: 1190.7 • Day: 29.9
Notable Accomplishments: Left an hour later than normal, still did basically 30 • Pineapple’s first 30 • Walked a lot sans podcasts

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