Day 55: Friday, June 28

Tenting a bit of the way down the Benson Lake Trail (PCT mi 973.5), walked 25.3 miles today

Woke up at 7:30, did not actually get on the PCT headed north until about 9 because the first time I tried to leave I got lost in the Glen Aulin labyrinth. Didn't realize I had to backtrack part of yesterday's path to get back to the PCT. Other World showed me the way, then she and I walked and talked for a few miles. She and her fiance want to move from San Diego to Williams, Oregon, of all places, to settle down once they're married next spring. Neither of them have ever been there or know anyone there. To each his own.

Took a nice lunch break at Virginia Canyon, which I soon learned was the last place on the trail free of bugs. It was hot today, maybe 90, def the warmest since the end of the desert section. My bandannas, at 1oz each, have been dead weight for a long time now but I finally put them to use taking a cold drip shower from the river. Zipped off my shants for the first time since owning them and busted out a pretty awful 4-mile climb to Benson Pass. Ran into Billy Goat, a living trail legend, on the way up but never even got to introduce myself because another thru-hiker named Carrot was already talking to him asking such incisive questions as, "Billy Goat,what's Northern California like?" and "Billy Goat, when does it start raining in Washington?" Got to the pass and it was cooler and windy and there was no water around and I thought, "Great, there won't be any bugs here" ... then I saw two other hikers sitting with their head nets on and quickly realized how horribly, horribly wrong my assumption was. Couldn't really take my intended break up there ... At one point when I was trying to relax anyway I reached back, slapped the back of my shoulder, and 5 dead mosquitos showed up on my palm. Got worse from there, the entire hike down was a slog through a swampy and apparently neglected piece of trail, got lost for 15 minutes when the trail completely disappeared in the middle of a boulder field. Couldn't concentrate on anything except the bugs, I even hiked with my head net on, which I would normally say is way hot and uncomfortable, but it was better than having them bite my face, which they were definitely doing. It was getting dark by the time I got down to the vicinity of the lake ... Camping options on the PCT were nonexistent due to swampiness, so I went down the spur to the lake and eventually found a passable spot. Bugs were insane here too but I put on my mosquito playlist, for now comprised of "Welcome to the Terrordome" by Public Enemy and "Seek and Destroy" by Metallica, and methodically eliminated all the 20 or so mosquitos that had ridden into the tent with me when I first got in. The bugs suck so bad that I'm considering doing more big miles tomorrow and getting to Sonora Pass Sunday afternoon instead of Monday sometime, which was my original plan. I don't like to use hyperbole, but it's kind of torturous having to hike in this. The mosquitos control everything ... Can't take breaks, can't get enough calories down, don't even want to stop and look at the maps, etc. Could use to just get this section over with ASAP so I can go back to my usual MO of enjoying walking.