Day 57: Sunday, June 30

At the Silver Maple Motel in Bridgeport (PCT mi 1018.5), walked 24.9 miles today

Had an alarm set for 5 and it actually worked, all 3 of us (me, Hitch, No Day) were on the road by 6. Everyone has a routine now where all food is eaten and everything is packed up inside the tent, then all you do when you finally get out is break the tent down, shove it in the pack, and be off in less than two minutes so that the mosquitos don't have time to completely phlebotomize you. Head nets on the whole 5 miles up to Dorothy Lake Pass ... Suffice it to say the mosquitos hadn't forgotten about that place either and we did not tarry long. After more awful mud-pit walking and stream fords, we got to the 1000-mile mark and at least one of our party may have turned on his phone and belted out the Dwight Yoakam standard "A Thousand Miles From Nowhere" to the silent forest. Then we sat down for dinner--not where we eat but where we are eaten, as Hamlet would put it. After the saddest and most bug-infested celebratory snack break in history, we moved on.

... And then all of a sudden the bugginess and the bogginess stopped. The transition was almost instant and it felt like the desert again. No more white Sierra granite blocks, instead some dry red and brown volcanic gravelly stuff. Passed by and remembered the exact site where I had camped 8 years previous on the Overland Shasta Explorer of 2005. Then the trail started to climb into this crazy treeless red-rock alpine zone, and it was possibly the best I've felt the entire PCT so far. Had my headphones in and music on for the first time in weeks, the mosquitos were gone, the swamp was behind, and a really high, really epic-looking ridge traverse was straight ahead. Bombed through this whole area happy as could be ... I think it would have been remarkable under any circumstances, but having just come out of the two shittiest, sloppiest, most frustrating days so far, it seemed like heaven. In one of the pictures you can see Hitch's umbrella (silver dot) and a section-hiker (black dot) wayyy down below me on the trail.

Couldn't be contained at this point, which was mid-afternoonish ... Knew that Hitch probably wasn't going into Bridgeport because of the off-trail break she's about to take for a wedding, and that No Day wasn't feeling like getting to the highway all in one day. So I just went and went, 13 miles that would've otherwise seemed difficult flew by in 4 hours. Got to the road at Sonora Pass around 4:30, stuck out my thumb and maybe the fifth car picked me up and took me all the way to Bridgeport ... So much for the legendarily hard hitch. It was a family of three on their way to Mammoth for vacation, they had strong Russian accents and knew a _lot_ about the trail already. The dad, Alex, drove with a typically Russian disregard for oncoming traffic and road lines, but they were fantastic people to score a ride from because of how knowledgeable and good-natured they were.

They dropped me off near the laundromat ... My only concern at this point was where I would be sleeping, but immediately I saw Redbeard and he said he and 3 others had a motel room for the night and I might be able to crash on the floor. This worked out fine ... later I went to dinner at Rhino's, the local watering hole, with Songbird and Banana Ripper, a couple from Massachusetts. Songbird in her head was able to anagram Scrubhiker to my real name in about 30 seconds, which is essentially record time. Drank a couple of beers, retired to the room to do internet errands on the phone. No one else from the room around because they all caught a ride to some hot springs 30 minutes away.