Day 68: Thursday, July 11

Cowboy camping on the trail (PCT mi 1198.7), walked 10.9 miles today

Got walking at 7 sharp and the descent was constant and very gentle for 5 miles sharp. At 8:40 sharp, meaning I was walking 3 mph sharp, got to Wild Plum Road, the turnoff for the 3ish-mile alternate route into Sierra City. Halfmile doesn't mark this on his maps for some reason, but looking at the geography it's an obvious shortcut, and Yogi's notes mentioned a great waterfall and swimming hole midway down the road. Sure enough, it was an incredible spot ... Normally I don't really get off on swimming holes when hiking, although some people really do and they seek them out. But even I have to say this place was perfect and was the highlight of my day, probably the last couple of days. There was a waterfall dumping into a deep bright turquoise pool with bracing cold water and rocks all around perfect for jumping off of. Spent over an hour there swimming, jumping in, cleaning myself and my clothes and then letting them dry.

Ran into Simon just as I was getting back on the road toward town. Halfmile's notes had mentioned an elderly male citizen of Sierra City who had been reported to make "unwanted sexual advances" toward younger male hikers over the past several years ... Simon was probably the worst possible person to walk into town with because every innocent old man that we saw, he would whisper, "I bet he's the one" and then make some crude insinuation about his private life. Neither of us did a good job keeping a straight face through any of this.

Made it to the Red Moose Inn, which is hiker central in Sierra City because they allow free camping around the back and showers inside, and serve dinner for a concessionary rate. Bill and Margaret, the couple who run the place, are extremely helpful and patient but Bill especially seemed a little weary of hikers ... When I left he said something interesting to me, which is that he'd been doing this for four years and had seen a "noticeable decline" in the "quality" of hikers coming through. I obviously don't have other years to compare to, but I can see what he meant about today's crowd--I can't point out anything specific to illustrate it, but, to be snooty about it, the amount of intelligent life among the hikers who hung out on the porch all day today wasn't especially high. As I have said before, there are nice people in this herd surrounding me, and there are no specific ones for whom I have a strong antipathy, but I don't really care to spend much time with this crowd. For that reason, decided in the middle of the afternoon that I would stick around for dinner but not for the whole night.

Got errands--shopping, shipping, laundry, soda-drinking (they had Sprecher in the store!)--done in the afternoon. Was reunited with the town t-shirt I'd bounced ahead from Kennedy Meadows, and picked up my cutoff jeans in a maildrop from Kristin. Dinner was great--pork ribs, carrots, beans and home fries, with a bottle of Moose Drool on the side and watermelon for dessert. Afterward I packed up and headed out of town. Had to road-walk a half-hour just to reach the trail, and once I was on it, it was going up the whole time and it's just getting started. Could tell that there might not be any flat camping spots for awhile, so knowing that no one's coming up behind me until midmorning tomorrow at least, decided to crash in the middle of the trail. Haven't done this before but it's certainly comfortable, my only fear is a deer tripping over my face in the middle of the night. Bears are supposedly active around here so I've taken the unusual step of putting all my food far away from me halfway up a tree ... If it gets ransacked tonight I turn around and go back to town tomorrow. Almost no bugs for the first time in ages. The plan for this section is to make Belden, 92 miles away, in four days starting tomorrow.