Day 75: Thursday, July 18

Cowboying in a clearing (PCT mi 1351.5), walked 19.0 miles today

Didn't sleep very well last night because of the mutant ants that lived in the pinestraw beneath me ... There weren't many, but anytime one decided to crawl on me I could feel it, even through my clothes, and it woke me up. And once awake, I could hear each individual ant footstep crawling around on my Tyvek (I swear I wasn't on drugs, these things are just enormous) and couldn't get back to sleep. Had to put in earplugs. Woke up at 6:15 to mosquitos on my face instead of ants and decided I'd had enough of that particular spot so I hustled out by 6:40. By 7:30 I was at the road to Chester ... Hitching was slow, Robin Hood caught up to me as I was waiting and called Piper's Mom, a local trail angel who left her number on a sign before the road. She got there after a half-hour and drove us in ... She's the nicest lady (originally from Ely, MN, which made sense), she stocks a cooler of soda and fruit at the trailhead, and she said she's going up to Oregon later this summer for a week on the McKenzie, so I gave her OWA's information in case she wants to raft.

Ate an excellent breakfast with Robin Hood at the Kopper Kettle, talked about his term studying in Finland, which I was very jealous of. Did a little snack resupply at the grocery store, then immediately left to hitch back out ... Local stud Tom gave me a ride after 10 minutes and I was back hiking by noon. Immediately the heat got to me, which I could tell by how much Gatorade I was guzzling and how hard 4 miles of flat trail was seeming, so I stopped at a shady spring after 4 miles, pitched my tent and took a siesta. Woke up once in the middle of it to black flies in a frenzy around the tent, probably because I smell something like an animal corpse. Didn't get moving again til almost 5.

After about 7 miles, ran into an older section hiker named Lee, from Nashville, slowed down to walk and talk with him a bit ... He's 8 years into sectioning the PCT, in order, from the Mexican border up to here, planning to finish at I-5 in 150 miles. Nice guy, had to leave him when he wanted to stop and make camp at dusk like a normal person. Pushed on into the evening, with its very pleasant walking temperature of about 60 degrees, then it got dark and I busted out the headlamp, never really stopping for a break, just keeping snacks handy where I could reach them as I walked. Caught some eyeballs reflecting off my headlamp beam as they moved silently and swiftly uphill about 50 yards ahead of me, then found them again a minute later and had a staredown with them. They looked big, like maybe deer-sized, and I've had many staredowns with deer in the daylight so far and I know it's a game they're fawned of. But the silent movement was very un-ungulatelike, so when I watched this thing slink off soundlessly again a second time, it was kind of disquieting. Kept checking behind my back for the next mile or so, tried to remember everything I've read about mountain lions, which is that they're crepuscular/nocturnal hunters, they always attack from behind, and their first move is always to sever the spinal cord with their claw so you never even have a chance to fight back. These were all comforting thoughts as I made my way forward totally alone in the dark. I had wanted to get all the way past Drakesbad tonight, but after awhile I got to a flattish area that leaves me with about 26 miles to do before 6pm tomorrow, which is when I'm meeting Kristin, and that's a reasonable goal, so I thought enough is enough with this night-hiking crap and I settled down about 10:30.