Day 82: Thursday, July 25

Tenting more or less on the trail (PCT mi 1481.5), walked 27.3 miles today

Got hiking by 7:30 and the trail improved over yesterday's right away, with nice views of Shasta, less obscured by haze than normal, and a lot of open ridge-walking. Most of it was on south-facing slopes and it was already alarmingly hot by the midmorning. Walked for about 6 miles with an older thru-hiker named Michael who is about to take two weeks off the PCT for Burning Man, but aside from that he is a jet-engine design engineer. I took off alone when he wanted to break, I was feeling strong and walked almost the first 10 miles uninterrupted. Like in the desert, water can sometimes be sparse around here but unlike the desert every source is the ice-cold pure stuff coming straight out of the mountainside. That was Gold Creek, where I took my first break, as well as other springs that I filled up at throughout the day.

At Deer Creek, you won't believe this but I saw a deer. And not just any deer, he had an enormous rack and didn't give a fiddling fuck who came near him ... I and a southbound section-hiker who was approaching at the same time both walked to within about 10 feet of it for photos. Other than that sobo guy, whose name was Eeyore, I didn't see anyone all afternoon. After a long, sweltering descent to 2,000 feet (my imaginary thermometer read at least 100 in the sunny parts today), got to the McCloud River and saw Instagate, Spark and Robin Hood in attitudes of repose on the banks. I wanted to go swimming but it turns out the river water was about 45 degrees .... I played the "Is this water colder than the McKenzie?" game and it indeed felt colder (the McKenzie is 48). All that cold water made the air on the shady banks actually a very nice cool temperature, so I stayed there for at least an hour, during which time the others all trickled out. When I followed suit I planned to get water after two miles and then find the next flat spot, but the next flat spot happened to be a good 3.5 miles later, so I hiked almost til dark, and it was still freaking hot and muggy the whole time. Am sharing this area with Spark and another thru-hiker named Egg, whom I've seen in the books many times lately but never caught up to. Tomorrow: town! Sort of (it's Castella, which isn't really a town).