Day 87: Tuesday, July 30

In the Collier Inn in Etna with Shorts' family (PCT mi 1606.5), walked 36.4 miles today

Was walking by 7 with plans to go 27 or so miles to a campsite about 9 miles from Etna. That all changed when I was taking a snack and water break about 5 miles in and I looked down the trail to see the reincarnation of Caballo Blanco himself, aka Shorts (he's pale and very fast) speeding toward me. He was slackpacking, meaning his visiting parents had 90% of his gear with them in the car, and was planning not only to get all the way to Etna by the end of the day, but have burgers and soda delivered to him at the road 20 miles before Etna. He said I could have some burgers and slackpack the last 20 miles too if I wanted, but that he wasn't planning on taking any breaks between there and lunch 12 miles away.

Soo that's what we did. Robin Hood and Halfway joined for lunch, then I gave most of my gear to Shorts' very gracious parents, Roger and Francine, and he and I set off around 1:45 to get the last 20 miles in before dark. We were at Etna Summit by 8 ... The downhills were always done half-running, and we only took about 20 minutes total of break time. I also hiked almost a half-mile per hour faster than I normally do--it was basically the fastest I can possibly move, except non-stop for almost 12 hours, with an hourlong break for cheeseburgers in the middle. A great day ... The trail also happened to be grade-A awesome the whole time, going way the hell up to several extremely open, exposed ridges where you feel like you're at the top of everything for hundreds of miles around. When I met Billy Goat in Yosemite he mentioned that Castella to Etna was his favorite part of the whole trail, and I see why it's a contender.

We ran into Hummingbird near the very end and it didn't take much convincing to get him in on the car ride down to town with Shorts' dad, who met us at Etna Summit. Once in town, our sleeping situation wasn't clear until we saw the hotel his parents were staying in--it's an old-fashioned inn with a big kitchen/dining area downstairs and a shared bathroom at the end of the hall on the top floor, and they had the whole thing to themselves for the night as the owners seemed to be out of town. Roger and Francine cooked pasta with andouille sausage for dinner, along with salad, watermelon, and Ben & Jerry's ice cream for dessert, and after the repast Shorts, Hummingbird and I had the pick of the beds upstairs to sleep in. I'll probably never have such an aggressive day on the trail with such a pot-of-gold ending for the rest of the hike. Hummingbird has to be wondering what my deal is because it's the second time I've roped him into incredible free town accommodations (see Quincy). Taking a zero tomorrow to cover for the nearo I would've taken anyway had I gotten here on a more normal schedule.