Apart from the woodpecker drumming wildly, the woods were pretty silent as I packed up and hiked away from camp. The trail wound quite gently up to White Rocks mountain, where there was a sudden cairn city:
Nobody was around. I did a quick guerilla performance of 'Stones' by Christian Wolff:
what a weirdo.
|yes, you can make a cairn in a tree.|
|Nice easy trail. I've never been hiking in Oregon, but I decided it probably definitely looks a bit like this there.|
Piney trees crowded the trail, spreading further than I could see. There were more cairns over the other side of the summit:
|1668.7 miles south to the end of the Appalachian Trail.|
|There's a lot more evidence of habitation down here. Dykes, cellar holes, mellow paths alongside rivers and streams.|
In the afternoon, I pass some other hikers. It's been almost 24 hours since I saw another human. All morning I was walking through face-height cobwebs, meaning I was the first person hiking that stretch of the trail today.
I walked a fair way by streams, and saw a neatly decapitated mouse on the trail. I covered its no-head with a leaf and carried on. Eventually I came down to a USFS road. It became very clear I was not carrying enough food for the remaining 6 days on the trail. Work trucks were moving slowly along the road -- I waited for them to leave so I could scavenge some little green apples from a roadside tree. Somehow I felt embarrassed about scrumping.
I signed into the Big Branch Wilderness, where the trail is minimally blazed/brushed and sometimes the leaves made it hard to see where the LT went. An older gentleman was walking north out of the wilderness, and asked where I was going. "Wonderful!" he said; we walked on in opposite directions. I ate all three apples, cores included.
Here's the thing about the trail -- it's weird not to smile and talk to everyone you meet. It's a solidarity and safety thing. Usually when I travel -- say, gigging in Chicago or NYC -- I deliberately avoid eye-contact and conversation with strangers. Many years ago, a creeper tailed me around Oxford for several hours, threatening all kinds of stuff. Because I smiled as I held the phone-box door open for him. So, often I don't smile at strangers now; I wear my sunglasses a lot and am deliberately very vague when people ask where I'm heading or where I live. But on the Long Trail, the contained, eye-contact-avoiding, unsmiling stranger is the one that comes off as a creeper. So I fit in with the conventions, smile, share any information I have, ask questions and listen to the answers. You know, the basic human interactions we don't bother with now there's Facebook.
A young blonde lady is sitting snacking on the trail, going northbound. I step stenchily around her, smile, tell there there's lots of good stuff ahead.
Over the bridge and up up to Lost Pond Shelter. It's about 4pm. A trio of hikers (and their dogs) from the Midwest are there. I fetch water and dither around prevaricating on whether to push on the additional ~5 miles over Baker Peak to Peru Peak Shelter. It means probably hiking a bit in the dark, with dusk hitting between 6:30 and 7pm, but I can probably get over the actual peak before sunset. The Midwesterners say the southern side of Baker Peak is scrambly-bouldery and a likely place to take a fall in the wet or dark. It's dry -- I tighten my backpack and get going uphill. Past the peak I'm really getting a move on, not-quite-jogging over dry leaves in the almost-sunset.
Griffith Lake is just before the shelter, I'm within a mile now. The guidebook mentions "extensive puncheon", a.k.a. duckboard. On duckboards I can march heavily along, feeling powerful like a spandex-clad ox. A bridge over a stream and I'm at the light-coloured, relatively new-looking Peru Peak Shelter. A group of Pennsylvania dudes and dogs are out on a weekend camping trip. They offer cheese and whisky and I fall on the former, politely decline the latter. I've been booze-free 17-months-2-days now. I cook up some ramen and then crinkle around under my emergency blanket in my sleeping bag. It's not terribly cold tonight.