I'm writing today from the picturesque, small mountain town of Etna. Everything is closed today except for the town grocery store. Currently, I'm staying at the Hiker Hut, a small hostel set aside for hikers who pass through the area. It's an extremely relaxed environment which is exactly what I need right now.
Indie and I hiked together the last few days through Castle Craggs Wilderness, as well as through the Trinity Alps. It's a stunning area, resembling the Sierra at times. To be honest, it's been hard to appreciate the beauty surrounding me day after day. I told Indie that hiking 25 miles a day, covered in dirt and sweat, is almost like having a constant low grade fever. My emotions have been somewhat suppressed to a flat line. There's not a lot of joy throughout the day, just hike, hike, hike. Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting that I want to quit, or I'm hating life out here. It's more of an observation. This long distance hiking thing can be HARD WORK!
A few of the challenges this week: My water filter broke last week, so I've been using bleach to treat my water. I guess I'll find out in a couple of weeks whether or not I catch giardia. I burned my hand a couple of days ago when I was cooking my dinner. I didn't have enough fuel this week, so I decided to cook over a fire. I was trying to move a couple of rocks into place so I could balance my stove over the fire, but I didn't realize one of the rocks was scorching hot. When I picked it up, it was already red hot and it burned my left hand. Thankfully, due to Indie's quick thinking, I placed an ice cold water bottle on the burn area for the rest of the night. It helped significantly. Also, blisters have returned to my feet. I had a rather large blister on my right heel that I had to cut open and drain with scissors. Not a fun operation, but everything went OK and the blister is now healing. Indie and I joked that we thought we were supposed to be getting better at this camping and hiking thing, not worse!
Of course, there were highlights. I'm still amazed at the kindness of strangers, especially in the trail towns. Folks continue to offer rides, often without even asking. Indie and I have been having great conversations, and laughter is abundant, which seems so important out here. I saw another bear this week. I stopped to look at my map one late afternoon, and sat down on a rock. Just then, about 20 to 30 yards away, a black bear was foraging through the bushes right across from where I was sitting. I simply sat and watched him for about 5 minutes. He never saw, or sensed that I was watching him. Maybe he didn't care, but it was a fantastic treat. Of course, despite the minor injuries, I'm very grateful to be able to continue walking. There are plenty of stories of other hikers having to bail for one reason or another.
All in all, Canada continues to call. We've passed the 1600 mile mark and have to hustle if we want to reach the end before the snowflakes begin to fly. The Oregon border is just days away, so we continue to walk. Thanks for reading and I talk to you soon...