I finally take a zero day on the trail. A “zero” is a day where I don’t make ANY miles. I had one at Timberline, but I like this one better. I am tucked away on Mirror lake and while the lake is a popular destination for thru hikers as well as the day hiking and horseback riding set, I still have plenty of alone time. I spend the day lazing about, swimming, reading, journal writing and generally not moving much at all. I’ve left all my hiking on the trail. It’s a complete opposite from my previous backpacking life where I short hiked in, spent my days exploring the surrounding lakes and trails and didn’t move my camp until it was time to go home.
Today I awoke at dawn and am listening to the birds as they start their day. I heard a sandpiper family earlier. I peek out the tent window and see a mama and her two fluffy babies on the shore near my tent. A gray jay swoops in to investigate my camp. A flutter of wings, a shadow crosses the thin tent wall, then woosh! He’s gone and surely disappointed that there are no scraps to be found. I’m sure he’s hoping for some sort of handout as I hear him squawking and talking overhead.
I’ve opened the tent door to watch the sunrise. There is a heavy mist over the lake, sun has yet to touch the surface except for the face of South Sister which rises to my left. Yesterday she was on my right side, but I walked 9 miles around her and past her Rock Mesa flanks and now, here I am on a misty Mirror lake. There is some condensation on my tent, but I’ve managed to stay dry. Yesterday atop the ridge, even in the dry volcanic sand I collected moisture from the air the second I set up the tent, it acted like a perfect dew collector. The sand may have been dry, but the air was not. Strange how on this damp lake shore there is hardly any dew! I’m sure there is some science to explain this, but for the life of me, my observational skills of what are the right conditions to assure a damp tent (or for that matter, a dry one) fails me. I’m not alone. Carrot Quinn, a woman with prodigious trail miles also attests to this “who knows?” phenomenon.
Oh my, it feels so good to go nowhere. I’ve had the opportunity to practice “rock toilet paper” and it is surprisingly easy to do if you find a good rock and are somewhat limber. I read about this in the on-line hiker community pages… hikers like to talk about how to “go” in the woods at length and most are far more descriptive than I am being here. Here’s where being more old school and private comes into play, however, in the interest of sharing a way to lessen one’s impact on the land and promote Leave No Trace principals using native TP is something the serious backpacker should consider. As well as lightening you load by carrying less TP, by using a rock or two or three or four… you cut down on what goes in your wilderness cat hole. It’s a good thing and not that difficult. Also the squat position helps and is far more natural and maybe even more hygienic than the Western “throne”.
As I was returning to my cozy tent for more lazing about, campers across the lake were hollering at another nearby camp. Geesh!! What the hell… I mean, I know you are outside but use your quiet “in church” voice please! Why do some people insist on disturbing the peace? By 9 AM they were hiking out, which had me suspicious they were section or thru hikers. Tsk, tsk boys!
I had a lovely breakfast of rice, coconut and chia seeds. I mixed in some dried fruit and let it all soak overnight in a Ziplock tub. Wow! So good. I’m thinking I could go stove-less if I had more awesome no-cook meals like this. One less thing to carry would be nice. Though only on a trip like this where I’m moving every day. Not sure I’ll do more trips like this. The goal setting and planning aspect as well as the absolute need to move to make those goals, well, they set me up with a sense of urgency. One feels the need to make time and I’m not yet so zen that I can do all that goal setting without the whole stress/anxiety-gap issue.
Just this morning I found myself looking at my maps and plans, yet again! I can’t seem to relax, I seem to be worried I’ve miscalculated and that longer miles are in store for me. Sure enough I discover an error. Funny how I didn’t notice it the first, second and even third time through! But just now have seen that following the PCT will not only add 3 miles to my day tomorrow but will also have to climb Mt. Koosah. Sigh. I was going to take the Skyline trail and visit some old camp sites from my bygone days in the Horse Lakes area. It would cut off those 3 PCT miles but the lakes are in a bowl, so I’d loose and gain another 500 ft. of elevation and there could be lots of blow-down to clamber over and under. I had been thinking I could get farther down the trail if I took the shortcut, but I am loathe to loose elevation and dip into a bowl of mosquito hell. The hikers I talk to shudder at the mosquitoes. They are thrilled to finally be out of the lakes basin. I do not have favorable memories of those trails and I see no point of taking an unmaintained trail and possibly missing a turn or two as well. Even though I am the Pathfinder, I have become very, very fond of the PCT and her wonderful tread. She’s well marked and mostly cleared.
I’ve hung out in the tent for so long this morning, the sun has begun to heat up my little home away from home. I rigged up my chrome dome umbrella for an extra bit of shade. That thing is the absolute best piece of equipment ever! Having my own shade has helped tremendously. Love, love, love my chrome dome! ❤
After all the campers cleared out this morning, things returned to just how I like it, empty of noisy humans! It’s been quiet and peaceful and I’ve enjoyed my nothing day. I’m happy that I’ve been able to camp alone each night on this leg of the journey. Definitely different than the first part. And now that I’m not caught up in the miles I can relax more, although, I still have to pay attention to my planned route as I have to meet friends on Tuesday, 33 miles away. No worries! I got this! I’ve planned and mapped and planned and re-routed until I am 100% sure I did not miss a thing. Now, we will see how all this unfolds for the second half of the second part of my journey. I had managed to hike farther than planned, but now I’m adding 3 miles (not a big deal by thru-hiker standards, but still, 3 miles is 3 miles). Finally, after spending another hour pouring over the maps and plans, I’ve laid to rest all my concerns and anxieties. I’m content. I’ve turned off my phone. Now that I have a signal, I don’t want any interruptions from my other life. I don’t want my mind to wander back there either. It feels so good to have no one to attend to, no animal to clean up after, or feed, or pet, or exercise. Three dogs and three horses are a lot of work. (It’s worth the effort, but I needed a break!) It’s nice that there is no garden to water, no house to clean, no beans to can, no raspberries to pick and jam, no floors to sweep, no studio to straighten, no obligations of any kind. And today, no miles to hike. I’m happy to just BE here, with no where I need to go.