Slack packing…and a tummy bug :(

Edited: I accidentally hit post prior to finishing 

I’m laying here in a motel room in Quincy, trying to nap but obviously failing, so will be productive and do a blog!

Waking at the hut (I did not sleep in it), I had a cold breakfast of bars, granola, and iced coffee while I watched the sun come up over the mountains (by the way, it’s an excellent way to start the day!).  After checking on Hufflepuff in the morning (and her saying she felt better), I hiked onwards knowing they would catch up.  I am trying to make a conscious effort of drinking more water.  It’s ridiculous and I’m not the only person to have made notice of the fact that, since leaving the desert, I drink less water and go further between fills than I ever did before!  I’m way pickier with my source and if it’s not flowing enough I’ll just shrug and go thirsty until the next one that seems more reasonable.  Also, the act of stopping every few miles to gather and treat water takes so much effort that, again, I’ll just shrug and go thirsty.  I guess that is one for the pro column in the desert: you fill up once and you’re done!  And so, I’m really trying to carry 2 litres instead of just 1-1.5 and be more aware of how much I drink.  You can imagine my frustration when, after a few minutes of filling at the last source, I notice the unmistakeable feeling of a wet bum caused by water bladder leakage.  *insert groan*  A common occurrence, leaky bladders are just a nuisance!  I quickly take off my pack and try to figure out where the leak is but can’t.  I slightly move things around, assuming it’s some pressure on the bottom nozzle, and hope for the best.  Shouldering my pack, I carry on for about 15 minutes until I can’t deny that my wet bum is getting worse and most definitely new water is leaking out.  I completely empty my pack, dry off the bladder, and flip and flop and squeeze that bladder trying to locate the leak…with no luck!  What else to do but load up the pack once more and hope for the best:  my strategy now being to just drink the remaining water as fast as possible!  I decided to wait a few minutes to see if it would leak while sitting there and when all seemed dry still, I carried on.  The leaking seems to have stopped and I have no idea what caused it but I am glad I keep my stuff in individual dry sacks and not just shoved in my pack.  

Just before or around MP1170, my next water break, there’s a sign on a tree that says “Trail Magic”.  When you see a sign like this, all sorts of thoughts start running through you head:

  • Is it real?
  • Is it today?
  • Don’t get too excited, it could be an old sign
  • What if it’s real?  
  • What if they have pineapple?
  • Don’t get too excited!

I come around the corner and am greeted by Jeff, Eric, and Allen, three guys just out camping with extra food, and am offered a grilled (!) cheese and turkey sandwich with a (very fancy) vanilla bean soda.  Wow!  And then they point out another table of goodies that has homemade oat bars, candies…and pineapple!!  WAHOO!!  Not thru hikers, they were just out for their annual camping and hiking trip and found out the PCT was only a mile from their camp and figured we were a great way to get rid of some extra food.  Thank you, thank you!  It was great!  As I was chatting, Firefox caught up and I received word that Hufflepuff and Fill would spend another night at the hut.  Shortly after I left, Hufflepuff became quite ill again.  Firefox and I somehow dragged ourselves away from the pop-up Trail Magic and managed to get ourselves a 24 mile day in, giving us only 11 until town (Sierra City).

We both slept in the next morning, enjoying a nero day (nero = near zero miles, but what counts as “near zero” is debateable!) into town.  As we were packing up, Duchess came sauntering by.  This is when we learned that she, too, had been sick recently.  She’s unsure if it was a flu-type bug or giardia but now, of course, Firefox and I are worried about anything contagious Hufflepuff may have.  Along the way into town, we picked up Unicorn and Nutella wasn’t far behind: it was a convoy of hiker women!  When we came upon THE sweetest swimming hole any of us had ever seen, a mere 1/2 mile from the road, it didn’t take much convincing (it was HOT) to clamber down the bank and hop in!

Fully refreshed, we made our way to the road where we saw the familiar sight of Spirit Bear’s van awaiting to whisk us off into the glory of town food!  But wait, who else is present and what is that amazing smell?  It’s former PCT and AT hiker, Beeline, serving up hot dogs with grilled onions and Mountain Dews!  I made my way into town and ended up setting my tent up behind the church, something they generously offer to us thrus.  I do admit, I was hesitant since it was quite crowded and the crew that were hanging around were people who definitely enjoyed their night time festivities!  But rooms were all booked up, this was free, and I have ear plugs for this reason!  

It was time to check out the goods at the store for resupply…and a blackberry-banana milkshake (real fruit!).  As I wandered the aisles (there’s always a lot of wandering when we get into stores), I was shocked to see Hufflepuff in the store.  Girl knocked out 24 miles, sick, to get to town and in the process has shamed us all!  Fill had the brilliant idea to see if the RV park would let us tent there (definitely not) but they did have an old trailer they rent out, sleeps 3-4, so with Firefox on board, we slept there.

Knowing there was a big hill out of Sierra City (3,000 feet over 7 miles), the idea of slack packing had been brought up, courtesy of Spirit Bear.  Slack packing is when you get to ditch all of your non-essentials for a day hike, grab a bit of food and water, and enjoy the lightness of you bag!  Word got around and I believe about 10 hikers took advantage of it.  Although long and exposed, the climb wasn’t steep but it was another hot day.  I thought I may have given myself a bit of heat exhaustion as I felt my stomach doing some cartwheels on the way up.  Taking a break at the top, I headed out with Quixote and Moonpie to get another 10 miles in.  It was a simple trail, just some minor up and down, and I was once again rewarded with watching the sunset over mountains and a lake.

At 2am, I awoke with an urgent need to get out of my tent.  Now.  This went on most of the night and when I tried packing up in the morning, I often had to lay down.  My dilemma became a decision on where to go: 20 miles back, 18 miles forward with a hard hitch, or 50 miles forward with an easier hitch?  I opted to move forward and pray for service to text Spirit Bear!  Also, if I could get to this road, water was nearby and I would be in a good spot to wait for either a ride or for the worst to pass and carry on to the following road, 30 miles futher.  This was a miserable 18 miles with lots of climbing, I believe over 3,000 feet on the day with a couple of 800-1,000 foot pushes.  Normally, those numbers would just mean a couple of good efforts on the day but that day they were formidable.  I managed to choke down a handful of almonds and granola each and only 2 litres of water all day.  Each time I tried, it would race through my system in about 30 minutes and I was scrambling off into the bush; albeit, often not too far off trail.  I quickly realized I was going to run out of TP and hand sanitizer so started to collect Mules ear leaves (they’re broad and a bit fuzzy!) and Sherlock was able to top up my sanitizer!  And so, I slowly made my way, checking for cell service, appreciating the irony of not having any when I actually needed it.  At 4 miles out, I realized I may have to camp out again and that’s when Firefox showed up and she had service!  I was beyond thrilled, knowing someone would be there to whisk me into Quincy.  I dragged myself into the parking lot where a gathering of hikers had occurred as Beeline and Spirit Bear were making sandwiches and handing out beers.  I just collapsed on the gravel and awaited my ride, and was actually able to eat a handful of blueberries and slice of ham.  I even made myself ramen in my room and woke up hungry this morning!

The speed of everything makes me believe it’s not giardia, as initially concerned, but either something I ate (unrefrigerated meat/cheese in the pack for a few days?) or some other type of bug (what Hufflepuff or Duchess had?).  Whatever the cause, I’m very grateful to have made it into a hotel last night and truly appreciate the ride in.  I have not decided if I’ll hike or not tomorrow.

There are 4 comments

  1. Alan Hammond

    hi Scorpia!
    it was great to find your post, I most certainly hope the trail is getting you closer to home. Keep on Truckin’, wonderful work!
    Trail Magic mile 1170


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