Troubadours of the PCT

Day 12: Mission Creek Trail Camp to Arraste Trail Camp

Trail miles 239.9-256.2

May 14, 2019

For the first time in almost a week, the hiking was easy. I slept in until almost 6, reveling in the warmth of my quilt and the knowledge that, at over 8000’, the air would likely remain cool for most of the day.

I left camp after most of my friends were gone and followed the trail over some “cruisy mellow rollers” (well-graded climbs of <1000’ followed by gentle descents of similar magnitudes). My legs were very sore from the previous day’s rock hopping and relentless climbing, but a few hundred milligrams of ibuprofen and some time spent focusing on Crossing Brooklyn Ferry took my mind off the pain.

The scent of the pine forest and the dry, rocky trail reminded me of Northern California so strongly that I had to reassure myself on multiple occasions throughout the day that I was in fact 450 miles south of even the southern Sierra.

I stopped in the shade shortly after 10:30 to reapply sunscreen and to eat some of the last of my snacks. My food bag has shrunken more quickly on this section than I anticipated, and I will be brushing up against real hunger as I make my way into Big Bear tomorrow.

All of a sudden, Spartan came walking up the trail from the direction I’d just come. I greeted him and told him I’d thought I was way behind everyone today. He explained that they’d stopped for a break together at some old cabins off the trail. I’d seen the buildings and walked right by, not realizing anyone would want to stop there. “You missed the singing,” he said.

Soon Carjack joined us, and the Danes caught up as we began hiking again. We stopped in the shade where the PCT joined an unpaved road to wait for Bright Side and Hot Hands. Then I learned what the singing was about.

In her off-trail life, Carjack is a Brownie troop leader and has memorized an impressive repertoire of songs to share with her young charges.

On the dirt road, she taught us two call-and-response songs with dance moves to match the lyrics (one song was about the Princess Pat’s sailing expedition and one was about hugging a polar bear to keep warm at night).

Two Austrian hikers came upon our dance troupe while we were singing, waving our underdeveloped arms, and trying desperately to bend our sore knees in time with the song’s rhythm.

They stopped hiking and stood there staring at us as for a minute but declined to join in, opting instead to walk on in what looked to me like utter bewilderment.

When we stopped dancing and headed up the trail in a big group, everyone remarked (between the hiking songs Carjack taught us as we hiked) about how strange (and pleasant!) it had felt to put our bodies through a motion other than walking.

We gradually strung out on the trail as we headed for our last camp spot before Big Bear, so I can’t be sure, but I would not be surprised if Carjack sang all the way there.

The campsite was disappointing: 20 small tents, many belonging to people I hadn’t seen before, crammed between stands of brush, just up a small hill from a trickle of a stream. Everyone in camp planned to hike to the highway crossing early in the morning, so we cooked our instant mashed potatoes and ramen and munched the last of our snacks, turning out our near-empty food bags to collect forgotten tortilla chip crumbs and dusty raisins for our 5am breakfasts.

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