Invincible and carefree

Years ago, backpacking the Rae Lakes Loop with a friend in early July, I ran into a PCT thru-hiker on trail for the first time. We were paused at the base of Glen Pass, somewhat nervously looking up at the steep snowy north side. Traipsing down towards us came a woman wearing a Hawaiian shirt and carrying a tiny backpack. She also, inexplicably, was carrying a sparkly hula hoop. Aside from the outfit, I was struck by her gait. She seemed invincible and carefree, casually strolling along at 3 miles per hour.

I think of her often. In my best moments on trail that’s how I feel. I’m hiking along effortlessly with a calm mind and heart. Of course, most moments contain plenty of effort.

The laborious climb down around Castle Crags featured endless rocky trail and swarms of gnats. I waved a hand in front of my face continuously for three hours.

I’ve just completed the infamous Hat Creek Rim, a long shadeless, waterless stretch of trail just north of Lassen National Park. Surprisingly, I loved it. Little shade meant spectacular views for the duration, to the north Shasta and Lassen Peak to the south. In between, a vast expanse of lava fields and volcanic hills.

Can you feel the heat?

I hiked the Rim from 6:30am until 8:15pm, 29.3 miles, and felt solid pretty much the whole time. Northern California has been a bit of a mental challenge. Closing in on the end of my hike but still a month to go. So close, but still so far. Yesterday was a surprise refresher, reminding me what I love best about trail. Invincible and carefree. Back in the flow. Next up, Lassen!