Aftermath

Start: Mooshead Creek (1453)
Camp: Rock Creek (1431)
10:00 a.m. start. Camped in a deep north facing valley. My lower leg is swollen throughout as a result of yesterday’s wasp attack. Each sting site itches and to scratch them is so satisfying that I should think only poison oak more cathartic. So far the itch does not seem to spread like poison oak, but I am wary.
The hike is much like yesterday – dry, hot and grueling – only with filthy brown dust and debris accumulated in the trail that has turned this hike into a trudge through a desert cistern. Add to that the retched furnaces that I must cross, wide forests that used to be healthy and green, stripped to the floor by logging, while the ground has been decimated by unchecked erosion which carries anything rock or wood into the trail to act as a marble, and you have my version of hell. I pat myself on the back for having hiked so fast to be having lunch at just 12:45 p.m. Then I realize I have not even gone ten miles and that puts me in a very cynical mood. The state park, my next resupply, is 30. If my legs were bricks yesterday then today they are bags of lead shot. I’m one step away from nodding off as I hike, my eyes half open, my mind reeling in protest. Strangely, to take one protested step after the other is easy, but thoughts of walking any faster are incomprehensible. I drag on, forever climbing, at around two miles per hour.
I took an early lunch and heard a friend passing by in the brush above. Passing clouds built into overcast and the spring water was uncomfortably cold to bath in. I stood there in the mud to cool my burning feet and washed my body with my hands although they seemed to permanently ooze mud. It was still blisteringly hot when I continued and the overcast hadn’t helped. It had grown calm, like the door had been shut on an oven in which I was the pièce de résistance . I crossed beneath a wide swath cut for two rows of high voltage power lines. On one pole there hung at an unreadable angle a purposely-riveted sign:
WARNING
This tower supports wires carrying high current at high voltage
Pacific Gas and Electric Co
Now there’s a sign written by an engineer. Anyway, just as I entered the woods on the far side, I found another sign. It was simple and had actually been left recently by a man I’d met, though just as indelibly as PG&E’s. Take a look:
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This is the first word, correctly penned in caps, of Dr. Seuss’s oft-quoted Lorax:
“UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
So it goes. Was it intended as a statement about the rising cost of electricity, or as some simple derision of PG&E? Or was it just, simply, a happenstance placement? My memory of Lorax (the hiker, not the Dr. Seuss character) pushes me toward the latter, though I hope I’ve still occasion to meet the kind of wit who can hike at 25 miles a day while making meaningful commentary on our society.
A little later I catch my friend at her lunch, she’s bested me by miles. I ask her for some chocolate and she obliges with a whit of Heath. Funny, these are the same way I started my day. I catch myself staring blankly into her foam pad as she talks, though I catch her point: we’ll not make the park before the store closes at 8:00 p.m. No store means no quarters, and no quarters means no shower. No laundry. No reason to hurry. When I see her again at Screwdriver Creek I’m feeling half dead and looking the part. Her eyes grow wide when I point out that my ankle is now thoroughly, obviously, grotesquely enlarged. I call Allan for ideas as I walk on.
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Just watch out for discolored veins, he tells me, and he’ll look up more info in the morning. It would be helpful to have actually seen the perpetrator, he points out. Thanks Allan. But he keeps my mind off it and I make another three miles before falling down, proverbially dead. I prepare my camp quickly, with the simplicity of an ascetic and a ruthless off-hand efficiency that I couldn’t help but develop over these passed three months, but it’s warm and I’m in no hurry to get into my sleeping bag. I’m filthy anyway. I lay down but I can’t wash up like usual; the next water source could be dry and I only have one liter now. A chill comes over me and I begrudgingly slide my sticky body into my somewhat clean sleeping bag. This is the dirtiest body it’s seen since I washed it ten days ago in Seiad Valley. Inside, I am blazing hot and fighting back chills. I hope that this is just the fatigue but my mouth develops an insatiable dryness which I don’t have the luxury to fulfill, and my mind develops that untraceable lucidity of fever.

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