Days 60-63: At home in the city

Cities shine when I'm in the mood to consume. One of the things that sets cities apart from, say, suburbs, is that everything I could want is right there ready for my taking. The density, the fast pace, the variety – it's all there to provide for faster, easier consumption, chained together. If I'm in the mood to get away and simply think, the unrelenting commercialism of a city can be oppressive. But when I'm hungry, tired, and wanting company – as I was this past weekend – I love being in a city.

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Day 59: Even hiker trash need culture

Today was a bizarre trail day. At dawn I was surrounded by miles of wilderness. By noon, I was in a city, bound for a critically acclaimed play. By dusk, I was once again surrounded by miles of trail. And by midnight, I was driving down Interstate 5 back toward San Francisco. Throughout, however, I stunk. Bad.

Day 59: Even hiker trash need culture

Today was a bizarre trail day. At dawn I was surrounded by miles of wilderness. By noon, I was in a city, bound for a critically acclaimed play. By dusk, I was once again surrounded by miles of trail. And by midnight, I was driving down Interstate 5 back toward San Francisco. Throughout, however, I stunk. Bad.

Day 58: Lightning always wins

Many of people's fears of the wilderness are blown out of proportion. Bear and mountain lion attacks are rare, and these animals can usually be scared off the trail with confidence and poise. Getting lost can be perilous, but with calm and basic orienteering – such as making concentric circles from a point of origin – hikers can usually find a trail again. Even injury typically comes down to a matter of pushing through discomfort until you can drag yourself – sometimes literally – back to a trailhead. But reliably people underestimate the real danger: weather. And all it takes is being caught out in the open in one thunderstorm to realize that you do not mess with lightning.

Day 57: A desert on a hill

ve learned on the trail that pain comes and pain goes. Sometimes it hangs around, but often times it just passes as mysteriously as it comes, and what I do is irrelevant to its course. Today was exemplary of that – by noon I was considering taking a day off because of my knee, but by evening after even more miles, I was going stronger than ever.

Day 56: Meandering through the Marbles

Despite the stunning scenery today, I struggled. The day off had not reset my legs as I had hoped. Instead, I was plagued by a slight discomfort in my foot, which progressed into a continual pain in my right knee. By the evening it was all consuming, and I just wanted the day to be over.

Day 55: Finding the missing link

It was difficult to get back on the trail today. I had adjusted to the comforts of hot food, no timelines, and abundant company. In addition, a heat wave was still hovering over the area, and it was supposed to be in the high 90s in Etna today. That said, I knew it would be cooler on the trail and I'd enjoy being back outside, so I was set on at least getting a few miles under my feet.

Day 54: Rechristened in the pub

Today I understood what I had been missing in the desert by being behind the bulk of the hikers. I didn't regret my decision to start late – I enjoyed the solitude and it made logistical sense because it allowed me to not have a gap in my health insurance coverage. But now I comprehended why the social aspect of the trail, for some people, was as enriching as the physical challenge and the unbelievable natural beauty.

Day 53: Snow, sights, and shakes

I got up early despite the morning chill, eager to spend my afternoon without shoes on my feet and eating a hot meal. I had been dreaming about having a burger and a beer all of yesterday after I learned there was a brewpub in Etna, and as much as I wanted to see more of Mt. Shasta, I hoped the miles ahead would be fast and painless.

Day 52: Turning up the heat

Today ratcheted up everything I experienced yesterday. There were more views of Mt. Shasta and silhouetted hills. I met more hikers headed my way toward the small town of Etna. There were even longer lengths of monotonous time in the trees. As many people hiking southbound had promised, this was a great section of the PCT.