Mostly Up To Paradise

— May 4, 2012

Dr. Sole's Saltwater TaffyThis is a day of ups to get to Paradise. Paradise Cafe, that is.

We hike up and out of Tule Canyon. I refill my water at the guzzler near mile 139.5. (A guzzler is a cistern with a platform that channels rainfall into the cistern’s tank. This particular one is made of concrete and has a pump on the top for getting water out. The guzzler isn’t very stable. Hikers are encouraged not to stand on it.)

Filling Her Pockets with TaffyThen it’s down to Nance Creek and up out of Nance Canyon. Some of the trail has eroded away here making for a steep scramble.

The Hiker’s Oasis Cache is out of water (mile 142.7). We’re all good on water. Team No Hurries signs the register. I’m surprised by how many hikers complain in the register that the cache has been dry. We have passed three water sources before getting here. We hear a hiker say later that he went 12 hours without water because the cache was dry. Turning around and going back 3.2 miles (6.4 round trip – three hours of walking) could have made for a more comfortable night for him. Live and learn. Don’t rely on water caches.

Paradise Cafe and milkshakes are only seven miles away. Ashley and Natalie take off like the wind.

The ascents get serious now. Up to Table Mountain then down. Then up the side of Lookout Mountain. In the distance, I see a road to the west. “If that’s the road to Paradise, if that’s where I have to walk, I’ll never get there.” My feet ache. It’s been five miles without a break. I sit down, change socks, eat, take ibuprofen. Much better.

Blooming CactusFortunately, that’s not the road I’m walking to today. As I round the side of Lookout Mountain, I see the real Highway 74. And vehicles and a canopy. Could it be? Could it be trail magic? It’s early evening. If that’s trail magic, I’m afraid they’ll pack up and leave before I get there. I pick up my pace. Significantly.

I get there. It’s Dr. Sole and he’s camping out for a few days. He treats hiker feet at the Kick Off, here, and Kennedy Meadows every year. Dr. Sole looks up from the hiker feet he’s working on, “There’s saltwater taffy. Help yourself. Fill up your pockets.” Natalie does.

We walk the mile to Paradise Cafe. Ashley has a blister and a sore ankle. “Welcome to your old dad’s world,” I tell her.

We sit outside with other hikers. We order. No milkshakes (another case of liars in the wilderness). The sun sets and it gets cold. We go inside. We eat. We take our time over our meals. We use the restrooms – hot water and flush toilets. Natalie confesses, “I pulled a hiker trash move. I washed my feet in the sink.” I’m glad she did this in the women’s restroom and not the men’s. A nice idea, I think later, but I don’t have the flexibility for this maneuver.

I tell the girls: “I now have two speeds. Trudge and mosey. Today I mostly moseyed. Someday I hope to have three speeds. Maybe a saunter. That would be nice.” They laugh.

Paradise CafeNatalie and I order some apple pie to go. Tomorrow morning’s breakfast. Our waitress tells us that Niel, the owner and cook, makes the pies himself.

We hitch the mile back to Dr. Sole’s camp. Dr. Sole has fried up some chicken. We eat some more, chat with hikers, and listen as turns are taken playing Natalie’s guitar.

PCT Day 17. 15 miles hiked. Camped near the intersection of the PCT and Highway 74 (trail mile 152).

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