25.3 miles (1516.4 to 1541.7)
Wind gains strength as the night progresses. I wake, nervous, as my tent shutters and leans. I have reception here. I recheck the forecast. Ten miles per hour, says the forecast. This wind is much stronger than that. I fear that my tent won’t withstand the onslaught.
At 2am I get up and adjust some of the stakes and tighten the guy-lines, and afterward I feel more confident in my tent’s ability to stand through the night. I’m able to sleep a little, between the strongest gusts. When my alarm sounds the tent is still shaking.
I manage to pack up without anything blowing away. I walk for maybe a quarter mile before the wind suddenly decreases. As I walk, views of Shasta come and go. I pass little meadows where pitcher plants grow. I wind around mountain after mountain, mostly following the contour. This is the strangest section of PCT I’ve seen: mile after mile of walking along the contour, barely climbing or descending, around one mountain and onto the next.
In late morning, I have a sudden epiphany. Since somewhere in Washington I’ve been trying to recall the name of the singer who performed on David Bowie’s song “Black Tie White Noise.” For hundreds of miles I’ve searched the archives in my brain, refusing to give in and ask Google. Suddenly, the name comes to me: Al B Sure! What a relief. Unfortunately there’s no one to celebrate with.
I eat lunch shortly before the fork to Toad Lake, but I should have walked another three minutes before stopping to eat at the fork itself. The view here is much better. Around the mountain I go, climbing mildly to 7,600 feet. On the north-facing slope I encounter snow on trail, all that remains from the recent storm.
The trail goes over a low spot, then onto a south-facing ridge. Along the contour I walk. With so little climbing, I’m making great time. Near Parks Creek Trailhead I suddenly see day-hikers on the trail, the first people I’ve seen all day. I pass two day-hikers heading south. Not long after, I catch up to two day-hikers hiking north. There are six cars in the parking area. On a Monday afternoon. I did not expect to find so many people here.
I speed across the paved road and onto the trail on the far side. The trail begins what may be the strangest iteration of its constant contour traverse. For miles I walk the perimeter of a canyon until I’m directly across from the place where I entered the canyon after crossing the road. Here I stop. I’ve done 25 miles today, but only 3,200 feet of climbing.
I pitch my tent and eat dinner. A breeze picks up. I hope it stays a breeze; I can’t take another sleepless windy night. A Great Horned Owl hoots nearby as I finish night-time chores in my tent. I listen for the hoots as I slowly drift toward sleep.