I didn't sleep very well. It had been too much exercise too close to bedtime. But my site was a good one without mosquitoes.
I got started like usual and the trail immediately changed. It was no longer the magic carpet or the usual PCT like it had been yesterday. It was old-school, terrible tread, steep hills, awful trail with climbs that went to nowhere and descents that ended nowhere and began climbing again. By 8 o'clock it had become clear that the PCT was going to make me work hard for every single mile to Etna Summit. But whatever the PCT threw at me, I took it. Bring it on. You won't beat me!
The trail went up and down, up and down. Sometimes the summits were completely meaningless. Many of the descents had fallen trees all over. Sometimes there was snow to climb around. A few of the summits were spectacular and vertiginous. One was like being in the High Sierra again with granite staircases.
Along the way down from one blasted marvel of trail, I encountered a man out backpacking. I said hello behind him and scared him to death. He was a cook for the firefighters in the forest service. I wondered if he might have to go fight the current fire that had filled the air today with smoke. He asaid he'd have to be ready to go if so. I passed him and walked to a nice spring. I sat off to the side and drank some of my vitamin and electrolyte drink. I could see a huge climb looming on the mountain ahead. As I sat there, the backpacker arrived and I scared him to death again. He said I was too quiet and blended in too well.
After drinking my fill, I headed off to tackle the ascent. It was steep, but not too bad. Unusual cone-shaped parasitic plants grew in the sand. They looked like real pine cones. I took pictures.
At the summit, I ate lunch. Hummus, crackers and cookies. The backpacker did not catch up.
I descended only to climb again later. I climbed and circled another lake. I made good time.
At a creek that I guessed might be my last, I washed my pant legs and shirt and body. It felt good drying off as I started on the final climb before the final drop.
The climb up had amazing v iews. Vertiginous drops over sparkling lakes with granite staircases.
I dropped all the way to Etna Summit where a man was putting his pack in his truck. He asked me where I had come from and I said Castle Crags and now I needed to get to Etna. He didn't offer me a ride.
I walked over to the highway and looked over the edge. I could see no traffic heading up the hill. I walked up the road a bit to see if there was a safer place to hitchhike. I decided to walk back to the man and ask him outright for a ride. He seemed like maybe he had Asperger's syndrome or something and he wasn't going my way. I decided not to press the issue any further and just walk the road to Etna. Somebody would come along sooner or later.
Lots of forest service fire vehicles were coming up the hill. I worried maybe the road was actually closed because of the fire now. After 1/2 mile someone came my way and picked me up and drove me all the way to the Bed and Breakfast with the Hiker Hut. I rang the bell but there was no answer so I decided I'd go into town and eat something and come back later.
I had a burger, salad and ice cream cone at Dotty's, haven gotten a ride from a local woman who had overheard me ask inside the grocery storey if there were any open restaurants in Etna. I ate the salad first. It was like coming alive after being in a dull gray world, the flavors and coldness and freshness were that good. I felt so much better after eating. I hadn't even realized I had been so hungry.
As I walked back toward the B&B with my ice cream cone, I heard someone yell, "Hey hiker!" It was Trekker. He didn't recognize me at first. He drove me back to the B&B and the owners still weren't there so he gave me the tour since he'd been there before. I helped myself to the Hiker Hut and took a shower.
The owner finally arrived and said the Hiker Hut was all booked but I could sleep in the RV in back. I accepted and spent a nice evening relaxing with a glass of wine with Vicky (of Vicky and Dave) on the back patio. Vicky was from Solvang and was so homesick for the Santa Barbara area where I am from. I think she even had a Danish accent. A true Solvang resident at heart. We even drank our wine from Hitching Post wine glasses.
As I went to bed I thought about how being so far ahead of the herd has made this a very interesting and pleasant hike. I've met all kinds of different people and been able to enjoy the sections earlier in the season. There has been more water than the guide book had led me to believe there would be. I got to enjoy a glass of wine this evening, something I'm sure I wouldn't have done if I'd been in the herd. I felt lucky and happy to be doing things this way. A pure thru-hike isn't necessarily the best way to do it.