August 24th, 2015: Day 3
Gentle haze sifts through the basin. It moves easily along the side of Stukel mountain. Today we have our full packs on and over ten miles to walk.
Stressing out over what to write about, I try to remember everything everyone possibly said yesterday. I welcome the new normal of painful feet as I tie the laces of my boots into a bow with a final smooth motion.
The highway stretches out in front of us, and the pit crew won't meet with us until the morning. The sun heats our skins as we work up our internal body temps with full packs. We talk about paleo diets and current eating trends. We take refuge in the shade behind some large wooden crates.
As we pull out and share our snacks, Barry pulls out his knee brace. It is mostly black with a couple edges of blue, "It's all right, " he says, "I'll try this for a while, and we'll see if it gets any better." We sit for a while, but Barry is up and pacing back and forth, "I have to walk, but you guys go ahead and relax if you want." So we do, but just for a bit, and then it's feet to the ground.
New Familier Norm
"We can take our time, so anybody can call for a break, you totally don't have to push yourself, " I say to him, trying to anticipate
He grits his teeth as he walks. Every fifty steps he lets out a shout and he leans over to slap his legs, "C'mon guys!" he says pleadingly. Poor Barry has been getting consistently bitten on his legs since last evening.
"Aye I don't want to hold you guys up, " He grits his teeth only a little as he says this, and I suspect that he's in more pain than he's letting on.
At a ranch gate, we meet a farmer setting up the irrigation for one of his fields and start up a conversation. He says that he read about our hike in the paper. He chides us about the comment of the 'scar on the mountain.'
"What do you think about the pipeline?" I ask.
"Well, probably the opposite of what you think."
"So then what do you think will be the benefits of the pipeline?"
"We're in a global economy, so I think we have to be able keep the markets up."
Emmalyn says, "You know they predict it might make your gas prices rise."
"Well I didn't know that, " the famer responds. He is quiet for a bit and we shuffle from foot to foot for a minute, "Well there is something I wanted to talk to you about, " he continues, "It's going through my land and if I could tap it, that would be good."
Emmalyn tells him that that's probably not possible, because the Cow Creek tribe tried to negotiate similar terms because it goes through their land. He shakes his head in disappointment, "Welp, you got a long way to go and I don't want to keep you, God bless you."
The amount of mosquitos seems to be building as the day passes. Normally as the sun gets higher, all one must contend with, is the heat. In Wisconsin, they boast mosquitoes as their state bird, because of the flocks of them that descend upon you at twilight. However, it was approaching the heat of the day and they seemed to be building.
About half a mile or so later, Barry says to everyone, "Okay, I think I'm going to hitchhike up to the camp spot."
Genie stays behind with him, we give them a spare map and I ask them if they have enough water and snacks. She pats my arm, "Thank you, we do." Emmalyn and I continue on as she calls the pit crew to share the news.
Emmalyn and I spend the rest of the day huffing and puffing with our packs. We stop a couple of times so she can take care of her blisters. I walk behind her watching the mosquitos swarm around her pant legs. A few dozen hitchhike on her legs. It makes my skin crawl.
"I try to be zen about mosquitoes, " She says, "I figure that with the sun, and the issues with my feet I have enough to worry about."
I understand that it's only female mosquitos that drink blood, and they only need to do it to make babies. However, if the chemical they pumped into you to anesthitize your skin didn't itch so much, I wouldn't mind it so much.
After quite a few cars, Genie and Barry finally pass by in a beat up white truck with a toolbox in the rear. I breathe a sigh of relief, glad that they found a ride.
Whenever Emmalyn and I stop for a break, I drop my pack and try to keep moving so they don't bite me. Or I walk up to the top of whatever rise we are on in the hopes that there is enough wind to blow them away. They keep floating in a mass in my shadow no matter how much I move. Even though the sun is bright, I start avoiding them because it seems like the swarm doubles in size every time I pass through one.
Klamath hills gets closer and closer; Mount Shasta ponderously drifts along our horizon. Finally we trudge around the last bend.
The trail head is a dusty parking lot surround on three sides by a wooden fence. There is no shade except up the hill by some small dry trees. Most of the hillside is covered with woody brush and yellow grass clinging to the sandy soil.
Barry and Genie have constructed a small tarp shelter to lay under the sun. I drop my pack as Genie takes my arm and guides me to the meager shade. My feet are raw and throughout the rest of the night it is difficult to walk around.
The ground is covered with shotgun shells and pieces of ceramic. There is broken glass bottles littering the space around several rocks spray-painted white.
I stare at the picture sent by the pitcrew identifying the space where they drop the water. I look at the relationships between the fence and the scant bush that is supposed to hide the cooler. Alex stands on the trail, with his back to the road, pointing at the bright orange cylinder.
I stand in that spot now, staring at the road thinking that a bright orange container could be seen really easily from it, there is no water now. It must have been taken by a local, and I just shake my head at the major fail of this basin.
In a great show of human decency, another local pulls up with the intention of using the area to practice shooting his handguns, takes Genie and Barry to a close by farmhouse to refill our water containers. Emmalyn and I stay behind to rest our poor feet.
It's nice that we're a little higher up farther away from the irrigation canals. The mostquitos seem to avoid the hillside. It's not until the color starts to slide into golds and reds that the wave of bugs spread out over the landscape.
We eat the leftovers from last night covered with a soy chili that Genie had prepared with hot water from the morning in her thermos. It is rich, filling and I eat it earnestly before darting to my tent where a cloud of mosquitoes has settled on the windward side.
The sun is blood red from smoke as it sets. I wipe crimson streaks off of my face from swatted mosquitoes. The wind finally picks up and not with a small sense of satisfaction, I watch the mosquitoes spiral away into the distant night.
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