‘Pancakes and switchbacks’
Seiad Valley is home to the infamous PCT pancake challenge. Participants are to eat 5 pounds of pancakes in under 2 hours. The waitress tells us in 10 years only 4 people have succeeded. Yet Dejure wants to enter.
A few of us cramp around a white plastic cafe table and order our breakfasts: ice cream milk shakes, eggs, waffles. I go for a veggie omelette and sourdough toast. The cafe is kitch and homely. Our orders come – good hiker sized portions. My food is decent but I can’t finish.
Meanwhile Dejure is labouring under the largest stack of pancakes I’ve seen in my life.
He looks sick but keeps pushing on. We joke and encourage him but I can’t see any pleasure in the challenge.
By 9:30 I need to leave. It’s late to hike. They have 2 hours to complete the challenge but they can also walk faster than me.
My plan is to walk about 21 miles. Less than normal but today there’s over 6000 foot of elevation.
The hill feels relentless. Switch back after switchback. For every 2 steps of elevation there’s one of decline. I long for the honesty of a true steep path and think of the hill climbs back home. Bring me quick suffering rather than this exhausting tease.
The day is hot, 100 degrees, and for the first time in these 52 days I feel chaffing on my inner thighs and where my pack rubs on my lower back. Maybe running with my pack yesterday wasn’t such a good idea.
But despite these hardships grace walks with me.
She’s there in the cold river water i drink from. She’s in the respite of the forest shade. she’s in the breath of wind. She’s even in the hobbit-tree chair I have my lunch on.
Before night fall I arrive at camp, there’s a canopy of trees yet it’s open enough to watch the sky burn as sun sets. Deer roam unperturbed by my presence.
Dejure and some of the others come later – in time to witness the beauty. The whole camp glows in the fading sun’s light.