Good thing Dylan didn’t tell me we had gone eight miles before breakfast. I would have been irate. Seriously, we seemed to have a supercharged morning. I felt a little like my old self. Early on, today took shape as our time to heap on those extra miles. It also shaped up as a hot one. We traversed the glorious Russian River canyon and cut over to the sunnier side of the ridge. Begrudgingly, I took off my sport coat. Otherwise I would simply sweat out more than our four and a half liter water carrying capacity. There were sixteen hot miles between our cool breakfast creek and Shelly Lake. Dylan empathetically stated, “I’m sure there are lots of business executives that take their coat off at some point during the day.” Yet, as I rolled up my sleeves he quipped, “Up… now your getting blue collar.” Who’s he to talk. Just previously a woman passing on a hoarse commented that Dyl was, “Not properly dressed.” Soon enough; my sleeves were rolled up, my tie was loose, my shirt was half unbuttoned, and both pant legs were rolled up like knickers. By lunch, the suit had become clothes. I plopped down in the dirt just as I had with my shorts on.
After Etna Summit the terrain changed drastically. We climbed up north, then west, switch-backed south west to a high and rocky north running ridge. It was wooded with occasional views off to the west. I was out in front. Around a little jog in the trail I came across a fairly clean cut young guy relaxing trail side. His pack and shoes were off and he had many articles of gear and clothing neatly arranged about him. He kind of emerged out of a heavy trance upon seeing me and jumped up to shake my hand, “Hi my names Dave.” I exchanged quick pleasantries with him as Dyl came up behind me. Dave looked at us both, paused for effect, and said, “I’m THE UNABONGER! So… if you know your into that kind of thing I…” I looked at Dyl over my left shoulder as he responded.
“It doesn’t really sound like your giving us much of a choice.” THE UNABONGER” smiled and returned to his pack. A quick dig into his top pouch revealed a small plastic travel hookah and a healthy bag of Mexican marijuana. So, we sat down with him and he bonged us. Needless to say, the conversation wandered around to all sorts of various topics. He was traveling almost the exact opposite of us. From Oregon to Mexico, he had been on the trail only a few days. As we were desperately dry mouthed and still had eight miles to water our conversation turned toward the subject. He drank freely and even used fresh water, which he then tossed in the dirt, for his water pipe. It seems like you could spit in the thing or do something to conserve. He told us he wouldn’t carry more than a days worth of water. This set Dyl and I both into a laughing fit. “You will. you’ll have to! Try three days water, at least!” In late August when he leaves the aqueduct, its a hundred and ten degrees, and he has fifty miles to his next water, he will be facing the trial of his life. Dyl jokingly admonished me later for scaring the guy. He needs to be scared. Prepared rather. Thirst wetted from the talk, Dyl urged that we press on as we had little more than a swallow each. THE UNABONGER told us that we were right on the edge of the Marble Mountain Wilderness a beautiful area. We thanked him for the trail descriptions and the diversion and gave him Uncle Dewey’s book of Travel Quotations. It has a trail life now as he will pass it on to one of the many north bounders behind. It will get to know this country well.
The comment about the Marble Mountain Wilderness was initially unremarkable. We continually pass in and out of wilderness areas. Certainly I wasn’t prepared to almost immediately experience the world dropping away beneath me. It was insta-mountains. All the sudden we were kicking rocks on a high exposed slopes. Lack of tree cover allowed the late afternoon sun to beat on us. My feet were seriously battered by the new hard trail surface and we were both very thirsty. Shelly Lake seemed a long way off. At camp tonight we admitted, we had been UNABONGED.
It was nice to talk and seep up trail culture. There are still a lot of folks on the trail this season. All kinds of distances and terrains define their trips. Everyone seems to be having a blast. I have come to enjoy bumping into south bounders. They give us news of Psycho Ken and LETITBE. We send messages with them for new friends long passed up. It seems that we would delve deeper into the culture if we kept going. We would pass more south bounders as the season for doing the trail that direction is just coming into full swing. Eventually, in southern Washington, we would meet Ken and LETITBE hauling ass back down to Mexico. That, however, isn’t what this trip was primarily for. It seems really to be an opportunity to find our limits. How far and how hard can you simply walk until you just have to stop. Before your body makes you stop.