Ghosts

"Now and then Pilon and Big Joe passed other searchers who wandered restlessly, zig-zagging among the pines. Their heads were down and they moved silently and passed no greeting. Who could say whether all of them were really living men?"

Steinbeck, Tortilla Flat

Outside I could see the wind blowing the rain and mist sideways. We had all slept in, while avoiding thoughts of all those poor souls packing up their tents in the terrible weather. It seemed almost too easy, being able to put on my rain gear in the comfort of the hut, before heading out into the rain. I followed the trail along the outskirts of the meadow and noticed a woman walking through the grass. She seemed almost like an apparition. She had no backpack on and I was certain she had not stayed at the hut the previous night. The fog obscured my view and she disappeared into the white.

I could almost convince myself I was hiking through Washington, surrounded as I was by the wet, dripping meadows. I hiked along, enjoying myself for the most part, convinced that soon enough the rain would stop, the fog would burn off and the sun would come out. In an hour or so it did just that and I stopped in the middle of a logging area to strip off my rain gear. Moving on I came up behind another hiker, hunched over and walking with a stiff gait. "Hello there," I said. He stopped, turned around to face me then stepped to the side, offering no response. "How are you doing?" I asked him. Still no reply. I passed him by and soon stopped to eat lunch. He came lurching by and only a few yards further set up his tent at the side of a dirt logging road. It was only noon and there were no views to be had, simply a dirt road and tree cover. It seemed an odd place to set up camp.

I encountered many such men and women throughout my hike. They seemed miserable, unfriendly and worn down by the PCT - walking almost zombie-like along the trail. There was a desperation to them and they often refused to respond to a simple "hello" or to even make eye contact. They were the walking dead of the PCT.


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