July 31st, 2006

Redtail - learning to walk

Muir Trail Ranch: A three-paragraph glimpse

This quiet getaway location, with little noise except the rustle of trees in the wind and the tromping of horses in their corral, is nestled right at the edge of national park land, along the south fork San Joaquin river. Its many rustic buildings -- largely wood cabins -- have running water and hydroelectric power, but no telephone; thanks to the magic of satellite Internet, this is the second resupply place I've visited that has gotten online before getting all of the basic services that Western civilization takes for granted. (Kennedy Meadows, with phone/net but no electricity, still takes the cake, though.)

For hikers, they also lack one other essential feature of civilization we take for granted: Restrooms. (The ranch does have them available for employees and guests, but due to concerns about septic system capacity, they request that hikers "hold it" until they leave the ranch and return to the woods.) And there just plain aren't any showers -- which normally isn't too much of an issue, since they are located a stone's throw from some natural hot springs that guests (and hikers) are free to use.

Unfortunately, the hot springs are across the river. When I -- and a half-dozen John Muir Trail hikers -- tried to reach them last night, the thigh-deep flow was strong enough that nobody felt safe trying to get across to them.

* * *

In other news, my knee healed up some overnight and feels normal again -- but it still twinges when walking downhill. This is a matter of some concern, because if walking still hurts after a night of rest, then inevitably walking on it (and there's still plenty of downhill left to go) will make it hurt more, and at some point it will cross the line from strain to injury. If it hasn't already.

I want nothing more than to just keep going and finish the damn JMT already. I'm less than 100 miles shy of that landmark, and a similarly small distance from 1,000 PCT miles. But I can't afford to push on at the expense of injury. So I'm going to wait here another day, feast off of the hiker boxes (last night's meal: couscous in tomato basil soup, mopped up with rye crackers), finish Truman Capote's In Cold Blood (which another hiker abandoned in the hiker boxes as well), and cross my fingers that the knee isn't still bothering me tomorrow. If so ... I'll need a longer rest in a real bed, and maybe a doctor's visit. Which probably means going home again.

If anyone lives within reasonable distance of Fresno who might be willing to drive up tomorrow and meet me at Florence Lake, please respond to this post. I don't know if I'll be hiking on tomorrow or limping down to the lake to bail out, but a ride (and maybe crash space) would make a trail halt much more pleasant.
cyborg mass transit

The Men That Don't Fit In

I'm reading Truman Capote's In Cold Blood while laid up at the ranch. Never having read Capote before, I'm getting an introduction to his writing style (which I have to admit I'm finding disjointed, a frustration) as well as to his story. In Cold Blood is non-fiction, an account of a multiple murder in Kansas in the 1950s. It's somewhat slow reading (which isn't helped by his writing style), and crime dramas aren't really in keeping with the spirit of the trail, but I guess at least it's giving me something to do.

From a thru-hiker perspective, there was one extremely interesting passage in the middle, though. One of the perpetrators, in a letter to a woman he's walking away from a relationship with, writes the following poem (which in the book is identified as being a quote of someone else's work, but is unattributed):
There's a race of men that don't fit in,
A race that can't stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain's crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don't know how to rest.
If they just went straight they might go far;
They are strong and brave and true;
But they're always tired of the things that are,
And they want the strange and new.

"Sweet!" I thought when I read that. "I've got to go source that on the Internet."

It turns out that it's from "The Spell of the Yukon," by Robert W. Service. And I found the entire poem out on the Web.

Having read it, I can sure see why the quote stopped where it did.