In 2014, my last day of riding took me into Vermilion Valley Resort on the shores of Edison Lake on Labor Day weekend. It felt a little anti-climatic, ending in the middle of the Sierra like that, but I didn't have a choice; I was already enrolled in grad school and teaching a couple of lab sections as a T.A., and I was filling in a couple of sections that I had skipped earlier due both to snow and to the knowledge that they were close enough to home that I could come back and complete them after finishing the other parts of the PCT. That year was also a terrible drought year in California (this year was no better in the southern part of the state, but in the north there was some much needed rainfall), so Edison Lake had been reduced to not much more than a puddle surrounded by barren dirt.
This time everything felt different--and much better. I rode in while it was still daylight instead of in the pitch dark, and the lake was brimming full. I was also in the midst of riding the whole Sierra section, not cutting it into smaller, weekend-long excursions, and it felt really good to get the whole unbroken scope of the PCT in the area, where it is also part of the John Muir Trail and a very popular hiking thoroughfare. It is funny how easy it is to tell the JMT hikers from the PCT hikers, however; JMTers are usually doing only a few days or a week or so, and their packs are generally relatively large, stuffed full of luxury items such as cast iron skillets or roomy, multi-person tents, which any serious PCT hiker would have ditched long before. They also often took one look at me with the pack horse and began asking if I had any steaks or beer on board, offering to buy it from me if I did. I think if I ever need to make some quick money, I'll just bring Takoda out here to the JMT with his panniers full of red meat and liquor--an original chuck wagon on the hoof. There would be no shortage of customers!
Meanwhile, I was looking forward to a respite of my own. My mother was meeting me at the trailhead here, bringing with her our camper so I could get a shower and have some good home-cooked meals. She promised me ribs and tacos and ice cream, and I was pretty much feeling like a JMT hiker, salivating at the thought of that food. More importantly, however, she was bringing with her the supplies we would need to cover the next week of the trail, both pelleted feed for the horses and dehydrated meals for me. I also wanted to give the horses a nice rest for a day, with nothing to do but stuff their faces with hay. Giving them days off to recuperate and catch up on some calories is important to keep them sound and healthy and in good weight, as well as keeping their attitude good as the miles build up behind us. It probably won't be much of a rest for me, as I will be trying to do some laundry and pack up the panniers for the next section, but it is a gift to not be driving on my zero day as I often am. This time, the supplies came to me, thanks to my mother, instead of me having to drive to a feed store or to the next trailhead or to cache food along the way. That in itself is a treat (even if there wasn't Haagen Dazs involved!).