PCT Day 27: Ants

Last night some super chatty guys camped next door, definitely PCTers. They talked late into the evening. Other hikers, whom they hadn’t seen for a while would drop in, talk for a bit, then set up camp. It was like a slumber party over there.

One of them came over this morning looking for condiments, so he could boil a crayfish. There were lots of them in the lake, so I didn’t feel too judgemental about them eating one, but then again, maybe I did, because I made no effort whatsoever to dig deep into my already packed pack to get condiments I knew I had. So much work!

Squarepants saved me from my moral dilemma by giving him some salt packets. And she’s a vegetarian, such a good sport.

Warm last night, I’d slept in my underwear.

We’d come a long way from that second night when I thought I’d freeze to death.

Fish Nugget took off at 6:30 am again today, driven to avoid the midday heat. Squarepants and I followed at 7:00. It took us 10 minutes to find the trail because we’d been so busy chatting and looking at the pretty morning light on Lake Richardson. But after a bit of backtracking, we finally found it.

We had a nice, woodsy walk to Barker Pass today, a little more interesting than yesterday’s tedium. I got either ahead or behind Squarepants, I forget which.

Lake Richardson in the morning light, so calm.
Lake Richardson in the morning light, so calm.
Trail Near Lake Richardson
Yay, we found the trail!
Squarepants & Fish Nugget
Squarepants and Fish Nugget moving forward on the PCT.

Ants are like mother nature’s cleanup crew. I’d seen them on the trail throughout the trip, dragging giant dead bugs, sticks, crumbs and seeds. So industrious, all of them working together toward a goal, kind of like humans when we’re on good behavior.

The ants were big, but they weren’t mean like the ants back home.

In Puerto Rico, we have these mean, little fire ants everywhere. They run around on the ground fervently, sometimes in circles, searching for stuff, acting kind of crazy.

If you wear flip-flops on the lawn, and one of them crawls onto your foot, it will viciously bite and sting you, for no apparent reason! And let me tell you, those little buggers hurt. For me bites turn into a big, red, swollen welt that itches mercilessly for at least three days and takes weeks to fully heal.

Through a Meadow
A nice little meadow to break the monotony.
So Much Green
So much green, loving the cool, morning air.
I Think I See Barker Pass
I think I see Barker Pass in the distance.

I wondered why fire ants are so mean. In nature, it seems like living creatures tend to become the most aggressive when resources are scarce.

For example, it’s been my theory for years that the real reason for perpetual violence in the Middle East, even prior to oil, is that they live in the flippin hot desert—where there’s little food or water or even comfortable temperatures. So of course, they’re cranky and quarrelsome. Who wouldn’t be in that kind of a hostile environment?

It makes perfect sense that radical Islam originated in a hot, desolate landscape.

I debated whether or not to share that thought on the internet, because surely, haters would come after me. But really, it is interesting how this radical, aggressive sect has emerged, infiltrating The West, bit by bit, while the Europeans seem so passive about it, like yes, let’s be inclusive because that’s a value we hold dear, since we’re good people. Which I understand, because look at the history of the US and the immigrants who came here to make a better life.

But when you invite radical elements into your culture that make little effort to work hard, start businesses or assimilate into your society, instead, expecting handouts and making mischief in the name of their deity for the sins of your country, flat-out saying they plan to spread their seed by having children with your women—that’s a legitimate concern for Europeans who value and want to preserve their cultural heritage.

Europe has so many resources—arable land, fresh water and money from centuries of collecting it from all over the world. Their people have become complacent because they live in a world of abundance and trust. They don’t see the threat before them.

Which is ironic because it’s not unlike the Native Americans here in the US, who befriended the Europeans when they first came over. American Indians lived in a world of resource abundance, too. Then the Europeans took over, slowly wiping them out over the generations via superior technology, violent altercations and numerous offspring.

Now it’s happening to Europeans in their own countries, but they don’t see it.

Maybe it’s just karma.
Huge Meadow Plants
These plants were taller than I am, but it was 10 degrees cooler walking through there.
More Lovely Trail
More lovely trail, and cooler in here, too.
View of Tahoe
A peek view of Lake Tahoe from Barker Pass. (That’s peek—not peak, Realtors!)

But back to my tropical fire ants, why were they so mean?

They seemed to live in a world of abundance. The tropics are such a hothouse of birth, death and decay, there’s always something to scavenge. I didn’t see any predators going after them. Do the birds, ducks and lizards even eat them? I’m not sure.

Maybe the ants are cranky because it rains every few days, flooding their underground homes, so they have to rebuild constantly before the next flood comes.

Or maybe it just works for them to come into a complacent ecosystem, attack everything that gets in their way, and have tons of babies.

Mother nature does like to mix things up, doesn’t she?

Hot Dusty Trail
OMG, it was so hot on this trail. I walked pretty slow to avoid overheating.
Looking Back
Looking back at where I’d hiked from, to the left of that knob.

For some reason, my shoulders hurt today, so I stopped every 40 minutes or so to rest. But my feet felt pretty good, though tired by the time I got to the Barker Pass trailhead.

I’d leapfrogged the girls, so I arrived first, doing almost six miles in 3.5 hours, a record for me. It felt so much better walking in the cool of morning. Even so, I’d dunked my shirt twice in creeks along the way to cool off. It must have been in the low 80’s.

I didn’t find any trail magic, other than a case of bottled water accidentally left behind by day hikers, but there were picnic tables, a pit toilet and shade. The girls soon joined me. We hung out at a table, had lunch and lounged in the shade on our Z rests.

Several hikers came and went, including a couple we’d met that morning a few miles back with their cute dog, Bella. They were section hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail.

I wished I’d taken their picture.

In fact, I wished I’d taken a lot of people’s pictures to remember them by. Next time I do a trip like this, I’ll take more pictures of the people I meet.

Some PCT hikers, including a couple of guys from camp last night, showed up and also hung out for the afternoon. Chatty like girls, they talked about everything under the sun: the trail, drugs, scary neighborhoods, school, jobs, plans, iPhone versus Android—it was fascinating to listen to.

One of them, Tan Man, was a guy hiking in just his briefs. Desperate for a cigarette, he was trying to quit but having a hard time today. Though the trail is good for quitting things, I think he couldn’t take it anymore. He and his new buddies resolved to take a 16-mile detour into Tahoe City for cigarettes and beer.

I understood about the beer.

Rest Spot with Cell Service
This is my rest stop where I found a gorgeous lake view and actual cell service.
Big Rock Near Barker Pass
View of Lake Tahoe from that big rock near Barker Pass overlooking Blackwood Canyon.
Looking Back Again
Looking back again, so many colors of rock and dirt.

After hanging around the trailhead for three hours, I got antsy. The girls wanted to keep resting because it was still too hot, so they said they’d catch up. We agreed to meet at the Blackwood Creek campsites at mile 1127.

I left at 1:44 and quasi-regretted it. Hiking into the sun, it was so hot. I worried about dehydration, stopping on a ridge after 20 minutes or so, too heated to go on.

There I found a spot with a fantastic view of Lake Tahoe and cell service!

Settling down in the shade to wait out the heat some more, I sent a text message to The Hubby, checked email, and messed around on Facebook, pining for a beer. My Brazilian friends sent me a beer sticker—so cute, and yet so cruel.

Around 3:00 pm, it cooled off a bit with a breeze, so I hiked on. After a little bit of map confusion, I arrived at the campsite and found a good spot a bit after 4:00. Bella and her people came by and camped across the creek.

Getting Closer to Camp
Getting closer to camp, saw quite a few day hikers, but not the girls.
A Beautiful Little Brook
A beautiful little brook by the side of the trail where I stopped for water.
Waiting at Blackwood Creek
Waiting for Godot, I mean, the girls.

I waited for the girls but didn’t set up right away, since it was early, and I wanted to be sure they liked the site. I spread my spread stuff around in three good spots so that nobody else would claim them, and waited for the girls to show up.

I ate snacks, looked at the map and washed my feet and socks. After a while, I set up my tent, organized it and waited some more.

By 6:00 pm, I began to think they wouldn’t make it.

Had they camped too soon? Had I camped too soon? They could have passed me while I was on that ridge, looking at the lake, though I could see the trail and didn’t hear them pass.

It looked like I’d be alone for the night. I felt sad, but okay about it, too, like I’d be fine. At least Bella and her people were nearby.

A while later, I heard them on the trail and called them down. It turned out they’d just left late, chill-walking the entire way. It was great to see them.

8.5 miles, a light day, sounds weird to say that… :)

30 Days on the PCT
Day 27: July 29, mile 1127

PCT Day 27: Observing Ants—Learning from Nature on the Trail
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PCT Day 27: Observing Ants—Learning from Nature on the Trail
In 2016 I hiked on the PCT for a month from Mammoth to Truckee with my daughter and her friend. My thru-hike gave me precious time to observe and ponder. What do you think I learned?
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