I woke up, used the last of my water on breakfast shart, and wandered up the rest of the climb to Island Pass. There were loads of day walkers ogling us proud, stinky few distance folks-I was even a little self conscious filling my water bottle with so many people staring at me. The pass was hardly a pass at all when the initial climb ended. Several pools and streams surrounded the base of a mountain all thickly vegetated with manzanita and hemlock. Island is an excellent name for it; it is gentle, calm and lush.
There was a brief space between the two passes with a small group of hikers filling it, looking absolutely exhausted. They recognized my hat and called me over. Seahawk, Bumblebee and Any Minute Now all welcomed me immediately into their little group. They'd had an ordeal involving searching for the trail for hours, then deciding to take the John Muir low trail alternate. When I saw them, they had just rejoined the PCT, having left well before me on the equidistant but much more difficult trail.
We walked to Donahue Pass, Sea and Bee in front, me chatting with Any Minute in back. My neuroma had flared up, and I was in more pain than usual. It was nice to have a distraction from the stabbing. And she walked at my pace. Though I didn't want to bother her too much on the climb, I learned a few fascinating things and decided that we had quite a bit in common. I camped with the little group that night, meeting another friend of theirs, a fabulous Hawaiian named Kapiko.
Two girls camped next to me cautiously approached my tent around dusk. One was holding her fuel cannister like a live grenade. "What's up," I called, trying to break through their little wall of anxiety. "Um, well, when I screw my fuel can to my stove, it hisses and pushes fuel out everywhere. " It had never occurred to her that not having a working stove would not be the end of the world; there were tears standing in the corners of her eyes. Her girlfriend put her hand on the speaker's back. "No worries," I said quickly, hoping to diffuse this unnecessarily heavy moment, "it's just altitude. We're at 10,000 feet. Just screw it on faster so you don't lose a bunch of fuel. I promise it won't blow up." Relief spread over their faces. I saw them laughing and cooking soon after.