March 26, Day 16
PCT Mile 220.1, Whitewater Creek.
I woke up early this morning after a fitful night of sleep. As I have mentioned earlier, I sleep a lot lighter out here. I was camped with Sampson, Jason and Aric. We were all camped rather close together as the area we stopped had limited options. As a result, anytime one of them moved, I was awake.
Even with an interrupted night of sleep, I felt reasonably rested this morning. This came as a bit of a shock as I put my body through hell yesterday.
After packing up camp and eating breakfast I was on the trail by 6:45. The first planned stop was the trail Angels, Ziggy and the Bear. They were approximately 5 miles from where I camped so I knew I would make it there rather early.
The scenery this morning was substantially different than yesterday. I trekked across flat desert wash. It was quite enjoyable. I love the smell of the desert in the morning. There is an aroma that I’ve never been able to identify, but it relaxes me and makes me feel good.
I crossed under Interstate 10 shortly after 8am. Awaiting hikers was a pleasant surprise, Trail Magic! There were several coolers, one with bottled water, one with sodas and one with beer! I opted for a full flavor root beer (I usually drink diet). Man what a sugar rush.
We all took a pause and signed the trail log to thank whomever the angel was for the hospitality. In the log I saw Connor and Khalil are roughly two days ahead of me.
We all caught back up with each other and hiked together the remaining mile or so to Ziggy and the Bears. The Bear greeted us and Ziggy joined in short order. They are a retired couple in their 80s who have been hosting PCT hikers for the last 20 years. Their first year, they only saw 12 hikers. Last year they hosted over 1100!
They have a great set up for hikers. They immediately offered us Gatorade and offered to charge our electronics. We all accepted. We all made conversation and relaxed. They had a hiker box full of food, so we all rummaged through to see if there were any goodies we may like. I found some crackers and granola bars and had them as an early lunch. Sampson found a jar of peanut butter and strawberry jam mixed. He exclaimed, “Boy, I just love this stuff. I’m going to eat this for lunch.”
Over the next 20 minutes he consumed the entire jar… I guess his hiker hunger has kicked in.
The time quickly slipped away as we chatted and rehydrated. About 10:30 I decided it was time to go. I wanted to get some more miles in before it got to hot. It was to be in the 90s today.
From Ziggy and the Bears, you head east on the PCT and walk right along a windmill farm. I had never actually been that close to a power generating windmill. They actually make quite a bit of noise, but the breeze was nice so I couldn’t complain.
The next several miles were pretty warm. The wind was at my back and the temperature was pushing 90. I was sweating profusely. I had the foresight this might be the case and brought more water than I thought I would need. Many hikers can get by with a liter every 5 miles. I’ve learned for myself in the heat, I need about a liter every three miles. I knew my next water source was 10 miles away, so I left Ziggy and the Bears with 3 liters. Even with the extra I was running a deficit today. I could feel my energy being sapped from the ascent of the trail and the heat.
I pulled into camp this afternoon around 3:30 somewhat delirious and done for the day. I’m camped right beside whitewater creek and this far it’s my favorite place I have set up camp on the PCT. The creek is flowing well and provides a nice audible backdrop to a great view.
Although today was rough physically, I have to say it’s one of my favorite days. I saw many day hikers today and when I happened upon the creek there was a young family teaching their two boys about backpacking. The mother struck up a conversation about hiking and asked if I was thru hiking. I said that was the plan. She was super friendly and offered me some chocolate chip cookies. Boy, that made my day.
It’s truly fascinating to me how many people have gone out of their way to be friendly to me or help me out when they learn I’m a thru hiker.
In Idyllwild we went to the GastroGnome restaurant. When I walked in they asked if I would rather be inside or outside. I responded, “oh I would prefer to be inside. I’ve been outside for the last 10 days.”
One of the owners happened to be close by and asked if I was a thru hiker. I said, “yes. ”
She responded, “Oh, well I have something for you then”
Once we were seated she swept by and dropped off a bag of homemade oatmeal raisin cookies. She then looked at Austin and Brian and asked if they were thru hiking. They both said no. She looked at them and smiled and said, “No thru hiking, no cookies for you.” And walked off.
The generosity of people is pretty spectacular. I received a discount on my room in Idyllwild as well. It feels as if I’m a member of an elite club most people don’t even know exists.
Trail Angels, trail magic and the generosity of random people, do it for no more thank a thank you. In a lot of instances of trail magic a thank you can not even be given since often their magic is in the form of an unattended stash. The PCT seems to be a magical place.
March 25, Day 15
PCT Mile 206, Snow Canyon Road Faucet.
Last night was pretty chilly. It was 32.3 degrees this morning. I absolutely love my sleeping bag. I was warm and toasty all night. About 11:30 the wind picked up and howled all night long. Fortunately I postitioned my tent almostt perfectly and was protected from the wind for the most part. When an exceptionally large gust would come through it would rattle my tent.
I hit the trail about 7:15 this morning. I felt it rather late, but with the temperature as it was, I loitered in my sleeping bag later than usual.
Once I rolled out of my bag and got dressed the chill didnt bother me too much. I had numerous more snow fields to cross today. One of them got the best of me and I fell for the first time since starting my hike. Fortunately I just fell to my side, so I really didnt do much damage. Im sure tomorrow morning will be the real test of how my body took the fall.
Starting first thing this morning, the trail was in descent mode. over 18 miles the trail drops about 6500 feet in elevation. It was a very tough day on the body. The trail aside from being a descent for 18 miles is overgrown in a multitude of sections. So there was lots of brush to contend with.
Also, this is a 20 mile dry section, so I had to carry all the water I would need all day. I left camp this morning with just shy of 5 liters. Another long heavy water carry.
For those of you that don’t want to hear me bitch and complain skip to the next paragraph.
The designer of this section of trail needs to be slapped. This is how I imagine the planning of this part of the trail. Someone asked him if he would design a trail through the san jacinto mountains down to the valley. He said, “sure!” Being the sadist that he is, he went and got drunk, and then looked at the map of the mountain. He found every single conceivable way he could screw with a hiker. Let’s find the most rugged sections on the mountain and build a trail. For good measure we will throw in several metric tons of loose rock every mile. Then we will add 10 miles of switch backs. After designing and creating the trail, we will let it grow over for 10 years before we will let anyone use it. Here and there we will throw in hidden rocks that will serve to trip you. Basically, we will try to make your day a living hell. To sum up the trail today, where I am camped from where I started this morning is 4.2 miles as the crow flies. I hiked 18 miles today and dropped 6500 feet. Enough said.
Other than the futility of trying to enjoy today’s hike, I’m in good spirits. I crossed the 200 mile mark today. I also met a thru hiker from Mississippi named Sampson. He’s a mid 50s married man with an imposing stature and a melodic southern twang to his chatter. Very nice guy. He hiked the AT in 2013.
I also met two hikers from Oregon, that rolled into camp later this evening. I haven’t yet caught there names.
The views today were great, as I have always enjoyed the scenery in this area, Tonight promises to be significantly warmer than last night, as a heat wave is about to hit. It supposed to get to the mid 90s tomorrow.
I cross Interstate 10 tomorrow. Yay, my second major freeway crossing.
More on that tomorrow! Thanks for reading!
Look what I found today….
March 24, Day 14
PCT mile 189, Fuller Ridge
I got back on trail today. Brian and Austin came up yesterday and spent the day and night.
This morning we had breakfast and the dropped me off at the Devils slide side trail. It was 2.5 miles of brutal to get back to the PCT.
Today I hiked between 8 and 9000 feet of elevation. The trail isn’t any more difficult than the rest of it, but being at elevation makes everything more work.
I hiked across snow fields for the first time today. That added a new challenge to the hiking. It also results in slower hiking because you make sure of your footing with each step.
Today was also my coldest day on trail. In the sun I was quite warm, but in the shade of The pine forest, things were significantly cooler.
The sun just went down and the temperature is already down to the mid 40s. It’s going to be cold tonight.
And due to the temperature my blog post is short lived tonight. My fingers are freezing.
March 22, Day 12
Today was a day of rest and recovery. I laid in bed with my left foot elevated and watched movies most of the day. I alternated foot elevation with 5 minute ice baths. I had forgotten how uncomfortable to down right painful ice baths can be.
In one of my few excursions from the room I walked down to the local gear outfitter named Nomads. I met the manager, Robert, and we chatted about the trail and different outdoor adventures.
He’s semi retired and led a life of adventure. As he put it, for many years he was paid to live outdoors. As I so often do, I quipped without thinking, “So you never worked for a living.” He got a chuckle out of that.
I told him the anticipated hiker numbers this year with over a thousand people starting the trail between April 8 and April 28. He was staggered. He’s likely to plan extra staff to help with the volume.
In our conversation he mentioned he had written a novel. It’s called “Dirt Bags” and is a fictional novel based on two friends right out of high school living a life of adventure. It was sold in the store, so I purchased a copy. He was nice enough to sign it.
In the opening it references an interesting quote that I’ll paraphrase.
“Time and money have an inverse relationship. We have to spend one to get the other. For anyone who has traveled on the cheap knows that time is more valuable.”
Life experiences don’t have to cost a lot and you rarely get the experiences you are looking for in the quest for money.
Brian and I have tried to move more toward the experience lifestyle and away from the possession lifestyle over the last 8 or so years. While we still enjoy having nice things, it’s not our be all end all anymore. I would trade any nice “thing” for a life long memory of a great experience any day. I suspect this is part of the reason I have undertaken the thru hike now.
I had a gentleman comment on my age the other day. Upon first meeting he sized me up and said, “you’re mid to late thirties aren’t ya?”
I respond, “Yeah, some where around there.”
He replied, “we don’t generally see many of your type thru hiking.”
I looked at him inquisitively but didn’t say anything.
He continued, “You know, people in their prime earning years.”
I can appreciate being in the minority. I am in a unique position in my ability to participate in a thru hike at this point in my life. Many individuals have significantly different lives in their mid 30s. Children, big mortgages, lots of bills, the list goes on. My employment situation worked out just about perfectly to allow my hike to happen. However, this is only one of many factors.
Many people claim to want to do certain things and have dreams. When it comes down to it, many people will not make the appropriate changes or plans to make their dreams a reality. This is one area Brian and I excel at. Rarely is a fulfillment of a goal an accident.
That’s as far as I’ve made it in dirt bag thus far, but I’m sure it will be a great read.
After Nomads, I went back to the room for another ice bath and to contemplate dinner. I decided on Mexican food again. It was quite delicious.
In walking back to my room I received an email from Magee! She invited me out for a beer. They weren’t supposed to be here until Tuesday. I knew a good story was brewing.
I met them at a beer and wine bar called “idly awhile”. Clever.
We caught up and they told the tale of the alternate trail. The first section of the trail was beautiful but after walking through a Girl Scout camp turned mercenary training center and discovering a 4 mile road walk, they decided to hitch into Idyllwild to skip the rest of the alternate.
They’re in good spirits and plan to spend a couple days in town then hit the trail either Tuesday or Wednesday.
My feet are recovering nicely. All of my previous blistered spots are nearly healed. And after a day and a half of diligent massage and ice baths, my tendonitis is lessening. Hooray for the miracle of the human body.
Keith, who put together the video for my departure, has his site up for anyone who would like to give it a watch. It really is quite the production. Cotton World Studios.
The plan is to hit the trail by midday tomorrow! I’m ready for more miles and more adventures.
March 21, Day 11