12.4 miles *I think* *actually really no idea*
*** plus small amounts of gratuitous bushwhacking
Last night on my way back from the library aka unlimited free internet and power source I stopped by the Idyllwild Inn to see if they were running a shuttle as rumor had it. They were! It leaves each day at 8:15am, which was perfect! And only $2 for non-guests! Even perfecter!
I got back to the camp where I found that my tarp setup was actually pretty close to the hiker hang and bonfire. I can sleep through most stuff unlike the typical hiker who seems not to be able to, but the light was flickering a lot, so I put my umbrella up just outside to block some of that. Perfect.
Woke up pretty much normal time, packed up/hit the loo/headed for coffee and to charge stuff for a bit. Ran into another couple from Team International, they headed off while I was still caffeinating. Ride to the trail was great, there was a ranger at the trailhead who checked our permits. Get your permits, people! Third time in 10 days they’ve been checked (albeit one was to get free pie, but that’s kinda mandatory?)
I start breathing hard immediately upon starting the 2.5 mile, 1000+ feet elevation gain Devil’s Slide Trail that connects with the PCT. Remain huffing and puffing the whole way, but pass by all the other thru hikers and most of the dayhikers. In one hour! Maybe I am finally getting the hang of this thing. I take a minute to grab a snack and chat with another hiker already there. All the other people from the ride are part of a mega-group formed at Scout and Frodo’s, like 8 or 10 people. Wow. Super hard for me to imagine a group that big sticking together. I have pretty much always hiked solo, except in the ‘stans, where I kinda wished half the time I was solo, or at least in a smaller group (we were generally 4-6 hikers). I get a little bit of a sense of fear mongering from him, he has microspikes for sure already, and I can’t remember but maybe a bear can? Huh? Hasn’t he read reports? It’s been 2 weeks since people were saying you can do Mt San Jacinto without spikes. The Sierra for sure, yeah, but why carry an extra pound when ya don’t have to? Even more perplexing is why he has them at all, he’s only section hiking to Mojave or so. Oooooook, you do you. It turns out they aren’t even going up Mt San Jacinto…because of snow? Or it’s too hard? I guess a group decision but that sorta sucks, there’s some super fit German dudes in the group that would have no problem with it
I push on while the rest of their group catches up. Going up the trail I run into Charlie from yesterday and another woman. They are discussing the East coast mountains and how people from the west coast dismiss them as easy simply because they are lower in elevation. I agree! I am finding the PCT so much easier than the AT this far! Tho it’s also a reminder, I need to quit it with the announcing that this is good compared to the AT, I’m not overboard with it but still. Anyway I’m surprised to see them hiking together since it seemed Charlie was kinda fast and they are not going super speedy. “Look at these jawns over hee-yre” I announce. Charlie doesn’t know what a jawn is. And you call yourself from Philly, pshaw.
I pass them but then Charlie catches up and we conversate, I guess those guys weren’t hiking together? I get really self-conscious on ascents because I am slow, even today, but I guess we are going the same pace? Really I like to do my own thing, maybe it’s what I’m used to, I feel him too close up behind me. He’s going on about how he did 18 miles a day in the Whites, making his 18yr old superior athlete nephew beg for mercy. The Whites were so hard for me, I did like 12-15 miles a day At Most. Ok, I get you are trying to assert your youth, but I’m over the humblebragging stories already.
Then he steps on my trekking pole. Luckily it’s the one without a strap, it slams on the ground. I’m a bit annoyed/unnerved by this, I’m kinda f*cked if I break it, Fizan poles are hard to find in the states. He apologizes but also defends himself with saying he was having difficulty hearing me from behind. Really I want him to go ahead, it’s obvious he has a faster pace, but am not forceful enough about insisting in this.
We take another break at a trail juncture, I snack, rehydrate, and push on. I sorta want to do this alone at my own rate, sorta getting annoyed but not sure if it’s at him and his stories and obvious slowing down of his pace to hike with me, or if it’s just my own dirt. Am I too independent? I dunno. I make my way up alone and start feeling better eventually, I talk with two dayhikers who are friends with someone named Cat Water (she found a dead cat in a water trough), which is a SUPER awesome name. She’s hiking the CDT this year I think?
Anyway I get higher and higher. Start seeing some snow, sometimes the trail is a little tricky to find but not bad at all. Just follow the compacted snow. Can I please say for the record? Microspikes totally not needed right now here.
Eventually get to the top, yay! There’s a ton of people, I get my selfie and make my way down, following a group of dayhikers who seem like they know an alternate way around the group of 20+ kids from CalTech. It’s only .3 to the trail junction, I start getting antsy. “Hey, are we almost at the trail junction?” “We’re not doing that, we’re just GPSing it to the tram.” Whoops. Luckily we’re really close to the junction, I find it and then take my celebration lunch. Let me tell you, I’ve been looking forward to this for hours, HOURS! now, and let me tell you why.
1. I am making what I know will be the Best Hikertrash Sandwich Ever, and that’s because it combines the two main sandwiches I ate daily K-12: peanut butter sandwiches (no jelly) and pepperoni sandwiches (no other condiments). The results: um, awesome as expected, obviously.
2. This is accompanied by another stroke of genius from yours truly. So my campsite last night was apparently the local hiker box? Amongst some discarded gas canisters and lengths of rope I found 7 cans of something called Mountain Dew LiveWire. Snow + MDLW = orange freezerpop slushie.
I start down the Deer Springs Trail after the junction, to form a loop back to the PCT a couple miles from where I left it. It is increasingly obvious to me that not many people have been on this route lately, there’s tons of blowdowns, not much compacted snow track. Did most PCTers skip Mt SJ? I lose the trail a couple of times but get back. One time I’m lost I hear Charlie, I guess he’s caught up. He didn’t have too hard of a time finding the trail, he’s nice about it, but really I just want to hike alone and stew in my frustration.
I head on ahead after a very short break, grab water from a stream after a stream crossing on a small snow bridge. Trail gets sketch again but I come out to something called Little Round Valley which is on my map.
A leeeetle not obvious where the trail is after here, I’m not the only one confused as I spot Team GPS Bushwhackin’ there. I find some compacted snow tread to the right, two of them follow. “Um, aren’t you guys going to the tram? I’m pretty sure this is the Deer Springs Trail.” I tell them this a few times before one of them is like, “Wait, you’re not going to the tram?” >facepalm< “No, remember I told you I’m hiking the PCT?” Ohhhhhhhhh. They remember, they just thought I was lying or confused or something, because it didn’t look like I had enough gear. “Yes, I’m thru hiking with this here pack.” Minds blown, we separate.
I grab some more water. The trail starts descending, underwater at times, wild! What is this, the Long Trail?
More trail, run into people, try to pass by them. I don’t know, I just don’t feel like making sociable right now. At one point Charlie says “You know, from behind you look Japanese” which obviously has to do with my trail name and is sorta an ignorant/racist thing to say and I just.about.fucking.lose it. Instead I push on. When you are trying to lose someone on trail they most foolproof way is to outrun them, but hard for me as I am not the fastest. I feel bad as he’s a nice guy but at this point I just want to do my own thing in The Quiet in The Nature.
I pass the N Fork of the SJ river, it’s not too bad considering how strong it was upstream. I think I’ve escaped after Charlie stops to chat with some other hikers (one hilariously named F.R.O.G.: Fucking Really Old Guy), I take a break. Then I see Charlie just behind, taking photos in a way that really really looks to me as if he is just killing time whilst catching up. He plops down next to me. Oh, me? I’m just pushing on. I really really want to take a break, but I just want to be alone. Maybe I should change my trail name to Greta Garbo. Finally I feel like I’ve really gotten ahead, I know I’m bonking, I have to eat and stop for more than a few minutes. Why am I letting this situation dictate my hike today. I eat dinner, sit and stare at Guthook, try to decide something. Charlie rolls up with one of the other hikers I passed. That guy also looks mildly annoyed. “Oh wait up, I need to discuss with Haiku what the plan is for tonight.” Jeezus, there is NO plan. Meanwhile, the guy keeps going as if he didn’t hear. “Haha, he’s probably getting annoyed with all my talk about the PCTA.” No comment. I try my best to look zonked, which isn’t hard, quite frankly. “Oh wait, what time is it? 5? There’s only another hour left of hiking, should we just camp here? Or push on a couple more miles? I explain that he should do his own thing, maybe I’ll catch up. He leaves, I try to figure out what to do, f it, I’m staying here. I wanted to stop early today anyway, there’s no rush to Kennedy Meadows. Of course a half hour after I set up the wind gets crazy, Again. I put rocks on my guy lines, listen to a couple chapters of Finding Everett Ruess (awesome so far!) and call it a night.
Defintely the hardest but maybe awesomest day so far. I’m sorta frustrated with myself with how I handled the whole buddy system thing, oh well. Maybe I’ll get lucky and not run into anyone tomorrow?