Day 19

12.3 miles hiked

342 total

Well, not too much to say about today.  Woke up around 6, hiking by 6:30.  Town was on the horizon, time to mash.  I did the 12.3 miles in 3 hours!  For some reason I thought there was an uphill and downhill of equal length, but it seemed like a lot more down than up, so I was flying.  Once you got over the final ridges, just super awesome views!  I love ridgewalking!

I decided to try McDonald’s, it was fairly gross.  Well, check that off for the next 15 years.  I was planning to stay in the Best Western where I had a box shipped, no one else was staying.  Headed over, got my room, loafed, ate Del Taco twice.  2nd time I got brave and ordered 12 tacos since on Tuesdays they were 3/$1.29 and I could pack them out.  There is no salsa on them but I bet they will taste good.  Totally stole this idea from Carrot Quinn’s blog.

Not sure what to pack for 5ish days and 30 miles no water and like 6000 feet elevation change.  I have 6L water probably too much food and 10 tacos.  Alarm set for 4am yikes.

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Day 18

19.5 miles hiked

329.5 total

Got woken up almost immediately after sleeping by Lester who was looking for a spot.  The other guy said there was only space for one.  So Lester just puts his gear down anyway and moves the guy’s gear, almost snuggling with him.  Uh….

What I am really worried about is the snoring, but it’s windy enough, and enough bullfrogs are croaking that I can’t distinguish which is which.  I wake up again around 3:30 when Lester passes me on the trail.

“How’d you sleep?”  I ask my friend?

“Not much, he’s really loud!  Also he shined a flashlight directly in my face about 3 times at 3am.”

What a special one, that Lester.

Well, again today the issue is: where to stop.  If I hike too many miles I don’t think I will want to eat McDonald’s.  I need the hiker hunger to even consider it.  

Around 9 I run into Lester at a water source maybe 8 miles down the trail.  He has gear everywhere, is boiling water, seems perturbed.  

“How’s ya doin’ there?”  I ask.  “Is the new pack ok?”

“Yeah, the pack, well, it’s alright, but you know, you fix one thing, the next thing breaks.”  Apparently his water filter broke.  He was upset because it cost him over $100, one of those giant ceramic pump ones.  He’s upset because no one will give him tablets or a spare filter.  I just don’t get it, it’s hard to feel sorry for him because if he did any research at all he’d have seen that the Sawyer filters are much cheaper, lighter, and foolproof, and that almost everyone uses them, and no one brings a backup filter.  I let him use my filter for a few minutes but have to go after that.

Ok.  Well, as the day heats up I slow way down.  Shoulda had more water, am I near the source?  Aaaaannnd, trail magic!  My first real one of the trail, your old school woods-stashed cooler.  A group of 4 of us congregate around it: Reroute, Clive, and the other guy I forget his name.  The boys want to go to Cajon Pass TONIGHT.  It’s 1ish, we did like 13 miles, 17 to go.  I feel I could mayyyybe do it but it would be rough and the next day it would be hard to get up early which I will need to do for the giant uphill with 30 miles no water maybe?  Plus a big waste to only stay in the hotel a few hours, I like to get my money’s worth.

Thus psyched out I push on.  It is hottttttt!  And dry.  So much overgrown trail and poison oak, why?  Isn’t this section one of the most travelled in SoCal?  I go around Silverwood Lake where it’s a madhouse for Memorial Day.  Families of every background are there, it’s awesome.  I see the others under the shade of the pavilion, there’s also a white trash family, some Mexicans and Dominicans with huge speads.  An Indian family where most of the women have kurtas on asks an Armenian family if they have a knife they can borrow; they don’t.  I successfully yogi some barbequed chicken from the Armenians, I think they feel sorry for me as I passed out for siesta.  

Finally I go the extra mile+ to the last Silverwood picnic site.  It’s actually not by the lake at all, and deserted.  But it does have running water, and shaded picnic tables, and working outlets, I’m done.  What to do, what to do, it’s not even 5.

I finish Finding Everett Ruess on the audio book.  Another hiker comes and really wants pizza.  I acquiesce, ordering a cheeseless one with about 8 toppings.  Another hiker comes, she hates cheese also!  Yay, we can share.  I leave one slice for breakfast and pull my fleece over my eyes to block out the lights, and pass out.

Day 17

27.8 miles hiked

310 total

Today the big question was, to do hot springs in the evening and hike out, or stop just short and do the next day.  IDK IDK IDK.

Got moving a little late, closer to 6:30, but did ok on time.  Got more exposed than I was expecting!  Finally got my umbrella out but a fair amount of overgrowth on the trail, had to keep taking it down.

Got to Deep Creek for siesta, and let me tell you, I sure did pass out there.  It had gotten really hot and sunny so I needed to take a break.  But first!  Another amazing wrap, this one with “nutella”, freeze dried peaches, avocado, and spearmint pulled from the stream.  Around 3:00 I decided to go for it.

I didn’t move superfast and got passed by the others, but wasn’t too far behind.  I decided to go in the springs nude like maybe 30% of the people there since that’s what I did every other time I’ve been and I didn’t want to hike out in wet togs.

Of course, this dude is trying to have a conversation with me.  Nice enough guy but it’s awkward because he is wearing clothes and I am not and he is very obviously trying not to look and I am not really able to relax into the water, kinda covering myself up.  So I don’t stay in long.  But!  Awesome to have dry underwear after.

The usual old hippies are nowhere to be found, it’s Memorial Day weekend, most of these people are first-timers, it’s ripe for a raid (you can’t camp within a mile).  So despite the many tents there me and another guy hike out.  Surely we’ll find some stealth spot.

We go one mile, there’s a spot but a tent is already parked there.  Keep going, and going.  Lights on because it’s dark.  We get to the bridge over Deep Creek, there are supposed to be a ton of spots.  We see a couple tents below, and one guy cowboy camped with his gear everywhere in the middle of a spot that could easily fit 2-3 more people.

“Sorry, everything’s full.  Just told some others to go on.”  WTF.  Spacehog.

We turn the bend, the other guy sees some sort of space behind some rocks.  I go a few more meters, find some space directly next to the trail that’s big enough for my sleeping pad plus 6 inches.

“I’ve camped in sketchier spots,” he says.

“Works for me.”

Day 16

16.1 miles hiked

282.2 total

In the morning I wake up and pack up.  Yesterday afternoon I had stopped by the hostel and talked to Sarge, who apparently had finished with Star Wars.  I guess it was the 40th anniversary.  Still, questionable business decision?  Just sayin’.  He said he could get me to the trail in the morning if I showed up at 8:30, works for me.  I also discussed some trail stuff with him: he said this year there’s three types of people on trail: Real Hikertrash (me, though I don’t usually look like one, just act like one), Entitled Hikertrash (usually couples, yuppies, or internationals, this is a category that’s been growing recently) and some other name I forgot that was actually funny, a new category.  These are idiots who mess up the trail, poop/pee near water sources or on trail, leave trash everywhere, lotta drugs, start fires they don’t put out.

“They used to wear neckties, but everyone figured out who they were, so most of them stopped wearing them,” he explains.  This part I am not so sure about.

 I head over to the coffee place first to caffeinate before hitting the trail.   I get to the hostel a little late, 8:33.  A guy I saw there yesterday who seems more Necktie than Hikertrash says I just missed them.  Ok, I was 3 minutes late, but srsly?  He says I should wait for Sarge to come back, but I decide to go to a cafe to get more coffee and figure out what to do.

More coffee, updating my blog which I didn’t do during the zero, bathroom many times, my abdomen is doing it’s monthly pit-in-the-stomach/twisting-like-wringing-ALL-the-fluid-out-of-a-sponge pain thing, I am bleeding a lot today.  I mention this because it is super making me not want to hike, just crawl up into the fetal position and pass out for a bit, start over tomorrow. 

I try to hitch on Rt 18 unsuccessfully, call a trail angel Papa Smurf.  He tells me he’s going to the trail intersection 9 miles ahead.  F it, I’m in pain.  “Sounds great, that’s where I want to go!”  Add it to my tab.  Also yesterday I came up with a superawesome idea which will make my thru hike more like 2800 miles that I will share details about later and therefore #myhikeislongerandmoreepicthanyours so, blow me!

A guy pulls up and asks am I the one going to the PCT.  On Van Dusen Rd?  Yeah, he says.  Ok.

I’m chatting to him and while he is so nice he seeme really not to know a lot about the trail which is really odd, because I thought Papa Smurf hosted hikers at his place like, every night.  Then I get an incoming call, it’s Papa Smurf.  Huh?  I look at the driver, who is driving and introduced himself by his real name.  

“Um, are you Papa Smurf?”

“No,” he says, “but I’ve heard of him.”

Whoops. 

I call the real Papa Smurf back and apologize, explaining the situation.  In the meantime I am so busy figuring this out and explaining to both sides that I don’t even realize we aren’t at the Van Dusen trailhead, we’re at the Rt 18 one.  Ok, PCT, joke’s on me, keeping me honest.  I give the driver Papa Smurf’s number because he wants to be more involved in trail angeling.  He actually wrote an opinion piece to the local paper telling people they should pick up PCT hikers because we are such interesting people with interesting stories, I kid you not.  So, you’re welcome, PCT.

I’m still in pain but at this point there’s nothing to be done for it.  I walk.  At the real Van Dusen Rd I make two hikertrash wraps with the GF soft tortillas [!] I found at the grocery store.  Actually they are not hikertrash at all, but gourmet: lunch is a lemon pepper tuna/sun dried tomato/ avocado wrap.  Dessert is a nut-free vegan nutella wrap with another avocado and freeze dried bananas.  Both are fucking delicious.  More miles, even some uphill, I smash them actually.  

I look at Guthook, trying to figure out if I should try for Deep Creek tomorrow night or early the next morning.  I am not sure where to stop.  It’s Memorial Day weekend, tons of people out, even at all the dirt road crossings I see someone.  There’s a big campsite with privy 3.5 miles up the trail from my current location where there is an unmarked but kinda interesting campsite with an amazing view off the trail.  At least a mile from a dirt road either direction, shouldn’t see anyone other than hikers pass here.  Do I want to deal with maybe rowdy people in order to have a nice privy and maybe some trail magic?  Nahhhh.  Also I decide this gives me option of either the hot springs at night or early the next morning.  I’ve been in early morning before, it wasn’t crazy then.

Ok, I set up a cowboy, eat a protein bar and last of my cherries, and bundle up.  A little cold here but a great view!

Day 15

0 miles

During the night I realize I’ve gotten my period.  A week early.  Whhhhhhyyyy.  On the AT it seemed half of the ladies skipped all of them, I of course got MORE than expected.  Hey, we’re going to talk about this, it happens to half the population, deal with it.

Period is terrible for me, I didn’t even realize until my late 20sin med school that it was medically abnormal.  Well, everyone else in my family had periods like this; I remember my mom telling me about how she had to wear rubber panties for protection when she was a kid.  Dysmennorhea AND metrorrhagia.  It’s possible I have endometriosis or fibroids, a gyno suspected that, but I never investigated that because I didn’t have medical insurance at the time.  And doctors are the worst patients, plus if pain is a constant, sometimes you kinda get used to it you know and not seek out help for it?  It’s gotten better with age for sure, and with Chinese herbs mostly and a little with acupuncture, but I’ve gotten lazy again in last months when I ran out of herbs for it on the ship I was working on, the ones that regulated it, not just helped for the pain.  At any rate this explains the nausea and cramps that have been starting up.  At least I’m in town, but Deep Creek is in two days whyyyyy.
I get up and go out for breakfast around 8, sit with some other hikers I’d met previously.  They had managed to get into the hostel before Star Wars shut it down.  I get a few things for resupply from the hiker box, then head to the other side of town where I get a pretty nice stash between Dollar Tree, Vons, and Stater Bros. 

The people on the bus are also eccentric.  One guy is another bus driver who seems to just like to hang out on the bus when he’s not driving.  Another guy says to me, VERY seriously, “You. Have. A. GREAT. Memorial Day.”  All right then.

I get back to the room where slooooowly I assemble resupply, eat sorbetto, salad, and chicken.  Later I go out for karaoke at Murray’s, where apparently they have it 7 days a week?  What?  I get there before 8pm, it’s packed with locals, and people are getting druuuuuunked up.

I text Dustin: “Oh shit this looks amazing.  Its packed, locals, some guy singing “Strokin'”?  The MC is in full cowboy getup.”

He comes on over.  Immediately upon sitting down he almost gets jabbed in the eye by a cue stick by some drunkees who I am not sure have yet successfully pocketed any balls.  This is an excuse for one of the ladies to chat him up on behalf of her brother.  

“I have GOT to give him your number.”

After she wanders off Dustin comments, “Wow, she figured that out REAL quick.”

I go up to sing my song, Bohemian Rhapsody.  I do some banter with the MC before which the crowd likes but I suck at singing since I can’t hear the music and I am distracted by the MC and two other people who are grabbing at each other and things and stuff immediately to my right?  But the crowd loves a PCT hiker apparently, I get 7 high-fives on my way back.  Meanwhile, Dustin tells me all these girls keep coming up to him and kissing him on the cheek, WTF.  By the way!  It’s only like 9pm at this point.  We finish our drinks, the girl tells us again about how she’s setting Dustin up with her brother.  “And I’m gonna hook up with you, sweetie!”  Well, I look shocked and not cool at all, I’m always sensitive to this as I can never get a boyfriend and it wouldn’t be the first time people have assumed I was lesbian which I never really get but anyways.  She’s like, just kidding honey, I’m married, but I’m annoyed at myself for reacting this way.  

Anyway, definitely a classy evening, at this point it’s time to beat a retreat and head for bed.

Day 14

19.7 miles hiked

266.1 total

Okay, I need to get to town.  Running low on food and everything is covered in a combo of olive oil and pepperoni juice.  Gross.  I down a protein shake and a bar, get on trail a bit after 6.  Let’s do this!

The uphill is not so bad.  I see the couple on a ridge a mile or two up, their campsite WAS windy, so I guess a good decision to stay in the cabin?  I get to the “Private Zoo”, it’s super sad.  The tiger is hiding from the hiker paparazzi, the grizzlies are pacing endlessly in their cages, I don’t see the lion at all.  Why is this even here.

Okay, almost at Onyx summit.  I get there, I think?  Where’s the legendary couch?  I keep going, then check Guthook.  Yep, already passed it.  The couch is a mile further with a giant dumpster holding trail magic cookies!  I decide to eat one despite the wheat.  About 15 minutes later my stomach is cramping pretty bad, I have my first trail poop which is pretty awesome, win/lose?  Very excited as the ground was super easy to dig a hole in.  Ok, now let’s mash the downhill.

Pre-poop post-wheat

I start grinding it man, going more than 3 mph!  Even running at times, there is no time for stopping.  I pass other hikers.  I see Dustin getting water at a stream, see ya in town!  There’s a wide open area, it’s sunny but I don’t put up the umbrella, the air is cool and windy and I feel fine in my dress.  Plus!  No time….to lose!

I take a little break about 4.5 miles from the end where there’s the last of the uphills.  Dustin has caught up, I go probably half as fast uphill as downhill.  Oh well.  He was camped a couple miles ahead of me last night, I’m definitely making good time.  I eat the last of my food- some olive oil- see ya at the road!

I slog it and then there’s some unexpected easier grade and then downhill- did I read the elevation chart wrong?  Oh well, let’s get to the road!  I get there around 1:30, woot!  20 miles already, what!  I see Dustin off to the side with a cluster of hikers, there is a woman who just quit the trail and is giving rides to hikers.  He got me a ride already, yay!  

“I told her you were like 15-20 minutes back, you were right behind me!  You must have been flying on that downhill.”  Yay!  What is this trail where a 20 is a nearo.

We all load our packs in and get dropped off at the post office.  Dustin and I want to stay at the hostel as it’s centrally located.  We head over, see a sign to call Sarge.  Dustin phones him.

“Yeaaahhh, see we actually are closed for the day.  Star Wars, you know?”  Riiiiight.

“I like how he says that as it’s the most normal thing in the world,” Dustin says.  “It’s not even May 4th.”

Sarge says he will send us a list of other places to stay but we end up never getting it.  I meanwhile negotiate a rate for $75/night including tax/2 beds at the Vintage Inn a couple blocks away.  It’s pretty deserted, but has another entertaining proprietor.  He’s wearing a crazy skater ballcap and a sweat-shirt that says, “My patronus is STITCH!!!!”

Super random guy, he likes to keep talking.  I try to keep him on our good side as we are actually sneaking a third guy we met at the hostel, a Polish dude named Lester, into the room to lower the price.  Lester is off trying to get a smaller pack to replace his, definitely the largest one I’ve seen.  At least 90L in that thing.  He said he started off with 80lbs down by Campo, he had a month’s worth of food, and his wife just shipped him another 20lbs.  He has a giant hunting knife, all sorts of canned food, like 8 pairs of socks and all sorts of clothes, a giant first aid kit, the kind with a big red bag that you see in large public areas.  He goes to buy a smaller pack with less suspension, but puts almost all the same weight into it, as well as a new rain jacket and other supplies he bought.

I want to help shake him down but he is not super receptive and also kinda ADD.  When he steps out I ask Dustin why everyone we meet in this town is batty.

Well, I need food, so after a shower I’m off to the Thai place, that I read an ad that they offered 2 for 1 entrees for hikers.  I get there and the waiter looks reaaaaally not Thai.  The menu is so-so Thai, sort of pan-Asian.  He puts sauces on the table that makes me suspicious- Sriracha, yes; but also soy sauce and sweet and sour sauce instead of the normal chili accompaniments.  I place an order for pineapple fried rice, they don’t do the 2 for 1 anymore (that was like 2 years ago, he sighs) but he’ll give me 20% off.  That’s super nice!  The food comes out and it’s basically a biriyani, which I don’t actually mind as I’m still a little nauseous and it’s not oily.  I am PRETTY durn sure I hear Nepali music in the kitchen underneath the restaurant’s smooth jazz.  I ask the waiter where he’s from: he’s a Gurkha from Nepal.  Wow.  He moved here after the earthquakes in 2015.  I chat with him for a bit about volunteering and travelling there that year.  His friend is in the store, he tells him I’ve been to Nepal.  Crazy.

I head back to the hotel and laze around while Lester keeps Dustin and me entertained over a bottle of wine and his slightly schizoid stream-of-consciousness chatting.  I hardly work on my blog, then it’s time for me to pass out.  My stomach is still weird, what’s up?  Ugh.  

About 10 minutes after lights out Lester begins snoring, one of the loudest I’ve heard.  I am hoping it will stop after a bit as it does for many, but it’s not to be.  I need sleep, F that.  Luckily the bathroom is huge, and slightly sound-proof!  I get all the sheets from the bed, stuff TP into the one ear not on the pillow, and actually have the best sleep since hitting the trail.

Day 13

20.3 miles hiked

246.4 total

So the plan for today was to get up and start hiking 5ish, pound out some miles to avoid the heat.  I had a decent night’s sleep for once, not too much tossing and turning, and I DID basically get on trail around 5.  But, holy slog.  I was bonking before I started, which was a super bad sign, as I was hoping to do 26 maybe?  I was in a canyon, it stayed dusky for a good long time, but I was doing maybe 1.5 miles an hour.  Was I bonked from the uphill?  It’s one of the usual suspects.  I also was running out of food, which is why I wanted to get to town earlier rather than later. 

I got a touch off trail on a couple of the 12ish stream crossings over a couple miles.  Then the sun came out.  Once I got past the streams and closer to the Lake Fire section, I hit some proper desert.  I was like molasses.  I just resigned myself to a day of 2mph at most, took frequent 2 minute water breaks, and told myself I would not break until the last of the stream crossings, after which there was no water on trail for 18 miles.  I passed through some transitional zones with mega uphill slogs, lost of pioneering lupines there.  The sky became a bit overcast and despite the uphill I start to speed up a little.  

I arrived at the stream by noon, which made me really happy!  The Aussie/Coloradan couple was there along with the other guy who passed me night hiking the other day, Dustin.  We all laze about for a while, napping, soaking our feet in the stream.  Oil has exploded all inside my food bag, shoot.  I’m worried about running low on food, I want to do a big day.  Maybe get to the couch on Onyx.

Buuuttt, I don’t leave until 3.  A little slow at first but despite the sun I start to move a little.  I meet my first SOBO, she’s a section hiker named Low and Slow, haha.  Her Montbell umbrella broke, I recommend the Euroschirm I have which is doing well so far.

The couple passes me, they almost see me as I stopped to pee off the side of the trail.  It gets higher in elevation, then suuuuper windy.  I get to the Cook Creek Cabin, which is actually a whole group of cabins.  No one is inside.  I think about the next couple miles that are uphill, all the campsites I saw the last few hours were super windy, probably the next ones will be even worse?  So I call it for the day a bit after 6, oh well.  Tomorrow should be a lot easier with a good portion of downhill, hopefully I can get to town early despite another 20ish miles to do.

Day 12

12 miles hiked! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

226.2 total
’round midnight two night hikers pass me where I am sprawled out right.next.to.the.trail.  It’s Dustin and Last Minute (aka 5.8 baseweight boy).  They also are doing a little night hiking, apparently with more energy than me.  I skip and slide the rest of the night as the site I picked is actually not flat at all?  Oh well.  

By 4:30 I wake for good.  I delay the inevitable for a few, but by 5 I’m on the trail again (admittedly not hard as it was located 6 inches from me).  I am still sooooo slooooow, so I keep pausing to take super necessary wind turbine photos and obviously not resting at all.  Maybe I will use this for my facebook background (this would be funny to a handful of peopke/I am so focking ironic/too square/hikertrash to be a hipster.

I get out of the wind farm proper and there is a massive uphill.  More molasses.  Finally I get over the ridge.  Well, it never cooled down last night, it’s supposed to be over 100 F again today, F it, I’m hanging at Whitewater Preserve and staying in the shade, with water, charging my stuff.  It’s only 4 miles there from where I slept, so, more photos!

I pass Last Minute who is passed out on top of a ridge.  He doesn’t move when I go by, but when I am atop the next ridge I can see he’s gotten up.  Well, more pictures!

I approach the side trail for Whitewater and am on the premises before 7:30.  Wow.  There’s picnic tables, a pavilion, nice restrooms, a big visitor’s center.  I didn’t take any pictures of it tho, sorry guys!  Haha.  The place isn’t open for a bit.  I see Dustin along with some other hikers, they are all leaving.  Whaaa?  It’s a perfect place to crash during the heat, and it’s already hot.  Oh well, I’m’a take advantage of this.  I eat some tuna, olive oil, chips, chocolate.  My food has leaked pepperoni oil on it, it’s kinda gross.

I blow up my sleeping pad and nap on the bench off and on.  When I hear the rangers come in I spy on them, they are all carrying reusable coffee mugs.  Drat, I was hoping they might make coffee and I could yogi some.  I go in and ask if I can charge, they are down with that, super friendly.  Later I ask one of them about my wildlife sightings- the scorpion is not deadly and the snake is probably a juvenile kingsnake, it should develop into more of a white and black banded display.  The ranger said it was kind of rare to see that particular one, it’s not the normal California one.

Charlie comes in later, he’s the only other one for hours.  I avoid talking too much by napping, I guess we’re both reasonably beat.  His was the tent at the wind farm last night.  A huge group of middle schoolers comes, I move further away to nap.  Off and on I try to yogi from visitors but no luck.  Later the other guy with an umbrella comes, we are all not leaving until late afternoon.  Even more people come after noon, but they only stay for an hour or two.  I go into the wading pool in my underwear, talk with a biker who said the center used to be a trout farm years ago, he is in support of Trump getting rid of national monuments and such so he can get more fish.  

I finally leave around 5.  Even though it’s flat I am not moving fast.  I get to the PCT Whitewater crossing, I’m not 100% sure where to cross, but I find the trail eventually.  So wild to have this water in this desolate area; parts of it remind me of the Panj on the border of Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

As the sun goes down and wind picks up a bit I make a little more progress.  One last set of switchbacks and I am atop the ridge, can start grooving.  I round a corner and, whaaa!  Rattlesnake, on basically a vertical wall.  WTF.  I move on out of there, sorry, no photo guys.  

I make some miles and finally start heading down to Mission Creek, which the PCT crosses numerous times.  I pull out my light on the final descent, see a big hairy spider.  Tarantula, ahhhhh!  I get down to the river where there’s a ton of campsites, don’t feel up to navigating the river crossings, and set up a cowboy camp under a tree.  Well, win some, lose some.  Hopefully more miles tomorrow, at least I was pretty cool all day.

Day 11

23.8 miles hiked

214.2 total

‘Round 1am some night hiker comes into my campsite.  They aren’t crazy loud, but take for.ev.er. to set up, shining their laser beam light everywhere.  Eventually I go back to sleep.

I get up around 5:30 and hit the trail maybe 6:15.  There is one more uphill to do before All The Downhill, dropping from my current elevation of 8500 feet to around a thousand or so at Interstate 10.  I am very slow going up the uphill but not so long after I start the descent.  Burger miles today for sure, if I can make up some of the time I lost by camping early I am definitely trying to hitch to In-and-Out in Cabazon.

I plug in Beyonce and slowly my body warms up and I start gaining momentum.  I seem to be a touch stiff in the mornings this trail, there’s this thing happening with my right hip and occasionally my IT band but it seems to go away once things heat up.  A touch of arthritis?  Jeebus, I’m 35.  I sit down after a few miles to get some food in me, this morning I was a bit nauseous and I didn’t have anything.  It’s something that happens to me sometimes when I get up earlier than usual.  Charlie passes me, doesn’t say anything- does he not recognize me?  That happened once yesterday.  Anyway he goes plugging on ahead with the two other guys he’s talking with, yay, I’m left alone.  Well, time to start the grind.  Soon enough I come out from the forested area into the more exposed north side of the mountain.  It’s getting hot!  But I’m also making good time, I just want to get to the water fountain which is the next water source.  I get to a fork in the path, there’s a water source I didn’t know about?  There’s some guys hanging out here, I say I don’t need water.  3 L for 25 miles, no problem. Except it’s getting even more and more exposed, not really much shade at all. Oh well!  Time to mash.  I put on Jamiroquai’s newish album on repeat.  This seems like the way to go to crush miles, I need to get more funk on my mp3 player.

I hike with two other hikers for a few minutes.  They tell me only 8 miles to go!  I drink some more water, maybe only like 750mL left?  This seems fine for me but after I pass them (they are getting pretty heated up) and another hiker in the shade I am thinking mayyyybe I shoulda gotten more water.  Well, not much to do about it now.  I’m feeling pretty good if aware that the temperature is going up.  Miles click by, I take hourly breaks: 5 miles left, 2.5.  The one hiker I passed earlier comes by, we chat for a bit.  He also has an umbrella and I bet that’s why we are some of the faster ones out here today.  Mine is bigger which is cool because I can attach it to my pack, but I am also dealing with wind gusts increasingly that are collapsing it.

Finally!  The water source.  It’s an old school faucet that propels the water out in an arc.  WTF, ok…. It’s a little tricky to catch the water in my bottles on account of the wind that’s blowing it around and also the mass of bees there.  I camel up, drinking almost 2L before getting 2 more for the 4 miles to the intersection.  It’s 2:30ish, I am definitely trying to hitch, I think this slog deserves it.  18 miles with no more than 5 minute breaks in crazy exposed sun and heat!

I make my way down the trail, which for some reason is an actual paved road for a mile or so.  At the last road crossing before it becomes trail again two cars stop.  “Do you need anything?”  I am not really sure where the best place to get that hitch on I-10 is, but most accounts say it’s hard.  “Um, I’m actually trying to get to the shopping center by the casino with the In-and-Out?”  “Oh sure, my friend in the second car is going right by there.  We’re just going to look at my cabin for 10 minutes, hop on in.”  What magic is this?  Didn’t even have to thumb it.  We go to her cabin where I learn her name is Ann.  I *think* her friend’s name is Brian?  Sorry dude.  You guys need trail names, I can’t remember anything else.  Ann is a journalist with interest in the local area and Brian is a local historian.  Sweet!  Ann tells me a little about the neighborhood, Snow Creek, which only has about 30-40 homes.  Similar to Julian, a lot of them are second homes.  Also a lot of artistic types.  They tell me about a house called the D’Angelo House that revolves around a central axis: when residents want a different view, they just turn the house.  Also I see another one they call the gingerbread house, it’s a sort of fairy tale look and seems to be made of locally found objects.  

We make it over to In-and-Out and it’s time for what you’ve all been waiting for:

My order, just FYI:

2 double hamburgers, mustard fried, protein style, no sauce, with grilled onions, lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles

1 order fries

1 soft drink (80% coke 20% Dr Pepper)

1 vanilla milkshake

I may pay for this later, especially with the dairy, but admittedly I down this like a boss.  There are no outlets at In-and-Out, so I head across the street and hang at Starbucks, while charging and writing a blog post.  I detox a few times.  They’re good ones, formed, likely due to the massive food I’ve been eating immediately followed by coffee, so I’m not worried.  But my body is definitely confused right now, 11 days in and I still haven’t pooped on trail.  So strange.  Well, I guess it’s like a low carb diet cheat day.  Basically: town days are like cheat days on that diet.  Haha.

After a couple hours I’m finally motivated to try to hitch.  I go outside and immediately a cop car pulls up, just sits there.  I wuss out and uber a ride back to the trail.  Well, I still have some credits, it could be worse.  

The driver takes forever to show up, the cop is definitely eyeing me from the car but says nothing.  Whatever, I’ve as much right as anyone to be there.  Finally the driver arrives, he went to two other Starbucks.  He’s annoyed and I’m also annoyed because I made sure the street address was correct.  The good thing is that he knows where to drop people off for the trail, it’s on the other side of the highway though.  Guess I’m skipping like 2 miles of trail, sue me.

I get dropped off .1 mile north of I-10.  I’m pretty sure there’s trail magic, but I just went to town, I’ll leave it for someone who doesn’t get there.  I see a guy camped out in the wash next to the trail, which is on the edge of the community.  “Did you get a ride with Dennis?” he asks.  I tell him about my rides, he says that Dennis aka Hillbilly gave a bunch of people rides back to town and to his place.  Not really any camping options on the map, a valid concern.  But Hillbilly has been reported to pick up passengers whilst under the influence, so, Uber?  “He’s been telling everyone ALL the water sources from here to Big Bear have norovirus.”  “That doesn’t even make any sense,” I say.  I consider for a moment staying and pitching there but it’s still really close to the freeway and maybe it’s time to give night hiking a go.  

I hike a bit more until I have to pull out my light.  I have this Fenix flashlight now that clips onto my hat, it’s awesome.  I see things!  A couple scorpions.  Will they kill me?  Hopefully not.  Also a crazy colored snake, bright yellow and black.  It’s a baby, so probably less aggressive but maybe more concentrated venom, if it is venomous in the first place.  I get to Mesa Wind Farm, it’s all closed up, only one tent there.  Not much room, I push on, slowly.

Finally I’m over it, I’ll get up early and do more in the morning.  I find a little open patch right next to the trail, under a tree, and set up a cowboy camp.  Hopefully no critters get me when I’m asleep! I zip my sleeping bag up just in case even though it’s barely cooled down at all.  Alarm is set for 5am yowsers.

Day 10

12.4 miles *I think* *actually really no idea*

187.8 total

*** 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?