5.4.18. 21.2 miles.
My first 20 mile day on the PCT! I’m going to be real for a second, today was HARD. I’ve said in previous posts “today was challenging/ hard” blah blah but today was ACTUALLY almost a bad day.
The day started off fine. It was cool in the morning and Kristie and I got hiking at 5:30 to start our descent to I-10. It was really pretty while we were still in the woods. Lots of boulders and pine trees again, very Sierra-esque.
However, the mile before the 200 mile mark was so rough. My feet were burning, my pack suddenly wasn’t adjusted right and I just wanted to get to the marker.
We took a semi-short break, but getting up was even harder. And we still had over 5 miles to get to the water fountain. 5 miles doesn’t sound so bad, but let me tell you, everything was starting to hurt at that point. Mainly my feet. They felt like they were on fire. Also, it was getting hot. Like, 85-90 degrees F hot at this point. There was also a hive of carpenter bees that everyone was making a huge deal about at mile 202, but I passed with no problem. Kristie and I took every shade opportunity to sit and rest.
We finally got down to the water fountain at the bottom of the mountain but there was no shade anywhere and the fountain was super annoying and if any wind came it blew the stream of water everywhere. My feet were burning so bad at this point so we took a small break while filtering the water, but the lack of shade with 90 degree sun beating down was not fun.
We left the fountain with a little under 4 miles to go to get to the I-10 underpass. I didn’t think it would be too bad - the day was not quite yet horrible yet - but we had to walk on asphalt for about a half mile, which hurt my knees/ feet, but THEN CAME THE SAND. If you have ever walked on soft sand you know what I’m talking about. Now try doing that in 95 degree heat with ~30 lbs on your back for 3.5 miles. I’d like to think my umbrella helped a little bit. We were insane walking through the heat in this weather but there was no other shade and we knew there was a ton under the underpass so we kept trucking.
It got a little scary for a bit. I had a bunch of water and was not dehydrated but with trudging through the sand to the point where it feels like you’re moving backwards + the heat + the randomly dispersed trail signs with no real trail to follow I was borderline delirious. I had some very negative thoughts about people, the desert, my life, hiking the trail. All I could think about was eating my lunch under that highway like a dirty homeless person and it felt so damn far away.
I finally got there & literally staggered into the shade and the most wonderful thing happened: Trail Magic. Three or four separate groups were spending their afternoon giving us everything hikers want: ice cold soda, water, beer, hot dogs, hamburgers, Oreos, homemade brownies, defrosted frozen mango, tangelos, strawberries. I couldn’t believe it. I think I was a little delirious walking in because I couldn’t believe what I saw. John greeted me into the shade with an ice cold juice drink and all the boys ran and brought me treats. Omrie and Helen brought me hot dogs & chips while I sat in a chair, in the shade, with my shoes off. It was literal heaven. Mamma Bear, one of the trail angels, came over and talked to me and greeted me with hugs even though I was literally disgusting. We chatted for a bit and I found out she used to live in San Mateo! She is such an amazing woman. If you’ve met her, you know. And there was also Barbara and Roland, who thru-hiked in 2015 and were so kind and loved talking about the PCT. I talked with Barbara about how I got here & why I was hiking and I learned her & her husband’s secrets: eat a snickers bar after lunch every day to rev you up for the afternoon! Talking with them really reminded me that the miles will come eventually, but I shouldn’t kill myself trying to make that happen and I should definitely enjoy the little moments even if they’re hard. They were so similar to me and totally understood the nightly routine of setting up camp, sleeping pad & bag and getting into your tent to eat dinner & just savoring it, and decompressing after your day. There were also some younger gals who hiked in 2016 who were doing magic as well, and they had dogs!! We got so lucky under the highway. They always say the trail provides, but literally, I would have been in a lot worse off if they weren’t there. Probably a little dehydrated and still delirious after a while. Words just can’t describe how amazing a cold drink, food, and a chair is, and how much that boosts morale. Plus having these trail angels who want to take time out of their day & spend their own money to take care of us & they enjoy doing it and sitting and talking with us is just indescribable. It was really hard to leave the wonderful magic.
We stayed under the highway until 6:30 (about 3 hours) and then began hiking. We only went 2.7 miles before finding the boys at a campsite. It was so pleasant hiking during this time. It had cooled off considerably and we got to watch the sun set and see the beautiful red alpenglow on San Jacinto. We are mostly all cowboy camping and it’s great because it’s so warm tonight.
Today was really tough, but the trail magic totally changed my spirit. And not just for today, but for the whole trail too.