Current elevation: 4068 feet
Highest elevation: 5620 feet
I stopped counting daily miles. They’re still currently 12 to 13, but given how painful walking is, I’m considering it pretty damn good. I was just making myself crazy with numbers, and the fact that I’m getting passed again. I think we replay our old perceived failures. But I checked the calendar and my various plans, and honestly, even if I do 12 miles per day to Big Bear, because of the trail closures I still end up on schedule. Early, in fact. Which is kind of good, because in the next few days (after Idyllwyld) comes Fuller Ridge, which I believe is the highest point on the actual PCT (something like 13,000 feet) and which, I heard, is sketchy with snow. The PCT doesn’t really ease you in.
So. What sounds like rain, and drizzles on the outside of your tent, and soaks everything through, but isn’t rain? I asked myself that at 4 AM. The answer is .. fog! Cold mountain fog! And that’s what I woke up to!
I was happy to have my red pack cover, which I shopped to myself in Warner Springs. (This becomes important later.) It was windy and cold today, though. I had on my wind gear plus my rain gear plus my fleece hat and gloves. (Most people don’t bring wind pants AND rain pants, but I did and it’s been a great decision. Gives me a lot of layering options. I’ve been wearing the wind pants since I chucked my shredded clown pants.)
The morning’s trudge was through this foggy landscape of rocks. Not granite rocks, but red rounded ones, some as big as houses perched at the most unlikely angles. What makes those rocks so red? Like great red ghosts, the were. At home, we do green extraordinarily well. Here, though, the reds, roses, pinks rule the day.
There were still flowers!
At mile 126, I got to this place called Trail Angel Mike’s, which a ton of people had been aiming for yesterday. I thought he was just a nice guy with a water tank. Turns out, that place is a vortex! Kind of a party place, hippy style, where it’s easy to get sucked in for a day or three. Porches, rooms, RVs you can stay in. Loud rock music. At night, I guess people drink beer and make pizza at the wood fire. I had a cup of coffee, filled my water bottles, and headed out.
I’ve got to streamline this water system. The water carries are killing me. By the end of the day today, I couldn’t even lift my pack to put it on.
Rookie mistake 1: I inadvertently drank half a liter of water from Mike’s tank without treating it. GAH. I treat everything! I just grabbed the wrong bottle. We’ll see how that goes. Hopefully if there are any bugs in the tank, my immune system is strong enough to beat them.
It took me all freaking day to get 10 miles. At 3 o’clock, I decided to just lay in a flat spot and rest my feet and despair. 😉 And don’t you know, an older (ie, 67-year-old) hiker came trotting around the bend with a brand new red pack cover which he’d found on the trail and had clearly taken possession of. Holy shit. It was mine, of course–but I hadn’t written my name on it, and I was even having a deep brainfart about the manufacturer. I was resigned to the fact that if this guy put up a fight, I’d have to gift him the thing.
But he took me at my word! He was a real trail angel. All the Way was his trail name–retired Airborne, who also hiked the AT in 2013, in 5.5 months. He started the PCT on 4/23, three days after me. A total sweetheart. He gave me all his advice, and I listened to every word because, of course, he’d given me my pack cover back. But the best advice, completely unsolicited, was to stop as early in the day as necessary, to not push the miles, to do small miles… because we don’t even know if we’ll be able to get into the Sierra yet! That advice couldn’t have come at a better time today. I was really in the dumps. So I cranked out another couple of foggy cold miles and then tucked myself here in this sandy spot out of the wind.
Third rookie mistake: The closure thing starts at mile 152, not 142. D’oh! The food is fine. It just puts me into Idyllwyld a day later than I figured, but I’m all up in the ‘Who the hell cares?’ at this point. I need a zero to rest and regroup. This is about me and the trail, not me and the people.
There are a lot of 13ers on the trail. Pathfinder, if you’re reading this, OB is here. He’ll be in Idyllwyld tomorrow, I think. A guy named Blue Moon is here, and others I didn’t meet on the AT, so I forget their trail names. It still blows me away that I didn’t meet so many hikers! 🙂 The herd is legion.