Finally! I marched 20 miles today. 20! I finally feel like a proper PCT Hiker.
Although, I will confess I didn’t mean to do so many. I meant to do fifteen then wait for Panic Noodles. Unfortunately, I missed the campsite turnoff so had to continue looking for a suitable resting spot. Even more unfortunately, the continuing had me climbing an additional 2,200 feet, delicately traversing icy snowy trails until I got to Mile 498.
I’ve been saying for a while that I know I can do more than fifteen a day, and I’ve been frustrated with the lack of miles I’ve been doing. Alas, by over-doing it today, I’ve left Panic Noodles behind me somewhere. I shall miss her enormously. I hope we meet again but now that I’m ‘on the move’ I really want to start eating into my very depressing deficit.
Tomorrow, I pass the 500 mile marker, but for me all I’ve done in 28 days (one-sixth of my time here) is a shoddy 260 miles. I knew the first month would be hard, but I had hoped to have done a little better than that.
And now to battle to sleep in a very windy night at 5,500 feet on a mountain.
Worst night ever - I was, or so I thought, on top of a mountain, when a gale without rain blasted in. The Clingfilm Castle rattled and rolled all night. To distract myself, I decided to read about the campsite I was staying in. I was its only tenant.
Big mistake! Huge, in fact. Turns out it has a resident bear who likes to beat up the trash bin. Try sleeping through a hurricane when you think you’re about to be a bear’s midnight feast. The advice, they stressed, was to hang your food, as well as anything with an edible scent, e.g. toothpaste or baby wipes. Who knew they were edible?
The problem was: I had nothing to hang my food with. So, not only was every rustle a signal of my imminent demise, but I also had bear bait lying next to my left foot. And there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.
I didn’t bother with sleep until daylight arrived at 6ish. At 8am, I packed up my tent and discovered that I’d slept next to the trash bin all night too.
Turns out I wasn’t on top of a mountain, and so had another 1,000 foot of climbing to do - all in snow. Lots and lots and lots of snow. Then, eight hours of trudging later, I was back boiling in the desert - with its marvellous blooms. Head-wrecking.
Long night, then long day - 11 ½ hours of walking for just 17 miles.
Decided, given the earth was flat for much of the next twenty-odd miles, that I’d try and do 1% in a day. That’s a whopping 26.5 miles along the Los Angeles Aqueduct, which quickly loses its novelty, and becomes hours and hours and hours of straight dusty roads. Worse, the day would finish with a flourishing 2,000ft plus uphill, passing some wind turbines which benefit from the all-year round hurricane that this part of California generates.
The good news was I had company for much of it...Panic Noodles and Hotel Hopper had skipped a bit, and we now joined up to walk some of this together. Despite that, I still got bloody lost - in a straight line. Discovered I was reading the map upside down (doh!) which took some time and energy off me. On the plus, that made me so bloody-minded about getting to mile 541 - my 26.5% mile marker.
The heat of the day, at the base of the desert, then the long, blasting uphill had me quite knackered when I arrived at my destination. I fought to erect my tent in a very small spot between two bushes not very successfully, and set about making a cup of coffee. I was so shattered, conversation was nearly beyond me.
“Hi,” and a head popped out of the tent twenty feet away. Long story cut short, I’m at mile 540.
Sleep quite well despite a half-collapsed tent in Force 10 weather. It calmed down at around 3am or so. I was slightly disturbed by two lion roars nearby at 4:10 am in the morning, but by then I was so damned tired I told it to piss off and went back to sleep. It must have listened because I’m typing this now.
So aside from not quite making it to 1%, I’d given my feet a right hammering, and today I had to face two mountain climbs, one to 4,200 or so feet, and another to just over 6,200. Thankfully, the snow the southbounders I’d met yesterday had talked of, had all burnt off. I suspect it is more likely it was blown away by the wind last night. Unfortunately, it had taken the trail with it, and so at times traversing hills today has been challenging. Moving just one foot at a time, embedding it into the grainy sand, then positioning the opposite hiking pole, then moving the other foot, and finally moving the second hiking stick. Very slowly, and very carefully to avoid a rapid sand-ski back down to the canyon. I am adjacent to the town of Mojave, it really is a dry desert ordinarily.
And that is why it took me eight hours to do nine miles. Once I’d peaked at 6,200 feet, me and my multitude of blisters from yesterday could barely stagger on, but I did get 13 miles done all told. Turns out I’d miscalculated the distance to Tehachapi, so a very easy day tomorrow where I shall rest up - most likely for two days.
Very easy day, my foot.
My sleeping pad has decided to deflate - constantly. It’s been slowly letting itself go for a few nights, but last night it called time on keeping its shape whatsoever. It went flat. Very, very flat. So I woke at around 3am, and twiddled my thumbs until 4am, then decided it was high time I went and did some night-hiking. With my very, very sore feet.
As dawn broke, I followed some deer tracks, which were interspersed with those of a mountain lion. I didn’t know whether to hope the deer had gotten away, or gotten got!
It took five hours to walk the six miles to the highway - partly because the trail had collapsed, leaving me with a conundrum of how to cross a ravine. Inelegantly turned out to be the solution.
Then I baked for about an hour trying to hitch-hike to Tehachapi. Once I did, having apologised for the look and smell of me profusely, I treated myself to great coffee, a lovely breakfast burrito, and best still - a hotel with free wifi. I’ve done my laundry, washed myself and largely hobbled from the loo to the bed and back. I shall spend two days here seeking foot recovery amongst other things.