PCT: Days 4 - 9
Zero miles: Sitting out the storm in a log cabin with Annet and David at Lake Morena, has proved to be a good time to get ourselves a bit more organised and systemised.
“How do you back flow the Sawyer Squeeze?” I asked Annet, the most experienced hiker of the three of us - “you use the syringe,” she said. “Oh.” I had binned that in San Diego.
“How do I stop the fly touching the internal netting on my tent?” I asked her. “You use the guide ropes,” she said. “Oh,” I’d binned them too.
It’s a steep learning curve this thru-hiking malarky.
I nearly wept with joy as I picked up my rucksack without a ‘heeeaaave’ - the total obliteration of anything ‘deemed essential’ having made all the difference. That, and eating a gigantic packet of M&Ms also helped. Oh, and carrying three empty water bottles. Actually, that’s probably the single biggest difference. Jesus may yet weep again.
And off I go again - however, over 50% of my fellow hikers have already quit. My phone stopped working so no piccies, and I managed to find the only stone along a mile-long sandy track. Arse over tit I went.
The PCTA has asked us all to quit but so far enough of us are trying to carry on. Lack of options, I guess. Many of us have given up homes, jobs etc to take six months out - It’s not so easy to just pick up where you left off.
Enjoyed my first trail magic - when a volunteer, for no reason other than they can, delivers food and drink to a random location on the trail. Sometimes they hang out with hikers, sometimes they vanish. I ate a Tangelo and a piece of Madeira cake, and drank some coke. We’re doing great at practising our social distances - although in reality it’s because we all stink!
Twelve miles, climbing 1,200 foot. Tomorrow we’re doing 10 miles, climbing 2,000 feet. I fear altitude sickness.
I swear an American mile is bigger than anything I’m familiar with. Despite starting 7am-ish, I only arrived at Mount Laguna at 4:00pm - a distance of ten miles, although I did climb up to 6,000 feet in seven of those miles.
Within the first mile, the tiniest patches of snow appeared and then I turned a corner and bam - I’m surrounded by the stuff. It went on for hours but for some variety the hillier bits became a mud-a-thon. I still have no working phone, but at least did not fear how the hell I was going to find water. The trail is easy to locate despite not having any navigation tools - you follow the sludge.
Stopped at a lovely shady spot for a dot of lunch and try dry my tent off. Fellow hiker walked by, pointed, then said “That’s a Douglas Fir - first one I’ve seen.” Five minutes later, another hiker walked on by said “That’s a Jefferson Fir - first one I’ve seen.” It’s all tree to me.
Quite often I see other hikers and so I can ask what the latest is with Armageddon. The rumours on the trail are that Martial Law is about to be enacted. No idea what this means but my American fellow hikers predict riots. The drop-out rate of hikers has been remarkable.
Tonight I’ve ducked off the trail at Mount Laguna Cabins to get a hot bath and clean clothes - this is good: my body is humming so bad I’d be the loudest member of an A Cappella band.
I didn’t see a fellow thru-hiker for six hours today and then bumped into my former cabin mate from Lake Morena, and Wild Cat who I’d met on my second day, when I stopped for lunch after ten long miles. Then about fifteen turned up, most of whom marched on rapidly because I’m guessing they don’t have two ginormous blisters on their right toes. Aside from that, I am fine - I have roaming pain: a different thing hurts more everyday.
All in all, thirteen miles completed. It’s very windy though - I fear my tent will fly away, and in the pandemonium, I’ve just heard the re-supply shop that I was heading for has closed down. Shame as I was hoping to change tents. Guess it’s still Armageddon out there.
2% of the trail completed though!
The terrain remains difficult at times - although today’s thirteen miles has been the easiest so far, weather notwithstanding, a long slow climb down from 5,250 feet to 3,645 feet. Sometimes, though, the trail is horribly jarring on one’s joints - particularly where it has loose rubble-like rock. The sandy parts are far more forgiving.
It was last night that was the talk of the town: a storm blew in out of nowhere, and out of nowhere half of the tents blew down! Mine stayed up (just) but everything was absolutely sodden. With next to no sleep, I was wet from head to toe by the time I’d dismantled the tent and packed it away, so got on with a brisk walk sans breakfast. Freezing doesn’t cover it - I’m supposed to be in the desert! “Should have gone to Scotland,” boomed a fellow Brit.
Bet it’s warmer.
Spent most of the day pounding around windy mountain after windy mountain. Mist swirled around each one blocking out any views and the wind and rain was ferocious. Worst of all: as I passed each curve of the hills, I was stuck with the earworm “She’ll be coming round the mountain, when she comes”.
Re-supply day tomorrow: Yippee!
Only nine miles to Julian and all downhill - easiest day for a while, except I picked up a shedload of blisters because both sets of socks are wet, my shoes are wet, my sleeping bag is wet, my rucksack is wet and I’m wet. And it didn’t even rain!
I need to jettison the Belisha Beacon and get a proper job - whilst California is in Lockdown. One which doesn’t leak water nor indeed generate water, although granted this could be quite handy in the desert.
That said, it was a shock to be back in the desert at around 2,000 feet today, the plants are decidedly more ouchy. Hitch-hiked to Julian, gorged on pizza, dumped all my clothes in the bath, and now trying to get my head around the Apocalypse. Apparently, Trump wants everyone back to work on April 16th. Never thought I’d find myself agreeing with anything he says. Must be the heat.