Miles hiked this section: 65
PCT hiked so far: mile 2660 – 478
Miles hiked so far: 2150ish
At dawn we have already been walking 2 hours with tiny red dots blinking on the horizon. Shadows of windmills backlit by rising sun. After ten miles the boys break and I catch up. We walk the final six miles to the road together. It’s a major freeway. To hitch is to fail here. It’s also probably illegal. It is hot and bright. Thankfully the trailhead hosts a list of trail angels willing to help. I get ahold of Jan who says she’ll be here in 20 minutes! She drops us at the bakery where Twinless and Bug have left us 4 days of food. A huge resupply we don’t even need to go to the store. We blog and charge and rest and eat. At 6pm Jan swoops us back to the trail. She is lovely. One of my favorite Angels yet. So loving and funny. We sing her our songs for hitching and thanks and she videos us.
As the sun sets we walk 3 miles up the hill and camp in a windy flat spot near windmills. Twinless – a day ahead – sends us a text. Her parents have been worried sick the last 6 hours because Her GPS tracker failed and sent an emergency signal. Thank God they didn’t send the police to look for her as she’s been hiking naked all day.
At 2am the breeze picks up and the windmills assume a sinister quality as they chew thee air. At 3:36am I wake to drops of water hitting my face. Huck soon exclaims “oh shit it’s raining” and three of us hurriedly pack up. future dad simply grumbles and rolls over. Huck shouts across the wind “tyler you need to pack up or your sleeping bag will be wet and you’ll be fucked ” future dad uses a down bag – which is lightweight and super warm (tho made by hosing down baby geese with a pressure washer) – until it gets wet and then it’s as useful as a soggy paper bag. He springs to life saying he couldn’t tell which was real life – the world of his dreams – or “a world where it rains in the desert and Twinless hikes naked.”
The long dark morning is punctuated with cold whips of air in our faces. The windmills are having a heyday. Every so often the rain turns on for 5 minutes and then turns off as abruptly. It’s dramatic as the sun rises and we see layers on layers of storm clouds. Many of them settled on the peak we are about to climb.
We hike up and up and up… Into damp fog. Some hunters donning cameo and guns are up here riding their ATVs on dirt roads and thru the PCT leaving huge ruts. This pisses off Groucho who waits for them to pass, then heaves huge stumps and partially burn trees in their return path. He also spies a wildlife hunting camera that he obstructs. At 2pm we have all of our climbing done for the day and have done more than 20 miles. We decide it’s a good day to attempt a double marathon.
Bug has been texting me all day. She was supposed to drive north to Seattle today from San Francisco. When she got in the car at 5am she cried at the prospect and then started driving south. She thinks she will be here by sundown. A fact I keep to myself so she can surprise everyone.
We walk thru a huge windmill farm. And then the terrain flattens completely and by 4pm we are in the aquaduct. The 20 mile straight/flat stretch of trail which, covered in concrete, directs water for the mountains into the desert of LA. It’s very contentious subject among the resident angels we’ve been staying with. Their farms, lands, wells and streams are going dry to service city folk.
The miles on the aquaduct go fast. By 7pm we have walked 38 miles and are headed into the sunset when we see a silloutte. It’s Bug. Everyone is hyped. We walk back to her car and she has Whiskey and avocados! The important things. We slack pack the next 6 miles along the aquaduct… Leaving everything but water with bug. At 46 miles the trail diverges back into the forest. Bug can meet us again in 6 miles at a road crossing but doesn’t want to do it alone. I volunteer to go. My feet are swollen, my tendons ache. I don’t need to do a double marathon. I have already beat my personal record, set during the 4 state challenge on the AT, by hiking 45.8 miles. We drive around to the camp and arrive at 11:15pm. We cuddle up with Sprout the dog and doze off. At 1:30 am the double marathoner Heros join us happy and exhausted. We all sleep.
It’s snowing around lone pine/horseshoe meadows. We were there 8 days ago when Jon said the halo around the moon meant snow might come… In 8 days. Eerie.
We are safely in the comfort of town. The trail is closed in the next section because of fire damage from several years ago. Normally people road walk or hitch around. We have Bug.
Everyone but Future Dad hops in the car at 8:30am. Future Dad is a purist and has hiked a continual footpath up to this point. This is an example of Hike Your Own Hike (HYOH) – We all have our own personal rules to follow out here and future dad’s mandate is to hike as much if the trail as he can and find a way to walk thru or around any closure. No matter how far, or hard. My mandates so far are 1) to hike as much of the trail as possible 2) except if there is a cool alternate trail that intersects; 2) except when the trail closure detour involves excessive road walking; 3) except when continuing on might damage my body enough to permanently take me off trail. Future dad packs up to go and Bug chauffeurs the rest of us to Lake Hughes where we meet with Twinless at the excellent Rock Inn for brunch. After hash browns and coffee we drive 4 more miles to the home of The Andersons. Famously generous trail angels who allow hikers to camp in their manzanita grove of a backyard. We dry our gear our, shower, do laundry and take naps before taking Terry and Joe out for dinner.
On our way back we intercept future dad doing a road walk in the dark. (I don’t like road walks because walking on pavement is so hard on your knee and ankle joints but also because I don’t trust cars. In the history of the PCT there have been very few deaths but #2, ironically, is death by car. ) FD regales us with tales of washed out trail and poodle dog bush infestations. pDB is a major problem in this section. Similar to poison oak, brushing up against it can cause severe rashes and blisters lasting weeks. The plant thrives in burn areas and the hills here are covered. fD never saw a trail closure sign until he got so fed up he bushwhacked his way down to a trailhead. There he finally saw a warning and closure notice posted. (Lucky NOBOs get all the good signs.)
We pass out quickly under the manzanitas.