May 3, 2015
Creekbed near Buckman Springs Road (25) to Long Canyon Creek Ford (37.7)
12.7 miles today
37.7 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 2,488 ft, – 389 ft
Today turned out to be a lot of fun. We felt much stronger overall and truly felt like we could have gone past our allotted 12.5 miles. However, despite our sometimes competitive instincts, we stuck to the plan and are now camped alongside the first little stream on the PCT, and along with our first hiking buddy.
Today was another hot, dry day and all of our mileage consisted of gradual uphill. The first few miles felt effortless, and then we were back to the ol’ daily grind. We stopped hiking at around 11:30, just when the sun was getting unbearable, and ended up taking a nice long 3 hour rest in the shade. Unfortunately, our lunch spot was overrun with red ants and biting horse flies, so it wasn’t as relaxing of a rest as we would have hoped. Actually, we both felt a little grumpy as we attempted to dry out our wet gear in the wind, make lunch with melted, grease-drenched cheese and sausage, and make sense of our solar-charger’s incompatibility with our iPhone.
And then a ranger came along and said something that really hit a nerve in both Don and I and got me thinking. He asked what day we were on, and we said we had started on the 1st, so this was day 3. The conversation continued, he explained that he patrols the first 100 miles, and then he stated, “I’ll be around, so at YOUR pace, I’m sure we’ll meet again.”
Now, in reality, we’re sure the ranger didn’t mean anything negative with his comment, but this is something that we’ve noticed over the last couple days. The PCT can actually feel quite competitive. And we’re just as guilty of it as the next hiker. I think most people out here will admit that passing other hikers gives you a bit of a thrill, and getting passed by others makes you feel defeated. It’s completely illogical because you never know if the hikers around you have just rested, where they camped the night before, where they’ll stop, or even if they’ll make it to Canada, and yet somehow it still feels like we’re all in a race to the border.
I recognize these feelings in me, and am working hard to overcome them, but sometimes my competitive nature gets the best of me, and I just feel a need to prove myself. This is something Don and I hope to work on in the weeks to come so that it doesn’t impact our future decisions. For example, I don’t want to be thinking about all the hikers that will pass by us when we take a few zeroes in Tahoe or Portland. I just want us to hike our hike, go at our pace, and enjoy the ride.
Just as Don and I were getting over our ranger friend’s comment, a new hiker came along, and this time rather than pass or be passed, we all decided to hike together. Don and I were just getting ready to leave our rest area and hike another 4.5 miles to camp, when Ryan from Spokane, Washington walked over and said hi. We struck up a conversation about gear and before we knew it, we were all hiking together and quickly getting to know one another. The chit-chat made the miles fly by, and by the time we made it to our water source and campground, we felt we had made a great new friend. We delighted in the first natural water source on trail, welcoming other hikers into the “oasis” as they hiked past, and then all decided to go ahead and make camp.
Ryan’s on a faster schedule than us, so it’s unlikely we’ll hike together for long, but he certainly made today brighter and we’ll look forward to hearing how he does in the weeks and months to come. As for us, tomorrow we only hike 5 miles to meet my mom at Mt. Laguna, our first re-ration, where we’ll take showers, share lunch, and then get back on the trail, finally able to put in some much-anticipated 15 mile days.