May 7, 2015
Campsite in creekbed just past Scissors Crossing (79.4) to Campsite off trail before Barrel Springs (98.0)
18.6 PCT miles today
99 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 3,963 ft, – 2,855 ft
Today was our best day yet. We left our campsite by 7am, making it our earliest leave time, and despite a bit of uphill and lots of fierce wind, we hiked over 18 miles by 4:30pm. It felt great to push ourselves a bit more, and we noticed ourselves picking up the pace throughout the day. All day long, we were hiking around mountain after mountain, just skirting the edge, with a steep cliff always off to one side. We’d get around a corner and suddenly have a view of our next 5 miles as they wound around a few more peaks. It was bizarre to see another hiker miles away on the next mountain over and know that we’d be there within the hour.
Today’s hike was centered around our midday stop at a water cache. The desert out here is so dry that only one water source has actually been natural water, all the others are either horse troughs, water tanks, or, like today’s, a water cache. This is where some kind soul, or souls, actually bring gallon jugs of water out to a certain point on the trail just for us hikers. This year, with the large number of hikers, we have been told to not rely on any of the water caches to have water except one, the 3rd Gate Water Cache. Amazingly, a community of people have managed to keep this one cache fully stocked for thousands of hikers all summer long. It is a good thing, because even with the cache, we still had to carry 23 miles of water before it and 10 miles after. So if the cache weren’t there, we’d be looking at a 33 mile waterless stretch. We got to the cache right at lunch today and enjoyed fresh bottled water that we didn’t even have to filter. Gotta love those trail angels!
While at the cache, we ran into the largest animal we’ve seen so far on trail…a horse! The PCT is actually an equestrian/hiker trail, but the big beautiful creature took us by surprise, and then totally showed us up as it gracefully bound up the mountain in front of us. As we left the cache, the wind really picked up and we layered up…a strange thing to be doing in the desert.
I guess we’ve been really fortunate to have so much wind, accompanied by a little rain and some chilly temps, because one ranger we passed said when he hiked a few years back, this stretch had been bright and sunny with 110 degree weather! With the restrictions on water, that could have done us in. Instead, we actually donned rain coats and warm hats most of the day. It has just now actually started raining, but we’re in our tent, bellies full of hot mac and cheese, wrapped in our sleeping bags, so we don’t mind.
Our campsite tonight is just how we like it. We were hiking along, on another cliff side with views of a nice green valley below, when we noticed a couple gullies up ahead. We walked a couple hundred feet into one, and that’s where we found this spacious, flat, protected site. It isn’t on the map, and most people are hiking on to the next water source anyway, so we probably have the place to ourselves. We can’t wait to get a great night of sleep and then wake up ready to meet my mom at Warner Springs for our second re-ration. This hike is happening so fast…good thing we still have over 2,500 miles to go!
Gear of the Week: Altra Lone Peak 2 trail running shoes
At this point, neither Don nor I can imagine doing this hike in any other shoe. Altras are unique because they have a super wide toe-box that actually gives your toes room to wiggle around and spread out. Also, they are zero-drop, so less chance of twisted ankles and more opportunity to use the foot how it was naturally intended, and they have a good amount of cushioning to protect your soles from all the sharp rocks. They are amazing and we aren’t sure why everyone isn’t using them!
Backpacking Food of the Week: Winco bulk food ranch corn nuts. We’re pretty sure we’re never going to get sick of these. They’re lightweight, cheap, tasty, and have a huge amount of calories for their weight.