May 10, 2015
Campsite on trail just past Lost Valley Spring (120.0) to Nance Canyon Tentsite (140.0)
20 PCT miles today, 1 non-PCT mile today
142.5 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 2,874 ft, – 4,023 ft
Everyone develops their own thru-hiking “style”, and as the days go by, I think ours is coming into focus. We’ve certainly fallen into a bit of a routine that fits us nicely. We wake up around 6, eat breakfast, pack up, and usually start hiking around 7. We like to know how many miles we want to hike that day so that we can split that number into thirds, and plan for two socks-off, feet-elevated, stuff-our-faces-with-food breaks. We’ll sometimes fudge the miles a bit to allow for longer stops at water sources, but in general, we’re typically pretty timely. We also hike at a pretty fast pace. As long as we’re on our feet, we figure we might as well be on our way. Most days we finish up our miles around 5, let the perfect campsite find us, set up camp, eat dinner around 6, read and write until 8, and then pass out.
Of course, not every day is the same. Don and I are very much on the same page about which elements of the day are deserving of any schedule-bending necessary, and which ones we know are distractions that will leave us feeling disappointed. Two pieces of a thru-hike that we have mutually deemed as key to our adventure and totally worthy of our time are trail magic and campsite time. We aren’t nearly as eager to entertain ideas about shortcuts or alternative routes, or to hike slowly and stop moving to drink water (we just drink and snack on the go).
Last night is a great example of our campsite time priority. A lot of hikers like to spend most of the daylight they have either hiking or resting. They’ll usually stop for camp just as the sun is going down and only stay long enough to eat, sleep, and pack back up to do it all again. For Don and I, this trip is just as much about the places we get to call “home” each night as it is about the miles that we hike. We love our late afternoons spent at our campsite and also treasure our dinners and breakfasts as if we were at home eating them around a dining room table. After 15 to 20 miles of hiking each day, every campsite ends up being in a whole new environment, and offers a whole new “yard” for us to discover and explore.
Just as important to our experience is the appreciation and enjoyment of trail magic. Today we came upon “Mike’s House” when all we were expecting to find was a water tank. We had only hiked 7 miles, and were feeling motivated and eager to complete our first 20-mile day, but we definitely weren’t going to miss out on our first real on-trail trail magic. As we neared the water tank we could hear music blaring a couple hundred yards away, and as we drew near we passed a hiker who exclaimed that Mike had BBQ chicken, beans, pancakes, donuts, beer, tequila and more waiting for us down at his house. We showed up in a group of about 6, and joined another 5 or so hikers for a couple hours of good eats, good conversation, and good fun. Apparently Mike only comes up to the house on the weekends and brings the party with him, so we felt super privileged to have caught him. It was a great break in our day, and when we hit the trail again at around noon, we felt ready to pump out 13 more miles.
It started to warm up again today, but it didn’t get too terribly hot and Don and I finished our 20 miles in great shape and with energy to spare. Looking at the weeks ahead gets us all giddy and excited, but for now we are trying to stay in the moment, which tonight means thinking almost solely about the burger that we’re going to have for lunch tomorrow at the famed Paradise Valley Cafe. Did I mention that good food is one more of those priorities that we feel totally fine putting aside the schedule for? We’ve got our priorities and we’re sticking to them.