Day 29 & 30 – Snow one day, sunshine the next
Monday 27 May 2019
Location: Mile 386.1 to Mile 404.2
Distance travelled: 18.1 miles / 29 km
Even with a lazy afternoon yesterday I slept soundly last night. As the forecast predicted the wind died off late last night and we received a dusting of snow over the early hours of the morning. The moisture on the tent soon turned to ice and I woke to a winter wonderland. It was officially my first night sleeping in a tent while it snowed. There have been so many new experiences on this trip!
All of my gear was still wet from the rain yesterday so when the sun started to show itself I climbed out of bed to knock the snow and ice off the tent and begin the drying process. I strung a long washing line in the car park, transforming the lot into a proper little hobo village. No one seemed to mind though. All of the people who came by were super friendly.
It was nice having such great drying space, access to toilets and and a garbage bin after feeling so uncomfortable yesterday afternoon.
It wasn’t until nearly 10am by the time I got on trail this morning. I had planned to walk 20 miles after the short day yesterday, however it was unlikely that would be happening now. I decided to take it easy, enjoy the morning and not worry about the miles.
As I climbed up towards Mt Williamson I had great views back over Islip Saddle and across to Baden Powell. It was magical walking through the fresh snow. With everything dusted in a layer of white the forest looked even more beautiful.
Given my late start to the morning the warm morning sun had already begun melting the snow and ice from the trees. As I walked along the trail ice fell from the branches above. At first I found it simply interesting to watch but after a couple of close calls I found it a little threatening. Some of the chunks of ice were quite large, I felt like I was running a gauntlet.
The higher the trail climbed the thicker the snow became. As I reached the junction to begin the descent down the back side of the mountain there were a few slippery ridges with thick snow. Given I had my pair of spikes on me, I decided to put them on to make my way off the mountain. They weren’t necessary by any means but they did make the hike down a lot less nerve wracking and a whole lot faster.
When I reached the trail head a thick blanket of fog covered the highway. It was difficult to spot the trail marker on the other side. A friendly group of hikers pointed it out to me as they had a break on the side of the road.
I hiked the next few miles in the fog, without any views to speak of.
After lunch I reached a junction in the trail where a closure has been put in place for the protection of a rare species of frog. This meant a detour involving a road walk. The road walk went by quickly and for the most part I had a good shoulder to walk on. The fog made it a little eerie but it soon cleared and I found that a bunch of other hikers were also walking the detour with me. I just wasn’t able to see them previously. The detour rejoined the PCT through a beautiful campground and the Burkhart trail. It was a lovely trail running along a stream.
Back on the PCT and the trail climbed up to Pleasant View Ridge Wilderness. It was steep and slow going. After all of the climbing and descending of the morning my legs were feeling tired.
I crossed the highway a couple of times during the afternoon. Given the late start to my day I decided to have dinner at 5pm and keep walking until 7:30pm or 8pm. I found a beautiful dinner spot just after crossing the highway. I had magnificent views where I could watch cars winding through the mountains. It would be the perfect setting for a TV commercial.
Shortly after dinner I reached the 400 mile mark! Nearly a month into the trail now and the miles feel like they are starting to come more easily.
The evening light was pretty to walk in and after a few more miles, perfect timing before darkness hit, I arrived at the campsite. It was nice to have already eaten. I enjoyed a cup of tea and some chocolate from the warmth of my sleeping bag, feeling grateful that tonight it wasn’t raining.
Tuesday 28 May 2019
Location: Mile 404.2 to Mile 424.4
Distance travelled: 20.2 miles / 33 km
After yesterday’s late start I had plans to wake up early and get on trail early but it didn’t quite happen that way. I was still tired when my alarm went off at 5am so I stayed snuggled in my sleeping bag until 6am and when I was finally ready to move at 7am, waited another hour for the sun to dry the condensation from my sleeping bag.
From the get go I had 5 miles of climbing this morning. I listened to my audio book while I walked and the miles seemed to fly by.
After reaching elevation I was rewarded for the hard work by spectacular views of the Mojave Desert.
The sun had started to heat up by mid morning. It was a stark contrast from the last few days of brutal cold and the change in temperature took it out of me. On top of that I have developed a painful case of thigh chafe. I am wearing the same pair of pants that I wore during our NZ hike but I think with the increase in miles on this trail the inner seam is irritating my thighs. I have cream for it which I have been slathering on but it didn’t seem to make things any better. It’s seemingly small things like this that can really get to you on a hike.
Similarly for my fingers, after all of the cold mornings and evenings the skin on my fingers is starting to split in places which can be quite painful. There isn’t much you can do about these things on trail other than to accept the pain and keep moving.
Despite my thigh issues, I felt like I was moving quickly up until lunch time. I chose a position on the trail with a spectacular view and enjoyed a long, luxurious lunch break.
The miles after lunch, in the heat of the day felt slow and taxing. The views continued to be beautiful but while I was struggling for energy it was difficult to properly enjoy them.
After thinking I would arrive in camp at 4pm, I didn’t finish the day until nearly 7pm. It’s weird how days that should be easy can be difficult and how days that should be difficult can feel easy.
I was lucky to have phone reception when I got into camp tonight so I ordered a pair of tights from REI express delivery to the next town, Agua Dulce. Here is to hoping they fit to warrant the $30 in postage fees I paid for them.
The camp site not only had great 4G but a spectacular views over the mountains and desert. The sunset was a million dollar one. I sat and ate my dinner a little uncomfortable with my thigh woes but loving the trail and life out here all the same. With views like that, how can you not.