Day 43 & 44 – Out of the windfarm and into the sandpit
Monday 10 June 2019
Location: Mile 612
Distance travelled: 19.2 miles / 31 km
I enjoyed a beautiful bright red sunset from the comfort of my tent this morning. I love sleeping without the fly, being woken by the rising sun.
I walked slowly this morning as the trail climbed out of wind farm country and into the pine forest mountains. I have enjoyed the wind farm but it was nice to have a change of scenery, the views were spectacular.
The trail undulated throughout the morning, the incline of the trail wasn’t steep but in hot weather it was tough going. This section of trail is largely an easement through private farmland. I had read about cows on this particular stretch but only spotted one in the bushes that morning.
I hit the 600 mile marker this morning, even after slowing down my pace it feels like the miles are rolling past now. It won’t be long before I’ve hit 700 miles and I’m up in Kennedy Meadows.
I reached the main water source just before lunchtime and enjoyed a nice long relaxing break in the shade. Taking frequent breaks helps me to get through the day when it’s so hot out here in the desert.
After lunch the trail continued to climb, first through pine forest, then through a section which appeared to be recovering from fire. It was some of the most spectacular scenery and views I had seen in weeks. Although it was hot and I was tired I was still feeling so content to be there seeing it all.
This section of trail is one of the longest dry stretches of the PCT, there is a 45 mile (72km) stretch without a reliable water source. This means carrying an extremely large, heavy amount of water. There are a couple of water caches which have been set up by local trail angels but given the amount of hikers coming through and the remoteness of the area it is not advisable to rely on them.
Before leaving the last reliable spring I filled up with 6 liters of water, taking a gamble on there being some water at the next 2 caches. Worst case, if I find either empty, it should be enough to get me through by night hiking and avoiding the heat of the day.
To make the most of the cooler hours I walked a few kms in the cool of the afternoon and found a lovely campsite with views out to the high Sierras, just as the sun was starting to sink in the sky.
There was one other person at the campsite when I arrived, a single older man. As soon as I approached the camp site the man said to me ‘you carrying plenty of water?’ I was instantly irritated. Not only was I tired and hungry but I’d been experiencing quite a bit of this sort of thing on trail from older men over the past 6 weeks. For some reason, they see a solo female hiker and assume you either need help or don’t know what you are doing without having any knowledge of your experience. Without even saying hello this man felt it his duty to quiz my preparedness. I responded to his question ‘yes, how about yourself? Are you carrying enough water? At which point he instantly changed the conversation to his cell coverage and I walked off to find a camp as far away from him as possible.
Tuesday 11 June 2019
Location: Mile 612 to Mile 639.8 (Bird Spring Pass)
Distance travelled: 18.8 miles / 30 km
I felt like I’d woken up on the wrong side of the air mattress today. It might have been the early start or the fact that even though I started hiking at 5.30am it was still scorching hot out. Maybe it was my heavy pack, laden with the best part of 6 liters of water.
I felt like a slow moving desert camel making my way along the trail. Although the climbing wasn’t steep the trail undulated all day. It was frustrating to be climbing in such hot weather with such a heavy pack.
I feel like it was a shame for me to be in such a bad mood because the views were the most beautiful that I’d seen over the last few days. I could see all the way out to the Sierras and potentially even the snow capped Mt Whitney in the distance.
I was eager to make it to the first water cache earlish this morning. I wasn’t sure whether there would be water at it or not so getting there early would give me time to make a decision about what to do if it was empty.
I felt relieved to find the cache had been recently stocked by the incredible trail angel who has undertaken the epic task of managing it. It is a long dry not to mention hot stretch of trail and with around 50 hikers coming through each day the cache could be going through 150 liters of water a day.
My spirits were lifted by the water. I drank some while I was at the cache to rehydrate then topped up the water I was already carrying so again left with a very heavy 6 liters.
I got back on the trail and as I started walking, spotted a stationary car beside the road a mile or so from where I was. I got prematurely excited thinking the car must be parked by the trail head doing trail magic! I was very very wrong, the trail took a bend to the right and veered away from the road, the car and any potential trail magic.
It was up and down through proper desert vegetation throughout the day. I spotted several lizards and a couple of small snakes, no rattlesnakes though. One of my favorite lizards are a large beige/ gold lizard with brown spots. They remind me of tiny little leopards.
While stopped for a break under the shade of a Joshua Tree I found a tiny little birds nest. It was super cute. Unfortunately there were no baby birds in it.
During the day I passed the 1000km mark which a hiker had marked out in the dirt. It was nice to see my efforts in kms rather than miles for once, it seems so much shorter in miles.
The afternoon was spent on undulating trail through joshua trees. The views were breathtaking but so was the heat, I had to take a nap with my lunch in the afternoon to try to recover a bit before tackling the climbing again.
Thankfully the last couple of miles down to robin bird spring were downhill so I cruised into camp in the cool of the day. I got a great little camp spot sheltered by a large rock with views over the pass. It was perfectly positioned so I could see the sunset and sun rise the following morning.
I was even happier to find the cache full of water, it seemed to be newly replenished. It’s not so nice drinking hot water from plastic bottles, I hate to think what all of the exposure is doing to my body but sometimes you don’t have too much choice.
Unfortunately I had run out of gas the day prior so I’d be cold soaking my couscous for dinner. The sun had finally come in handy for something! A little time in the sun and my dinner was fairly warm.
I was in my tent, enjoying my couscous and watching an episode of grace and frankie when Graham rounded the corner. It wasn’t long and Jeff also rocked up to camp. They had done a big 27 mile day. It was nice to see them one last time and we spent the evening chatting. I was exhausted after a long hot day in the sun and slept very soundly.
It was my mums birthday today in Australia, I managed to send a message during the morning but it was 3am Sydney time and way too early to phone. Unfortunately I didn’t have reception at bird spring pass to give her a call. That is one of the tough things about being on trail. You never know when you might be able to get in touch.