Day Seven

Miles 91.5- 109

Total Mileage 17.5

It was still raining when we woke up. We laid in the tent for a while, which is unusual for us, listening for any other hikers to ensure we weren’t the only ones going out in this storm. We knew our day would end in Warner Springs, which promised a warm shelter and REAL FOOD, but it was still pretty difficult to climb out of our warm sleeping bags and step out into near-wintry conditions. 

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Day Six

Mile 77-91.5
Total Mileage 14.5

I woke up nervous about finding a hitch and nervous about the weather rolling in. The whole town lay covered in fog and light mist and I was not looking forward to hiking that day with a forecast of high winds. The lodge had an awesome breakfast with lots of other hikers milling about, all of us dreading the idea of going out in the rain/wind/fog. Josh and I packed up first (at the late late hour of 8am) and moseyed down to the gas station where I got us a ride down the mountain in about two seconds from a local fireman. Keith was awesome! Made us buckle up and told us all about how he made the decision to get into his career. He seemed to really respect fire and have a calling to be a protector and public servant in a way where he could still be outside. 

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Day Five

Mile 66 to 77
Total Mileage 11

Woke up at 5 again today and knew immediately it was going to be hot. So, so hot.

Good news is we were motivated since it was TOWN DAY and we only had 11 miles to hike. In town lay the promise of a trail angel who offered laundry, a free beer for hikers, running water, and a porch to sleep on if we needed a spot to crash. Also free pie! 

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Day Four

Miles 47.5 to 66
Total mileage 18.5 + 1 mile off trail 

A beautiful ridge walk today overlooking the desert floor, which appeared very hot and dry. Didn’t help that the forecast was 90* but up on the shadeless, scrubby ridge my thermometer read closer to 100*. 

We met some new hikers which felt good, but I hatched a crazy plan in which we quit hiking the PCT and road tripped around the country all summer instead. I had visions of us in pools, sharing coffee at a local diner, hiking and camping in the best campgrounds. I spent a lot of the morning and afternoon using the “Q” word and trying to convince Josh to abandon our stupid hiking the entire country plan. 

12 miles in we met a day hiker named Debby who said the magic words, “Would you guys like ice cream?!” She laughed when our eyes lit up. She even carried out the trash for us! Trail magic is really special.

At mile 59.5 we came up on a little water detour which I had been looking forward to all day. Water was a little short this day and we had our first “dry camp” (camping with no water source) coming up that night. We decided to take a siesta at the water cistern for a couple hours to camel up and maybe wait out the heat of the day in some shade. We’d also cook “dinner” there so we didn’t have to walk with that water on our backs. We chased the shade around the cistern for a couple hours laying in pools of sweat and finally made biscuits and gravy for lunch (for the record, favorite trail meal ever!). The cistern was looked pretty green and gross and was an actual horse trough, but I found a secret hose on the side with fresh clean water.

Josh was bored after two hours in the shade so we took off with six liters of water each aiming for mile 64. Passed a couple cowboys on horses who warned us of rattlers on the trail, but we didn’t see any. Also ran into Randy who was going to try to night hike since he was short on water. I didn’t feel too bad for him since we all have access to the same information but Josh felt pretty awful about not offering him any water. Made it to our camp spot at 430 which seemed too early to call it quits, so we kept hiking to mile 66 where we found a tiny little spot all on our own and enjoyed snacks for dinner: a medley of cheese crisps from Trader Joes, m&ms, salami log, pork rinds and freeze dried strawberries. 

Overall a hard day with the QUIT word looming over both our heads.

Day Three

Miles 32-47.5
Total mileage 15.5 + .5 off trail 

We’ve been waking up at 5am to get some miles in before the hottest part of the day. Felt good today and we knew we were in for another big ascent right out of the gate.
The ascent wasn’t as awful as I anticipated but once again I didn’t eat enough and started crying about two miles in. All the hiker food makes me want to barf and I’m still struggling with my stomach, which is common for me but worrisome when I need calories.

At the top of the ascent we wound through some gorgeous piney forest. A stream was babbling, butterflies flitted about, and it seemed right for my first trail poop. 

At mile 42 we came my new favorite place: the town of Mt Laguna. Population 60 and it’s geared for hikers as the trail passes right next to it. They have a beautiful campground with flush toilets and coin showers, a little cafĂ© where we stopped for a beer and some chili mac, and best of all an amazing gear store. They were offering pack shakedowns- we didn’t participate but listened to the guys there dole out tons of helpful advice on how to get a lighter pack and hike smarter. They also did some major blister surgery on many hikers and Terminus Tom gave out Tecates while we hung out on the porch. The rest of the town was a post office and general store.

We got some peanut m&ms, meat sticks, and hazelnut snickers bars at the store and then sat on the big porch out front watching other hikers run errands. 

Josh and I both knew if we stuck around too long we’d never, ever leave, so after a couple hours we trudged up the road and said goodbye to the 30+ hikers staying at the campground that night.

We hiked another five miles to a campground with showers and $24 campsites that could be split between hikers- unfortunately there were no hikers anywhere to be found. We were approaching a ten mile camping closure section and there was no way I could do another ten, so we paid the $24 and a buck each for a four minute shower with no soap or towel. I cried because I was feeling lonely and strange, and then another hiker walked up. He threw in ten bucks for the site and shared that he’s trying to do the trail in 100 days- Josh and I are planning on 150! He had hiked 26 miles that day. 

We made a Mountain House for dinner- Cowboy Beans and Rice and I think- the other hiker offered us some smoked paprika for our meal, which I assumed was code for drugs. We set up the tent with no fly and watched the sun set. Turns out no fly was a terrible idea because the moon was so bright it kept both of us awake all night. That plus the blister I started developing as soon as we left Laguna. 

Day Two

Miles 15.4-32
Total mileage 16.6

We booked it out of camp at 6am to make the climb out of the canyon before the sun hit. I cried a bit, and then we got some phone service toward the top of the ridge with about a billion encouraging text messages waiting for us so I cried harder. We made the ridge right as the sun hit the top of my hat- phew!

A couple more cruiser miles into Lake Morena and we made it at about 830am. I had my eye on the coin shower (2 quarters for the first 8 minutes) and the running water in the sink. We met Mrs. Focus (wife of hiker Focus, who we camped with the night before) and she steered us around the campground, offering watermelon and quarters. While I showered, Josh charged his phone in the bathroom and we laid out sleeping bags out on the grass to dry. 
After I drip dried from my no soap, no towel shower, we walked in to town to a popular “malt shop” (fancy 7-11) where we bought a refreshing, cold Gatorade and sat with the locals on the front porch. Got an earful about how to kill a rattlesnake and then salt it- with a shovel and so you can wear it on your hat, obviously- but the porch felt too good so we got out of there before we shot our mileage for the day. We also had a good long talk about gear, prep, and general hiker BS with a fellow thru hiker from Brazil, named Gue (we’re not sure how to spell it, but it’s pronounced like “ghee”). 

As the day got hotter we passed many hikers resting under overpasses, near cool streams, and in the scrubby shade of manzanita. Josh and I were nearly sucked in to hanging out at a stream crossing with a few hikers we’ve met and we did get a good foot rinse in, but we kept hiking. As we approached a campground we were going to hike through and pass by, we heard someone yell, “BEER! FRUIT! TRAIL MAGIC!” 

So we booked it over to a picnic table where a man had laid out a whole spread of PB&J, cold beers (Ballast Point, even), and cold fruit straight from a cooler. He said he just has fun helping out hikers- thanks Steve!

The rest of the hike revealed some gorgeous vistas of the desert floor. Scary to know we will be walking that in a week or two- it looked HOT.

Finally we made it to Fred Canyon where a stream and a couple other hikers awaited us. We made a Mountain House Chicken and Dumplings for dinner which wasn’t quite enough food. Someone had found a huge baggie of weed on the trail so Josh and I gently excused ourselves and passed out at about 730pm.