Mile 454 to 478 (plus 1 mile road walk).
Today marks my 1 month trailversary, and it was also my longest day of hiking at 25 miles! I am so grateful for this experience where everyday is full of surprises, challenges, and happiness.
In typical hiker fashion, we didn’t plan to take a day off to celebrate being on trail, but rather planned our most ambitious day yet. We would wake up at 2:30 and hit the trail by 3:00 with the goal of getting the majority of the walking out of the way before the temperature climbed into the high 90s.
As we left Hiker Heaven and walked toward the trailhead, we joked about trying to get a hitch at this hour. Unsuccessful with the first two cars to pass, we shined out headlamps open our thumbs as a big black truck passed. To our surprise, it pulled over and two guys told the six of us (Burnout, Valdy, Bedazzled, Fun Dip, Viper, and I) to jump in. They took us to the trailhead and as Viper was getting out, she dropped a water bottle in the bed of the truck. I turned on my headlamp and the beam fell on a rusty axe in the bed of the truck. You always think about the worst case scenario when hitching and getting picked up by two axe murders ranks pretty high up there. This morning, however, it looks like we dodge a bullet, or axe as it were, and made it safely to our destination.
We began hiking in darkness with our headlamps on and a cool night breeze against our skin. As the trail meandered upwards, we walked through little microclimates of cold and warm air. Over our heads, stars dappled the sky and a cresent moon hung on the horizon as we climbed into the hills. The lights of Agua Dulce flickered in the distance and grew dimmer with each passing minute.
I pulled away from the group and soon found myself alone in the predawn silence broken only by the intermittent chirps of birds. Looking behind, I could see five headlamps making their way towards me in the darkness.
Soon the horizon began to brighten and I switched off my light. The surrounding hills began to reveal their details, no longer black shadows in the night.
We arrived at the first water 9 miles into our walk and rested as we filtered 5 liters, which would get us through the 15 miles to Casa de Luna and through our planned midday siesta.
For the next part of the trail, we climbed gradually along lengthy switchbacks with views of a reservoir below. It taunted us with its cold blue water and we sipped water from bottles warmed by the sun.
We are hiking through an area called the Green Valley. Still desert, it receives enough rain that the mountains are covered with green vegetation and twisted Manzanita trees, which provide some pockets of shade. Our group spread out on the trail, but kept within a few minutes of each other. I was up front, but as the planned siesta hour of 10:00 approached, I became a little paranoid that those behind me may have already stopped for a siesta since I had passed some tempting shade spots earlier. I slowed down until I caught sight of Viper and Bedazzled. Around 10:30, I happened upon a surprise water source and a grove of Manzanita trees on flat ground big enough for our group! I pulled over and called the other group members over as they came up trail. By this point, we had already been hiking for over seven hours. We ate and laid out our pads to nap. Unfortunately, nome of us had slept well thanks to some noisy drunks at Hiker Heaven the night before.
We were all up by 1:30 unable to sleep any longer due to the heat and sunflower pockets that had broke up our shade. Too hot to walk we passed time with stories and jokes, which might make your grandmother blush. Felix, a German hiker, who had joined us called us vulgar after one too many poop stories were told, but that just encouraged us more.
We started again at 4:00 and covered the remaining 7 miles to the road in just under 2 hours and 30 minutes. I got behind everyone because I was holding in what was either a fart or something a little more than a fart while going uphill. Not willing to risk sharting myself, I dug a hole to find out. It was more than a fart.
I played catch up the rest of the time and finally caught the group near the road we would hitch from. We broke up into two groups and got hitches pretty quickly to Casa de Luna. When we arrived it was filled with hikers who had arrived earlier and they were already a few beers deep.
We went out back into the Manzanita forest and found some campsites and headed back for some taco salad. I had two helpings. Terry who is the trail angel that runs the place carries around a wooden yardstick that she uses to hit hikers who put their plates over the bowels of ingredients. I managed to get through the food line unscathed, but others felt the rap of wood on knuckles when the violated the rule.
After dinner there was talk of a dance off for bandanas that have “PCT Class of 2017” printed on them, but our group opted to go to the gas station and buy a half gallon of chocolate ice cream and Coke to make Coke floats or “brown cows” as Fun Dip and Viper call them. We drank our floats in the parking lot (real classy) and then walked back to Cads de Luna to find that the place had already quieted down.
We walked back to the Manzanita forest and laid down for our hard earned rest after a long, but fun day on trail.