PCT miles: 159.7 to 166, miles 0 to 7.7 of the alternate
Woke up this morning and my ankles were especially stiff. I’m not surprised because I didn’t really stretch last night – I wanted too badly to crawl in my tent. We could hear bees buzzing outside and Rachel and Rawhide were nervous we’d camped near a hive but nope, the bees are just everywhere on this mountain, minding their own business.
I have a slow start to try to let my ankles warm up. We have to climb another 700 feet or so this morning before descending more than 2000 feet back down to the bottom of the mountains. I take it slow and find Rawhide and Rachel having a break not far from where we’d camp. I join them but they leave quickly because they’d already been sitting for 20 minutes. I filter my water and eat a very melted snickers bar. I have a blister forming between my big toe and second toe on my left foot but I decide to deal with it later.
I’m not doing a very good job of eating out here. It’s hard to do – your bag of goodies gets old quick, and it’s hot, and I am used to associating food with relaxation but often food out here is a matter of immediate necessity and stopping means you have less time to do more miles. In fact, overall that’s a balance I’m struggling to strike – how to eat enough, sleep enough, and walk enough.
I keep going up up up. I run out of steam in a few miles and sit in the shade and try to find something to eat. I’ve been carrying some oatmeal packets around with me and I pour some cold water into the packers and eat it out of then sachet and it actually is a pretty delightful snack/breakfast. I don’t want the jerky that’s in my bag, or to heat up the pasta I’ve brought. At my next break I eat my second bag of oatmeal and now I’m out of oatmeal.
I descend down, down, down. At the intersection for the alternate I run into a woman with an empty backpacking pack. She’s been out here since April 11 and had gone off trail to tend to her blisters, as well as meet up with her husband who meets her in their trailer every week or so. We chat our way down the mountain and eventually I stop in the shade and she continues.
In the shade, I throw myself a little pity party. I’m struggling with the feeling that I “should” be doing more: earlier to camp, bigger miles, or if I’m going to be slow at least have it be a relaxing slow. I am tired of being the last one to camp, always dragging behind the rest. But the reality is I just am the speed I am, and I need to figure out a way to let that be okay for me. I think I also just need a day in town to decompress. I’m in no way thinking of quitting, I’m more just trying to find a way to be at peace with the fact that I’m not as super impressive big-miles-fast-pace as a lot of the hikers I admire.
As I sit there feeling sorry for myself, a truck drives up the dirt road I’ve been walking on. “Have enough water?” A man asks. I say yes, even though it would be safer to have another liter. Then right behind him is another truck with a man in it and the woman I’d been hiking with in the passenger seat.
“You want a ride to town? She said your feet have been hurting.”
“I’m good, but thank you! That’s so sweet of you!” (Everyone’s feet hurt out here – it’s just life.)
“You sure? This isn’t even part of the PCT,” he says. “This road sucks,” the woman says. I find it a little funny because clearly she’d just walked to the road, and she’s also made her husband drive her to the exact spot she’d left the trail so she wouldn’t miss any miles. I decline again, and he offers me some water, so I take a liter and they drive away.
Anyway, I’m tired of my pity party so I put in some music and walk to the rhythm for the next three miles. I’m pretty sure I won’t see Rawhide until I get to camp but instead I see her in the shade of a tree near the road.
“I think I’m done with this alternate,” she says. Her feet are hurting her pretty bad – the downhill is tough on our feet in a way that uphill isn’t. They thrive in our shoes and beg us to elevate them at breaks. There are four miles left, including a mile of walking on the highway, until we get to the Lake Hemet store. I walk with her to the road and then she sticks out her thumb to hitch and I continue on.
The alternate here is an old dirt path and I have cell service so I call my best friend Sarah and we catch up a little which makes the miles pass quicker. My phone is dying so I hang up with her and see that Rawhide has texted me – the deli at the lake closes at 5. I tell her what to order me if I don’t make it, but I decide to start pushing it to get there.
As I’m sitting there I’m running my hands over my feet and they’re so swollen and tender that massaging them is almost too much – it feels like a combination of tickling and pure pleasure. I promise to give them more attention once we get to camp because they’ve been through a lot today.
I inhale my BLTA quickly and sloppily and drink a coconut water from the store. My body is so hungry for calories that I’m tempted to get another sandwich, but the deli closed. “Maybe we can get delivery pizza?” I say to Rawhide. A-Game and Gusher head to the campground but not before saying they’d go in on pizza. We look online but don’t see anything that looks like delivery.
Not long after another hiker, Mark, shows up. Someone has told him delivery is possible so he starts making phone calls and manages to figure out how to get us all pizza. We’re stoked.
We walk the last .7 miles to a free campground and set up our tents. Rawhide and I take coin showers and it’s good to get the dirt off of me even if there isn’t any soap, since we’ll be in town the next day. The pizza arrives and another hiker who has set up near us, Mixed Bag (who got his name because he mixes skittles and m&ms together) joins our party and so he, Rawhide, Mark, A-Game, Gusher and I eat pizza and they drink coronas and A-Game gives us all a Rolo for dessert and then we all climb in our tents.
Tomorrow I’m not sure if I’m going to hike the final 8 or so miles to town or hitch. My ankles are pretty stiff and my feet are sore from the road walking but I would like to do it if I can. Rawhide is going to hitch but the rest of the group plans to hike. It’s supposed to start raining around 1pm so I’ll need to make it to town before then.