PCT miles: 235.5 to 256.2
Well. It happened. My first 20 mile day. I’ve been saying I didn’t think I’d do a 20 for a while, and not til I had a good reason to, and I guess I had good reason today – I had the choice of two campsites, one that made a 13 mile day and one that made a 20+ mile day. For a minute the group thought we could camp at around a 18 mile day, but no luck. So nearly 3 more miles it was.
Today started with a steep, rough climb gaining around 2000 feet. 4 miles took me about 3 hours. Luckily I ate a big pasta dinner with tuna last night and I woke up feeling well-rested — too early to say for sure that that’s the magic trick, but I’m hopeful. My body was sore but my brain was thinking it might be able to make a 20 mile day today.
We got our first glimpses of poodle dog bush (maybe – I have a feeling we’re all pointing at pointy green plants and calling it poodle dog when it’s probably something else) which is supposed to be worse than poison oak, so I stepped carefully when I thought I saw it on trail.
Once that was over, though, we were above 8000 feet and in the pine trees and the temperature never got too bad, so I was able to hike through pretty much the whole day. The terrain reminded me a lot of Flagstaff.
I continued listening to podcasts which has been a great distraction tactic on the trail. They also helped me feel less anxious about how far ahead my group was or if everyone was going to pass me – instead my brain was distracted with new ideas. I’ll be downloading more in town and maybe some audiobooks too.
Around mile 11 for the day I reached Coon Creek Cabin, which was an interesting (and a little creepy) place. David and Julia caught up to me after Rawhide, Tarantino and some other hikers had already headed out and we chatted for a while, Julia confirming some of my high school German phrases, until I got my things together and continued on.
I moved relatively quickly and caught up to Mixed Bag, who was staring at the Private Zoo that cages a bear, a lion and a tiger right next to the trail. It was honestly really sad.
Last I’d heard Tarantino, Rawhide, Mixed Bag and several other hikers were aiming for a couch that had been placed on the trail by a trail angel. There was supposed to be camping nearby and would have been a 17 mile day for us. When we got there, no campsites. I hiked on while the others enjoyed the couch because I was feeling pretty good and no campsites meant that I no longer had a choice in my 20 mile day.
It was 7pm and I wanted to make it before dark around 8pm. That’s a 3 mph pace, but it was downhill, so I was feeling like it might happen. Not long after, I started getting some wicked crotch chafe. I stopped and took off my pants and went commando again thinking it might help, but it didn’t. I precariously held my pants so that they wouldn’t irritate the chafe with one hand and my trekking pole in the other and moved quickly down the trail. I stopped to put antibiotic on it hoping it would act as anti-friction like vaseline, but no luck. That shit stung.
Still – I pulled up to camp just as it got too dark to see, at 8pm. Rawhide was excited I’d made it and even offered to hold a light for me as I set up, but I clipped my flashlight onto my hat and got it done in my own. I was sore, my chafe hurt, but I set up my tent and forced myself to eat dinner. I met a few new hikers, Samson (because of his long hair and sobriety) and Rainbow Snake. I had no snacks to power me through the next day so Rawhide gave me some oatmeal and some bars which I was extremely grateful for.
Tomorrow I’ll be in Big Bear. I think I want a room to myself. I’ve been surprised how social the trail is, how any restful moment is surrounded by people and it’s hard to escape or to allow yourself to escape (because I also desperately don’t want to be alone out here.) So I may try to spend some time by myself in town. Recharge a little. We’ll see.