Back to the Mountains – Day 29: Swarthout Canyon to Guffy Campground

pacific crest trail

PCT miles: 347.2 to 364.4
Miles: 17.2

I didn’t sleep great because it was a pretty warm night. Got started around 6 because we were anticipating a hot day and an all-day climb. The first part of the day was pretty warm and the climb was tough – steeper than I expected and also carrying 4 liters of water doesn’t make it any easier. People were passing me and passing me which also soured my mood. I kept stopping wherever there was shade because even the morning sun was hot and there was no breeze and just blah overall.


Soon I passed Mermaid, Mountain Goat and Francoise just as Rawhide got up from resting with them. Rawhide put leukotape on her thigh chafe and absolutely flew up the mountain. We were walking through a burn area which meant very little shade and we could also see the trail for miles, and also we were ridgewalking. All of which is to say – I needed to poop and had very few options. I eventually found a semi flat spot where the fire hadn’t burned some bushes and it was clear from the flattened cheatgrass and foot prints that many a hiker had dug a cathole there. It’s funny how certain thoughts will distract you for miles – “I need to poop” “I’m going to stop in the next shade” “I’m going to take a nap today.” They’re their own kind of incantations, not necessarily being present to the moment but pulling you forward all the same. They give you a mission.

I was trying to make myself hike 8 miles before stopping because I thought it would be hot and I wanted to try to get at least 10 miles done by noon, but my body had other plans. I felt weirdly emotional and all I could think was “I want to lay down in the shade and really rest.” At first I tried to ignore it but after a while I thought, fuck it, I have all day to hike this mountain, why not be a little nice to myself? I found some shade under a burnt tree and laid down on my Tyvek and didn’t give myself a time limit for how long I could stay there, and it was like my body just went – “ah, thank you.”

I was only there for 10 or 15 minutes but afterward my mood really improved. I walked by some trail workers and thanked them for making the trail nice. I looked out over the mountains. It was still uphill but it was just like my body and me were working together again.

At mile 10 for the day I took a siesta in some shade. I blew up my air mattress and put my backpack under my feet and went in and out of sleep. Mermaid, Mountain Goat and Francoise were all there and eating and chatting and they laid down for naps too. Eventually Murphy joined and also laid down.

I told myself I wanted to get moving around 2 to get to the camp by no later than 7 (camp was 7 miles away.) As I was starting to rouse myself to get packed up, Mountain Goat shrieked – a fly had crawled in her ear and was wriggling around or biting her. Francoise tried to flush it out with water but that didn’t work, so Murphy ended up putting some drops of coconut oil in Mountain Goat’s ear after google told us that oil would kill the bug. Crazy… you think you’re taking a siesta and then a bug crawls in your ear. 

I got walking again and it was slow going. The container of Pringles I’d eaten at siesta was making my tummy a little upset and it was a bit warm – not nearly as hot as I expected, thanks to the elevation gain – but I just kept trudging along. About 3 miles from camp my body was like, stop for dinner. Now. So I did. I sat on the side of the trail and made ramen and ate it, and then put in a podcast. The miles went by quickly after that. The last little push to camp was steep which everyone complained about, but then we had to go down an even steeper trail down to water so I guess that shows us. 

Rawhide decided to keep hiking all the way to Wrightwood, making for a 22 mile day. Lynn showed up not long after I got to camp, then Murphy and Hungry G. I had hot chocolate for dinner and we sat around a picnic table chatting, particularly about the campers who were cooking burgers and hot dogs. I kept trying to think of ways to approach them that might make them share their food, but ultimately it felt too manipulative so I didn’t. I did, however, go to another group of campers and pet their dog a little. 

Also, Murphy was about 30 minutes to an hour behind me and said she saw a big cat – slightly smaller than a golden retriever – walking ahead of her down the trail. She slowly walked back and panicked until another hiker came up behind her some 20 minutes later. 

I finally feel like I’m getting my hiker legs. My body fatigues less quickly and when I rest it seems recover faster. Does this means I fly up mountains? Nope. It took me 12 hours to hike 17 miles. But it’s nice to feel like my body is rising to the challenge. 

Lynn called it a night and we followed her lead. Murphy asked if we should hang our food because of bears – the trash cans were locked down – but most of us don’t have the tools to do that, not to mention that the trees didn’t give us any real opportunity to do a real bear hang. Instead we slept with our food, hoping the campers smelled better anyway. 

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