First Cowboy Camping – Day 38: Hiker Heaven to Hilltop

Pct miles: 454.4 to 469.5 (+1 from Hiker Heaven)
Miles: 16.1

I woke up early. I slept in the trailer so I didn’t have to pack my bag in the morning, but that also meant I had to try to sleep with people talking late into the night, so it wasn’t the best night’s sleep ever. I got up and filled my water bottles and then was walking by 530. Rawhide was planning to leave with me but she wasn’t up yet, and i figured she’d catch me anyway because her pace is faster. 

The first 3 miles or so were a roadwalk and I really didn’t want to do it – I thought of Forest Gump running across the country and then coming to a stop, saying something like: I think I’ll go home now.

I think I’ll go home now, I thought.

But that’s how I feel when I leave town, so I kept walking. It was hot even though it was early and I found myself stopping regularly in the shade. 

I had service and texted Rawhide and found out she was having a really bummer morning and was struggling to leave and I wouldn’t likely see her that night. Between that and the heat I realized 24 miles definitely wasn’t going to happen. I got to the water source and set up my tent around noon (the bugs were bad and I needed a nap) and passed out for an hour. Unfortunately I’d set up underneath a crow’s nest and some birds took two very big poops on my tent, which I had to clean off with a baby wipe. 

I left the water around 4 planning to go between 5 and 11 more miles (I’d done 10 to the water.) Not even an hour later I was crossing the road and there were two women doing trail magic with sodas, juice, v8 and a trunk full of snacks and a bunch of chairs. 

We (me and several other hikers I’d been bumping into and breaking with all day) sat with them for 30 minutes or so before doing the next climb. I came the last campsite marked on GutHooks for the next 6 miles but no one was there, the cell service was spotty, it was right next to a power line… and I knew my legs had a little more juice in them. So I kept hiking. It was 7 and I was going to run out of daylight soon and I resolved that I might have night hike. Instead, I heard voices coming out of the bushes and found Mountain and Tallboy up a little hill. I set my pack down and started setting up my tent.

“You’re gonna do a tent?” Mountain said.

“It’s a perfect night for cowboy camping.” Tallboy said.

And I knew they were right, and I’d been meaning to try it, and I wanted to get up and moving quickly the next day anyway….

So I put my tent away and set myself up for cowboy camping. I ate some ramen for dinner and changed into my pajamas and laughed at the boys’ jokes and then fell asleep, just me and the stars. 

One response to “First Cowboy Camping – Day 38: Hiker Heaven to Hilltop”

  1. My theory on the changing dynamics of the PCT – from someone who is a long-time Sierra backpacker, but not thru-hiker – is that it’s currently going through the 3rd generation:

    Generation 1 (1970s – early 1990s) were the traditional old school, low-medium mileage days, heavy packers (like Ned Tibbits, Strider, et al) who simply extended a long backpacking trip into a *very* long backpacking trip, thus creating a “thru-hike”.

    Generation 2 (late 1990s – 2013) emerged around the time ultra-light backpacking began to make significant inroads. This is the generation of AYCE (, Shires (TarpTent), Joe (Zpacks), et al. UL equipment had a two-fold effect: it allowed more artistic personalities to hike, and it greatly enabled the participation of women.

    The latter day stages of this era produced writers like Quinn who romanticized the trail, group dynamics and the overall feeling of inclusiveness. But she recognized and wrote about the emergence of the 3rd generation already becoming more prevalent: the jocks.

    Generation 3 (2014 – present) seems to now be fully formed. These are the marathoners, ultra-runners, overseas athletes and all-around in good-shape 20s (single or couples) attracted to the trail as a challenge and adventure.

    They are utilizing UL equipment to maximize their daily mileage and reduce the overall time required to complete the hike. They don’t tend to overly socialize, and they aren’t necessarily looking for any particular insights. It’s a grand adventure set in an incredible environment, one posing tremendous physical demands, but one that needs to be completed before returning to a job or school.

    It seems those who were attracted to the trail by the prospect of the 2nd generation experience are now discovering the reality of being around people who are solely focused on one clear objective without any need for external accommodation and/or support.

    It appears you, Scissors and some others are now hitting this realization. The hike isn’t going to be a long, fun, sharing experience. Rather, it going to be a brutal physical test, one (now) filled with people whose orientation is much different than yours.

    Whatever you decide to do, you should definitely hang in there until you get to hike the Sierra. That’s the crown jewel – at least IMO. After Tahoe, tons of people seem to quit anyway because the scenery drops way off. But until then, it’s magic and not something that should be missed.

    Liked by 1 person

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