PCT mile: 517.6 to 534.9
I wake up around 630 and go to the market for breakfast. I eat French toast, eggs, hasbrowns and sausage. I am so thankful for this grill being here. I sit with Rawhide, Twerk and several others from the group.
Twerk to Rawhide: “I saw you looking at that guy’s butt.”
Rawhide: “Actually I was looking at his pancake.”
I call home and get an update on everything and then my friend Natalie texts me so I call her, too. She wants to try to come hike with me sometime soon.
I take down my tent around 10 am because the shade is gone. I seek out some shade under a tree and take a nap there. Today is a day of napping whenever the urge calls – the plan is to night hike the notorious LA Aqueduct section, 17 miles of flat dirt roadwalking with no shade, hence the night hike. Temperatures have been in the 90s, damn near unbearable even with shade, especially when the wind is low.
So it’s a nap, and then lunch, although my brain seems to be hungrier than my body because I keep ordering and not finishing food – the food is good, but the heat is making me lack an appetite. I pass whatever I don’t finish to other hungry hikers.
After lunch I’m sitting on the patio when Maria, the owner, who has been working all morning in the market, comes by. “It’s hot,” she says. We agree. And then she says: Do you want to sit in my pool?
Um, hell yes.
We get over there and I’m about to climb in in my underwear when she says, so you have swimming trunks? And I say no. So she lets me borrow her bikini bottoms.
The inflatable pool isn’t that cold but it’s still such a shock to my system to not be hot that it takes me 30 minutes before I can get my core all the way in the water. Male Murphy (there is also a girl Murphy farther ahead), Helen and Backhoe and a hiker whose name I forgot sat in a pool floaty. The unnamed hiker had lost his wallet and asked the market if there was any work he could do in order to get enough food to make it to Tehachapi. As we were sitting there, a man who had been giving rides to hikers – I think he may have worked at the market too – gave the hiker $100. The hiker seemed super shocked. It was incredibly generous.
I eat some chips and cheese for “dinner” and not long after a motorhome pulls up to give as many hikers as possible rides back to the trail. I throw my things together haphazardly and am one of the last people to get on. I think there are more than 16 of us and our packs, leaving standing room only. We get dropped off at the trail and as I’m re packing my pack and putting on my shoes (I’d jumped in in my flip flops) Hobo, Cadi and Bruce walk by. “Come catch us,” Bruce says.
So I do. I walk fast until I catch up and they fill me in on Hiker Town and their plans for the night. It’s 6:30 when I start walking and I feel good, but I’m usually asleep by 8:30, and I don’t do well with being tired. Cadi and Hobo plan to do 17 miles with only one 40 minute break to a bridge that promises shade. I’d like to make it to that bridge and maybe even further to a little oasis at 24 miles, but I know I can’t do it in one go and I assume I’ll have to stop for sleep.
After 6 miles, my feet are pounding and my hips are sore. Flat walking is remarkably hard on our bodies. I see Yoav and Dean taking a break and say goodbye to Cadi and Hobo and lay down and elevate my feet. Before long Rawhide and the others have caught me and they break, too. I tell Rawhide about my plans for sleep and her plans sound similar, which makes me happy.
We get moving again and I try different techniques to motivate myself. I pass Cadi and Hobo taking their break. I try two different podcasts. I try upbeat music. But all that does it make me tire out faster. I see the Swiss Boys, Mountain and Tallboy breaking so Rawhide, Twerk and I join them. When Cadi, Hobo and Bruce catch up Rawhide and I walk with them so we have a pace setter. We decide we’re going to hike until midnight and then set up our tents and set an alarm for 2:30 am to do the last miles to the bridge.
Instead we stop at about 11.5 miles for the day, at 11:30 pm. In the distance we can hear someone shooting rounds on a gun and we decide we don’t want to move any closer to that. We find a flat spot in the desert next to the road and I set up quickly, in minutes, not bothering with my air mattress or quilt, and instead sleep inside my tent with my rain fly as a light blanket.
I wake just before my alarm at 2:28 and hurriedly get out of my tent to pee. Rawhide is up and we’re both refreshed enough to hike the last few miles to the bridge, where we know we’ll have shade to protect us from the sun. We tell ourselves we’ll sleep for a couple of hours and consider pushing to mile 24, where it’s supposed to be even nicer.
We’re 2 miles away when we drop for a break. I drink some Gatorade. It’s hard to figure out how to eat while night hiking because my body is so confused. We sit in the dark and look at the stars, which are pretty. But Rawhide and I are talking about just how miserable this is. Why didn’t I just get an RV? I wonder. Rawhide misses her boyfriend. We agree that it’s one of the hardest days mentally, in no small reason because we are just so tired.
We get up again and the sun starts coming up behind the wind mills we’re approaching, and then finally I see the bridge. Rawhide lays on top of her tent and I set mine up. I don’t blow up my air mattress – I want to feel the cool dirt underneath me. I am getting used to sleeping on hard packed dirt. The sun is already coming up and I hope the shade lasts and I fall asleep.