PCT Desert Day 2: Here Comes the Sun

Mile 15.36 to 32.02 — Today’s mileage: 16.66
I did not sleep as well as I would have liked to. I was snug in my bag by 6:30, and though most people quieted down by 7pm (hiker bedtime), a few kept chatting until well after 8pm. I drifted off at one point, only to jolt awake again as the folks next to me started up their conversation again. Then in the wee hours, a helicopter flew very close to the campsite and it was incredibly loud — my heart was pounding and I had a hard time letting go of my rage at border control (as a thing in general, not because they disturbed my sleep).

In the morning, a few people are up packing around 4:30am, shining headlamps everywhere. I know these complaints are petty — when you camp with other people you have to expect different preferences and schedules, but I am pretty grumpy. I let myself stay in my bag until 5:30, then start packing up. I’m out of practice and forget to warm up my feet and ankles by tracing the alphabet with my toes. I head out of camp around 6:15, already worried about the heat because the sun’s still behind the mountain but I don’t even need my windshirt.

The climb out of Hauser is not that bad. The JMT really gave me some perspective on ascents. The bunnies are out again this morning. Helicopters fly overhead at regular intervals. Nearly at the top, I pass a guy in a single person tent spot and say hi. His name is Campo, and he clarifies that it’s his real name, not a trail name.

I finish the five miles to Lake Morena at 8:20 and head right to the campground bathroom to wash up in the sink. There are coin-op showers, but it feels too time consuming. As I leave, a guy calls out, “Hey, hiker!” I turn. “You have everything you need?” Uhhh, I think so. When he catches up to me I learn he’s a trail angel with a bunch of drinks and snacks across the way. It’s tempting, but I’ve got pancakes on the brain. He points me in the direction of the store/restaurant. On the way, I see a calico cat nimbly pounce on a small rodent and carry it down the street.

I order two eggs and two pancakes. The plate is huge. Campo arrives and joins me at my booth, and later another hiker whose name I forget to get. I can only finish 2/3 of my pancakes. I guzzle a bottle of apple juice (still my hiking obsession, apparently), say hi to some hikers on the porch, and head back out.

It’s hot today. I try to downplay it in my head because I know the Mojave will be much hotter. I trudge along, sweating, and by the time I hit Cottonwood Creek bridge, I want to bow down to the shade it provides. I sit in the gravel and drink electrolytes, listening to cars occasionally rumble as they cross overhead. A ladybug lands on my wrist, which is a delight, and later I watch it struggle across the gravel, the grains just the right size to tip it over onto its back again and again. I help it right itself twice, then shoulder my pack and hike on.

My map says Cottonwood Creek is typically dry, but it’s flowing deep and steady this year. I have to wade across, and do so without taking shoes and socks off. I accidentally take a use trail after the crossing, and just as I’m thinking “this doesn’t seem right…” two hikers from Germany call after me. I’d missed the PCT marker behind some bushes. Two more fast miles find me at Boulder Oaks campground, where I get two liters of water from a spigot and take an hour of lunch break on a shady picnic table. Eleven miles so far, aiming for nearly six more today. I have two blisters, on my heels, which never ever happens to me. Kara-oke and Courtney show up, and so does another trail angel, who has food and sodas at a nearby picnic table. I’ve just eaten lunch and I’m not that hungry on this trip so far, so this is the second time today that I turn down trail magic. (Part of me also feels like it’s too early, like I don’t deserve it yet.)

Kara-oke and Courtney head on while I finish my blister care and pack back up. I catch them a little while later, and we chat in the shade before I take off again. It’s a trudge to my planned campsite in Fred Canyon, but beautiful, and the air gets cooler as 4pm rolls around. I arrive at camp just at 5:30, and it takes me a few tries to set up my tent because the only reasonably private spot left is on a bit of a slope with loose soil that my main stakes pull out of. I run around gathering rocks for reinforcement. I’m really tired, but dutifully eat a few things and brush my teeth before turning in. Kara-oke and Courtney saw a big rattler that rattled and hissed at them. They got a video but I’m too tired to exit my tent to watch it. Sounds like most people are feeling beat after today. I need to be doing an average of 17-18 miles per day to make it to Kennedy Meadows within my timeframe, but plan to stay at 15ish this first week, to “ease in” (even I am aware of how ridiculous that sounds). I think I can start pulling a few 20s after that, maybe.

Just at sunset, the wind picks up, and I get out to walk around my tent and check on each stake. Please don’t collapse on me in the night, tent.

Morning climb out of Hauser Canyon.

First glimpse of Lake Morena.

Breakfast. Apple juice <3. Campo’s arm.

On the way to Boulder Oaks campground for a long lunch break.


Last climb before camp. (Man, pano shots take forever to upload)

Desert sunset from my tent.

One thought on “PCT Desert Day 2: Here Comes the Sun

  1. Loving this Toby!! Keep your eyes open for my friend Erin, also hiking solo – she is about my height, with dark shoulder-length wavy/curly hair and a friendly face, in her early 30s. I think she started hiking the PCT the day before you did, so you might catch up to her!

    Liked by 1 person

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