PCT Desert Day 6: The Third Gate

Mile 79.68 to 96.53 — Today’s miles: 16.85
I slept so soundly in my little solitary campsite. In the morning as I pack up, I hear Tanya and Allen hike by. They must have gotten up wicked early. I am out by 6:30 and walk the first few hours in mostly shade. I have to stop for blister care after a couple of miles. I’ve never had blisters like this before — usually I get one or two in the usual spots on particular toes. But I’ve had them on my heels out here, and today on the ball of my foot! Which is a tricksy place to bandage. Every day new foot problems crop up. It is a bit concerning, and has really caught me off guard, because I have a decent amount of blister management experience.

By 9am or so, the shade is gone. I catch up to Tanya and Allen, then let them go past again as I eat second breakfast in the shade of my umbrella. I pass a pair of southbound section hikers and ask them about the water cache at mile 91. They say it’s dry, but there’s a full cistern about half a mile off trail at the same spot. I’m glad there’s water there, but not pleased about an extra mile of non-PCT walking.

It’s hot. Really hot. I have plenty of water and am making my electrolyte drinks, but it’s never enough to quench my thirst. I’m really dragging when I catch Tanya and Allen again, hunkered down in the one tiny patch of shade. It’s two more miles to the cache, and if I hustle I can get there by noonish, so I tell them I’ll see them there for a long mid-day break.

Two tough miles later, I arrive at the sign for the “Third Gate Cache.” So named because it is right next to the third pipe gate you cross after Scissors Crossing. There is a big sign saying WATER but since I know the cache is dry I’m just hoping for some shade before trekking to the cistern. On the walk down to the cache I pass a hiker coming up who says the cache is full! Oh my god. I fly down the rest of the way to find a huge wooden pallet piled with gallon jugs of water. It is a joy to behold.

I hang out there in the shade until 3:30, waiting out the hottest hours. I chat with a nice guy named David who can’t believe I’m almost 40. Others come and go, as thrilled by this water as I am. We don’t know who brings this water all the way out here, but we’re so, so grateful.

I head back out, aiming for another five miles. I drank so much water hanging out there that my feet swell up a little, and it’s hard to put my toe socks back on. My new blister is hurting, so I settle on camp earlier than my legs need it. I’m atop a ridge which probably means another windy night, but I plan to put my earplugs in this time. Just as I’m getting in my tent, another hiker comes up the hill. There’s really only space for one here, but he’s just in a bivy so makes room for himself. I don’t mind sharing, except that it raises the bathroom issue again. My campsite-mate is from Germany and asks me if it’s true that all Americans own multiple guns and shoot at everything. I think he is only half joking. He falls asleep instantly and begins to snore loudly. Almost everyone snores out here, including me. The wind picks up just as I get ready to sleep, and between this and the snoring, I’m putting a lot of faith in these earplugs.


What are these giant asparagus stalk plants? They are often taller than I am.


Had a nice morning chat with this guy.


The third gate.


When I saw this sign I thought the cache was dry, and was just hoping for shade.


But the cache was restocked! I lay on that wooden pallet for a few hours until the shade moved elsewhere. 

Late afternoon views.


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