PCT Desert Day 18: A Twenty!

Mile 266.12 to 286.69 — Today’s miles: 20.57
I’m the first one up at the hostel, I think. I want to take a shower before breakfast and I’m worried there will be a mad rush for all the showers starting around 6. Someone is snoring in the common room as I shower and quietly leave. I drop off the next batch of postcards for the folks who donated to my fundraiser, and walk two more blocks to have breakfast at the Teddy Bear Diner, which Sarge heartily recommended. (“Insisted” may be a more accurate term.)

But the place doesn’t disappoint. I order the hiker special: two eggs, sausage, hash browns, and a biscuit with gravy. And a glass of apple juice, of course. I eat the whole thing in under 20 minutes. I consider ordering a slice of apple pie, but I’m low on time and don’t want to overstuff myself before I have to hike.

At the hostel, I pack up and use the flush toilet as many times as I can. Sarge seems sad that I’m leaving already. He’s quite a character, and my sense is that he’s also a pretty big-hearted guy. But I’m on a schedule. Six of us pile into the hostel shuttle for our ride back to the trailhead, where the PCT crosses Highway 18. The driver gives some advice about doing the Sierra Nevada section in the snow, tells us about the Big Bear area, and then drops us off at the PCT marker with a warning not to miss the trail’s immediate left turn.

And so it’s time to hike again. 8:30am is a late start. The others on the shuttle all know each other — they’re friends from college, I learn — but one of them, Ten Gallon (for his hat, not for his water carries), strikes up a conversation with me and we chat our way through the first several mostly-uphill miles. He asks what I do, and when I say I teach Gender & Women’s Studies, he has the best response so far: “AWESOME!!” (Well, the Tule Spring crew were also pretty great, and suggested I give lectures along the trail, haha. But the most common response has been “General what studies?” and then when I clarify, a kind of “Huh.”)

Anyway, Ten Gallon and I chat it up until we find his friends Space Jam and Speck having a shade and snack break. I join them, and check my GPS to see we’ve done 6.3 miles in just two hours! I thank my giant diner breakfast for all this energy. On we go, to the next water source 2.5 miles away.

At the creek, there’s a cluster of hikers eating and filtering water in the shade. I eat a bar, text Cyn briefly, treat water, and am off again. I’m going to try to do ten more miles, to a campsite with a composting privy nearby. It’s just about noon now. I hike up, feeling pretty strong, and am treated to magnificent views of Big Bear and its lake. I had no idea, when I was actually down in the town, that the lake was this huge or this beautiful. I stop to take it all in and am passed by Ten Gallon, who’s doing big miles the next few days in order to take a day off to see friends.

I hike on, and pass several people taking shade breaks. I don’t feel too hot or hungry, and I’m moving at a good clip. Did my trail legs finally get here? The terrain kind of rolls along, up and down but never too steep. I keep humming a Shins song that was playing in the diner this morning. This makes more sense than what I’ve often found myself humming recently: ABBA songs and “Wouldn’t It be Loverly” from My Fair Lady. I do enjoy both ABBA and musicals, but haven’t listened to either of these in a very long time, so cannot figure out why they’ve appeared in my head out here.

There are great views, and then the trail starts to seem a bit monotonous. I haven’t seen another hiker in a long time. There are a lot of blowdowns that require careful stepping over or around. At one, I have to climb up a short steep path to get around the big tree roots, and then on the way down I lose my footing in the loose dirt and slide, comically slowly, onto my butt. No one is around to see this, thankfully.

I reach the composting privy. A hiker exits it as I walk up, and tells me it’s a little weird. But when I go in, it seems like any other privy to me, with the added soft whirr of the composting aspect. The big camping area here, which I’d originally been aiming for, is already full of tents. There’s still space, but I don’t want to be crammed in with a bunch of people, and the wind is blowing fiercely here. I look at my mileage, and my maps. If I walk one more mile, I’ll have done my first 20-mile day and can camp in a smaller area that’s likely to be less windy (because it’s at a lower elevation). Done.

On my way, I see Dos Tacos, who I met back in Warner Springs. It’s funny how you keep running into some of the same people even when we’re all at different paces. This gives me hope that I’ll get to see Scissors again, because I really miss her.

And then I see some flat tent spots, with no one around, and cross a big fallen tree trunk to a perfect site among the pine trees. I hiked over 20 miles today! I’m really disappointed to have no cell service because I want to tell Cyn right away. I let my ramen soak while I pitch my tent, and have a Snickers bar dessert to celebrate my accomplishment. In the tent, I clean and inspect my feet. Some blisters are improving, others are status quo. I am 99% sure I’m about to lose a toenail. I’ve been wondering about this toenail since before Idyllwild. It hasn’t been painful at all, it just hasn’t felt quite right. I decide to let it be and see what happens. Tomorrow I am likely to hit 300 total miles.


Hiker special at the diner.


Looking down on Big Bear and the lake. I was there just a few hours ago!


I couldn’t tell what was happening in this area — sometimes it seemed like fire, sometimes like storms, sometimes like logging.


Site of my butt slide and good example of the blowdowns all over the trail.


Composting privy in the middle of the desert.


3 thoughts on “PCT Desert Day 18: A Twenty!

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