PCT Desert Day 32: The Wind and the Dust

[Toby is just $5 away from doubling his original fundraising goal. Who wants to help get it to the (new) finish line? — Cyn]

Mile 478.23 to 498.22 — Today’s miles: 19.99
I have an amazing sleep at Casa de Luna, and wake in the early morning to teeny tiny drops of rain, just barely pattering on my tent. It’s not even really wet out. I pack up and stumble through the manzanitas to the front yard, where there’s coffee (I don’t drink it, but I may be the only one!) and, in the house, stacks and stacks if pancakes being cooked by Joe Anderson. I take two and drown them in syrup, then join folks outside to eat. This place is pretty special — it is amazing to me that the Andersons have been helping out hikers at this level for something like 18 years. I feel so grateful, and am more than happy to drop a $20 bill in the donation jar. We thank Terrie, who asks if we’d like a ride to the trailhead. I’m so happy not to have to wait for a hitch. She lines us up for a photo, pulling some other hikers in as well, and then our little crew piles into a van driven by Little Steps, who hiked most of the trail in 2011 and has been volunteering at Casa de Luna. She tells us that Terrie used to oil wrestle in the evenings! What a place.

At the trailhead we all get a mini Snickers bar, and then it’s time to hike. As always, we have an immediate climb out of town. It’s cloudy and cold. I hike with Sprout for a little while, but then fall behind. Whiz Kid catches up to me and chats nonstop — she had three cups of coffee this morning. It’s great, distracts me from the climbing, and soon we reach the top and begin a descent. We catch up to Sprout and continue downhill to a road crossing, where we find a nice flat spot among many bushes to take a shoes-off snack break. I wander through the bushes to find a place to pee, and almost stumble upon Whiz Kid doing the same, as she suddenly pops up out of the underbrush. “Sorry, I’ll find my own spot,” I joke. Cowboy joins our snack break, and it’s so nice here that I find it hard to motivate to hike on.

Three more miles uphill, but they go quickly. My legs are strong now. Sprout and I play word games as we go, trying to stump one another, and it makes the mental aspect of the ascent much easier. Soon I’m at the top, but on the following downhill my right leg starts hurting. It’s the same place and type of pain that I felt in my left leg several days ago, in the front between my ankle and shin. Confusing. I slow down and lose Sprout. After a while, I hear Whiz Kid yell from behind me, across the valley: “Hey Apple Juice, wanna take a break?” I really do. We find a flattish spot and eat, chat with Cowboy when he shows up, discuss how far we still have to go. About seven miles left to get to a campground with a nearby water source. So let’s do this.

But my leg still hurts, and I’m hiking slower than I’d want to, especially on flattish, gently rolling trail tread. It’s frustrating. The trail moves out of exposed sand and into the trees, lined with many wildflowers. Suddenly there is something moving under my foot. I’ve stepped on a large lizard! No! I dance around, trying to let it escape, and it scrambles downhill as I call out an apology. I hope I haven’t gravely injured it — the dirt is soft and deep right here, so maybe it’s okay. I feel very sad about this event, though.

Finally I half-limp my way to the side trail leading to the campsite. It’s a quarter mile with a medium uphill to get there — somehow the last few tenths of a mile to camp are always the hardest. My pals have set up on the far side and it is ridiculously windy. The ground is too hard to drive stakes into so Whiz Kid helps me gather big rocks — it takes a while to get things set up in the wind. Not ideal. Then we climb a very steep short uphill and hike to the water source. It’s a cistern under a low overhang. Dexter is there finishing up, and we observe. There’s a Gatorade bottle attached to a long stick. You must use the stick to push the bottle into the water and fill it, drag it back up, and pour into your own bottles. But the Gatorade bottle has holes in the bottom, so it’s a frantic race to pour every time. Finally we head back down. It is very very cold and extremely windy. I put on my windpants and my puffy. Whiz Kid generously heats a little water for me to make my ramen hydrate faster. But it’s getting too windy so we retreat to our tents to eat. We all have thick layers of dust in our tents from the wind — there’s no getting rid of it. I close up my tent as well as I can, shovel food into my mouth, and deal with a couple of new blisters (seriously, how is this possible?). I try to get warm in my quilt. The wind howls. I do not expect to sleep much tonight.

The Andersons’ neighbor brought over this Corgi mix puppy in the morning, so I added to my photography series titled “Cowboy with Baby Animals.”

Farewell photos before leaving Casa de Luna. I don’t know the four hikers on the lefthand side.

It’s too extreme.

Pretty mid-day views.

Sprout at the top of the climb, heading down.

Forested trail with wildflowers.

Heading up to the cistern (photo by Whiz Kid).

Whiz Kid at the cistern.

Me heading back to camp with water, under beautiful skies (photo by Whiz Kid).

One thought on “PCT Desert Day 32: The Wind and the Dust

  1. I just wanted to let you know how much I’ve been enjoying reading your trail journal. I love when they arrive in my inbox. šŸ˜„


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