I've made it 703 miles and can now say I have hiked the Southern California section of the PCT. The desert section is over with and I will soon be entering the snow covered Sierra Nevada Mountains. Snow has never been one of my comfort zones. Only 3-5 people have gone ahead of me. I'm at the head of the herd. But I'll get to all that later.
Upon arriving in Kennedy Meadows yesterday afternoon with empty water bottles for 4 miles I entered the General Store. I drank 2 giant powerades and asked to pick up my box. In the back of the store amidst hundreds of other boxes mine stood out because of the bright green duct tape. It's the small things that makes your eyes water. In the middle of the dusty basement holding the box my mum had mailed I started to tear up just looking at her handwriting. It's cursive and flowy and I have missed seeing it.
I've hiked 8 or 9 days with out a shower and I've never felt so gross and dirty. I love it!! My hair became drudged with dirt, sweat, and sometimes bugs. I'd say this is the dirtiest my ears have ever been.. Because this was the end of the desert section it had to be extra sandy. My socks were stiff after day 3 the dirt was caked into my only two pairs. No amount of washing, rinsing or waving about gets the dirt out. Looking in the mirror after avoiding it for 6 weeks... all I see are my clothes on a strange angular body. I see tan arms and legs that have done 700 miles that couldn't possibly belong to me. ... but they do.
Leaving Hikertown I was expecting to find this hottest section ... hot. The high through this section was 51 degree and the wind speed was at least 20mph. Camping in Tylerhorse Canyon I found snow falling on my sleeping bag(I was cow boy camping) at 2:30am. I was out of camp before 5:45. The walk through to Tehachapi that day was freezing with a 15 degree wind chill. The last bit into the road I was surrounded by these giant wind mills. I took pictures!!
Starting out from Tehachapi I camped under Joshua Trees(Crazy dancing trees that look like palmettos on steroids) The nights here are cold and more often than not I don't pitch my tent but cowboy camp beneath the stars and full moon. The nights are absolutely amazing. To wake up every morning to see the sunrise and watch the sunset is unbelievably addicting.
Hitching from Walker Pass into Lake Isabella was pretty intense. I covered 21 miles by 1:30, if Lake Isabella hadn't been there I may have been able to hit my first 30 mile day. I can't wait to hit that level... interestingly it's really only a mental barrier. Lake Isabella is 35 miles from the trail and I barely managed to catch up to Slimjim. As I raced down toward the highway there was this car by the trail head/campground entrance with a woman sitting in it. She stopped me and asked... what are you doing?! I was like... well I'm backpacking the Pacific Crest Trail, I'm a month and a half into it and I'm going to catch a ride with that guy into Lake Isabella. She asked if he was normal... and if I was hiking with him. She thought he was an axe murder, and I think she even thought I was crazy for both hiking for a month and a half and for knowing the axe murdering Slimjim. I caught a ride with a nice couple who were gathering wildflowers by the side of road. The pizza was amazing and I ate half a extra large pepperoni and pinapple, Slimjim ate the other half as well as got on the good side of the Pizzaria staff.
Coming back to the campground Slimjim had bought an extra pizza for some other hikers but they had kept hiking... so there was this vegetarian pizza sitting at the picnic table near my tent. Freebird, a pro-wind surfer came by and freed him of a few pieces. Freebird is one of those unique people who's lived the life they want to live... and it's similar to what I've always hoped is possible(minus pro-sports.) It was enjoyable to talk about something other than the trail or a Sierra plan. Halfbrew and Rosie night hiked in and came by around 10pm and finished off the pizza. They dogsled and are running a program called Roam the Woods. It's dedicated to educating women in the outdoors. I think it's a good cause but I'm curious how they go about it... while thru-hiking. Halfbrew is hilarious and they often take a couple hour break a few times a day. They'll hike 20 miles and the next day just hike 7. It's a little sporadic and off the cuff but it definitely works for them.
The last few days have been rough for me, I've had a sore throat and had to limit my miles down between 12-18. It's a horrible feeling to walk 2.4 miles and have it take 1.5 hours when you know it would normally take less than an hour. I'm feeling better now and I've decided to zero here at Kennedy Meadows until I feel 90% good!
The worst thing I've experienced so far has been chaffing. I've had it bad for the last 450 miles. This last 100 miles though it's gotten worse and has taken over 2/3 of both my inner thighs. I've tried pants, bike shorts, gold bond, baby powder, vasaline, neosporin... but nothing has worked. Yesterday I had to seriously clean it with alcohol because it started to bleed half way through my hike. I think, and I could be wrong, but chaffing is like a second degree burn. I've never induced so much pain on myself knowingly until last night.. Putting alcohol over it and pressing my hand as hard as I could to relieve the pain... was unbearable. Knowing I would need to do the same thing tonight only made it hurt more. Rubbing neosporin on afterward was like jabbing a toothpick in everywhere. I hope it will get better but it's been consistent for a long time and hasn't stopped or gone away.
I've loved hiking in Southern Cal. I'm really going to miss the wildflowers and the immense dry heat. But my Sierra Plan has taken shape and it's definitely a "Golden Child" plan. I'll leave Kennedy Meadows on Thursday and head North ...conquer Mt. Whitney then continue on to Independence(not stopping in Lone Pine) This is roughly 90ish miles... and will be a good test of any existing mountaineering/snow skills I've learned so far. Afterward I'll go to Mammoth Lakes then Toulome Meadows then South Lake Tahoe. It's going to be hard, and I'll be starting out with Mike/Olay. Slimjim, Mango, and most of the other hikers leave tomorrow but my throat just can't take it. I need to feel highly energized to do what's ahead of me, I can't worry about getting sick and finding a city that doesn't exist out in the middle of no where. The large group leaving tomorrow is headed toward Lone Pine to take a zero day there, then climb Mt. Whitney and continue on to Indenpendence. I'll probably run into them at or near Mt. Whitney. It's difficult here at Kennedy Meadows... thinking by yourself with all these people telling there idea, then changing it 5-10 times in one day... okay freaking annoying. I stopped asking questions or listening by 10am... I shut my mouth climbed into a swing and tried to ignore it all.
I have more stories to tell but I will have to get to them tomorrow.
DG - I'm still alive!! I hope you're doing well, I was thinking about how you cornered me in the trailer and quized me about this trip and why on earth I'd want to do this. ... I love being out here and hiking everyday and it shocks me that I knew I'd love it more than 2 years ago. This next section is the more dangerous part so we'll see how I do. It's one day and one problem at a time. Has MB thrown a curveball yet? Who's in trouble these days?!
MB - I have really enjoyed all the talks we've had I hope I can get the phone tomorrow... it's such a fight for the line!!
BH - I've tried to call you... I hope you're doing well!!!
PD - I'm glad my blog gives you some reading during lunch!! ROAR I'm ready to take on the Sierra's!!...once my throat heals.
MJ - Sorry to disappoint,... your predictions are at least 700 miles off. Better luck next 700 miles! ...I still don't think he's out here hiking the trail...
Tamala - I would love the opportunity to write about my hike! I wish it wasn't so hard to capture the surroundings and people while hiking hard. I hope I can do better with my journal in this next section!!
RE - I eat smooth peanut butter now,... crunch is too difficult to find sometimes. I'll try to give you a call tomorrow... it's hard to get a hold of the phone. I hope I make it from one end of the Sierra's to the other smoothly. I can't wait for the hug that's waiting for me... Huff. I could use a big one right now.
MG - I miss you! My legs are little monsters and I defnitely don't have fat right above my knees. Beat that!!!