PCT Day 10: The First Hard Day

Miles Hiked: 21.9

Total Miles: 177.8

I walked out of camp at 5:40 this morning. I wasn’t remotely cold but I had my puffy on anyways. Less than a mile in I got so hot I had to change into my shorts and sun hoodie. When it’s hot this early in the morning you know it’s going to be a hot day! When I looked at the map last night, I had to do over 6,000 feet of hiking up hill today. That is one of the biggest days I know I have ever backpacked. Tomorrow I should be going over San Jacinto peak at 10,800 feet so it made sense that I had to gain that much elevation from the desert floor. It was definitely hot but the higher I climbed the cooler it got. My pack was heavy with four liters of water and three days of food. Nothing I have done on the PCT has been remotely difficult until today.

All the water sources I passed were quite a trip off trail and not flowing very well so I decided to ration my water until a creek that crossed the trail around 21 miles into the day for me. I ended up being super dehydrated to say the least but it’s not the first time. On top of the dehydration and heavy pack, I know I haven’t been eating enough. For some reason I don’t have an appetite for anything and I have to remind myself I should eat. Occasionally I get hungry but eating a big meal on trail hasn’t appealed to me. The intense heat from the direct sun was beating down on my back all day long. When I stopped to catch a breath and felt the breeze it was such a relief.

The trail went through a massive burn area today. There were lots of dead trees but no shade to be found. Occasionally one of the trees would still have some green at the top and I would stop under it to enjoy it’s cool shade. These trees were absolutely massive. I believe they are Coulter Pines after learning that the giant pine cones I found come from those kind of trees. I kept seeing lots of massive pine cones all over the ground today. Someone told me they can weigh up to 10 lbs! I picked one up and guessed that it might be 2 lbs. The branches on these trees were bigger than the trunks of a lot of other trees I have seen and the flakes from the bark are as big as a standard college ruled notebook. It was sad to see all the dead trees and wonder what this would have been like before the burn. A lot of people think it’s cool that I’m doing these hikes when I’m young but the truth is that anyone my age doesn’t have the luxury of waiting until retirement to do these things. Every year more and more of this beautiful trail burns in very destructive wild fires. Also most of the water sources are drying up from the drought and with big cities continuing their normal business in places with no sustainable water source it’s hard to feel hopeful that things will turn around any time soon. Because of this I feel rushed to hike through all of California and Oregon before the heart of wildfire season begins. I’d love to take my time and not rush this hike but I feel as if I don’t I will have to skip large sections of trail that are being burned. Besides the burn areas and dried up water sources, smog from the LA area is very apparent. It makes everything look hazy and none of the views down into the valley are clear.

The trail wrapped around and around the mountain. At some points the trail was on an exposed ledge and I kept looking over thinking it was quite a long way down and probably fatal if I fell. It made me nervous for climbing the peak tomorrow. At Apache Spring I stopped to take a break with lots of other hikers. I knew I should go get water but judging by how long everyone was gone to get it, it seemed like quite the side adventure. Luckily I still had two liters since I was rationing. I knew it was a dumb decision but I’ve done it plenty of times before. The break spot was in the direct sun but I was so tired from all the climbing I had to stop. I met Doggone and Fried Green who both hiked the Continental Divide last year. We had fun reminiscing over the trail. When I finally pushed on, I ended up hiking around Sophia and Marie. Sophia is from Britain and we talked a lot about the differences between our countries. She said that the capitalism of the US is way more in your face than anywhere else she has traveled. We ended up getting lost for a little bit but we ended up finding the trail. After hiking the Continental Divide I feel like I have some sort of inside joy when I get to hike off trails for a little bit. To be honest I often have the urge to cut trail and make my own route out here but I know I shouldn’t so I don’t.

When I finally got to the water I was so thirsty. I still had half a liter left so I chugged it and then boiled water straight from the creek for my ramen noodle dinner. Then I chugged another liter with some electrolytes in it. Success. I was tired. One more mile of walking and I camped on the side of an alternate route in a perfect flat spot. I had the site all to myself tonight. I spent a good amount of time stretching on my foam mat before crawling into my tent to write my blog and catch up from the previous days. It’s so hard to stay on top of it!

Happy Trails

-Early Bird


Published by Deserrae Potts

Thru Hiker Blogger

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