Day 27

I hike out early with Lydia from the ranger station.
It’s only 7 and it’s already really hot. The trail is very exposed and dusty but hey! Haven’t seen any poodle dog bush yet so that’s wonderful! 

   

We’re really looking forward to ordering pizza at the KOA campground.

The miles zip by. It isn’t long before we can see the KOA below us. The trail snakes up an exposed ridge on the other side…. That looks like a fun section to do in the heat of the day…. We decide to chill at the KOA and wait for the air to cool off.

We pass a line of trailers and tents to the camp’s store. They have ice cream and microwaveable food!! I buy a cranberry juice, an izzy soda, an orange push pop, 2 rice and bean burrito, and a jolly rancher sorbet and a large gatoraid.

  
Disco, Awesome Possum, and Jeppe arrive. We sit on some cushioned patio chairs and relax in the shade. It’s so nice. After eating our snacks, Lydia and I head off to do laundry and shower. 

We walk into the bathrooms and wow, I haven’t seen myself in a mirror in awhile. My shirt has a nice sweaty tydye look to it. I can’t wait to do laundry! 

    

 We put everything in the wash and take turns showering.
The water feels so nice! Since I’m washing everything I have to wear my rain gear while I wait. It’s so hot out, the rain gear doesn’t breath at all. 

30 min and the wash is done! We pull out or clothes and….. They’re even dirtier. How??? So. Gross. After all the hikers coming through here the washer has collected a lot of dirt. We put the clothes in a different machine and they come out dirty again!

I’m sweating in my rain gear, it is awful. I might have to jump in the shower again. I’ve just about had it when the sister team shows up, Melissa and Skylar. They offer to split their load with us in the last washer we havnt tried. Third time’s the charm! Our clothes come out clean. Finally! 

Lydia and I find a picknick table in the shade. We order pizza and Chinese food! The Chinese food shows up and it’s so good. We end up waiting for the pizza, and waiting. Two hours go by and we call them. They forgot to put the order in. Gah. We want to get hiking soon. 

Cappie joins us at our table. He shows me how to clean my pot with dirt and a cap of water. Pretty cool! The rest of his hiking group rolls in. One of them, Animal Style, tries to get water from the sprinklers.    

Some houses drive through the lawn.    

The pizza finally shows up as we’re leaving. We give it to Cappie and his group.

It just goes to show that you don’t need to be putting in miles to have a tough day. 

We head back out at 6 pm. I’m so glad we waited to beat the heat. The trail is shaded and cool. The sunset paints the dry landscape in soft gold.

    
We plan on waking up super early to hike in to Hiker Heaven before the sun gets too hot.

   
 
Camped at mile 447.46 of the PCT
Miles hiked today: 11.38

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Day 26

I wake up at 630. OB and Lydia never showed up last night. I wonder where they are. I bet they’re camped just behind me. I’m second to leave the town of tents even though I take my time packing up.

   
 There’s more poodle dog bush all the way down to the fire station. I fill up on water and wash my socks. Overstock joins me. No one has seen OB and Lydia. Hope they’re doing okay. 

Overstock decides to rest at the fire station for the day. I head out with Tim and Dylan. 

It’s hot, all uphill, sandy and the poodle dog bush is everywhere. I pullout my umbrella for some shade. I find spots of blood. Someone must have gotten a bloody nose.

  
   
I soon fall behind Tim and Dylan. It is super hot. The umbrella makes it hard to see the poodle dog bush. I think it touched one of the tall dead ones 😦  I put it away in my pack. I guess I’ll find out if it touched any in a few days when I get blisters. 

I spend all day looking down at my feet dodging the smelly plant. I’m going so slow. It’s tiring! The trail is super overgrown and it’s hard to see the ankle sized poodle dogs hiding in the grass.  

 There’s very little shade and almost no places to stop for a break.

It’s a long day.

The plants bake in the sun, it’s sticky and closterfobic.   

 I finally get to the Flats campground on top of the hill. It’s only 5 more miles to the next water at the ranger station. I rest for 30 min before I push on. I start out feeling great but the down hill wears me out fast. The poodle dog bush is relentless.

      

I find a clear rock and sit for a break. I’m so tired. Awesome Possum hikes up and pauses to talk. He’s super cool and helps me feel better. We’re only a mile and a half away. I follow him down the trail and eventually loose sight of him. The down hill hurts all my joints. Ouch. The last half mile feels like forever. 

  

I crest a small hill and see the ranger station. What a sight for sore eyes! Or should I say feet. 

  
I hobble down and find Lydia! But no OB.

They did camp just behind me, but they wake up so early they passed me in the morning. A trail angel at the fire station took OB to the doctors to get his foot x rayed. It’s broken and he has to wear a boot for 6 weeks 😦

I’m crest fallen. Poor OB! I hope it mends soon! 

I make dinner with the other hikers at a picknick table. Lydia got me 2 orange sodas from the little store before it closed! Thankyou so much Lydia! 

We relax as the sun sets. Today was tough. I feel like I’m going to wake up covered in poodle dog bush blisters 😦

Camped at mile 436.07 of the PCT.

Miles hiked today: 20.98

Day 25

OB and Lydia wake up super early. We’re ready to hike at 5:30. I feel like a zombie, I don’t think I slept at all last night. What I thought was a flat spot to set up my tent turned out to be a gradual incline. I kept waking up at the bottom of my tent. 

  
The trail leads us down a hill through tall pine trees. The sun starts to rise and highlights their branches with gold. It’s beautiful. 

   
 We pass some thu hikers going the other way up the trail. That’s cool, more south bounders.

We get to a campsite and look at our maps. Hold up. We’re going south?! Oops. We ended up hiking 2 miles the wrong way into the closure. Now we have to hike back to the spot were Sublime dropped us off. Oh well. 

The sun is fully up now.   

We get back to the road and take a break.  OB’s foot is really swollen and it’s hot! The hikers that passed us push on. We laugh at how we thought the other was south bound. 

A car pulls up and drops off Overstock! The driver is a nurse. She looks at OB’s foot and the news is not good. She thinks he has a stress fracture. He wants to hike on to the fire station ahead and have them look at it too.

We head out. The trail is wide, flat and covered with sand. I try to hike fast but my body is so tired. I hang back as Lydia and Overstock talk. We cross the 400 mile marker!!!

Overstock, Me, and Lydia @400miles!

  
 
The trail crosses the road several more times. I find more poodle dog bush. I can smell it before I see it. It’s everywhere.

 
We enter a dry burn section. Signs warn us of unstable trees. 

   That’s great. Hope the wind doesn’t get too strong.

   

 
 The next water is near the top of another steep climb. I bust out Doug’s Sansa clip and power through listening to ‘Air’.

  

 I pass a handful of hikers resting in the shade. I am drenched in sweat when I get to the water. There’s no good place to sit there is so much poodle dog bush! It starts to get really crowded, everyone planned on getting water here.

  
 I push on with another hiker called Cappie. The other side of the hill is covered in grass and yellow flowers. Tall pine trees shade the way. It feels so nice. 

  
Cappie stops to set up camp and I hike on. The trail decends gradually. OB and Lydia pause to make dinner. We agree to camp at he next flat spot.   

   
I get to the next flat spot and set up for the night. There are so many hikers it feels like a town of tents.   

I’m camped with Dylan, Disco, Jeppe, Wild Card, and a 5 more I don’t know their names yet! We eat dinner and watch the sun set. 

  
The city lights glow in the dusk far below. I wonder where OB and Lydia are. I hope OB’s foot is okay.

  
Camped at mile 415.09 of the PCT

Miles hiked today: 17.39 + 4 = 21.39

Day 24

I wake up at 6. No rain! Yay!
Mike is up and making breakfast at one of the picknick tables. The Alexes are still in their tents. I look over and Mitch is asleep.

I slip out of my sleeping bag as quietly as I can and brush my teeth at a curtious distance. It doesn’t look like they’re getting up anytime soon. I stealth pack my things and hit the trail around 7.

  
Feeling good today!

The trail cruises down gradual switchbacks through the forest. Leaves and pine needles cushion the way. 

 
I size up Mount Baddenpowel through the branches. All the other thru hikers have been talking about this climb. You think you’re so steep huh? Well I’m ready.

I reach a road and a small parking area at the bottom of the switchbacks and pause to situate my water and snacks. A car pulls up and drops off another hiker. He looks at me and says he wished he did this when he was my age. I look at him and think, I wanna be able to do this when I’m his age. We have a nice talk. He says his daughter is always telling him, “You can always get more money, but you can never get more time.” I think there’s a lot of truth to the ‘time’ part. 
We say goodbye and I begin the climb. 

When I know I have a lot of up hill, I like to think like a bike and shift into low gear. I might not be fast, but I can keep this pace all day.   

Up and up the trail zigzags. After the first 4 switchbacks I’m immediately hungry and have to stop to eat something. It’s amazing how fast food turns into fuel. I start to spot patches of snow ahead.   

Getting close! I sit for another snack break and two lady day hikers find me. They both want to hike the PCT some day and take a picture with me (Hope I wasn’t too smelly…)

I hike on and catch up to two thru hikers, an older gentleman trail named OB (Old and Busted) and a girl my age named Lydia. She’s from Colorado too! I pass them but not for long. The trail disappears under a huge snow bank with no foot prints to forge the way. 

Where’d the trail go?

 Lydia and OB catch up to me. We look around. It seems like people scrambled strait up to the next switch back. I crawl up the slope to check. Yep. That’s the way. 

The rest of the hike to the top involved a lot of guess work and following forged paths in the snow.   

 Mitch catches up to us and powers past to the summit. Lydia, OB and I take our time across a saddle on the way to the top. 

  
The view is amazing. I ask OB to take a picture of me. 

 I offer to take one of him in return. He turns around and asks me to take something out of his pack. I don’t understand what he wants.

 Lydia knows, she reaches into the back pocket and pulls out a piece of laminated paper. It’s cut into the shape of a paper doll and is decorated with crayon. A picture of a woman smiles warmly for the face. He poses with it for the photo. I think it is just wonderful. I have to know the backstory. 

He points at the crayon, “My grand children drew this……” 

He then points to the picture, “And that’s my wife.” 

He takes her everywhere with him.

The hardest thing on the trail isn’t the high mileage or the hills. It isn’t the blisters or the aches and pains, the rattle snakes, poodle dog bush, bug bites, lack of water, cold nights, rain or snow. The hardest thing, is being away from the people you love. 

We sit at the saddle and eat next to the oldest pine tree in the western states.   

  Lydia and I explore the summit. A lot of people are gathered at the top. 

The French Canadians, Alex, Alex and Mark show up. It’s getting crowded. OB and Lydia head out and I’m right behind them. We end up leap frogging each other down the switchbacks.

The trail goes through an old burn section. The trees and pine cones are huge.   
 I get to the next water source first. It’s a short but steep hike down to a spring. I lean my pack against a tree and head down. I find a few guys getting water too, Awesome Possum, Jeppe, Disco and Dylan. 

I filter the water back at the top near my pack. Lydia and OB catch up and leave their packs with me to get water. The guys climb back up on to the trail and head off. Lydia tries to stuff her water bladder into her pack when something falls out! Her pack cover! We all watch it bounce in slow motion down the hill, over the trail, down down into the bushes. There’s no way we’re getting that back. It’s gone.

Dylan suddenly drops his pack and jumps down the slope. What is he doing? It takes us a second to realize he’s gong after the pack cover! No. Way. Lydia tries to stop him but he’s determined. After some searching he finds it!

We’re so impressed. Any extra energy spent on the trail is a big deal. He refuses any compensation, food or candy and hikes off down the trail a hero. Lydia says she’s going to buy him dinner when we get to the next town.

I hike ahead and eventually get to a road and the endangered species closure. There are two ways around it, a road walk or a 20 mile detour into the Devil’s Punchbowl. I’m planning on doing the road walk but I pause to take a break. A guy leans out of a parked car, “Want a coke or beer?” 

It’s another thru hiker named Sublime! He’s taking a few days off the trail to rest his feet and do trail magic! He’s waiting for a group slack packing. They gave him their backpacks so they could hike Mt Baddenpowel without them. They’re meeting him here to get them back.

I take a coke and hangout by his rental car for a few hours. He offers me a ride up the road walk after the slack packers arrive! Yes!! I don’t want to walk the road! I ask if he has space for OB and Lydia. I only just met them but I really like them! I feel like we’ve been hiking together forever. He says he can take 3 people. Awesome! I wait for them to show up. 

A bunch of other hikers arrive. No one is very happy about the closure and it’s getting late. I feel awquard about having a ride. There isn’t space for everyone, and I can’t offer, it’s Sublime’s car. OB and Lydia arrive. The other hikers decide to camp just up the trail. OB and Lydia start to follow and I ask them if they want a ride. Yes they do! We walk back to Sublime’s car and wait for the slack packers to show up.

They crest the hill whooping and hollering. Sublime pulls out the cokes and beers. It’s a party! We introduce ourselves and one of the hikers is Vango!!! I found him! We pullout our paint kits. He only has two small pans of pigment! A yellow and blue. We sit and paint a picture for each other.    

   
So much fun! Sublime is ready to give us a ride up the road. Lydia, OB and I say goodbye and pile into the car. 

Sublime drops us off at the next point where the trail crosses the road. Thankyou Sublime!!!

 The sun is setting and the forest is getting dark fast. We hike in and set up camp at the first flat spot we find.

Camped at mile 397.7 of the PCT.

Miles hiked today: 

Day 23

I wake up to clear blue sky. The clouds settled over Cajon during the night.  

  

I continue the long climb up. I don’t see another hiker all morning. The trail contours the ridge revealing another burn section.  

 I have to watchout for the dreaded poodle dog bush through here. It’s a spikey looking plant that smells like skunk and sour beer. If touched it will cause severe blistering. Symptoms usually show up days later. I’ve heard people can have such bad reactions to it that it’s a real hike ender.

  I find some almost immediately.

  
Yuck.

Luckily that’s one of the only green ones I find. Most of the ones next to the trail are dead, wilted and brown. I remember TaterTot saying someone went through and sprayed them with weed killer. Thankyou you wonderful person! 

You can see the dead ones lining the trail. All that’s left are their tall dry stalks. 

I do my best to avoid the dead ones too. You never know. 

The trail dips down to the other side of the ridge. It feels like mountain country. I love it.


  The trail leaves the burn section and continues up through fresh pine trees.

 I find Ultra Heavy taking a break in some shade. His pack is a sky scraper of a pack. I wonder what he has in there. 

He tells me about his rock grading system. If he can sit on it without taking off his pack and it slopes slightly back, it’s a 10 out of 10 rock. The rock he’s sitting on now? It’s an 8. He always stops for a 10 out of 10 rock. This is brilliant! I’m going to have to adopt his grading system. I wish Ultra Heavy a good hike and push on to the next water source.

I pass the Acorn trail down to Wrightwood and find a teeny tiny hand made sign for the water. 

   
I hike down and meet a hiker named Moutain Dew filling up a water bottle. He got his trail name because he cowboy camps (without a tent) and wakes up covered in mountain dew drops. 
The trail leads me through an exposed section of the ridge. The view is beautiful. 

  

 
I pass through some more forest and then find a huge pit lined with black tarp to collect water.   

   
What is that??? 

I then see some ski lifts in the trees. 

 That pit has to be for making snow!
The trail cuts across one of the grassy slopes and around the ski area. There’s not much room for switchbacks so it drops strait down for a spell. It’s really hard on the knees. I see a color coded ski sign.   Yep this seemed like a Blue run. 

Wishing it was snowy and I had skiis.  

I pass Inspiration Point where most hikers hitch a ride into Wrightwood. I’m glad I’m not going into town. I’ve only seen one car drive by. 

Another hiker named Mitch passes me. We’re both headed to the next water at Grassy Hollow Visitor Center.  

I find him resting at one of the picknick tables. The sun feels so nice. We hangout and eat Fritos. The ground is soft and flat. We decide it would be nice to camp by the water for the night.

It’s only 4 pm! I rest and paint Mount BadenPowel, tomorrow’s big climb.  

 The three French Canadian hikers join us, Mike, Alex and Alex. We set up under the big trees and watch the sun set. I’m going to try cowboy camping again, hopefully no clouds rain on me this time! 

   
   
Camped at mile 370.34 of the PCT.

Miles hiked today: 16.4

Days 21 and 22

I say goodbye to The OCBoys in the morning. They’re getting back on the trail. Hopefully I will see them again some day.

Doug and I get a camping spot at Silverwood Lake campground. We spend the day exploring around the lake and relaxing.

 It’s really nice! 
  

This food window should move closer to the trail!  
A PCT icecream cookie baptism?! 

We try to walk around the lake but my tired feet convince us to head back to camp early. 

 
  
The next morning Doug drives me to a grocery store to resupply. The closest one is in Wrightwood (I’ll be walking past there in two days).

We drive back to Cajon pass. Doug parks by the McDonalds and walks the first three miles with me.

He even caries my pack! I am the luckiest person ever.  

The trail goes under the freeway  

over some railroad tracks  
 
 

and through a pipe. 
Goodbyes are tough!

I take the pack and watch Doug hike back the way we came.

I set off on my own through the hills. The air is cool and the sun is getting low. The trail goes over a wide flat swath of land, the San Andreas Fault line. I pass some hikers by a water cache and find a trail register. 

It’s fun to see all the familiar names! One hiker even painted a page with some beautiful trees! They signed it Vango. I’d love to see their paint kit! Overstock was here just the day before me too! I bet I can catch up to them.

I set off with purpose. The trail climbs up and up. So many switch backs! I feel really strong from resting and warming up without my pack. Thankyou Doug! ❤

   
 
 I get close to the top of the ridge.Mist obscures the hills.

 
 I find a flat spot to set up my tent for the night.

 
Camped at mile 353.9 of the PCT. 

 Miles hiked today: 12

Day 20

I slept really cold. I had to wake up to put my thermals on in the middle of the night. Hope I didn’t wake anyone. 

We head out around 7am.

 
The bike path leads us to a short road walk and we’re back on the trail. It gradually climbs through short trees and bushes. The clouds continue their light show from yesterday. I look back, the water is far off in the distance. Goodbye Silverwood lake.  

Jonathan hikes while he talks on the phone. He hangs back to take advantage of the good cell service. I walk ahead with Jeff for a few miles. The terrain shifts to golden grassy hills.   

We find a neat camp spot and stop for a break. Jeff looks at his map, we’re only 6 miles from Cajon. That means…. We’re only 6 miles from McDonalds, Del Taco, Subway, Best Western, showers, laundry…. 

Just as Jonathan sits down Jeff and I are rearing to go. Fast food dude! 

A handful of hikers pass by. Jeff shoots off ahead of them. Everyone is walking so fast! A train whistles in the distance. We’re so close! I join the race. 

  
We zip up the switchbacks. The trail hugs a steep ridge. I get to the top and the wind gusts from the west. It feels like sticking your head out of a moving car’s window.

   

  I can see the highway with it’s lines of traffic in the distance. A train crawls through some large rock formations. Sprinkles of rain shock my skin. Must, hike, faster. 

   
 The trail starts to drop towards the pass. The switchbacks fold in on themselves. I look down and Jeff is right below me, I look up and Jonathan is right above me. It feels like Esher made this section and we’re marching in circles, round and round, surrounded by tall golden grass.

   
 The ground finally levels out. The trail leads over a wash and into a small canyon along a stream bed. The hills funnel the wind against us. I fight my way down the trail. 
  

The canyon walls open up to reveal… the freeway!! 

  
We made it to the road! 

 

We walk up the pavement towards the McDonalds. Jonathan and Jeff continue on to Del Taco but I really want a hash brown.

 I feel so awkward walking through the parking lot towards the McDonalds doors. I push them open and the place is full of other hikers. Their trays are piled high with fries and paper wrappings, backpacks stuffed under tables and into booth corners. Maybe I’m not so out of place after all. 

I get in line to order. The menu is overwhelming. I want everything. I end up getting a breakfast combo, and a big mac combo. It doesn’t last longer than 5 minutes. So good. 

  
I wonder what it must be like to work here with each thru hiker ordering half the menu. I watch a French Canadian hiker down 4 orders of chicken nuggets, 2 burgers and a mcflury.

I catch up with a few hikers I recognize then head out to find Jeff and Jonathan. The DelTaco is on the other side of the freeway… and there’s no sidewalk on the overpass. I carefully walk as fast as I can. The railing is uncomfortably low. The wind doesn’t help. Cars fly by. Road walking is not fun. 

I get across and find Jeff and Jonathan sitting with two other hikers, Green Bean and Tatter Tot. We’re all planning on staying at the Best Western for the night. Doug was amazing and called ahead to get me a room! Best person ever!

We head over around check in time. I’m so excited when I walk into the hotel room! It’s just a Best Western but everything feels so luxurious, the bed, the two chairs. I spend the rest of the evening painting, splitting a load of laundry, cleaning myself and all my gear. 

Doug is joining me for the weekend and I’m so excited! I can’t wait to see him!!!

I hangout in the OCBoy’s room. We watch Hey Arnold while I look at maps and wait for Doug to arrive.

‘Camped’ at the Best Western near mile 341.87 of the PCT

Miles hiked today: 13.31

Day 19

  
I’m first out of my tent this morning. The sun creeps down the rocks into the canyon. I slept so warm last night. I didn’t need to zip up my sleeping bag or wear my warm hat.  
I watch the sister team, Melissa and Skylar hike past on the trail as I pack. I wonder where they camped. Jeff makes his morning coffee and we scramble up back onto the trail. Good bye beach!
  
Wild squash flowers grow all over the canyon. Their big white faces look for the sun.  

 I catch up to Jeff taking pictures. I always find him hidden in some tall grass or up high in a tree. It’s fun to watch him run and climb around trying to get the perfect shot.   

Overstock catches up to me and we hike together for a few miles. I’m impressed with how flat the trail is cut into the side of the hill.

  
 We approach a dam.   

The water report says to use caution, there might be quicksand in the area. It then lists a 4mile detour to go around it. 

I look down and watch a handful of hikers walk right through. Meh it looks okay. Overstock and I follow a Swiss hiker across the large swath of sand. It’s powder fine. 

  
A large gust kicks it up into the air. Bleck! I wait for the Swiss hiker to walk farther ahead. I’m literally eating his dust. 

We get across okay. Overstock stops for a break and I find Jeff with his camera in some tall grass again. It feels like he’s hiding everywhere haha. Crouching tiger hidden Jeff. His trail name has to have photography something in it. Hrmmm
The trail goes across a wide shallow stream. Jeff walks right through with his shoes on. The Swiss hiker, Jonathan and I stop to peal our socks off. We wade across. The water feels so good on my feet! I get to the other side and put my dirty socks back on. 

     

 The trail leads us through dense vegetation. I feel like I’m walking through a jungle. A hiker approaches us. He’s section hiking the trail south bound! So cool! (Everyone I’ve met so far is hiking north). We push on.

 The trail starts to climb through a meadow. A storm lingers in the distance. The wind is fierce. It whips through the grass. Droplets of water spray my face. It looks like rain. 

  
Jonathan and I stop to cover our packs. I stash my camera deep in my pack. 

The meadow gives way to rocks and bushes. I pass the sister team taking a break sheltered from the wind. Jeff is far ahead. Or is he… I’m wary of each tall grass patch I pass. 

The vegetation starts to close around the trail. The air is humid. The wind dies down but the clouds persist. Is it going to rain or not? I get impatient and dig my camera back out. The flowers are beautiful through this section. 

   
    
 
Jonathan and I leap frog each other as we stop to take pictures. These purple ones are particularly magical. They glow like jewels set in the grassy hillside. 

   
   
I pass under another dam. The trail crosses a small bridge. A group of hikers snooze underneath like bridge trolls. I wish they were awake enough to ask me the password.

  
I see some very large pipes in the distance with… Surprise! It’s Jeff standing on top. 

   
  
   
The three of us cross a traffic-y bridge then hike up some switchbacks to the top of a ridge. Silverwood Lake expands before our feet. It feels special to see so much water. Small patches of sun break through to illuminate the surface. Tiny boats zip in and out of inlets. It’s beautiful. 

  

 Maybe we can beach camp two nights in a row! We hike down to one of the beaches.   

 Unfortunately the sand is littered with trash and dog poop. 😦
We decide to keep looking. 

Jeff and Jonathan get ahead as I watch the clouds pass over the hills. It’s hard to look away. Giant sun beams glide over the forest and illuminate far off sandy beaches. This is so different than this morning, it almost feels like a whole new day. 

   
   

 The weather continues to battle, rain or shine. I find the OCBoys at a paved bike path. We follow it to a picnic area. Water! Nice restrooms! Trash cans and tables! 
We set up for the evening and make dinner at one of the tables.

  

Camped near mile 328.56 of the PCT

Miles hiked today: 18.39

Day 18

I wake up on the later side. Overstock must have left while I was sleeping. We filter water and head out around 8. 
  

  

More forest for breakfast. The trail deviates from the stream. It wanders through the hills around boulders and lavender bushes.

  
 The air grows hot. I leap frog with a sister hiking team, Melissa and Skylar. They could be twins but they’re not. They stop for a break and I push on. The flowers are beautiful today! 

   

   

 
    
    
 
The trail dips low between some hills. A bridge crosses a stream!  

 I see Overstock and the OCBoys by the water. I scramble down to join them. It’s so nice to be around water after those dry sections. We take our time filtering water, washing out socks and relaxing. The British couple and Butterfingers join us. Everyone is in good spirits. 

  

 A guy riding the trail crosses the bridge with his two horses. I don’t know how they do it. There are so many downed trees and steep narrow sandy bits of trail high up with sharp drops. I would be nervous to take a horse on those parts of trail. It’s hard enough for me and I only have two legs to keep track of. They manage though! It’s fun to follow their hoof prints and see where they take breaks. 

I head out down the trail with Jeff and Jonathan. We hike spread apart today, taking photos of whatever interests us. The trail snakes through the hills above the stream. I can hear people jumping and playing in the deeper pools. It looks really refreshing….wish the trail wasn’t so high up from the water. Oh well. 

 
We cross another bridge.   

The trail is surrounded by these crazy Dr.Seuss flowers. The pictures don’t do them justice. They sway hypnotically in the breeze.

   
   
Jeff and Jonathan push ahead. The trail crosses a stream. A group of older men are taking a break right in the middle of the trail. I awkwardly hop over some boulders to pass them.  

 The air is so hot and dry. I feel like I can see the moisture evaporating from the grass. I wonder what the plants would do if they knew there was flowing water below them. I imagine them jumping ship, letting their roots go and tumbling down the ravine.  

I eventually pass some hot springs. It looks really cool but I don’t stop. According to the water report it’s contaminated with amoebic meningoencephalitis (a rare and sometimes fatal disease, also a super high fecal coliform count).

  
 I hike up the hot hill in a bad mood. Why must people poop near the water. I’d like to jump in that water. I take a pout break in some shade. Jeff and Jonathan hike up. I thought they were way ahead of me! 

They had stopped to check out the hot springs and tried to wave at me but I didn’t notice. Apparently it was super nice looking. …….Why people why!   

We hike on to the next clean water source and planned campsite. We get there and there’s no space to set up a tent! Not even for one person. Darn. The trail is no where near any level ground, not for another 14 miles. We push on hoping to find something. The trail switchbacks down towards a rainbow bridge. 

 

I spot a sandy beach next to the water! Let’s camp there! We find a very steep path down and set up our tents in the sand. This spot is really cool.     

 

We eat dinner and listen to the marsh birds call out to each other. A small waterfall pours into a reflective pool. A giant sand colored spider sits by my foot. It surprises us by ‘hoping’ away. The sun starts to set and tiny bats flap around gobbling up the night time bugs. The air is warm and the sand is soft. We stay up late listening to crickets and talking about life.

  

Camped at mile 310.17 of the PCT
Miles hiked today: 16.93

Day 17

I wake to the sound of woodpeckers in the trees and the morning sun warming my tent. I love the soft patterns of light defined by the trees. Such a relaxing way to wake up. Condensation collects on the inside of my tent, it drips on my nose when I move. I try my best to wipe it down as I pack. 


  

 
I feel so much better today. The forest is warm and sunny. I bring out Doug’s Sansa clip and cruise down the trail listening to Radio Head. I pass Jeff and Jonathan and hike most of the morning by myself. The trail is a gentile roller coaster through the trees. It climbs up the side of a hill reveling Big Bear lake, then plunges back down into tall forest.

   

   

I hike around a bend and am suddenly in a completely different forest. The trees are scarce and burnt. The air is very dry and the trail is completely exposed. This must be what Jonathan was talking about, the effects of the drought and wild fires.

   
 
The skeleton trees stand like big black lines in the air. So strait, so solemn. It looks like the flames took big bites out of their trunks. 

   
 The air is dry and hot. It smells like pine tree in a new way I haven’t smelt before. Not campfire pine tree like one would expect, but a sort of… spicy sharp pine tree. Grass covers the hills and not much else. I spot a few young trees making a comeback. I hope they grow to be big and strong. You can do it forest!

  
The trail dives low between the hills. I find a stream with a grassy bank! I take a break to filter water. Jeff, Jonathan and Overstock join me. We wash our feet in the cool water and sit in the sun warmed grass. It feels sooo good. I think we bask in that one spot of a good hour before I head out.

  
 I can feel my body getting stronger! Those ten miles went by like a breeze. I’m going to be a real lean, mean, hiking machine.

 The trail leads me through more burn scars. Not much is growing back in this section, mostly manzanita bushes. 

   
 The sand of the trail is almost indistinguishable from the sand surrounding it. It feels like the land is in the middle of a transition. I wonder what it will decide to be, a forest or a desert.

  
Jeff and Jonathan catchup to me. We take a long break in a patch of shade and swap stories of adventures past. Jeff tells us of the ledgend of an underground sea. He and his friends have been trying to find the entrance. Exploring old mines and repelling down holes deep into the earth. They found an old suspension bridge and rickety ladders that lead to nowhere. Spooky Mines of Moria kind of stuff. I love it. The sun starts to hang low. We decide to get going before it gets dark. 

The land starts grows green again. The trail hugs large sandstone boulders above a babbling stream. It’s nice to hear water again! We get to cross the stream a few times. I want to jump in so bad!  

  
The trail opens up to a nice sandy clearing with large oak trees. The creek can be heard near by. We were planning on going one more mile but this spot just looks too nice to pass up. We manage to fit all three tents under the oak tree. The stream is wide and calm with a knee deep sand bar! I wade in and rinse my hair and my hiking shirt. I feel like a new person!

Overstock joins us and we make dinner. Jeff runs off into the hills again to get the perfect sunset photo. He didn’t even start eating his food! Overstock and I brainstorm a few trail names for him. So far I really like Sun Chaser (because he’s always chasing the sun!) We’ll see if it sticks. The photos he’s been taking are really amazing. 

  
We hangout until it gets dark and climb into our warm sleeping bags. The creek sounds sweet and melodious. Frogs and crickets add to the night time symphony. 

Today was a good day.

Camped at mile 293.24

Miles hiked today: 16.62