Last night at midnight after 19 hours of walking was the first night I was too exhausted to write my blog (plus I haven’t had signal for two days). We finally crashed out under the stars on Burkhart Saddle after approximately 32 miles, most of which were straight up.
The day started with a 4am wake up call and a 4:30am departure from camp straight up to the summit of Baden Powell. My muscles were so cold and stiff I felt I was hardly moving, but seeing UB up ahead and knowing we needed to reach the summit by sunrise kept me going.
We were low on water so I was trying to conserve as much as possible for the climb down. When we were 0.3 miles from the top we dumped our packs, grabbed some food and the water we had left and ran/hobbled to the peak.
We arrived at 5:30am as the colours in the sky became more dramatic and just before the sun peeped its head over the horizon. Like the sunrise on San Jacinto, it was just magical. Lion King made it up too just as the sun had risen so we all sat in ore until our muscles had thawed and we were able to muster the energy for the hike down.
Just before our next water source we came across the two Swedish hikers Laptop and Feather. We were all discussing the upcoming alternate Endangered Species route which detours a part of the PCT where some kind of endangered yellow frog lives. The official detour is 20 miles and the old detour is 4 miles, but goes along Hwy 2 for half the length. We sat there puzzled wondering who and why anyone would take the long detour.
That question was answered about 2 hours later when UB and I ran into some day hikers who said they were surprised to see anyone on this trail. We both looked at one another then asked what trail we were on. Yes you guessed it, WE were on the long detour because neither of us realised we’d taken the wrong trail. We were 3 miles into the 20 long stretch and both agreed going back, although still a lot shorter, just wasn’t an option.
We laughed at our stupidity as we continued through some of the most treacherous washed out trail we’d seen on this hike. The views were stunning and the rock formations and valleys were like non we’d seen. UB even caught a baby rattle snake which he was going to pick up until I freaked out so he let it go.
We reached a campground after 6 miles where we were warned about some drunken locals hanging out. We met a few of them and had quick introductions until a second group of drunk teenagers showed up, one dragging a huge shot gun. I had my back to them and UB kept an eye on them from under the rim of his hat until they disappeared out of sight. My whole body was tense and I was trying to determine from UB’s body language if this situation was ok or if we had to make a really quick exit.
We left soon after having just eaten pasta with salmon, smoked oysters and mashed potato mixed into one pot. We knew the rest of the detour climbed around 2,500 feet and dropped into valleys along the way. We also had limited daylight and were resigned to the fact that a lot of our walking would be in the dark.
At our first water source we got attacked by mosquitos and lost the trail for about 20 minutes. Soon after the sun went down my body switched into machine mode. We hiked without headlamps for a while but turned them on not long before UB spotted a mountain lion far down another trail. I wasn’t too concerned until another few miles down the trail he started yelling and banging his poles and pushed in front of me to scare off another one crouching right next to the trail. I didn’t even see the beast but UB saw its outline scamper off when we started to yell.
UB was amped after this encounter and I was keen to push on knowing that if we had to hike this section in the daytime I’d never make it. The last push was 5 miles straight up. Other than Kilimanjaro I’ve never done a relentless climb like this after so much other hiking during the day. If UB didn’t promise me hot chocolate at the top I’m not sure I would have made it. We reached the saddle around 11:30pm, threw our sleeping mats on the ground and crawled into our sleeping bags absolutely pooped. I could sleep my body was aching so badly. I can’t believe I was able to hike over so many jagged rocks in socks and sandals for 19 hours. It was a truly epic day and we both fell asleep satisfied knowing we’re probably two of the only thru hikers that will take that route this year.