The road to McDonalds

After a successful night of cowboy camping I woke at 5am and was packed up and ready to go 20 minutes later. I said a quick goodbye to Spoon Man who was still half asleep then hit the trail as the sun was coming up over the horizon.

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I thought I had 10 miles to my next water source and only 1.5 litres in my bladder, but I came across two small water caches where I was able to fill up enough to get me through to mile 327. I had to stop early on to tend to my blisters and take some ibuprofen and after that I sailed through the first 12 miles. This is when the sun started to get HOT and it was only around 9am.

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I was getting frustrated because I had phone signal everywhere except for the shade. I tried uploading my last post on two occasions in a shady spot but gave up and sat smack bang in the sun. Because I didn’t have a decent breakfast I decided I would cook up one of my dinners for lunch and ended up cooking double in case I didn’t eat Maccas for dinner (which was 24 miles from where I camped).

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Early on the trail wound around a beautiful lake and was quite flat. I came across a snake that looked like a rattler without the rattle who only slithered away after I stamped my feet on the ground. Later on the trail started to climb again.

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The trail went on roads, through industrial areas and odd tunnels today. I haven’t had to use a map since the first week as the signage on the trail has been very consistent and easy to follow.

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I took the heel cap of my super feet insoles off yesterday because I think they are causing me blisters. The issue now is that there isn’t enough padding on my heels so they hurt. I’m desperate for new shoes, I wore my purple Frocs for at least half of today just because the pain was too much to bare.

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I arrived at Maccas close to 5pm, ate an Angus burger meal, posted my videos, washed my socks, filled up my water, brushed my teeth and went to the toilet about 3 times in the space of 1.5 hours. There was a huge group of hikers gathered on the lawn outside and there were many familiar faces among them.

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Spoon Man and Butters arrived about an hour later and decided to stay at the Best Western close by. Although my feet were aching I was keen to push on another 5 miles during my favourite part of the day when I feel like I can almost run along the trail as the sun goes down.

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I made it 30 miles by about 8:30pm and didn’t even need to use my headlamp as the moon is slowly getting brighter. I’m cowboy camping once again and plan to leave here around 5am for the 22 mile uphill push to Wrightwood. I got sent a picture of Chris and Pac Man today as they finally met up again about a day ahead of me on the trail. It’s been good to have eyes ahead on the trail especially for information on water sources. Off to sleep now, I hope the big black bug on my sleeping mat earlier doesn’t come back!

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The hot springs

Today my motivation for getting out of my sleeping bag was the thought of the Deep Creek Hot Springs 10 miles up the trail. I had a slow morning and made coffee and oats which gave me lots of energy for the first five miles. Then my poor feet started to hurt both where my blisters are and also underneath.

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The trail followed the creek from above and we could see so many beautiful swimming holes along the way. It was hot by 9am so the temptation to jump in the water was huge. Two miles in we passed the 300 mile mark. The last 100 miles seemed to fly by this time!

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It seemed to take forever but finally Spoon Man and I reached the hot springs. Both Butters and he have done this part of the PCT before so they knew how good it was going to be. It certainly didn’t disappoint. There was a huge swimming hole which was fresh and cool and then a number of hot pools surrounding it. We jumped in off the rocks which I had to psych myself into and then bathed in the hot pool which my feet and muscles loved. I could have fallen asleep in there.

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We spent 5 hours there as the sun was scorching and too hot for hiking. There were a lot of other hikers there, some had been camped out for multiple days. It would have been tempting to stay overnight but we wanted to make another 10 miles and pressed on around 5pm.

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I was in the lead when I came across my first rattle snake. I didn’t actually see it but the rattle was so loud it stopped me in my tracks. Spoon Man told me to keep moving as I was probably standing next to it and he and Butters quickly followed. We had seen a couple of snakes earlier in the day, one of which was in the water at the hot springs and swam at me as I was trying to pump water.

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The scenery of the trail was beautiful as the sun started to go down this evening. We had to cross a river so the boys took off their shoes but as I’d just spent a good 20 minutes bandaging my feet I decided to trudge on through, shoes and all. On the way to the campsite tonight we passed a water cache with cans of soda! These little surprises are magical out here!!

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I got a text from Chris this evening saying he would make it to McDonalds tonight. It’s about 24 miles from where I’m camped so I may make it there tomorrow night. I’m cowboy camping tonight which means I’m sleeping on my ground sheet and sleeping mat in my sleeping bag with no tent. I’m certain I’m going to wake up with spiders in my nose and bugs in my ears, or 100 mosquito bites on my face. Either way it’s a new experience to be sleeping right under the stars. I can smell a skunk though and hope I don’t wake up with it in my sleeping bag!

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The sun returns

I left camp at about 8:30am this morning after letting my tent dry out, having coffee and eating oats. After about 3 miles Chris caught up with me with his lighter pack and stories of his stormy walk into Big Bear Lake last night.

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When we stopped for a break we bumped into Spoon Man who I hadn’t seen since Paradise Cafe and his mate Butters. Chis had decided that he wanted to get to Wrightwood in three days because he bounced his extra food and tent ahead.

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This meant I walked alone most of the day and caught up with Spoon Man and Butters at breaks. We stopped just before the first water source and sat with a woman named Jane who was meeting up with another hiker with her motor home and two dogs. She gave us fresh water so we didn’t have to fill up at the stream, thank you!!

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My lower back was hurting a little today so I tried Igor’s special muscle cream on it. Once applied it feels like you’ve got instant sunburn or a nest of fire ants are biting your skin. It’s painful but it sure does work.

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Although the tail had an easy grade, the scenery was great and the weather was perfect, I struggled with motivation today. I think the world has been moving a million miles an hour and I guess today it slowed down to a regular pace. I listened to my iPhone for a little while but it only has 6 songs and 1 album on it, so the entertainment is short lived. I think I was lacking a goal for today. I hadn’t thought too much about how far I wanted to go and where I wanted to camp.

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I caught up to the boys again at one of the river crossings and not far down the trail we bumped into Lion King who had set up camp by a gorgeous part of the river. The water was so inviting and the weather so warm we decided to take a dip. Major contrast to yesterday!

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The swim boosted my morale and we only had to walk another 5 miles to a great camping spot on the sand by Deep Creek and mile 298!

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We had a small campfire and cooked dinner sitting around it while the sun went down. I had to pop two more blisters on my heels which I think may be caused by the ankle support in my shoes. I’m curious to find out from Chris where he’s at. I know he definitely passed the 300 mile mark!

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Still alive…

The thunder and lightning have died down but the rain seems to have set in for the night. We’ll see how good Franco’s seam sealing of my tent is tomorrow morning. I just cooked tuna casserole from inside my tent and am waiting for a break in the rain to pee and then go to sleep.

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The start of the day couldn’t have been more of a contrast. I woke up in a huge bed, had steak and eggs for breakfast with about four refills of coffee and took a stroll with Chris to the laundromat as the sun was shining.

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We did a quick tidy up of the room before check out at 11am and then headed to the post office. Chris had so much food to sort through and re-package to send ahead. I also had a lot left over from the last section so I’ve sent it well ahead to Drakesbad Guest Ranch north of Sierra City.

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A lovely woman named Sally was waiting in the parking lot at the post office to drive another hiker to the trail head. She kindly offered us a ride as our feeble attempts at hitching were not going too well.

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When we got out of the car Lion King was coming down the trail. I met him at the kick off and was stoked to see him again. He jumped in with Sally back to town. Honestly the people in Big Bear are some of the kindest I’ve ever met.

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Chris was carrying about 10 days of food in his pack in contrast to his usual 2 or 3. The extra weight of his pack was not welcomed one bit and although it made me laugh, I could tell he wasn’t in a happy place. When we hit the road leading to Big Bear Lake north of Big Bear City, Chris decided the extra food had to be sent ahead and headed back into town. He also saw the storm clouds rolling in and thought a night at the hostel might be on the cards. Smart boy!

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Not long after Chris left the hail began to fall. I repacked my bag so that my clothes wouldn’t get wet and carried on down the trail. After a total of 10 miles I came across a cute little spot to camp and started to set up my tent just as the heavens opened and the thunder and lighting came crashing through. The storm seems to have come back in force but I just managed to find a break in the rain and now I’m bundled up ready for bed. Till tomorrow, goodnight!

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Just another zero day

Other than eating steak, chicken, chocolate, coconut pie, pizza and eggs, today was very low key. I did laundry, went to the post office and market, soaked my feet in Epsom salt, slept and sat in the hot tub. Just a typical zero day on the PCT.

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I have some new blisters that require attention but other than that my body is feeling great. I ate about as much food as I could possibly consume and spent at least two hours napping in the afternoon. I left ALL of my clothing at the laundromat while I slept and was shocked to find it neatly folded when I went to pick it up hours later, by a guy too. Coincidently when I went to buy HEET for my stove Robin who picked me up on Hwy 18 last night came in. She even drove me down to the market. I’ll definitely be sending her a postcard from Wrightwood.

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I still struggle with the transition from trail to town and back again. The town stops are definitely a motivator but it’s hard when you’re all clean and rested to repack your pack (which still smells super manky) with gear and a heap of food and imagine trudging it up the next section. It should take approximately 6 days to get to Wrightwood. Hopefully at the post office there I’ll be able to pick up my Muk Muk key ring that I ordered on eBay!

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Chris uploaded some great new videos on his site (featuring Muk Muk), check it out: www.ubserious.com

Big miles to Big Bear

Today was my toughest day on the trail. I knew as soon as I woke up that I was going to struggle with the inclines and the 16 mile stretch without water and a heavy pack. I told Chris to go ahead as I needed to suffer on my own today and didn’t want to slow him down.

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As soon as I had filled up water and was on my own the weather turned. It became so cold it actually started to snow and I had to hike with three layers on to stay even remotely warm.

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I’m not sure if my body was recovering from a long day yesterday or if my muscles were just so cold from the weather, but I was zapped of all energy and after about an hour simply had to lay in the middle of the trail and sleep.

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After some weird dreams I woke up to see the clouds gathering above my head and realised I needed to keep moving to stay warm and get away from the storm. The air smelt of Christmas trees and because of the snow I started singing carols out loud to keep me going. Considering my carol repertoire is limited I moved onto songs from the Lion King that I know most lyrics to. The singing distraction helped until my feet started hurting so badly I needed to stop and apply moleskin to my inner heal. When will the blisters stop?

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I knew I needed to reach the next water source in 16 miles but wasn’t sure I could go beyond that to catch up to Chris. After I needed a second nap on the trail I wasn’t even sure I would make the 16 miles. I hit a point just after passing some large animal cages with a huge grizzly bear in it, where I needed to play some tunes on my iPhone to distract me from the pain.

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When I finally reached the water cache I ate some spam, filled up on water and finally felt pumped about getting to the camp site 4 miles away. Unfortunately the trail for most of those 4 miles was covered in small jagged loose stones. The ones that spear into the bottom of your foot and cause you to roll your ankle. I was so mad at the stones and the pain in my feet I actually cried. I was laughing at myself and crying all at the same time but was determined to make the full 20 miles.

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With my music going I actually started to feel much better and seemed to get my second wind. I had also loaded up on the lollies that Bel and Josh sent me so the sugar high helped to push me along. So much so that when I reached camp and another hiker told me Chris had decided to push on to Big Bear I decided I could too.

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I honestly don’t know what possessed me, but the thought of a warm shower and bed helped me fly through the first 6 miles at almost a running speed. I wondered if I’d spent the whole day conserving this energy. Then as the sun started to set and I still had 4 miles to go I started to rethink my decision. I’d had zero reception all day so it was impossible to know where Chris was at. All I could see was his footprints along the trail. At one point I thought about setting up camp but it was so dark and cold, and I was so sweaty and sore that I didn’t want to suffer in the wilderness alone. 30 miles (48 kms) later I hit the road heading to Big Bear. I’d never walked this far in one day in my life!

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It was around 9:30pm and I had over 10 miles to hitch into town. I called the number of a trail angel offering rides but it went straight to voicemail. It was cold and deserted and after two cars drove past me I became desperate. When a third car finally came I almost jumped up and down in the middle of the road. The car pulled over and I was relieved to see the solo woman driver. I jumped in and Robin (my lifesaver) said she’d drive me to the Nature’s Inn as she knew the owner who has good rates for hikers. On arrival she called Ed for me as the reception was closed and he came out to unlock the door. The first thing he said was ‘you must be the Australian’. Miraculously Chris had checked in about half an hour before into the last cabin and said I might be staying tomorrow night. ‘You’re early’ said Ed as he checked me in, gave me clean clothes to wear and handed me my key. Chris heard the commotion and couldn’t believe I had made it! He had gotten lost on the last part of the trail and ended up at someone’s house. The owners fed him and drove him into town. We were both in a world of pain but ecstatic to be in Big Bear!

Double rainbow

It’s not everyday you wake up to see a double rainbow outside your tent. I was surprised because there didn’t seem to be any rain until the clouds moved in suddenly. I was still in my tent when this occurred so I waited out the wet before I got up to start the day.

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I was meant to meet Chris at the first water source after Poo Bear had to venture into the woods, but somehow we didn’t cross paths and in the end I went all the way to the next river crossing and waited. Four search and rescue volunteers came along and said they were looking for three hikers that have been missing since Saturday. They’re not PCT hikers but day hikers who were lost somewhere north of where we were. They also told me someone who matched Chris’ description was back down the trail looking for me.

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Once reunited we headed into the hills. There was a lot of gradual climbing today and no phone reception except when we reached the top of the ridge and I was able to get my last post out. I’m also without any signal tonight. The views were stunning and we could see the storm that had engulfed the San Jacinto Mountains behind us. We got through just in time.

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By lunch my legs were like lead and needed a good resting. Chris built a makeshift stove to warm tortillas with tuna and bacon on them. My trail appetite has definitely kicked in and I’m living up to the name Muk Muk with the amount of food I’m consuming. It’s almost exhausting to eat so frequently. We finally saw some other hikers who had stayed at Ziggy and the Bear’s last night and had lunch with them in a nice shady spot by Mission Creek.

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After lunch I felt like all of my energy had been zapped. My legs were super tired, my ankles hurt and all I could think about was being inside my tent. As we were walking a search and rescue helicopter flew over us low into the valley. They must still be looking for the missing hikers. Our hearts sank thinking about how dangerous it would be out here without proper gear, water and food.

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Towards the end of the day my feet almost gave up on me. While I was resting the folks we had lunch with came past and we all decided to head for the same campsite. On the way we came across a Sidewinder, a poisonous snake which moves sideways unlike other snakes. Chris was lucky to spot it bathing in the sun on the trail just in time.

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Everyone was so tired but the time we reached camp. We quickly made dinner, hot chocolate and then opted for an early night. We are still 30 miles from Big Bear. Chris may try to make it in one day but it’ll definitely take me two. Most of the hiking is uphill again tomorrow. I hope my legs feel better in the morning!

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