Enough with the flies already

I was up so early yesterday that I actually had to wait at camp until it got light enough to hike. I was way down in the valley under the canopy of trees so I wasn’t able to clearly see all the spider webs in my path until 5:45am. After my web experiences on my last night hike I wasn’t in the mood for creepy crawlies attaching to my face without warning, but lo and behold my little fly friends were back again cramping my air space.

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As foolish at it seemed I grabbed my only defence mechanism that would keep these persistent little pests from their favourite landing pad in my eyeball or nasal passage. With the trauma of Yosemite and the remnants of mosquito carcasses still fresh, I reluctantly donned my head net. The protection from the thin veil meant I could breathe with my mouth open, which was especially useful as my day began with a 2000 foot climb. I taunted the flies with comments like ‘having fun out there?’ or ‘can’t get me now can you?’ until I came around a corner to find a section hiker taking a break on the ridge. After a quick introduction I carried on, wondering if I’d been speaking to the flies out loud or in my head.

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The Interstate 5 was my destination 30 miles from where I’d camped. This would be my first back to back 30 miler and despite my efforts to will on the float walk mindset, it wasn’t to be. I did however make 10 by 10, in fact by 10:30am I’d already knocked off 13 miles and was ready for a sit down when I reached the creek. The section hiker I passed earlier caught up (I’ve had a complete mind blank of his name, sorry!), and offered to fill up my water bottle down the very steep embankment to the water. When I saw the drop initially I thought to myself, ‘I’m not going down there!’, and was already rationing my water for the next dry 10 mile stretch with another 2000 foot climb. Luckily my new friend insisted he had to climb down anyway, and it’s a good thing he did, because those next 10 miles were HOT!

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While I was resting on the trail a couple of women day hikers passed me and stopped to ask about my PCT experience. Patricia (I wrote her name down!) said she had always wanted to do the PCT but has a fear of heights and can’t walk on the narrow ridges. When I caught up with her and Sharon her hiking partner 20 minutes later, poor Patricia was frozen on a ridge not far from where we initially met. I offered to hold one hand, and Sharon the other, while we walked back down the hill together. It was a terrifying experience for her, and we had to remind her to breath slowly and simply focus on putting one foot in front of the other. When we got past the most narrow part she recovered, and was able to make it down the rest of the way on her own. If you’re reading Patricia I think you’re incredibly brave for attempting to tackle your fears! If that ridge was crawling with spiders or even covered in giant webs I wouldn’t have wanted to go near it! If your dream is to hike the PCT I hope you make it one day!

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I had a great chat with the section hiker during the 5 mile climb which provided a very welcomed distraction to the heat and switchbacks. I’m so used to running the same conversations with myself over and over these days that it was nice for some fresh input. When I reached the top of the hill at 13:30 I only had 10 miles to go! I was going to be meeting Jan a trail angel from Redding around 8pm, and because she was doing trail magic further up the trail, I wasn’t sure she would be able to get there much before then. I took a long lunch break, basically ate any of the food I had remaining that I could stomach, then started the long descent down to the Interstate.

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The heat was scorching and I felt very nauseous once I started up again. When I got to the first spring I basically took a cold shower and sat in the shade until my head and stomach settled. There was no rush to get down, but the thought of real food and my first bed sleep since Tahoe got my feet moving quickly! I did the last 6 miles in just under 2 hours and when I finally reached the Interstate 5 I took out my sleeping mat, took off my shoes and collapsed. It’s only when you slip back into the ‘real’ world that you notice your 7 day old wilderness stench and realise that sleeping underneath a major freeway is not ‘regular’ behaviour. No one bothered me though, and when it started to rain I was thankful for the thick slabs of concrete over my head.

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Just before 8pm Jan and her friend John arrived from their trail angel expedition with leftover goodies for me to snack on in the car on the way to Redding. I was ravenous and have also developed a new craving for root beer which Jan was able to satisfy! From the time I was in Jan’s capable hands all my hiking requirements were planned and taken care of. Sleeping bag washed (thanks to John), clothes soaked and washed 3-4 times, backpack hosed down and soaked, tent cleaned out, stove and utensils cleaned, water bottles and bladder hose scrubbed clean. This was after I was fed, bathed and able to sleep in a bed last night. Heaven!

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Today it was time to buy new pants (I had to buy a kids size as XS was still too big), a new tshirt as the one waiting in Ashland is just too far away, and a new lighter hat. After getting a few other hiker essentials it was time to eat AGAIN and then, the icing on the cake, a massage. I think Jan’s Massage Therapist took one look at me in my old clothes and thought anyone getting about in those sort of rags couldn’t afford full price, so she charged me next to nothing for an unbelievable hour long massage. Thank you Teresa!

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I did another pack shakedown tonight and finally got rid of a few unnecessary clothes and other items. I still expect my pack to be heavy, but I hope not to arrive in Etna with 3 pounds of leftover food like I did here! Jan you have been an absolute angel! I never would have been able to do half of what we got done without you and I probably would have gone the rest of my hike with a filthy pack and sleeping bag. You also introduced me to my first ever root beer float. I’m now forever hooked!

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The Float Walking Phenomena

I’m absolutely wrecked after a 30 mile day in 13 hours with only a few breaks in between. I impressed myself again by departing smack bang on 6:30am and saw Songbird and Banana Ripper just down the hill from me. They said they heard something big outside their tent last night that was breathing loudly through its nostrils. All I could think was thank goodness it didn’t come near me!

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My first water source was 6 miles away and it seemed to come about quickly just after I bumped into a south bounder called Eeyore, who was hiking down to Donna Pass before flipping up north to Washington. Moosehead Creek wasn’t big enough for swimming, but perfect for a quick rinse, sock wash and water fill up for the next 9 miles. I drank about a litre while I cleaned my feet, determined not to carry excess water today.

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A very strange phenomena came over me for the next 9 miles, it felt good hiking. For the first time on the entire trail my whole body cooperated entirely and my mind went with the flow. Fuller uses the term ‘Float Walking’ for when miles simply tick over effortlessly. I never knew what that felt like until I float walked until 12:30pm. I just didn’t want to stop, and only took one quick break to pee and quickly stretch before getting back in the groove.

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I float walked past a bear that was black underneath with really light golden hair covering him. He didn’t hear me coming until the last minute when he bolted up the hill as I rounded the corner. I float walked past another hiker called ‘Rodney Danger something’; I was moving so quick I didn’t catch the end of his name. I was completely shocked at how comfortable it felt to walk, and was wondering how long it would take for the sensation to die off. I thought a lot about Anish who’s hiking 50 miles a day through Oregon, and figured she must have this float walk thing down pat. Why can’t it always feel like this?

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After 15 miles my feet finally started to complain and I had to sit myself down to rub them. The phenomena was over but I was happy to have had the chance to experience it. I hope I can coax it on every morning! After the first break I soon needed another to refuel with crackers and tuna. I was hoping to make it another 5 miles to lunch before stopping again but hunger took control.

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Then my back started to ache. It’s the same spot I had Igor my back specialist in Vancouver work on before I left for the trip. It’s a niggling pain that sometimes extends all the way through my buttocks and into my leg. I rubbed some of Dr Soles magic green potion on it, stretched and took some pain killers. This helped me make the next 5 miles where I could take a real break, do some serious stretching and some self-massage. There was a beautiful shady spot right next to Deer Creek where I exploded my pack and ate lunch after rinsing off in the water. It felt so good to clean my feet as I’ve got a nasty blister between my big and second toe on my right foot and a blister just under the heel on both feet. These ones hurt!

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I left lunch at 3:45pm with 10 miles to go. The sun was extremely hot so luckily I was mostly hidden under the canopy of trees, but it was so humid I felt like I was walking through a tropical jungle. There was also meant to be lots of poison oak through this part of the trail, and as I think anything with three green leaves is it, I was swaying all over the place trying to avoid it. I filled up with water again after 3.5 miles and then had the final stretch of 6.5 to go.

I wasn’t float walking this time, and had to stop and stretch my back a couple of times to reduce the pain. I also had to stop and make an adjustment after my pack started causing huge chafing on both sides of my back. I let it get so bad it stung line crazy! I changed into my blue shirt and then used my T-shirt as padding between my skin and my shorts. I’m already using parts of my sleeping mat to cover my hip bones so the whole system felt quite ridiculous. I basically need a big rubber tyre around my waist to stop my hip belt from rubbing the skin raw. I think the sweat from the humidity was the main cause for this new injury.

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The other issue I was dealing with was those small little black flies that fly right in front of your face. Does everyone experience this? In the desert I had three flies that would follow me daily and fly ahead of me just in front of my eyes. Today they were flying into my eyes, up my nose and into my mouth. I dread to say they’re almost worse than mosquitos because deet doesn’t deter them. Other than wearing a head net I don’t know what to do. Does anyone have a solution for these tiny beasts?

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I listened to my iPod for the first time today during the last three miles to camp. I sang along with Missy Higgins all the way down into the steaming hot forest with sweat and little black flies dripping off my face. When I eventually reached Fitzhugh Gulch and the one little tent site, I was so relieved as thunder had started rolling through the valley and I was sure the heavens would open any second. I was surprised I hadn’t seen more people on trail today given the distance I covered. Whoever is ahead must be well in advance.

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I cooked up rice and hot chocolate from inside my tent, popped my blisters and am now ready for a good sleep! I’m aiming to hit the Interstate 5 which leads to Dunsmuir by 8pm tomorrow night. Let’s hope my body is ready for another 30 miler tomorrow!

Where’d everybody go?

It was after 3pm today when it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen a single human being the entire day. When I left camp at 6:30am this morning the others there were still sound asleep and other than fresh footprints on the trail, there was no other sign of life. I was starting to think there’d been a mass evacuation from the trail and I must have missed the memo when around 4pm I saw two people coming south! I spoke to the man who was 400 miles away from completing the trail which he started when he was young!

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I was happy that I finally woke up this morning when my alarm went off at 5am, and I was able I break camp on schedule at 6:30. The trail went over Lake Britton Dam early on, which I always find a treat when infrastructure and the trail meet. 6 miles in was my first water source at Rock Creek, and although the sun hadn’t found its full strength yet, I decided it was time for a refreshing bath. It felt SO good after so many dry, hot days. I had the Canadian national anthem in my head and was singing out loud, feeling completely comfortable and alone in my element.

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There were many water sources along the trail but Halfmile and Guthook’s had such conflicting information in their apps that I didn’t know which one to follow. This led to me carrying too much water when so much was available. I was determined to reach Peavine Creek before I stopped for lunch, but I was already feeling sick from hunger 2 miles out so the final push to get there was a bit of a mental battle. There were also a lot of overgrown parts in this section and many small dirt roads to cross. When I came to one about a mile from the creek my mind almost stopped me from crossing over back onto the trail, because I was so tired of the plants and small flies getting in my face.

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I think hunger and being tired played a huge role in my mood slump prior to lunch, so I found a shady spot and dozed for the best part of an hour. You know you’re tired when it takes no time to fall asleep whilst lying on a hard rocky surface. When I woke up I still needed to filter the stagnant water from the creek and tend to my poor aching feet. I was surprised that no one had come past in all this time (unless I was sleeping that soundly I didn’t notice), but it helped me feel like I hadn’t lost too much time whilst napping.

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I always find myself hiking in the exposed sections right in the heat of the day. I was sweating off all the sunscreen I’d applied and boiling in the heat. I was praying for another creek to jump into but the ‘creeks’ ahead, like the one at lunch, were really just small ponds.

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When I reached the final creek for 9 miles I knew I’d have to stock up to dry camp in between. I was disappointed to find this too was a stagnant pond, and I didn’t even want to wash my feet in it for fear of infection. I sterilised 3 litres of water, so when I put my pack back on, it took at least half a mile for this steam train to get back up to speed.

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I had nothing in my head worth thinking about, and had already played the Moulin Rouge soundtrack on repeat in my mind so many times that I decided to make up my own song. Some of my funniest moments on this trip were when UB would bust out a random rap about being on the trail. They would come out of nowhere and were so hilarious I would be so disappointed we didn’t record them. This one’s for you UB!

I stopped hiking a mile short of the campsite I was aiming for because my feet were about to give way. I still made 24 miles and found a cosy spot on top of a hill to cowboy camp again. I’ve got my confidence back and a pile of sticks next to me in case I’m disturbed.

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Unfortunately while I was writing this some huge storm clouds blew in, and after seeing lightning in the distance and feeling a few rain drops I quickly set up my tent and crawled inside. At least I’m in for a good nights sleep!

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Keep hiking!

Wolfman ends all of his comments on my blog with two simple words, ‘Keep hiking’. For the first 12 miles this morning I thought about this brief statement and realised it answers all of my daily questions and concerns. How will I reach the water source by lunchtime? Keep hiking. How will I make it to the post office before the weekend? Keep hiking. How will I make it all the way to Canada? You guessed it, keep hiking!

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This morning when I woke up, I was covered in so much dirt and looked so thin that I could have been mistaken for one on the orphans from the movie Oliver Twist. The hot, dry and dusty stretch with no water meant the dirt had just caked on, and as I sit here writing this from my tent this evening, I’m looking at my filthy feet and limbs thinking nothing much has changed.

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I struggled with my alarm AGAIN this morning and am unimpressed with my failing discipline to get up in the mornings. I guess I should be going to bed MUCH earlier, hopefully I’ll find the right balance again soon. I left camp just after 7am and made good miles this morning while the sun was low and mainly hidden behind the clouds. I was so determined not to stop I tried out the pee break with pack still on manoeuvre which Ladybug said took her some time to master on the trail. I’d say it was successful, but I’m not completely convinced it saved me that much time.

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The trail went through a huge paddock and when I arrived at the first of many gates to pass through, there was a note left by another hiker saying ‘Beware big rattler at gate’. I scoped out the area and couldn’t see any sign of it, but it was only another half an hour down the trail that I came across my own giant rattler. I’m going to have to find myself a new camera operator as the following video shows no sign of the snake, except for the noise of its rattle, however it does focus on some lovely green shrubbery for the majority.

After getting psyched out I decided to bush whack around the trail and ended up getting caught up in the most scratchy bushes imaginable. I actually did a lot more damage to myself than the snake was likely to do from a distance.

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I bumped into Bill again this morning who had 8 miles to hike before hitching into Burney, so I shamelessly asked if he had any additional food at his disposal. This was firstly because I didn’t feel like digging into the bottom of my pack, and secondly because I think I may have eaten a little too much when I had a minor breakdown the other morning. He offered me a packet of crackers and two foil pockets of tuna. The combination was fantastic and I polished off both tuna packs during our 15 minute break.

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I was technically still within the 30 mile stretch with no water (if the cache hadn’t been there), until I reached the reservoir. There was a hole in the water pipe creating a small fountain which I ran under a few times before heading down to the canal for lunch and a break in the shade.

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I wanted to jump into the water and scrub off my filth except there were a few people fishing that I didn’t want to disturb, so I limited the bath to my feet who are suffering the dreaded ol’ blisters again because of the heat. When I left the canal at 13:30 it was stinking hot again. Luckily there was more tree cover than on the ridge, but it didn’t dampen the humidity in the air. Then just before crossing the highway to Burney I saw the best sign of the entire day…

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The mile on the other side of the highway seemed to go forever, and just when I’d almost convinced myself that it must have been an old sign, there it was! There was a register, a camera for self portraits, a cooler full of sodas, water and chocolate, garbage bins, reclining chairs AND phone signal, what more could you ask for?

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I sat in the recliner drinking soda for close to an hour when a golf cart like vehicle showed up and a man and his dog got out. I knew before he introduced himself that he was the trail angel so I said ‘you must be Randy!’ He was indeed, and I told him how impeccable my timing at these caches has been, as I’ve had the chance to meet and thank most of the trail angels in person. He and his wife check on the cache more than once a day and for the lucky hikers coming through this weekend, you may stumble upon a fry up if you’re lucky!

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We chatted while I indulged in my second soda, but as trail karma may have it (I guess it’s a one soda only limit), when I started hiking again my stomach didn’t agree with me. It may have also been the heat, but the last 6 miles to camp were a struggle.

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The campsite I was aiming for was teeming with people and young kids playing volleyball. My legs and feet were too tired to go any further, so I’m tucked away as far as possible from the mayhem and just finished off some dry cous cous and a spiced apple cider. It’s only 10pm, so once I brush my teeth and clean up dinner, I may be asleep before 11pm! Goodnight!

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The long waterless stretch

I thought I had this 30 mile section all planned out to avoid the heat of the day. I started well with my 3:45am wake up call. It already felt warm so I jumped out of my sleeping bag, boiled some water, had my stock standard coffee and oats and was ready to roll before 5:30am. I had around 4 litres of water with me which I knew would be a stretch if the cache was completely empty, but carrying anymore would’ve meant that my slower pace would require the additional litre anyhow.

The sky was a stunning shade of blue this morning and the views of Mount Lassen would be the last we would see of it heading north on the trail. I was able to put in four miles before I realised I had good cell reception for the first time in days, then I got myself a little distracted with a few phone calls and blog updates.

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By the time I got moving again I was shocked to see it was already 10:30am. Where had the time gone? I thought I still might be able to make the water cache for a late lunch but even though the grade of the trail was relatively flat, miles were ticking over at a slow pace and my feet were still adjusting to the new shoes.

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To encourage a bit more of a pep in my step I listened to the soundtrack of River Dance, which I would try and fail to fall asleep to when I was young, because I would always end up moving my feet to the music. The first song had the desired effect, but the rest just seemed to zap my energy further. Yesterday afternoon I listened to the entire Moulin Rouge soundtrack which got me teary but also lifted me for the last 5 miles of the day. I’m not sure what’s happening to my taste in music out here but I seem to be craving motivational power ballads to help push me down the trail. Might be time to update the iPod!

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At 13:30 I gave up on reaching the water cache for lunch and stopped on some rocks overlooking the valley below. There was a descent amount of cloud cover and a breeze keeping the temperature down, but an hour later the sun broke through and gave me its full force. I checked my water and realised I only had about one litre of water and less than half a litre of Gatorade. I was still 5 miles from the cache, which meant I was 20 miles from the next sure water source. Most people I’d spoken to said the cache would be stocked, but I suddenly realised I was in deep trouble if it wasn’t. I was going to be lucky to reach the cache on the water I still had left. I was cursing myself for such a careless execution of my strategy which had fallen by the wayside, finding me hiking with low water right in the middle of the day. Grrr.

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I was breathing through my nose and adopting all the strategies I’d picked up for desert walking at kick off. Just when I was starting to panic a little I came across a service road with a Forest Service vehicle parked on the side. There were also two big blue water containers left there for hikers by a trail angel. I yelled ‘WATER’ and the five blokes in the truck all got out to see what the commotion was about. We got chatting PCT and they offered me a cold bottle of water and Gatorade! I couldn’t have been happier. They were on standby for lightning strikes and until they told me that I didn’t even realise there was a storm a fair distance but in sight range behind me.

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With my fresh new liquids I felt like I’d be alright if the cache didn’t come through with the goods. I needn’t have worried though as when I arrived a few miles later the cute tree covered cache was full with gallon jugs of water, chips and cold beers in the cooler!

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Despite wanting to stay well hydrated I couldn’t go past a cold beer. I was soon joined by Berkley Bill and while I cooked dinner we had a good chat over a host of topics, although he constantly reminds me how boring I am and never seems to want to listen to the end of my stories. Hmmm. 🙂

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I’m having good timing with trail angels recently because while I was at the cache Aloha, Toots Magoots and Tears for Beers arrived to restock the chips and Gatorade. I had met them before at the Red Carpet Cache all the way back near the Andersons. I got to thank them again first hand before heading off for a couple more miles before dark. It’s almost 23:00 and once again well past my bedtime. There’s something running around outside my tent, but if it’s a mountain lion it’s going to have to make its own fun tonight, I’m off to sleep!

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Packing out the pounds from Drakesbad

This morning there was one other hiker at breakfast called 5-Star, who also made the dinner last night. We sat outside in the sun and enjoyed oversized portions of oatmeal and fresh fruit followed by french toast with sausage. Both our plates were spotless when they came to clear them, and I couldn’t help but notice how much food was left on the plates of our neighbouring table. If there were other hikers around and no one was looking, those plates would have been spotless too!

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After breakfast I put on a load of laundry, started charging my electronics, and enquired about my mail. Francine took me upstairs to look for my packages, which was a good thing as it was like searching for gifts under the Christmas tree, ‘here’s one, oh and another one, oh and one more!’

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Although I was overwhelmed with the amount of goodies I’d received, they couldn’t have come at a better time! When I opened the resupply box I’d sent myself, I realised it only had a few leftovers that I had forwarded on from Big Bear City. Not only that, there wasn’t a store at Drakesbad to purchase any additional food, so if I didn’t receive all the additional supplies, I would have found myself in a bit of a pickle!

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A few hikers arrived in dribs and drabs, and I was able I share some of my goodies around, as did a girl called Cinco, who had a mountain of home made brownies and cookies to give away. I had considered having the lunch at Drakesbad, but cancelled the reservation after stuffing myself full of treats! In the midst of sorting through my food I turned around to see Fuller’s son Samuel, and before I could ask about his dad, Fuller appeared! I shrieked with delight, and ran over to give him a huge half way hug, as we’d both hoped to share the moment together with another shot of Crown Royal, but it wasn’t to be. I was stunned to see both of them, and immediately started catching up on all the events which had taken place since we last saw each other before Belden.

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Not long after that, Otter pulled in, and I was equally shocked to see him, expecting he was miles ahead! We all sat around munching on chocolate coated coffee beans, brownies and breakfast burritos like a group of old friends who were reuniting after a long time. Even Bill, a hiker who barely said a word the first few times we met was in good form. Between our packs, food supplies, hiking poles and empty boxes, we’d taken over the whole outdoor seating area. Maybe this is why they’re no longer hiker friendly! 🙂

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It was late in the afternoon when I finally got my things in order and was finally ready to squash them all back into my pack. The whole gang had already left by this stage, and while I was sitting on my lonesome the chef came outside and offered me a piece of pecan pie. Although I was about to burst I couldn’t turn it down, and as I indulged in yet more food, two brothers by the names of Kevin and Kenny came by. It wasn’t long until they established I was hiking the PCT, and immediately I could see their minds ticking over with approximately half a billion questions. We had an awesome chat, not just about the trail, but more what hiking it and being one with nature is really all about. They had recently bought a lodge in the area, which has been their dream for the past 30 years, so they’d come to Drakesbad just to check it out.

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Over an hour later just after 5pm I realised I needed to head back home to the trail and make a few miles before dark. When I lifted my pack I was shocked at how heavy it was! Otter had already laughed at me when he saw how much food I was taking for 7 days, but now I realised just how much I must have squeezed in there. It was ok leaving Drakesbad for the first mile, but when the trail started to climb I was huffing and puffing the whole way up. It felt as heavy as when I left Mammoth with 10 days of food and a bear can. When I arrived at this campsite next to the river I heaved the pack down to the ground, set up my tent, laid out my food, and started eating anything I could still stomach. I’m not sure what’s adding all the weight, but at least I’ll be feasting for the next few days to knock off a few unwanted pounds!

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Despite my efforts, the next morning I experienced the same pack weight issue. I managed to take the wrong trail for half a mile straight off, then after backtracking and finally stepping onto the PCT, I think my brain added another few pounds to my pack and I simply couldn’t move forward.

After my little tantrum I continued on with a full belly and greater strength. My next water source was Lower Twin Lake where I sat for a long time enjoying the eerie silence of nature and the beautiful scenery. If I wasn’t on my way to Canada I would have stayed in that exact spot for a couple of weeks. It felt like I was a million miles away from anywhere, without another soul in site. Absolute solitude (which is actually harder to find day to day on the trail than you would think!)

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The next section of the trail was burnt out for miles but incredibly flat, so without a shady spot to rest I pushed on for another 12 miles to Hat Creek where I exploded my pack and rested in the shade.

It was another 8 miles from the creek to the last water source before the 30 mile stretch at Subway Cave. I ended up cowboy camping right next to the cave as the campsite seemed busy and I figured I probably wasn’t meant to camp in either location. I waited until dark to get comfortable except the moon was so bright I basically slept in a huge spotlight. Not so stealthy after all! I had the alarm set for 3:45am to get an early start in the morning before the sun!

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Another truly magical day

I’m sitting at a table on a beautiful patio, nibbling on fresh bread stuffed with garlic cloves, wondering how on earth I came to be here. When I was in Belden talking to a local about the trail I said ‘it’s amazing because you never know what’s around the corner’. The last few days couldn’t be closer to that truth.

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Today has been full of so many welcomed surprises that I’m pinching myself to make sure it wasn’t just a dream. After hitting the trail around 7:30am, I found myself at the highway into Chester after 3 miles. This is where all of the folks I had camped with last night were heading. Those who got there before me had called a trail angel to pick them up, and when I crossed the highway I saw there was trail magic on the other side! When the trail angel arrived we realised she was Piper’s Mom, the one who refills the coolers with fresh fruit, sodas, packets of chips and other goodies. Not only did she satisfy my hunger cravings, she satisfied my childhood dreams of one day being famous after she asked my name and then exclaimed ‘you’re Muk Muk!?’ She had seen my recent horror films from a link on the PCT 2013 Facebook page and immediately gave me a huge hug, telling me she was so relieved I was alright. I almost got teary again. Thank you Piper’s Mom for looking after us hiker folk, we appreciate it more than you can imagine!

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The next water source was Stover Spring which had a pipe gushing with icy cold water. I wet my entire t-shirt, hat and bandana as the day was already super hot! Luckily the first half of the day was relatively flat, and if it wasn’t for all the logs across the trail acting as speed humps, I would have been flying along after my Mountain Dew, banana and packet of sun chips this morning!

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There were signs of horses close by ahead on the trail and I wondered if the girl riding the horse was ahead of me. I spent a long time imagining what it would be like as a horse walking the trail. Sometimes I actually feel like a pack horse with my hiking poles acting as my front legs as I plod along down the trail. When I caught up to the horses I discovered it was two men from a property close to Drakesbad. They asked me about the hike and more specifically how often I set up my tent. I told them that I may set it up more frequently after my incident with the mountain lion and relived some of the account. They reacted as if I was telling them what I had for breakfast and simply said ‘yeah you don’t want to get too close to those things’.They also told me the river a mile away was big enough to swim in which brought absolute joy to my day, but an even greater surprise was in store…

I took a fresh sandwich and a cold beverage down to the river and sat in one of the most perfectly situated spots for my lunch break during a heat wave. After gobbling down every last crumb of the delicious sandwich it was time to immerse myself in the freezing cold water. It was absolute bliss and one of those moments on trail when you realise just how lucky you are to have the freedom to be out here.

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The 1000 foot climb after the river during the heat of the day was not so blissful. I felt completely lethargic and wanted nothing else than to pull out my sleeping mat and have a snooze under a shady tree. Something however was pulling me forward towards Drakesbad. I knew I didn’t need to arrive until 7:30am tomorrow when breakfast was served, but when I realised I could make it there around 6:30pm, I suddenly got the motivation to simply get there as quickly as possible. The thought of a comfortable place off trail was extremely tempting, even though I knew they didn’t let hikers camp on site.

The final 3 miles to the ranch were extremely confusing and badly marked, to the point that I found myself way off trail and had to bush whack a substantial distance to get back on track. Part of my motivation to get to Drakesbad was to fill up on water, as I’d already passed the other drinkable sources, and when I saw the bubbling lake which was the last source before the ranch, I knew I simply had to get there. Even the exit to the ranch wasn’t signposted, and Halfmile’s app sends you bush whacking down a grassy slope only to be stopped by a huge stream. I had to backtrack to the first junction I’d passed and was quite frustrated by this point as it was almost 7pm already.

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I felt like a complete outcast when I arrived and was scared to walk too close to the other guests because of my stench and filth. I was forced to walk inside the restaurant which doubles as the front desk. I wasn’t even sure what I wanted to ask. I said to the woman Francine that I had a reservation for breakfast tomorrow and she said ‘you must be Rozanne, we also have a table reserved for you tonight’. My mouth dropped open as she indicated the table outside with my name on the reserved sign. I teared up and gave her a ginormous hug. I don’t think she was expecting that reaction but hugged me back none the less. She even said I could shower first and then come back and eat!

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I was still in shock when I sat down and they came to take my order. I had a three course meal ahead of me and I was so hungry I could have eaten the napkin! I cleaned off every plate and was the last person in the entire restaurant. On my way to brush my teeth I passed a large group of people toasting marshmallows around the fire. They asked if I was hiking the PCT, and not long after I started talking, I had my first ever S’more in my hand (toasted marshmallow and chocolate inside two gram crackers), and the speakers seat around the fire. It took me a full hour to eat my S’more as I was telling story after story and enjoying answering all of the questions they had about the trail. At one point, one of the younger boys turned to me and said ‘I’m inspired’, my heart honestly melted.

Thank you again to all of the trail angels who shed absolute joy on us PCT’ers out of the kindest of their hearts!