I’ve been mentally preparing for my goal to hike 25 miles a day from Sierra City onwards. Instead of waiting to begin, I thought I’d take the old legs for a test run today, and figured if I can push to 30 miles, then 25 will be a breeze, right?
I had breakfast and coffee around 5am and made sure I left by 6. No more flouncing around in the mornings, I’m out here for the challenge, and if my feet aren’t hurting after 20 miles then it’s time to do more! This is of course easier said than done, and despite the gentle grade of the trail today it wasn’t just my feet that were hurting at the end of the day, all the joints had their own individual arguments to address.
With so much phone signal I’ve also become aware of how much time I’m spending blogging from the trail, and needed assurance I could upkeep both the posts and the miles. After spending two full hours blogging from the trail today I know it can be done! It’s the writing at night which is taking it’s toll on how much sleep I’m getting. How is it already 10pm!?
So after my bipolar episode this morning I found a gorgeous rock overlooking the valley for my first hour-long break. I had filled up water at the creek 6 miles from where I camped, and then there was a 12 mile stretch until the next source. There were a few muddy streams in between but nothing drinkable with a Steri Pen. What there were plenty of was tree trunks fallen over the trail. I felt like I was running in the steeplechase with long flat stretches and then suddenly the need to hurdle giant tree branches (sometimes with a muddy stream on the other side).
Just before lunch my mind turned back to the conversation I was having with Reno Dave yesterday about when and where UB and I would cross paths on the trail. He made a joke about having to use algebra to figure out the solution, hence the idea of the PCT puzzle. These are the sorts of things your mind thinks of when you hike everyday for over two months.
I’d done 16 miles by the time I stopped for lunch and figured I would cook up one of my pasta dinners as I was going to be stopping for some time. There wasn’t a whole lot of water through this section compared to the abundance through the Sierras so the next source I came across involved scaling down a pretty steep embankment to reach the creek. I had extreme difficulty getting back up with 2.5 litres of water in my hands!
At the stream I checked Halfmile’s app which said I was 11 miles from the next water source which had campsites and happened to be exactly at the 30 mile mark. It was around 4:30pm and I was surprised I’d already done 19 miles with so many breaks in between. The grade of the trail was relatively flat but after a couple of miles my feet really started to ache. It reminded me of the first few weeks on the trail and made me realise just how far I’d come since then and also how good my previous shoes must have been. I need to get my hands on a new pair of Brooks Cascadias ASAP which I’ll work on when I get to Sierra City (I should have been a LOT more proactive in getting new Cascadias before the others fell apart – another lesson learned!)
Just as I hit a road and had to wander down the bitumen to reach the trail head about 200 feet away, I decided it was time to stop and rub my aching feet. When I reached the trail head I saw another hiker with his feet up on his pack who obviously had the same idea, and coincidently it was Fuller. I was so happy to see him having only seen one other hiker that morning. I told him about the puzzle I posted on my blog and he said he was determined to solve it!
6 more miles to camp! I put on my top rated mix of iPod tunes and started the last two hours on a sugar high of starburst jelly beans and chewy lollies. The first 3 miles were bearable, the last 3 were painful, heading into a valley across numerous switchbacks with big spiky stones digging into my feet. I was determined not to stop and didn’t really have a choice once I began descending down the mountain.
When I finally arrived just after 8pm, Ninja Tank and two fellows named Scott and Warren were sitting around camp eating Doritos and animal cookies. Scott and Warren had started at Echo Lake and were finishing at Sierra City. They had many questions regarding thru hiking and I had a great time telling them all kinds of stories until my blood sugar levels finally dropped and I desperately needed to set up my tent and get food into my body.
Once in my tent Fuller arrived bursting with excitement as he’d figured out the answer to my puzzle. He talked me through his calculations and I was simply blown away that he had not only solved it without pen and paper whilst hiking down painful switchbacks, but he had also figured out the locations where we’d be closest too, places to stay and public transport to bigger towns etc. It blew my mind!