Mile 159.7 to mile 175.4, 15.7 PCT miles + 2 miles off trail for water, 17.7 total
Running total: 185.3
Death and Poodle Dog Bush
We woke up around 0530 with the intentions of getting an early start to beat the heat, but alas we began walking around 0730.
Our plan for the day: hike to Cedar Spring for water (off of mile 162.7,) eat breakfast there, then camp at mile 175.4. Easy, right?? Remember when I said that the hardest part isn’t the walking?? HA!! Today, the hardest part was the walking.
Shortly after beginning our day we caught up to Corey and Sunscar- Corey saw the tape on my knee and a. turns out he does functional PT and offered to do some work on my knee later in the day and b. He is also a photographer and asked to take a picture of my knee.
After our quick model sesh, Matt and I climbed on…except I more like crawled on. I was feeling so sludgy!!
We eventually made it to the Cedar Spring Junction, dropped our packs, and began our 1mile descent down to the spring. There we met up with Woodpecker, Bear Chills, and their friend Columbia. The water was cold and the spring itself was beautiful- as bad as the hike up from the spring was going to be, it was worth it- it was the best water we have found on trail! We shared some laughs with The Trio and each drank at least a liter of cold water before filtering more to bring back to the trail with us.
Ugh. The climb up to the trail was hell. The things we do for water, man! I began to wonder if we made a terrible choice chosing this source over the other 2 we could have hiked down to, but in talking to others, we definitely made the right choice! The others were steeper, hotter, and buggier. Phew.
We passed New Corey going down to fetch water on our way up. When we finally made it back to the trail, we joined The Trio and Sunscar for lunch and more laughs. She-wee eventually joined us as well.
Begrudgingly, Matt and I decided it was time to climb(/crawl) on. One. Foot. In. Front. Of. The. Other. Why. Was. That. So. Friggin. Hard!
I realized that I hadn’t eaten dinner the night before or breakfast that morning AND we were at our highest elevation yet- AND I just stuffed my face with all the snacks. Great combo, Al!
Even on our descent from over 7000 feet to under 6000 I was hurting- I just wanted to nap! I felt like Dorothy in the poppies- and I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again- I wonder what the elevation of Oz was…
At one point I was trying to take a picture of a butterfly when I dropped my hiking pole in what I feared was the most dreaded plant on the trail: poodle dog bush. Poodle dog bush is a cool looking plant when not in bloom, and a positively stunning plant when in bloom, but apparently it wrecks havoc worse than poison oak. It only grows in areas that have recently burned and apparently smells like marijuana.
I stood there for a few minutes just looking at my pole weighing my options when Columbia popped by. I picked his brain about my situation and he confirmed that my pole was not in fact in poodle dog bush, thank God!! He then gave Matt and I a little poodle dog bush edu, complete with photos, before passing on.
Matt and I continued slowly but…slowly. I had told Matt that I needed a break before we started climbing again, and when we hit mile 166.6, sitting just under 6,000 feet and the last point before the climbs, we found a small group of hikers enjoying a beautiful little shaded area. We joined them, and ended up sitting around for nearly two hours! It was nice to commiserate with people. Our group consisted of Columbia, Bear Chills, Woodpecker, Jeremy (who now goes by Soundtrack), and new friends Brooks, Emma, and Christina. She-wee joined around 3, just as Matt and I were packing up to start our ascent.
The whole day of hiking was frustrating: we kept hiking up and down the same 1000+ feet! It was definitely our steepest and most difficult day, at times gaining nearly 1000feet/mile. They say the PCT is graded as a horse trail, so it’s not that steep, but we all find that hard to believe and want to meet the horse that can climb up what we had to! Thank goodness I had started to feel more energetic!
Around mile 170 we had to make a decision: stay there, at 7349 feet, or climb down again, then up again- a few times- to mile 175.4, at 8235 feet. As Matt put it, the more we did today, the less we would have to do tomorrow- so we went. Huge tree trunks blocked our path on many occasions, forcing us to either climb over or under them, adding to the challenge of the day. We also came across snow!!
At one point Matthew stopped dead in his tracks- he had spotted poodle dog bush!! And from that point on it was EVERYWHERE- including on parts of the trail. Every time I brushed a plant with my ankle I froze and thought – do I turn around to see if it was that fuckin poodle shit?! Sometimes I was brave and looked back, other times I scrambled on- what I didn’t know can’t hurt me, right?! It made an already exhausting day miserable- I’m so glad we had amazing views to take some of my mind off of the terribleness!!
I was surprised we hadn’t come across Mantra yet, and no joke seconds later we saw her just ahead. We ended up rolling in to “camp” with her, where we set up our tents quickly to escape the wind and cold and scorpions.
Matt and I had planned on a somewhat healthy dinner that night, but it was too windy to eat outside so I ate a poptart hanging out the side of our tent.
Fun fact! We had been hiking an average of 22 min miles each day, and today we averaged 32 minute miles! But it turns out most people struggled with this section, so we weren’t alone!
Happiness is: Progress! Mantra earned her name because each day she repeats a mantra while she hikes. One day it was simply, “this is progress.” Every step we take is progress (except all those darn off-trail miles for water!!) – and today, after suffering for hours, we were able to stand up on a ridge and see all of the progress we had made. We have been chasing San Jacinto since the early desert, seeing it off in the distance, and we are there now!!