Mile 652.1 to mile 668.7, 16.6 PCT miles, no off trail miles!
PCT total mileage: 583.1
Running total miles since 4/13: 648.7
We woke up early to pack our bags and be ready for Mary Helen, our trail angel who was coming to get us at 0630. We were slightly delayed when I accidentally packed Matt’s phone thinking it was my own, and Matthew had to check every nook and cranny in the room AND unpack and re-pack his bag before I realized I had both phones…oops!
Mary Helen was right on time and was so nice!! She’s a retired OR nurse originally from New Jersey, but has lived and worked in Ventura County since the 90’s, most recently as an infection control nurse!! I told her that I could have used her at the Tehachapi hospital- turns out she had recently interviewed there! God does that place need an infection control team…
On our way to the Walker Pass trail head we saw this sign!! A sign! (I couldn’t get my camera out in time, I stole this pic from the internet!)
We got to the trailhead around 0730 and started a little before 8am…
Within 15 minutes we were quickly reminded that we were in the desert!!
This guy just wouldn’t move!! After trying a few different tricks to get him off trail, we eventually had to take our chances and walk up and around him on steep, loose sand!
After that little hold up, we started our climb. Boy were we huffing and puffing! 18 days off-trail and it showed…and omg poor Matt! Try this: walk up a fairly steep hill with your teeth clenched AND your nose plugged. Bonus if you can do this in the desert in the summer under the blistering sun on a liquid diet with very limited water! I have NO idea how he did it!
A some point we passed through a really neat desert forest…
Just before 10am we stopped for breakfast #2/lunch #1. It was nice sitting in the shade with this incredible view, but we missed the company of our trail fam! I got incredibly sad when I wanted to try some of Matt’s snacks and then realized he had none :(. (sidenote: we usually have the same snacks, but they always taste better coming out of his food bag!)
At one point Matt looks over at me and says, “I think it’s over.”
The fuck? What’s over? Our thru-hike?
Then he adds, “the streak. I think I need to go dig a hole.” Tmi? Maybe, but we both lost our no-hole streak. (As it turns out, some other guy made it out of the desert without having to dig a hole- I’m pretty confident that had we not taken time off we would have made it out of the desert as well, but alas…)
Matt admitted to feeling a bit nauseous, so he popped a zofran (an anti-nausea med) before we started hiking again. I’m really glad I had called to get that prescription, despite Dr. Freeman doubting that Matt would ever need it!
I gave Matthew the out- we could head back south to the trailhead and try to bum a ride back to a hotel, or we could continue north. Matt said he was feeling better and so we continued our slow climb- we were averaging about 2 miles an hour as we gained 2,050 feet in elevation. (I had previously been averaging 3 miles an hour with about 19-21 min miles depending on the terrain, and Matt was much faster! This was a mean slap in the face!!)
We ended up passing a small area of shade, and despite knowing water was only 1.8 miles away, we decided to take another break- Matthew was struggling in the sun and heat- when did the desert actually become a desert?!?? Ugh!
While we were laying there we heard a very loud noise- to me it sounded like a very big huff/sigh from a very large animal like a horse…or a bear. Fuck. I got up quickly to assess the situation but didn’t see anything, so whatever it was was gone and we continued to relax.
We were eventually joined by a guy named Hangtime- he was telling us the story of how he received the name (he rolled off of a small cliff at the Deep Creek Hot Springs…) and I realized we kind of knew him through association! The day after he fell, Hangtime had called She-Wee asking him to pick up some things that he had left behind at the hot springs and I happened to be with She-Wee when he received this phone call! But at the time the kid’s name was Redwood so I didn’t make the connection at first. The hiking community can be super small!
Hangtime was talking about how he was feeling super dehydrated from the heat and told us a story about a time on trail he was SO dehydrated that he was dry heaving so badly that he had to call his dad. His dad ended up coming to the trail with salt pills, which almost instantly helped Hangtime feel better- and that’s when the lightbulb turned on!! Matt’s meal replacement shakes are for the average, sit at a desk all day person- not a hike 20 miles in the desert sun and heat day after day person! There was not nearly enough sodium to replace all that we were losing! Salt! Matt needed salt! But…we were at least 2 days from resupply and Matt only had his shakes and some liquid tahini for added cals and fat. Thank goodness I decided to go stoveless for this stretch (which limited my dinner options to potatoes and tuna) and packed two bags of instant potatoes that are salty as hell and easily reconstituted with cold water. Matt agreed to try some later…
Once Matt was feeling well enough to carry on, we secured our sun umbrellas to our packs and continued on to the water source.
I started to feel shitty on that stretch, so was thankful that a. the creek was in the shade and b. Matt was ready for another break himself. We ended up meeting a handful of new people as we waited out the afternoon heat in the little oasis. Matt ate some liquid potatoes (with over 1000mg of sodium!!) and immediately started to feel better.
Our original plan for the day was to only hike 13 miles, which would have been a little more than a mile passed the creek, but Post-Potatohead Matt had bigger plans: he wanted to get to the next water source, which was more than 4 miles from the creek and after a 400 foot climb. Woof.
The Joshua trees remind me this quote from the book The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls: “One time I saw a tinyJoshuatreesapling growing not too far from the oldtree. I wanted to dig it up and replant it near our house. I told Mom that I would protect it from the wind and water it every day so that it could grow nice and tall and straight.Mom frowned at me. ‘You’d be destroying what makes it special,’ she said. ‘It’s the Joshua tree’s struggle that gives it its beauty.‘”
I’m not sure if our thru-hike will be made any more beautiful by our “struggle,” but I do know that the day before Matthew got injured I had said, “I really don’t feel like hiking tomorrow…” 18 days without hiking later and I will never take the trail for granted again- I am grateful for each step I take, and to summarize my girl Mantra, each step is progress.
The hills definitely felt like mountains and the miles felt like marathons, but we eventually made it to the campsite. We were both so exhausted that after setting up the tent we crashed on our tent floor and didn’t move for a few minutes- we had never been this tired before!! I was almost too tired to eat, but we needed to eat, filter water, set up our sleep-system, brush our teeth, and hang our food bag somewhere. Since I donated my calorie rich dinner to Matthew, I feasted on a 70 cal tuna packet and 180 cal peanut butter packet….luckily my hiker hunger had vanished and the desert heat made the idea of eating sound terrible- but whether or not that was enough to sustain me for 2 more days of hiking was TBD…
We decided that if we wanted to get miles in and not die, we had to start early in the am- alarms were set for 4am and we said goodnight!