PCT Day 163, Double Flip and a Flop with a Hop, Day 82

September 22
Mile 765.2 to mile 741.7, 23.5 PCT miles, no off-trail miles
PCT miles: 1698.7
Running total: 1852
Groundhogs Day, PCT Sierra style:
Alarm goes off. Snooze alarm. Snooze alarm. Snooze alarm. Sun rises. Grudgingly wake up. Remove thermal layer, put on rain pants. Freeze as we break down camp. Struggle to open my bear can. Have Matthew open my bear can. Eat breakfast. {Breakfast: Protein bar or a Complete Cookie.} Brush teeth. Strap bear can onto pack. Start moving slowly with ALL of our layers on, convinced that today is the day that we will never warm up enough to take any layers off. Wonder when I lost sensation in my fingers and toes and how long it will take to regain. Within 20-40 minutes, rapidly rip off layers. Eat second breakfast {usually a bar of sorts}. Hiking feels a bit better. Get a little fuzzy before lunch. Eat. {Lunch: almond or peanut butter packet & snacks- a few Sweedish fish, a bunch of wheat thins, a handful of trail mix with an extra bag or two of m&ms mixed in, and a handful of almonds.} Feel better, start hiking. Feel nauseated. Hiking feels hard. Move slowly. As soon as I stop burping up every morsel of food that I ate for lunch, eat snack, usually around 5pm. {Snack: either PB or cheese sandwich crackers.} Feel awesome/invincible. Hike fast. Race the sunset to camp (we rarely win- why does the sun set so early here?) Put on rain pants, puffy, hat and gloves, removing gloves every other second for different camp tasks. Set up tent/retrieve water. {This depends on the water & wind situation: if we need water, Matt sets up the tent alone while I fetch water. If we don’t need water or if it’s too windy to set up the tent alone, I’ll stay to help.} Matt boils water while I blow up my mattress pad. Matt opens my bear can. Prepare dinner while stuffing face with snacks. Matt blows up his sleeping pad & pillow and sets up his sleeping bag liner & quilt while our food “cooks.” Eat. {Dinner: easy mac, ramen, or a mountain house meal if we were feeling crazy!} Brush teeth. Stuff every scented item that we can fit into bear can and hang all the shit that don’t fit (shhhh, this is illegal…) Leave bear can outside of tent. Pee. Pray that we don’t wake up in the middle of the night needing to pee. Run into tent. Remove rain pants, throw on thermal layer. Race to set up and crawl into my sleeping bag before I freeze. Scribble down notes for the day. Check out Guthooks to determine climbs & water carries for tomorrow, spending WAY too much time reading comments and doing math. Wonder why I did the previous two steps without gloves. Defrost hands, don gloves. Talk about needing to get an “early start” the next day. Sleep. Repeat.
Now, the more detailed version:
Since it has been so miserably cold lately, Matt and I have agreed to wait for the sun to rise before we start our morning routine. It’s not much, but the sun does provide SOME relief from the bitter cold, though it might just be all in our heads…it’s pretty fuckin cold either way.
You know how difficult it is to get out of bed in the morning when you know it’s cold outside and you are comfortably snuggled under your nice, warm covers?? Now, imagine getting out of bed and instead of being comforted by the heat of a fire, a heater, a warm bathrobe, or blanketed in the warmth of a hot shower, you are slapped in the face by 20°f temps with an occasional breeze that numbs your limbs and chills you to the bone, and there is nothing you can do to get warm but get even colder while you pack up your life then start moving…it’s rough BUT we gotta do it. {Reason #28472 we would have NEVER survived the Sierra in June: those crazees had to wake up around 3am to pack their frozen gear, put on their wet and frozen socks and shoes, and get moving before 4 to cross the passes before the sun melted the snow…yeah, nope!}
Having already slept in nearly all of my layers (my hiking clothes, thermals, gloves, hat, fleece, & puffy), I had nothing but my rainpants to put on to help keep me “warm” after I reluctantly peeled myself from my damp sleeping bag and started packing up. Few things are worse than packing up a soaking wet tent and damp sleeping bag, knowing that unless you have a sunny day, you’ll be crawling into that wet tent and damp sleeping bag later that night. {Fingers crossed for a super sunny day, ’cause our tent was SOAKED from the frozen condensation we accumulated overnight…ugh}
We thought it would be best to pack everything and then eat, so we could get going asap without being tempted to seek further refuge in our slightly warmer than freezing tent.
As I was attempting to transfer water from my liter bottle into my Crystal Light squirt bottle, I was confused by the strange flow of water- there seemed to be a blockage of sorts. Upon further investigation, I realized that the water I was pouring was freezing AS I was pouring it! How often does water in motion freeze right before your eyes? It was crazy! After snapping a few pics of my frozen water with my frozen fingers, we finally started our day…

We started our day with a short climb followed by a nice descent into the forest.

Matt had business to attend to at the top, so I carried on down alone, planning to meet again at the bottom of the descent at Rock Creek. On my way down I ran into a NoBo section hiker, who in conversation kindly gave me a heads up about the crossing: it’s possible to cross with dry feet on logs either up or downstream, BUT the logs were pretty icy…sweeeeet, my favorite combo: slick icy logs and freezing cold water!

I continued downhill and stopped at the creek, waiting a few minutes for Matthew. I felt my anxiety building up, so when Matt didn’t show up right away, I rechecked Guthooks, decided to attempt the log downstream, and set off to find it. The log was fairly wide, didn’t have any awkward slopes, didn’t appear to be icy anymore, and it wasn’t too high- I figured that if I set my poles to the highest height, I could reach them down to the riverbed for balance & should be able to cross no probem. Without further ado, I adjusted my poles, stepped onto the log, and crossed- easy peasy.
I then headed back upstream to where the trail officially crosses the PCT to wait for Matthew. A lady arrived two seconds before Matt, and while I stood to direct them both to the log, before I could say anything, the lady started to march right across the creek. I shrugged (and shuttered- brrr!) and started to lead Matt to the log, when from the corner of my eye I saw the girl fall- shit! Thankfully the water wasn’t deep (just chilly!) and she jumped right back up. I asked if she was okay while simultaneously continuing to herd Matthew over to the log- I was SO distracted by my task that I didn’t think to actually check on the poor girl- I didn’t even wait for her to finish getting across!! She said she was fine and I left it at that- I felt terrible!! {A little later we saw the girl standing by her tent. I apologized for not waiting, confirmed that she really was okay, and checked that she had dry clothes to change into- she assured me that all was well! Phewww.}
This picture is so deceiving! The log was high enough that our poles had to be set on the highest setting, and even then we had to bend to touch the riverbed
We continued on, climbing for about a mile to our last good (/flowing) water source for the next 12 miles! I filled & filtered 1.5 liters for myself & filled two liters for Matt before enjoying a quick snack.

We agreed to meet in 8.6 miles at Chicken Spring Lake for lunch, and I set off before Matthew, knowing that we had a climb coming up and he would catch up with me soon enough.

It didn’t take long for Matt to catch up and pass me as I chugged along.

After a few miles, I found Matthew waiting for me at a trail junction.

After confirming the right way to go, Matthew set off while I took a quick bathroom break…which turned into a sunscreen break…which turned into a reorganize my pack break…before I knew it, 35 minutes had passed, and when I hit the trail again I was in the prime of my afternoon slump- my stomach was feeling off and did I have a headache? Nah…but maybe? Maybe I was just tired…ugh. At least it was pretty!

We officially left Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

I crawled the last 4 miles to our lunch break, arriving around 2:45.

I said a quick hello to Bluejay, who was just finishing up filtering water from an outlet from the pond- Matt and I both don’t like drinking pond water, but had we known there was a flow, we might not have filled as much at the last water!

I joined Matthew, who was chowing down on his lunch, sitting next to our tent and quilt he had set out to dry. I quickly unpacked my own sleeping bag and spread it out on a large rock, with the hopes that the last bit of afternoon sun would dry it off enough that the night wouldn’t be miserable.

Since we reallllly had to make miles today, earlier this afternoon I had given myself a deadline of LEAVING our lunch break by 3:15, regardless of the time that I arrived. Surprisingly, by 3:20 I was packed up and hiking, leaving Matthew behind to fold up the tent.

Shortly after leaving I came to a junction- shiiitt!! We have a rule that we wait for each other at junctions (and a history of one of us getting lost the two times I didn’t wait…) BUT, we had 9more miles to go and that damn sun wasn’t gonna wait around for us! If I stayed, we risked a late arrival to camp & my headstart from lunch was pointless. If I carried on, that headstart might put me enough ahead that maybe, just maybe(🤞) we would be able to arrive to camp before dark. I decided to keep going…

Guys, I flew through the next 4.1 miles- like, I don’t even know if my feet touched the ground at all! Matt only caught up to me when I stopped to fill up water at Poison Meadow Spring- he was just as surprised as I was (and relieved that I hadn’t taken the wrong junction…)

We each filled up 3 liters and filtered 2, deciding to save that last liter to filter at camp. Our water sources in this section were pretty shitty, and unless we wanted to walk off-trail, Poison Meadow Spring was our last good water for a while! According to Guthooks, our next reliable water was in 16 miles but it had a lovely golden color to it- eww?! Two miles beyond that there was apparently a small stream that was barely flowing that was described as, “kinda gross- red hue and smelly.” Nope!! I’m a water princess, so we opted for a 20mile water carry.

Somehow, even with all of that extra water weight, we banged out the next 5 miles in 94 minutes! {That’s less than 19 min miles- a pace I didn’t think possible in the Sierra! It definitely didn’t hurt that the trail was nicely maintained AND we were going mostly downhill, but I’ve had enough painfully slow and shitty downhill sections that this still was a celebrated accomplishment!}

We arrived to our planned tent-site, set up camp, ate dinner, and were in our sleeping bags by 8pm.

Happiness is: meeting a ridiculous milestone: we officially made it out of California!! What?!?? Yeah, so, California is big…like…really fuckin big…like 1,692 PCT miles big! AND, today, we finally hiked the length of it!! Had we hiked a linear hike, today we would have officially crossed over into Oregon! Wild. While I wish our thru-hike had played out differently (you know, like no broken jaw or anything…) I’m glad that in the end, though we will not successfully complete a thru-hike, we were able to experience each state along the way. I think I’d have gone mad had we spent ALL of this time in one state!!

One thought on “PCT Day 163, Double Flip and a Flop with a Hop, Day 82

  1. Don’t know whether to congratulate you or let my mother self out in full force. Knowing that your own mom probably struggles with this, too, I’ll settle for congratulating you on the accomplishments of finishing California AND for not taking the wrong fucking trail at the fork AND for not getting eaten by a bear who thought your stuff smelled good! Yeah, yeah, I know, you’re an ass-kickin’, creek-crossin’ and bear fightin’ woman who just put in 2000 miles on the PCT. Those pictures are amazing!! Love the trees within trees!


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