The Skip, Part 1 of (?), Day 2

 

October 3, 2020

 

Mile 1189.9 to mile 1174.9, 15 PCT miles, 1 mile off-trail for water + toilets, 16miles total

Today’s total ascent: 4478 feet

 
PCT miles this trip: 20.5
Trip total: 22.9 miles
PCT running total: 1844.3 miles
Miles left “to Canada”: 796.1

 

 
Our alarms started going off a little before 6am. I slowly opened my eyes, surprised at how remarkably well I had slept through the night- I only remembered waking once, when the moon shined so brightly through the roof of our tent that I briefly held up my arm to shade the light from my sleepy eyes. Once I realized it was the moon, I dropped my arm and willed myself back to sleep.
 
More surprising than how well I slept was how quickly I started getting ready once the alarms went off- by 06:55 our bags were packed, camp was broken down, breakfast was eaten, and we were off and hiking. Jesse had left about 10 or 15 minutes earlier, hoping to get a head start on the first climb of the day. Though we knew we would be leapfrogging with each other all morning, we had plans to officially meet for second breakfast at Pass Creek Campground, located slightly off-trail about 6 miles south from where we had camped.

 

The air had a very subtle chill to it, but within moments of moving I was warm. Today, the hiking felt easier. We gained about 1200-ish feet in the first 2.5 miles in a nice, steady climb. The trail then dipped down a bit, before again rising up; we continued this undulating terrain until we found ourselves at the paved road that lead about 0.2 miles to the campground. Rumor had it, this campground had FLUSH toilets AND potable water! A backpackers dream!

 

 

By 0915 we were at the campground, having kept about a 23min/mile pace. We quickly navigated our way over to the prime break spot, where we had immediate access to rock seats, flush toilets, a water spigot, AND a dumpster! We dropped our packs and started on second breakfast.

 

While we were chowing down, Matthew noticed a sign on the bathroom door. From afar he couldn’t read exactly what it said, but I jumped up to confirm our fears: the bathroom was closed. Damnit! BUT, the sign informed me that there were pit toilets available elsewhere in the campground- smelly, I was sure, but sometimes better than nothing.
 
The campground was a lot more full than we had anticipated, and we said hello to the few people that passed by us, presumably on their way to the pit toilet.
 
As one guy passed he asked if we were PCT hikers. Yes, yes we were! Well, kinda? Sorta? We were? But are? Last year I had LOVED being a PCT hiker- it was the identity I was most proud of. Going into trail towns people knew who we were and either admired us, questioned our sanity, or disliked us- but still, they knew who we were and what we were doing. One of the weirdest moments after leaving the trail last year was going out to dinner in Orange County on our way home to San Diego. We had awkward tan lines, sported the same dirty clothes we had worn for months, and most definitely still smelled, despite the many showers we had taken- we were clearly thru hikers, but nobody knew that. I LOVED that this man recognized us for what we were…or once were.
 
As this man passed us again, I asked if the water from the spigot really was potable, as we were told on guthooks. His response sent me into a slight panic: due to low water levels, the campground actually turned the water off a few days before. Shit. I had a liter or so left, but did Jesse have water?? I had promised Jesse that there would be water- I told him he didn’t have to ration it! Crap!! Where’s the next water?!
 
My eyes got big and I made an overly dramatic surprised/concerned face (think: 😳/😧) and said, “shoot! We were counting on there being water!”
 
The man didn’t hesitate to offer us some of his own- he said he had a bunch to spare. Matt started to decline, having searched guthooks and seeing a water source down the trail, but I cut him off. We were grateful for this man’s offer and we would take him up on it!
 
“I’m just over there,” the man said, pointing down the campground road, “I have the trailer that says, ‘Imagine.’ Come stop by.”
 
We thanked him as he walked off- water?[✓] Phew. Next up: lightening Jesse’s load.
 
Matt and I encouraged Jesse to take out all of his food and re-evaluate his supply. I know from personal experience that some things that I love off-trail I could never stomach on-trail, so I suggested Jesse start with that: remove all food that makes him nauseous just thinking about.
 
It had taken Matt and I about 1,775 miles to figure out our resupply, so there was absolutely no judgement. Jesse had asked us for food recommendations/plans and both Matt and I sent him our typical day- Matt’s day is usually full of multiple bars, peanut butter packets, meat sticks, candy, and spam, while I prefer complete cookies, maybe a bar, and more snack-like foods. Jesse had combined both Matt and my food plans, going item for item with Matt’s plan + my snack plan, which resulted in much too much food!
 
I ended up taking a bag full of extra bars and snacks to the campsite closest to us, offering it to a couple with an adorable Australian Shepherd. I was both surprised and grateful when this couple accepted the bag, meaning that the food wasn’t going to waste, and even more surprised and grateful when they offered me Vitamin Water!!!! Yes, yes please!!! I assured them that Jesse, Matt, and I could share 1 bottle, but they insisted I take 3. When they offered me pastries I had to decline- they looked delicious, but we had too much food already. Trail magic, man!!! It’s so damn awesome.
 
I walked back to Jesse and Matt with three ice-cold Vitamin Waters and three ice-cold water bottles- my hands were frozen, but my heart was warm- I was SO giddy with excitement, happy that Jesse got to experience the magic. My favorite part of the trail last year was the selfless people we met- I couldn’t believe that on our first full-day on trail for a week-long trip we were being showered with kindness!! What a beautiful escape from the ugliness in the world right now…
Soon after returning to Jesse and Matt, the couple, Eli and Talia, along with their puppy Hunter, came over asking if they could take our picture- we of course obliged, then snapped a few selfies ourselves.

 

Turns out Eli and Talia came camping for the weekend to escape the smoke in Napa Valley- I had been so caught up in the fires in SoCal and the national forest closures that I had forgotten about all of those crazy pictures I had seen of the San Francisco area- I couldn’t imagine living there! We told them about our PCT journey and exchanged instagram account names- it turns out Hunter is a pretty big deal- he has 7000 followers on Instagram!! (Check out his insta account: hunter.aussie)

 
After saying goodbye to the couple and Hunter, Jesse and I headed over to see the man in the Imagine trailer. The man in the Imagine trailer, Dennis, was just as generous and kind as the couple. He had drinks spread out on his table and insisted we help ourselves to whatever we wanted- he even offered us a breakfast beer and breakfast food! Ohh how I wished we were further along in our journey, when we would be starving and the thought of another protein bar would make us gag and we could indulge in this trail magic without any qualms! We politely declined, but were so thankful for the offer. Poor Dennis had had four flat tires during his week-long trip and was heading home earlier than planned because of that- I’m hoping some good karma got sent his way, because he surely deserved it!

 

 

Jesse and I each took a few bottles of water and returned to Matt to begin our prep to return to the trail. As we were packing up, Dennis drove by and wished us luck and encouraged us to take more drinks if we wanted. Matt and I ended up walking back to Dennis’s site- Matt for a soda, me to write a thank you note on a paper towel.

 
 
By 1037 we had our packs on and were headed back to the trail. Over the next 7 miles we would climb just under 2000 feet, walking through both forested areas and completely exposed, desert-like areas.

 

The sun was hot & my back was drenched in sweat. My mouth was perpetually dry, no matter how much water I drank- at least we had water and knew that we had a few more water sources available that afternoon. The vitamin water was, as apparently the uncool people would say, clutch.

 

 

At one point we ended up passing three guys headed in the opposite direction- except for near the campground, and the mysterious hunter, these were the first people we had seen on trail since leaving Sierra City. Later, Jesse informed Matt and I that one of them had said to him, “I hope it clears up for you guys.” Wtf did that mean?! {We would find out soon enough…}

 

 

Around 1pm, just under 3 miles shy of the top of the climb, we stopped for lunch at Mule Creek. We didn’t need water, which I was thankful for- at this point in the season the once flowing Mule Creek was but a stagnant puddle- Matt and I have surely drank from worse, but I was glad that I could afford to be picky. In just under four miles we would be crossing a dirt road that lead to a spring slightly off-trail. Guthooks didn’t have it listed as a water source, but Matt had thankfully read through all of the Guthooks comments and saw that the dirt road had access to water!

 
My lunch of choice was a new-to-me brand of protein bar that I had taken a bite of a few days before, just to ensure that I would like it before packing it, carrying it for miles, and relying on it for nutrition. Turns out that that one bite that I took and tolerated in the comfort of my kitchen in San Diego was NOT indicative of my ability to stomach the bar in the backcountry- I forced as much of the bar down my throat as I could before giving up- I would have rather starved than try to swallow another bite. Blehhh. Thankfully I had snacks. 🙂
 
After eating, the boys lounged on our Tyvek groundsheet while I figured out the water sources for the next few days. It was a little disconcerting, as some of the water sources we wanted to depend on hadn’t been updated in over a month- I had to hope that a source that was available in the beginning of September would still be available a month later, though we knew that water sources can ultimately be there one day and gone the next- or, like this creek, the source can be described as “cold and flowing” in September and look like a mosquito breeding zone less than a month later…

 

A little before 2:10 we were up and walking again. Our next meeting point was the dirt road/spring, where we would need to collect and filter enough water for camp, which was 0.6miles from the source, and for the first 6 miles of the next day.

 

 

Soon after lunch we hit our high point of the day- and the high point of our trip so far- at over 8022 feet. Matt waited for me at the top of the climb before starting his descent to the dirt road. I waited for Jesse, who again was struggling. I felt terrible for him- he felt like shit and I knew that feeling all too well- where it took literally every ounce of energy and all of the willpower you had to take each single step, the next one seemingly impossible; where your stomach churned and you felt as if your body would betray you at any moment and you wanted to succumb to the trail, lie down, and admit defeat, but you knew that your only option was to just keep going…as shitty as it was.

Jesse and I stood together for a few minutes at the top of the climb before I started the 400 foot descent. I sang Sting’s Fields of Gold while I marched through my own fields of gold…

 

I met Matt at the bottom and encouraged him to drop his pack and walk to the spring while I waited for Jesse. When Jesse arrived, I offered to bring his dirty bottle to the spring to fill- Matt and I could fill our dirty bottles, too, and Jesse would have 3 liters of water to filter. The spring was 0.3 miles from the trail and we didn’t know how difficult it would be to get to, and I felt so bad for Jesse. Jesse declined, took off his pack, then set off to join Matt at the spring while I watched the packs and ate a snack…and took a selfie?

I was shocked to see Jesse return first- wtf happened to Matt!!?? Jesse informed me that Matt’s filter wasn’t working well and so after filtering his own water, Jesse left Matt his filter. I gathered my empty bottles and raced off down the dirt road to join Matt and test my own filter- spoiler alert, my filter didn’t work well either. Fuck. Thankfully we had Jesse’s. Matt filtered a liter for me, and I filled a dirty bottle to filter later that night at camp, before we walked back to the trail together.

 

Back at the trail, Matt took a sip of his water and turned to me- “you are NOT gonna like the taste of this,” he said. I took a swig of my own water- it tasted just fine to me, which surprised us both- is Matt the water princess now?!?
 
We walked the last 0.6 miles to our chosen tent site and sat around for a moment before setting up camp, then we all relaxed in our tents a bit before coming outside to eat dinner. When I stood so gracefully from my reclined position to get out of our tent, I was amazed at how sore I WASN’T. Back when we were “thru-hiking,” we were in a constant state of soreness and discomfort- we all had a permanent hiker-hobble, which was most apparent after having been at rest- it became such a normal part of our lives, I was shocked to not have that feeling now.

 

After dinner, we wasted no time brushing our teeth, hanging our food, and crawling into bed. It was warmer than we had expected and I was just as lazy as I would have expected, so for the second night in a row I decided to sleep in my hiking clothes- yep, over 33 hours in the same. exact. clothes. AND the same exact clothes I’d be hiking in the next day…and sleeping in the next night… cheers, y’all! Smell ya later!
 
Happiness is: the kindness of strangers and experiencing truly unexpected trail magic.
 
Because this is important:
Days on trail: 2
Number of days we have had access to a toilet: 2
Running total of catholes dug: 3