Day 39: The Jekyll and Hyde of the PCT

May 26, 2017

Total miles: 22.9 miles

Start: mile 570.1

End: mile 592.9

Total elevation gain/loss: 4249/3883.2ft

Today started out bad, got worse, got worse again, and then actually turned out to be okay. That’s life on the PCT I guess!

I slept horribly last night. The wind seemed to grow stronger during the night. Even in our semi-protected spot and with earplugs it kept me up. When our 4:30 alarm went off, the wind was still raging and we decided to push it back to 5:00… and then 5:30. By then, it was clear that the wind was not going away and we just needed to get up and deal with it.

As we packed up, Michael discovered that he was missing his rain jacket. We looked everywhere, but we simply didn’t have it. As luck would have it, this was one of our few camp sites where we actually had decent cell/data signal. I called the hotel to see if they’d found it. Nope. It must have fallen out of his full pack at some point. Maybe during one of our hitches?

Seeing as his rain jacket is a key piece of his Sierra gear, we were left with no option but to hop on Amazon and order a new one. We’re having it shipped straight to Kennedy Meadows since the three day weekend coming up means that it wouldn’t arrive at home in time for my parents to bring it. It’s supposed to arrive at Kennedy Meadows the same day as we do. I really hope it makes it there on time.

Having completed our online shopping, there was nothing to do but get walking. The morning was windy, but with the sun already bright in the morning sky it was bearable. We could see clouds up ahead though. They were being pushed through the sky so quickly by the wind it looked like we were in the middle of a time lapse video.

The only picture my cold fingers would allow me to take in the thick fog.

And then we were in the clouds. It became cold and the wind pushed us around. As some points it felt like I could barely stay on trail because I was being whipped around so much. At other points it was all I could do to stay on my feet as the wind forced me forward. We were not having fun.

Michael’s Note: the way to deal with thick fog is to put on your rain jacket. And where is my rain jacket? Who knows.

I finally saw a spot protected by some trees in which a couple other hikers had already taken refuge. I needed to put on more clothes asap, so we joined them. They said that they heard that it might be like this all day. Ugh.

Michael and I both put on the extra clothing that we’d purchased for the Sierras. Leggings under our shorts, my rain jacket (Michael’s new top since he doesn’t have his now), gloves, hat, and buff. While the other hikers seemed inclined to try to wait out the storm, I was getting cold and hoped that we could walk our way out of it. I dumped out almost two liters of excess water I was carrying (because in this weather I sure wasn’t going to be drinking it). My pack was now 4.4 pounds lighter! And still really heavy. As we began to walk I could barely feel my hands and was grateful for the extra layers. Still not fun though.

Gradually we made it out of the clouds and it turned out that it was actually a warm sunny day. The extra layers came off, at which point I discovered that a morning encounter with a bush had left a scratch from my ankle to my knee. Awesome.

After our windy experience this morning, I’d say that the wind farm is a good investment.

As we walked on, the day actually became pleasant. I had a little scare when a bush that I walked by began to rattle, but the rattlesnake was a safe distance from the trail (and out of photo range).

Our big morning goal was to make it to the spring. Our first water source since Tehachapi (17 miles back)! And our last water source for 19 miles… it’s like the desert is try to remind us that even though we are almost to the Sierras, it controls our lives until then.  And it really does — this is the driest section of the PCT thus far.

I’m glad we were able to take water directly from the pipe instead of the trough.

The spring was like a mini reunion. We ran into Tinman, Captain Bubbles, Caley, Martin, Kelsey, and Travis among others. As we were leaving, I noticed a long-sleeved top out to dry. It didn’t belong to anyone present and I suspected that it belonged to Caley or Captain Bubbles (who had already left). I stuffed it in my bag, hoping that we’d catch up with them and figuring that worst case scenario was that I had a new top 😉

The afternoon walk was actually fairly pleasant, although I can really feel the extra food and water weight in my knees and feet. There was a slight breeze that kept the day from getting too warm and some lovely views to go with it. Michael and I agreed to meet up at our planned campsite and walked separately the while afternoon. While I normally don’t have to stop for rest breaks, today was one of those days. My knees insisted on it!

We planned to camp in a tree-covered meadow area that looked like it should have lots of spots. Sure enough, we ran into Caley and Captain Bubbles there. The shirt did indeed belong to Caley. One less thing for me to carry (plus some sour patch kids as my reward)!

We’re camped slightly away from the group, but still fairly close. That means a tent for us tonight! It’s been awhile since we had to set it up. This evening was spent scheming about the upcoming water carries. We have a 36-mile dry section coming up. That’s a lot of water to carry, so we’re hoping to time it well so that it doesn’t span two nights (which may be difficult the way we’re currently laying up to the section). It’s crazy that we’re simultaneously worried about the lack of water here and too much snow in the upcoming weeks. Another Jekyll and Hyde moment for the PCT!

Current ailments:

Elizabeth: sore knees and feet, otherwise okay.

Michael: sore right foot.

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