Location- Trail Junction
Elevation- 6,424 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 20.8 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 264.2 miles
Weather/Temp- 70s 80s
Injuries- sore feet, cut left calf
Pain level- low
Spirits/Morale- beyond exhausted
Wildlife encounters- rodents, grouse
Human Beings encountered- zero
Days without shower- 2
Days without laundry- 6
Hunger/craving- a good sandwich or wings
I didn’t hit the trail until after around 8:30 am, I was wiped out from the day before and decided to sleep in a bit. After that, things kicked off with a 2,200 ft climb; it wasn’t terrible, but it was merely an appetizer to begin the day. Most of it was within the trees and the shade, but the last quarter was totally exposed.
After that initial 2,200 ft climb, the day got brutal for me. The temperature was in the 90s, and the terrain was totally exposed. There was a short downhill dip after the first climb, then a second 1,200 ft climb that whooped my ass directly after. The steepness of the trail completely blew me away. Nothing on the AT or the PCT could touch this stretch of trail. It was as steep or steeper than what you could encounter on the AT without scrambling; except it was desert temperatures with no shade, and the trail was loose rock that slid under your feet instead of solid earth or rock. Also, there was hardly any water for the entire stretch.
By midday, I’d barely gone 7 miles and my forehead and scalp were burnt to a crisp. My umbrella broke early on in the hike,, and I’d forgotten to get a new one while I was home. Around 2pm I took off my shirt and wrapped it around my head to keep my brain from cooking any further. It helped.
When I knocked out the second big climb, I was greeted with an uneasy sight; a raging wildfire less than ten miles away. This gave me pause, and I ended up losing about 2 hours of hiking time while I sat watching it and debating whether it was on the trail, or headed to the trail. I still had 20 miles to the next road into town, so I figured the fire could do a lot of damage in that time. After looking at my topographical maps and estimating the trails path relative to the fire, I deduced that the trail swung wide enough to miss it. I carried on…
At just under ten miles into the day, I hit my last water source for at least another 12 miles; it was already 4 pm. If I hiked away from this water source, I would not be stopping until I reached the next one. I already felt dehydrated and weak, but I couldn’t let myself stop at barely 10 miles; it would have crushed my mental state. I’ve been getting my trail legs back, but I was in no kind of shape to tackle this terrain in these kinds of temps at any sort of quick pace. It was trudge up every climb, but slowly the miles chipped away.
I wanted nothing more than to guzzle water, but had to control myself in the event I couldn’t make it to the next source. This resulted in worse dehydration. My urine was almost a brownish yellow it was so dark.
After knocking out another steep climb, I still had 6.5 miles still to go at almost 7 pm; with 3 more short but steep climbs left ahead of me. That was when I made up my mind that I was going to make it to the water source, no matter what.
I trudged and slogged, and trudged some more before finally getting to the water a little after 10 pm. The water was 0.4 miles off trail, and I was so tired, I didn’t even get any. I still had a liter left, so I decided to drink half tonight, and the other half tomorrow morning. It was 2.3 miles to the next water source, but I had another 1,000+ ft climb between me and it. If I was desperate in the morning, then I’d hike the 0.8 mile round trip off trail, but I’d much rather put that energy towards the 2.3 miles to the next water.
I’ve stopped in a forest of baby pine trees. None are big enough to support my hammock, so I’m cowboy camped. I’m too exhausted to think about bears or other predators, maybe they can put me out of today’s misery. I can feel my muscles trembling in my legs and I’ve got a little bit of a shake in my hands. I can tell I have a little bit of sun poisoning too.
Today was hands down the most physically challenging day of the hike so far. I’m so glad I got katana home because this would have killed one, if not both of us. I have a little over 8 miles to the road tomorrow; I’m looking forward to fixing my food situation.
I haven’t seen another human being in 3 days. It’s absolutely mind boggling. I can sit on a pass and look at miles upon miles of trail stretching in front and behind me…and there’s no one. Nobody catching up to me, and no one for me to catch up to. Even when hiking alone on the PCT, I was never truly “alone.” There were always random thru hikers, day hikers, and section hikers to see or greet. Out here there’s nobody. I find the isolation a challenge mostly in the evening. I just sit there in silence, waiting for it to get dark; nothing but my thoughts to keep me company. You never realize how social human beings are, or how much contact with other people means to us…until there is nobody there. I would definitely say it’s a challenge, but not a major challenge for me yet. I’m still getting a certain amount of enjoyment from this extreme independence. I can’t help but wonder when and if I will eventually have a hiking comapnion/companions again…
Tomorrow is going to be tough, even though it’s not far. I still have over 2,000 ft of climbs to reach the road, and I’m so sick to my stomach tonight, I couldn’t eat. Every time I move, a muscle somewhere cramps. I’m going to have to eat first thing in the morning, and think seriously about hiking off trail to get that water before tackling that climb….