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ItsMyTime - Pacific Crest Trail Journal - 2016

Entry 25 of 27
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Terri Stewart
City: Richland
State: WA Washington
Country: US
Begins: Apr 14, 2016
Direction: Northbound

Daily Summary
Date: Tue, May 10th, 2016
Start: 273
End: 286.5
Daily Distance: 13.5
Trip Distance: 95.5

Journal Stats
Entry Visits: 321
Journal Visits: 7,784
Guestbook Views: 25
Guestbook Entrys: 1

Pacific Crest Trail Map

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Big Bear Lake

Don't Axe

I am starting out tired today with no sleep last night. I wasn't up for my brown sugar steel cut oats and bacon this morning. It sounded too sweet. So I opted for cheddar cheese, fresh sliced apples, and pistachio nuts. The cheese tasted crappy. It is backpacking cheese I bought 2 years ago, so go figure. All this is to say, that between no sleep and poor food this morning, I struggled to have enough energy throughout the day.

Two miles up the trail, I found the water source and the two thru-hikers I had seen yesterday who had gotten on the trail while Don and I were having lunch at Hwy 18. They were Hurdy Gurdy and Half Moon. They had spent the night at the water source (mile 275) and were just leisurely breaking camp and getting water when I came up. They had hitch hiked from Mt San Jacinto. Turns out the rangers asked them to bypass the mountain, because of the heavy snows that came last weekend. At first the rangers had told them just to bypass Fuller Ridge and use the Black Mountain Alternative. Then it got worse, and they begged them to skip the whole thing. Apparently, the rangers told them they had already had to rescue 9 hikers and they really didn't want more folks to go into the area under these snowy conditions. As I said, it's unpredictable Spring weather that can change on a dime. I was able to go through the whole Mt San Jacinto area staring on April 18, but when these folks got there in early May they had to bypass it. We leaped frogged with each other during the day and then they were out of sight - younger and faster!

At mile 276.5, I found the party campground with a huge fire pit ringed with logs to sit on. All partiers had left by the time I got there, but one of them forgot their trekking poles. What to do. What to do. In 2014, I had lost a watch which someone picked up and sent back to me. I was first of all, surprised to get it back and second of all, appreciative that someone would go to that much trouble. I asked how I could pay him for the postage and he told me not to send money, but to pay it forward. So here was my chance. I picked up the poles and put them in my pack to carry out. I put a Facebook message on the PCT Class of 2016 and let Hurdy Gurdy and Half Moon know when they passed me a little later on, so they could spread the word up the trail. Now I had a little extra weight, but I was light hearted as I tried to help a fellow hiker out. Someone on FB had made a snarky comment about all of the lost items being found on the trail. He said, it sounded like he could just show up naked at Campo and supply himself along the way with all the lost gear. No snark here. Just helping out. Stuff happens.

By late morning, I was truly fatigued and hungry, so I stepped off trail into a sunny spot with lots of bushes where I could hang out my wet gear to dry. While the gear was drying, I ate lunch and rested. I couldn't sleep, but laying down for 1.5 hr helped. Two women hiked right by me and didn't see me in the trees. I guess you could say I was 'stealth lunching'.

The scenery though was beautiful. Yesterday and this morning I climbed through areas with pine, pinion pine, desert shrubs, and spring flowers. The underbrush is minimal because of the dryness and elevation, so it was open and scenic. After my drying out break, I finally got views of Bear Lake as I moved up trail. It is much larger and bluer when viewed from this elevation rather than along the shoreline as you drive up. I could also see the town which was much bigger than I imagined. For the most part though, the trail is located on the backside of the ridge overlooking the lake, so I only had the fantastic lake views for about 20 minutes.

Then I began the downhill!!!!!! I was so excited to be going down. And at first, it met all my expectations - easy hiking, pretty views and lovely mountain shrubs. At one point, the trail began to cross a well maintained old forest road. I lost the trail briefly when I crossed the road, but luckily there were two young hikers speed racing down the hill and I could see where they picked up the trail again. I followed suit. These first couple of miles were gorgeous, almost park like. And then.....I hit the area recovering from a burn. Oh wow! There wasn't a lick of shade, nothing pretty to look at, and no water for several miles. So even though it was downhill, it wasn't all that easy. It was hot and boring and tiring. I've come to think of these sections of trail as necessary evils. They stitched together the beautiful and inaccessible parts of the trail. You gotta go through them to get to the great spots. Part of the gig.

As I was approaching the bottom, I ran into a Japanese man crouched into the tiny speck of shade created by a most spindly bush along the trail. He looked very hot, so I checked with him to be sure he was okay and had water. He said he was, so I went on. About another 0.5 mile down the trail, I ran into two young men hiking southbound which in this case, meant they were just starting to climb 2500 ft I had just descended during the hottest part of the day! They were soooo going the wrong directions for this section of the trail. One of them was just drenched in sweat already and they were barely starting the uphill. The fact that both wore black clothing on this very hot day didn't help. Not the best choice for sure! They let me know there was water ahead and counseled me to fully cap off my water supply, because it was a long way to the next source and all of it was desert hiking. They were right and I did fully fill up.

Before I got to the water though, I stopped at a trail camp which had a picnic table. Again, no shade and no water here. Just the table and a small horse corral. But I really wanted to lay down on the table and rest my aching back a while. It was bothering me today, which is something that rarely happens on trail. While I was there, the Japanese gentleman caught up to me. We visited a bit. His name is Sato. He is 66 years old and this is his first attempt to thru-hike the PCT. He spoke some English, but our conversation was halting. He wondered if I knew Bruce in Big Bear. Bruce had stopped and given Sato a ride to the hostel. He wanted to get an email address and send a thank you. Sato said Americans had been so kind to him. Of course, I didn't know Bruce, but I am glad that Sato's experience had been so positive. Sato also wanted to know about snow in the Sierra. He had no spikes or axe for snow. He had some, but not much mountaineering experience. I tried to explain the situation, i.e. snow was above 9500 ft (~3000 - 3200 m)and that most people tried to enter the Sierra around June 15 although there were people going through now. I explained that as the snow melts, the creeks rise and to be careful at water crossings. He jotted down my name and indicated in his notes which sections I was hiking. While we were talking a young man from Israel came to the table. I explained that the water was still 0.3 miles ahead, so he went on. But for a moment, we had a small United Nations at the trail camp. Sato then left, and I got a chance to take off my shoes and lay down on the table bench. It was wonderful!

But I couldn't stay there all day. I needed water and headed out. It was late afternoon and I was getting ready to call it a day at a reasonable time. So I began to think about where I would stay for the night. Although there was an open field with wonderful grass and trees between the trail camp and the water source, I knew I wouldn't stay the night at this location. First, I had heard target practice happening on the opposite side of the road. and second, there was a well maintained gravel road to this location, making it way too easy for people to drive in. Not safe for a solo female hiker.

The water source was near a small bridge alongside the road. Sato, the young Israeli, and another young male hiker were getting water too. As fast as they filled up, they were out of there, trying to make as much additional mileage before dark as they could. While I was there, a young couple from Washington DC came in. Criminy, they were clean as a whistle, well groomed, and well dressed. They looked like they were picnicking in a city park with expensive sun glasses, clean hair and clothes and a perfect tan, not too light and not too dark. I looked like I had been drug through a pile of sweat and dirt and maybe even stepped on by a wild animal a few times. How do they do that? Turns out they had left Campo (Mexican border) on April 23rd, the same day as Sato. So they were traveling abut the same speed. I knew from our conversation that Sato was covering 15 miles per day. So the bold and the beautiful couple were hiking that same speed which is not particularly fast for a thru-hiker at this point in the journey. They were going another 4 miles tonight, mentioning a camp ground at that spot. I didn't see anything on my map, so I was just keeping an eye out for something reasonable.

Just as I was leaving another young male hiker came down to consider whether he would get more water. I have three observations about him. He was wearing white shorts an a white striped shirt and he was just as clean as Mr. Clean on the TV commercials. Again - how do they do that? He opted not to get water because he felt he had enough to get to Deep Creek (which I didn't reach until the net day). And how do they do that? And finally, he was moving like the wind with a pack so small, it probably weighed little more than my light weight day pack. OK, you know the question - how DO they DO that? He and I left the water at the same time, which was good because he knew where the trail was from the road and water source. I followed his lead to the trail, then he was gone in a blink. I really, really need to figure out how they get away with such light loads. I could walk like the wind too if I was only carrying that much!

About another mile up the trail, I found a really nice flat camp site which had clearly been used, probably by locals because it was not too far off the road. There was a large, illegal fire pit and enough space for 3-4 big tents. There was a dry creek bed next to it and on the south bound side, there was another campsite about the same size. I was a little worried that I would have a bunch of late night arrivals wanting to build a fire here, but I was tired and this was a good site. So I just made camp and took my chances.

Tonight I was hungry for the oatmeal and bacon. So I made that for dinner after I set up camp. I was feeling a bit low. It had been a hard day. I couldn't reach Don on my cell. Some nights it helps to be able to talk or text, but I had no signal here, because I was in kind of a hole with steep hillsides all around. As I was about to go into my pity party, a man hiking southbound stopped at the camp across the dry creek bed from me. He looked around, dropped his pack, and came immediately over to me. With a big smile in a dirty face, he told me he just had to come to "hi" because there were so few hikers in the same age range as he and I. We had a good conversation over the next ten minutes, commiserating on how we were tired and dirty and the young'uns weren't, how we had both hiked in SoCal in 2014 and were back this year to add to the miles. He had hiked northbound from Kennedy Meadows to Canada in 2014 and had started in Kennedy Meadows this year to hike southbound and finish at the Mexican border. I told him I now had about 650 miles done all up and down the PCT and that someday I would stitch them together into a 'PCT quilt."! We had a good laugh. As he was leaving, I gave him my trail name and asked his. He gave me the story first and then the name.

Turns out that when he started at KM in 2014, he came with equipment for snow, including an ice axe. He said he didn't realize that it was terribly hot, dry, and snow free coming out of KM even in a normal year. And because of the drought in 2014, there was no real snow or need for the ice axe throughout the entire Sierra. Hikers kept teasing him about carrying the ice axe with taunts such as 'did your mother make you bring it?' And somewhere along the way, he picked up his trail name - Don't Axe. That is a great trail name. And I can see why when I asked his name, he opted to tell me the story first. After all, we were two strangers alone in the wilderness and having someone with a trail name that has the word "axe" in it could be a little disconcerting. But in this case, he really picked my mood up. I felt much better after our talk and after eating dinner. I had the best night's sleep yet on the trail.

The moral of the story is that out here, the simplest acts of kindness - a friendly smile, a quick story, trail information - can be all it takes to make someone's day and help them keep hiking. It is a mental game as much as anything.

Entry 25 of 27
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Getting Started

The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a 2,650-mile national scenic trail that runs from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington. The PCT traverses 24 national forests, 37 wilderness areas and 7 national parks. The PCT passes through 6 out of 7 of North Americas ecozones. Learn more:


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