I snoozed my alarm at 2:15am. I begrudgingly started packing my sleeping bag while still half asleep. Bandaid called to me from inside his tent, asking if I would be ok leaving at 5am to give us some extra rest. Seriously? HELL YES! I snoozed my alarm at 4:15am. Jailbreak called to me from his cowbow camping spot, wondering how/why we were still here. Bandaid was still snoring. We made an executive decision to wait until 7am. This felt like playing chicken with the trail, but when the sun came up shortly after 5am, we were all awake anyway. After making breakfast, getting and filtering water and lots of general puttering around, we eventually hit the trail by 8am. So much for an early start.
There was an alternate trail that took us back to the PCT so we took that instead of going back the way we came. It climbed steadily out of the campground along the edge of the creek, lined with some absolutely stunning wildflowers. The guys were slow on the hill but I was pumped to get moving so I blazed up the alternate trail, admiring the flowers and occasionally wondering if this was the correct path when it got overgrown. Eventually I made it back to the PCT and sought out some shade. The guys made their way to the top and we continued on a gently graded, mostly smooth path.
We took our lunch break at the top of a hill with a great view of the adjacent valley. Sprawling out under some pine trees, we relaxed through the heat of the day. We heard a loud THUD and looked around, confused. We all suddenly realized that the pines (Coulter pines) we were sitting under were full of “murder cones”, the giant pinecones the size of our heads, and the noise we heard was one falling from a tree nearby.
We decided that it was in our best interest to get moving before we got clobbered. We found the 500-mile mark and celebrated. We have been playing a game the last few days where we choose a common word to be taboo and if you say the word, you have to do 10 pushups, 15 situps or a 1 minute plank. This keeps our minds slightly busy, gives us something to rag on each other about, and most importantly will help us stay proportional as we slim out and build muscle. Today’s word was “mile” and Bandaid ended up doing over one hundred pushups and many minutes of plank throughout the day. We’re all going to be in great shape when we get home!
At one point we came upon a water source- a cistern near a dirt road. We had heard some rumors about this water source and wanted to check it out. We climbed up the embankment, opened the top of the cistern and were immediately hit with an unmistakable wall of stench. The rumors were true: this cistern contained a dead bear. It must have climbed in to get water and was unable to get out. Now all that was left was a pile of bones in a few inches of putrified bear juice. Lovely.
We continued on to the next cistern which had a metal roof structure to catch rainwater. We climbed underneath to get at the water and were greeted by a swarm of honey bees who were also seeking water. We opened the cover to a dark tank with dark water and all looked at each other, hoping for a volunteer to stick their hand in first. I grabbed a bottle and reached in. The water came out remarkably clear so we all filled up. Just as we were about to leave, Bandaid backed into a bush and scraped himself up, reaffirming his trail name.
Jailbreak’s blisters were still very painful so we went slow and did low mileage. We got to the place we had planned to camp and though it was a bit uneven and lumpy, we decided to stay rather than hike on. The biting flies and mosquitoes were obnoxious so we climbed in our tents pretty early to escape them.
Hiked with: Jailbreak, Bandaid
Camped with: Jailbreak, Bandaid