Days 14 & 15: Miles 114.8 – 140.3 (Anza, CA)

It’s hard to believe I have been on trail for two weeks already. So much has happened… so much has changed. In only two weeks’ time, I have entered into a metal and physical state that I can only describe as “hiker focus.” There may already be a term that describes this phenomenon. My apologies if there is…

For me, hiker focus is a state of being where you become hypersensitive to everything around you… from your own self to the trail beneath your feet. Allow me to explain…

I’m learning how to read the trail better with each passing day. From scanning the trail for obstacles to seeing my next sequence of steps far in advance… I feel I am more mentally aware of the trail itself.

On day one, I was stumbling over rocks, tripping on every tree root, and losing my footing when navigating steep grades. Like a baby animal taking its first steps, I was clumsy and awkward. I traveled slow and cautiously. Now, I am flying over the trail at a much higher rate of travel.

Hiker Focus has also enabled me to be very in-tuned with my body. When you enter into this state of hyper-focus, you notice every little pain signal your body sends you. You become acutely aware of every ache and pain as it occurs. More impressive… you start to notice that you make adjustments based on these aches and pains.

Without giving it any thought, I find myself automatically making adjustments based on pain signals my body is sending me. At times, I will notice a weakness that requires a change in my stride or gate. I find that I will change my pace to meet the demand being put on my body. I’ll use accessory muscles rather than primary muscle groups to give the big guys a break.

It’s as if I’ve unlocked a trove of skills. I’m focused like nothing I’ve experienced before.

Miles 114.8 – 127.3 (Mike’s Place)

What an amazing camp spot! I woke up feeling very refreshed. I don’t know if it was the sound of the river flowing or maybe I was just super tired, but I slept great last night! Even better… no condensation or rain saturating my tent. It may seem like nothing, but a dry tent in the morning is a huge win.

Big Dill joined the three of us as we all set out in the morning hoping to make it to Mike’s Place. We had a lot of climbing to do today so setting out early was important.

The trail was tough. The climb today wasn’t too steep, but it was a continuous assent for most of the day. To add to the already difficult terrain… the weather turned for the worst. By noon, we were getting pummeled by heavy rain and pea sized hail. It was not the best weather for hiking…

Hail covered path.

The four of us found ourselves having to stop while on trail numerous times. At times, we had to add or subtract clothing, add or subtract rain covers, and sometimes, we had to seek temporary shelter from the bombardment of hail. It was a bit agonizing, but our spirits remained high.

Getting our butts kicked by Mother Nature.

We eventually made our way out of the canyon where we had camped and to the dirt road that would lead us to Mike’s Place. We had all read and heard from other hikers that Mike’s Place was a lost cause that appears to have been abandoned. Some were even reporting a huge rodent infestation. Regardless, it has water which is a resource we cannot pass-up.

Shout-Out to PCT Class of 2023!

Stay tuned for a lot more regarding Mike’s Place. I will be writing a whole separate blog in honor of this historical site in the coming days.

We explored Mike’s Place while trying to determine what to do next. Getting back on trail was an option, but there weren’t any good camp sites nearby. We could hunker down at Mike’s, but there are fears of a rodent infestation. Meanwhile, we just got our butts kicked by the weather and we were worried more rain was expected in the immediate future.

The decision was made to stay at Mike’s Place. We found a nice porch with an overhang that was dry and large enough for the whole group. With the help of a few blankets we found, we made a nice spot on the concrete slab to bed down for the night.

Roof Covered Cowboy Camping

Miles 127.3 – 140.3

Our little makeshift shelter at Mike’s Place ended up being a super cool location. The skies cleared up, the air was still, and the nighttime temperature was warmer than we had experienced in nights prior. We were well rested and ready for another awesome day.

Leaving Mike’s Place

The four of us left Mike’s Place just after 7:00 a.m. By the looks of it, we were to expect mostly downhill hiking with a couple short assents. Downhill travel is a lot easier as far as cardiovascular requirements go, but it puts a real hurt on the old knee and ankle joints. I sometimes think I prefer hiking the assents rather than the descents.

Our weather today was absolutely amazing! It was warm and sunny with a few cloud formations that provided some temporary relief from the sun’s beating rays.

Lunch Break

We had high hopes to squeeze in nearly 16 miles, but the beating our legs took during today’s descent required us to change plans slightly. Instead of ending our day with a large assent out of this ravine, we will tackle the hill with fresh legs in the morning.

Rachael, Bird, and I found a nice campsite along a dry riverbed at the bottom of this basin. We found a nice stretch of course sand that had room enough for 5-6 tents. It was spacious enough for us to spread out, which is a luxury on trail.

Big Dill was in front of us and must have decided to tackle the two-mile ascent to finish off his day. I have no doubt we will catch up to him again tomorrow.

The night sky from our camp.

We have 11 miles until we reach Idyllwild tomorrow. Getting to town will be great. We haven’t had phone service since we left Warner Springs three days ago, so we all have a lot of catching up to do. Loved ones to update, social media issues to address, and blog posts to upload… just to name a few.

Cheers, Smiley

One step at a time.

It’s not easy staying warm.

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Comments 1

  • Bill : Mar 22nd

    Great reads, by the time you hit here in central Oregon you’ll be cruising. Keep listening to your body and enjoy the through hiker life.


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