In the Sierra, to prevent cold fingers, I avoided filtering water until the sun was up. However, being back in the desert, I filled up shortly after leaving camp. Then I began a pleasant climb that wound gradually upward along a series of hills. I enjoyed glimpsing the path ahead and watched the light hit distant hillsides. Brilliant yellow rabbitbrush added a splash of color amidst the sagebrush and rocky ground.
On the descent, a cloud of gnats hovered near my face so I put on my head net. At a dirt road crossing, I came across Hobble-it taking a break. I passed her, though she caught up when I stopped at Chimney Creek for water and laundry.
On the next uphill, it got hot and the gnats continued to pester me. I developed a bad headache. This seems to happen on my first day back in the heat, as if it is my body’s way of adjusting. Finally I completed the second descent and reached a small stream where I chugged electrolytes and took ibuprofen. A little too late though, I got very nauseous.
As I walked the last 1.5 miles to camp, I heard a loud shriek. Looking back, I saw PBS round and hike down the last hill. Later I learned that she saw a giant rattlesnake. The three of us camped at the second crossing of Spanish Needle Creek. It had trees for Hobble-it’s hammock. After sitting dazed for a bit, I set up my tent, leaving the fly off. Dinner helped settle my stomach. I lay in my sleeping bag and savored a view of stars and tree branches, knowing it was my last night on trail.
By 4:50 am, both Hobble-it and I were packed and out of camp. I shook PBS’s tent to see if she wanted to get an early start as well. She was still tired, though she said congratulations and goodbye. A couple hours later, I felt the moment when I ran out of Clif bar fuel. I stopped to eat oatmeal.
Our timing was perfect, Hobble-it and I crested the second, longer climb as the day began to heat up. We took a snack break looking over the desert floor below, a rocky fin of hills stretching between us and it. Only 7.5 miles left of the 50 from Kennedy Meadows South! As we dropped in elevation, it was fun to see Joshua trees once again.
Around 1 pm, we reached Walker Pass, our PCT terminus! Wow, what a feeling of accomplishment to have walked all the way from Mexico to Canada on this 2,650 mile trail! It was so different from the Appalachian Trail, easier on the body with the switchbacks and gradual climbs. Logistically it was more challenging and both snow & fire impacted the experience.
We got a two-part hitch to Ridgecrest. The first from an elderly woman who slightly terrified me with her driving speed on the winding road. The second hitch took awhile and both Hobble-it and I began to wilt in the heat, waves of it rising off the Highway 14 asphalt. Then a naval base employee took us all the way to the post office in his air conditioned car.
In Ridgecrest, we treated ourselves to a hotel and dinner at Saigon Flavor. Hobble-it and I split an appetizer of spring rolls with peanut sauce, then got entrees. My body was likely confused by so many fresh veggies! After dinner, we drank bubbly water and enjoyed the hotel’s hot tub.
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