Prof on the PCT: Desert Part 2 and Prepping for the Sierra
I’m writing on day 52 (mile 745) from a motel in Lone Pine after a short night of hot sleep. We weren’t planning on staying in town, but we got a sweet deal on the “room in the back” at a motel in town here and decided to enjoy ourselves. It’s also convenient to get a chance to update my adventure before things really change in the upcoming section.
The Looming Sierra
The last four weeks (and the whole trip so far, really) have been largely dictated by the weather in the Sierra. I intentionally got a somewhat late start date so that the snow in these mountains would have time to melt. Then winter hit, and the Sierra saw as much as 300% average snowfall in some places. This is already a tricky section to plan around as there are long stretches between resupply points and regulations require us to carry heavy bear canisters to put our now five to seven days of food into. Knowing this section was coming up and that so much snow was still around, we decided to take our time for the last month. We took as many days off as we could afford and enjoyed a nice stretch of hostel/homes run by PCT legends. And now after all this waiting and hiking and waiting and hiking, I’m writing from the base of the breath-taking Sierra mountain range.
So, the desert is done, the Sierra have begun, and I’ve walked 745 miles of the PCT. Here’s a quick overview of what the last 27 days since my last post have looked like.
Day 26, 16.7 miles: Hitched in and out of Wrightwood to resupply, enjoy a brewery, and get back on trail without paying for sleeping accommodations.
Day 27, 19.3 miles: Ran into an old friend from the AT, summited Baden-Powell.
Day 28, 18 miles: Hitched into a biker diner for lunch.
Day 29, 25.2 miles: Spent the night at a ranger station and learned there is a free hiker lunch in town the next day.
Day 30, 18 miles: Started hiking at 4 to get a free lunch, stay the night at Hiker Heaven, a trail-famous house with pretty much every hiker amenity.
Day 31, zero miles: Zero day at Hiker Heaven with lots of friends we’d met over the last month.
Day 32, 24.7 miles: Start hiking early to avoid some of the heat and push all the way to Casa de Luna, another famous place on trail run by awesome trail angels.
Day 33, zero miles: Zero day out of the heat at Casa de Luna with a new set of friends and a lot of beer.
Day 34, 7.5 miles: Spent most of the day sitting out the heat again at Casa de Luna, not hiking out until 5:30 p.m.
Day 35, 21.5 miles: Hiked the first half of the day by 10 a.m. and then took a six-hour break/nap to sit out the heat.
Day 36, 10.7/15.1 miles: Hiked into Hiker Town (yep, another cool trail-famous place) in the morning to discover this is the day out of the month when free breakfast and dinner are provided to hikers. We sit out the heat of the day for about nine hours and then take on the LA Aqueduct, a long, flat section most of us hike at night by the moonlight.
Day 37, 14 miles: A lot of sleeping in the shade to make up for having hiked until 2 a.m. the previous night.
Day 38, 11.9 miles: We do our miles in the morning and hitch into Tehachapi, where we have hotel reservations for two nights.
Day 39, zero miles: A fun zero day of watching women’s World Cup soccer, eating Thai food, and going to the movies.
Day 40, eight miles: We learn that our friend Pita is trying to catch us to say goodbye and then is getting off trail, so we leave our bags in our hotel and hitch back to the road to hike eight miles to the next road crossing so we can break up the big water carry the next day. We stay in the backyard of a surprisingly fantastic barbecue place in town for free.
Day 41, 16.5 miles: We sneak back into the hiker-loaded hotel to grab another free breakfast then get back on trail and hike to the first water source since town to camp.
Day 42, 25.9 miles: A pleasant day with lots of shade that allows for more comfortable hiking and less being drained by the heat.
Day 43, 22 miles: Another hot day with long water carries and long naps in the shade.
Day 44, 20.4 miles: After an early start, I hike into town alone by noon and spend my afternoon at an accidental Father’s Day brunch buffet then take a trip to the movies before catching up with my friends and hitching back to trail.
Day 45, 22.8 miles: My chafing gets so intense that I decide I want to get to our next stopping point a day early to let myself air out a bit. To do that I end up hiking for a few hours after dinner and have a brief encounter with a mountain lion.
Day 46, 28.1 miles: I get a 4:30 a.m. start and cruise all the way to Kennedy Meadows, seeing the snowcapped Sierra for the first time. I officially finish the desert section of the PCT and celebrate with the new gear my family sent for me and having beer with friends other than my main crew that are a day behind at this point.
Day 47, zero miles: I rest and recharge in Kennedy Meadows for the day, catching up on phone time and eventually reuniting with my crew that evening.
Day 48, zero miles: All four of our crew are able to enjoy a relaxing day at the bar watching soccer again and getting psyched for the upcoming snowy challenge that awaits us.
Day 49, 14.3 miles: On the first day of summer we begin our ascent into the Sierra and run into a photographer from Outside Magazine doing a story on “Hike Naked Day.” My nude modeling career runs its brief course.
Day 50, 21.8 miles: We get our first glimpses of snow on trail and are relieved that the trail is almost entirely clear of it. We camp the highest I’ve ever slept at nearly 10,000 feet.
Day 51, 9.1 miles: We hike down into Lone Pine and convince ourselves to take one more night in a motel of rest before really getting into the tough stuff.
Day 52, hopefully tenish miles: You kinda get what you pay for at motels around here, and it turns out a $55 room for four people doesn’t sleep so cool. I gave up at 5 this morning to come down to the lobby to stop sweating and get this blog up.
The Next Steps
It’s been a nice comfortable period of lots of rest. My body is thanking me for the easy-going pace, but my mind is getting a bit anxious as I experience the days slipping into each other so quickly without the miles really matching. I’m glad that we’ve given the Sierra some time to calm down a bit, as this is so many people’s favorite section, but there’s definitely a bit of anxiety there too. I’m excited for the challenges that lie ahead the next few days, and I’m really looking forward to pushing my body when we finish this section to see how far I can really go out here. As I said before, so much of this hike so far has been dictated by planning around the Sierra. I’m definitely looking forward to a little more freedom to just move miles and not worry researching what the trail is looking like. But that’s all still a bit down the road. Today, the Sierra really begin!
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