Week 8 (Plus): The End of the Desert
There is always more than a blog post’s worth of things to talk about in a week of the PCT. This week is no different, but I am including a few extra days, making it even more than a week! So, I’m going to stick to the new stuff and the trial and error. The experimental spaghettis of the week, if you will.
The second morning was in a beautiful pine forest. At first, it wasn’t visible through to thick cloud layer I was walking through. This was the first of the new stuff – I was cold for the first time in a long time while I was hiking into and out of that cloudy camp. The forest (and other factors, I’m sure) also meant that it was a night in bear territory. I was all settled in my sleeping bag with my food tucked away in my backpack, which was with me in my tent, when another hiker burst into the camping area. He reported (rather animatedly, which is why I could overhear the conversation) that he had just seen two black bears just 5 minutes prior.
I wasn’t jazzed about having my food in my tent with me. Usually I am all about the bear cans. Fortunately, I was camped around a multitude of other tents, and black bears sleep at night, so I was fine. Definitely made me think about my next trip to a gear store.
The following night, I sent my “I’m safe” message with my inReach as usual and went to bed.
As per usual, the next morning after hiking for a bit, I turned my inReach on. I usually turn it on in the mornings to make sure that my parents haven’t messaged to say that they didn’t get the nightly check in message. I do this because I have had times in the past where the inReach has struggled to send a message, and heard (on Reddit, of course) stories of people whose Garmin device said it sent a message and it never did.
This morning, the inReach jingled as I turned it on, signaling a message. Apparently, my parents hadn’t gotten my check-in the previous night. I got a little jolt of adrenaline as I quickly typed out a response and sent it. What if my inReach has stopped working? How would I let them know that I was all right and they shouldn’t call in the cavalry?
After just a couple minutes of what-ifs, my mom responded. Garmin had had an outage, and my check-in message did get to them, just late that night after they had already sent a “we are worried” message. All was well. No helicopters came searching for me.
And it was a fabulous little experiment for the communication flowchart I had set up for my parents in the off chance something like that happened! Yes, there is a flow chart – safety first!
I must admit, it always seems like there are more people passing me than I pass. Seemingly, if I am at an average pace, those numbers should be similar, but I think I tend to notice the people who pass me more than those I pass. So, when I spotted Dino’s name logged in a trail register on the same day that I was signing it, I was pretty psyched – I could take a turn catching up to people this time, and this time it was someone who I would definitely be choosing to not pass!
The next day, I caught her and Artemis and Noni, with whom she had been hiking. Even though we had been hiking together for less than two weeks before, it still felt like we were long-lost hiking buddies being reunited.
Her crew were planning out their zero in Ridgecrest, heading into town the following day. Since they were happy to scoop me up, I went along for the ride.
I needed a food resupply while in Ridgecrest. Tired of the usual, I picked up some quick-cooking egg noodles shaped like short spaghettis. Then, I proceeded to wander around Albertsons, trying to figure out what went with them. I thought about trying a rif on tuna noodle casserole, I considered soup, and was somewhat at a loss. But the package of noodles was a perfect 3 dinners’ worth of calories, so I persisted. Eventually I came to the knorr sides/flavor packets aisle and saw an intriguing sight. A spice packet for spaghetti – all you needed to add was water, noodles, and tomato sauce. So I decided to give it a whirl, and threw a block of parmesan and a squeeze tube of tomato paste into the cart. I couldn’t leave it at that, though, and also got some pesto mix and sundried tomatoes for one of the three dinners.
Spaghetti trial 1:
I threw the noodles into the water before it boiled, resulting in a glutenous syrup around them. In addition, my ratio of spice packet to tomato was too low, so it was a bit more like tomato soup. The parmesan was the star of the show, and the vegan bacon bits were just too weird for me.
I tried so hard to be patient, but I once again put the noodles into the water before it was hot enough. Same thing happened. It was okay, but honestly the amount of effort to chew the sundried tomatoes far exceeded their flavor payoff.
Spaghetti trial 2:
I waited impatiently for the water to boil before the noodles went in. Oh my goodness, what a difference it made. No glutenous goop in sight! And the flavor ratio was just right. It was too good to spoil with weird bacon bits, so I gave those away and went to town with the parmesan. I was, and am, so proud that I made acceptable spaghetti on the trail.
Ending on a High
My spaghetti dinner set me up well for the following day. It was the last day on trail for a while and the last 5 miles of the desert section. I reveled in the overcast skies and light rainfall that shrouded the Kern valley in a mysterious light.
It was a bit like home with that weather, and I was loving the awesome giant rocks and rock faces all around. We howled like wolves and sang selections from both The Sound of Music and Hamilton as we headed toward Kennedy Meadows general store for a hot breakfast. As we hit the parking lot, all the hikers gathered there gave us a round of applause. The desert was done.
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