Chapter 7  You really pay for small mistakes out here

Chapter 8  People die out here, the real kind of die, not the movie kind

Chapter 9  Idyllwild

Chapter 10 Rest

Chapter 11  Still waiting on shoes

Chapter 12 A long walk down

Chapter 13 Two days in summary

Chapter 14 Big Bear

 

Chapter 7  You really pay for small mistakes out here

Understand, the PCT is not a trail that runs next to a road.  It follows mountain ranges, you climb to the top of them and walk across them.  Accessibility to these areas is incredibly limited.  For one reason it would cost a huge amount of money to build roads in these areas if it is even possible.  The other reason is there is nothing out there, no people or houses or building or anything.  At any given time you are a day’s hike from a guy who lives in a shack at best.  When you see civilization, it’s from on top of a mountain looking miles away into the valley at night.  Flickering city lights so far off they might as well be another construct of nature because they don’t represent safety at that distance.  The smallest mistake can mean a nightmare.  A rolled ankle will mean days of painful walking before you can get somewhere to treat it.  A brush up against poison oak means a lot of sleepless nights and irritating days when sweat reaches the wounds created from itching.  They say the first settlers in the desert treated rattlesnake bites by lying down in the sand (to conserving their energy and slow the spread of the venom), waiting to die or for the effects of the venom to pass.  Drinking bad water can give you diarrhea which will dehydrate you more.  Very small mistakes will cost you a lot, it is something on every PCTer’s mind.

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Jade’s feet are getting worse and the pain is starting to make her walk differently causing other problems.  Problems with her knees and hips.  We resupplied at Warner Springs with too much food and the weight of our packs and the pain in Jade’s feet made us immediately regret leaving Warner Springs without first solving Jade’s feet problem.

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Today we hiked out of Warner Springs and to a place called Mike’s Place.  Mike wasn’t there but his friend was.  There was beer and water and most of the group we hiked out of Warner Springs with stayed the night there.  Special accommodations were made for married couples (in our group we are the only ones, actually I don’t know of another married couple we have seen), a RV with no doors and open windows.  We slept in it, I don’t know why.  Sleeping outside would have been more comfortable.  You have some idea what is around you when you sleep on the ground and you hope it won’t mess with you.  This RV could be the home to any number of venomous creepy crawlers and we were invading their home.  Today we hiked 17.5 miles.

 

Chapter 8  People die out here, the real kind of die, not the movie kind

 

The next day we filled up with 7 liters of water, there would be a 20 mile stretch without dependable water and it was going to be hot.  I would consider this the first desert hike.  No water, limited shade, climbing up and down mountains, and all under the scorching sun.  98 degrees in the heat of the day.  Most of our group found shade and rested during the afternoon.  However, because of Jade’s feet we were going at a slow pace and needed to walk most of the day to get to the next water.  We rested for an hour and a half under some very limited shade, some small trees with scarce leaves.  We tried to nap but it was still very hot and uncomfortable.  It is hard enough to nap in these conditions when your feet are in good repair but Jade’s aches wouldn’t allow much rest.  We started out again, still in the heat of the day, with less than a liter of water and 8 miles more to go.  About 4 miles left and we were down to 200 mL of sunbaked water.  Jade had the idea to add a lime to the water since we were down to taking sips every twenty minutes.  This really helped satiate our incredible thirst.  At this point all we could think about was water.  We weren’t talking a lot, there was no energy for talk, no point to it.  In movies they use talking as a moral boost, in real life all you talk about is water which just makes you thirstier and angry.  I was furious, I hated everything and anything having to do with the trail.  I wondered why this was happening to me and what I had done to deserve it.  I worked at plans to deliver us from this prison of thirst.  I was panting as I never had before, my heart was pumping hard, my mouth was dry from the panting, my back was spasming from the dehydration. Again we started counting down miles, and then tenths of miles.  This time when we got to zero there was no relief, there was no water.  The water was another half mile away from where we thought it was, such a small distance but such prodigious devastation to my psyche.  I have never been so angry and frustrated and selfish and hateful.  Jade, with her feet destroyed and knees aching had been drinking the same sips of water as me but her response to this situation was a Dr. Jekyll to my Mr. Hyde.  She started singing a song to God.  Whatever your thoughts or feelings toward religion or to a ultimate creator I can probably relate.  I have many questions and still have many questions I ask this Creator.  But in that moment I was done with any God that claimed to love me but wasn’t providing me with a fresh downpour of rain.  I knew what was the “right” thing to do, I have memorized wisdom literature like “if you faulter in times of trouble, how weak is your faith”.  I was more than faltering, I was crumbling.  When she started singing I wanted to shout, “shut up!”, not at her for she is precious, but at the thought of singing to a God that was allowing this suffering.  Instead, I sang along, all be it through the hate and anger and tears.  My voice was a shaking whisper but I still sang, not because it was the “right” thing to do or because I felt like it or because of my intellectual worldview.  In that moment I had a choice to make:  Continue being shitty or for a few seconds stop.  For a few seconds or maybe a minute I wasn’t going to allow everything around me to determine who I was.  Before you celebrate this decision let me finish.  We did get to the water tank where some of our group already was, they could see we were hurting and offered fresh bottles of water.  I believe I must have replied by ripping the water bottle from someone’s hands and pouring it down my throat.  I didn’t even check to see if Jade had gotten any or offer it to her first.  

All that I thought I was as a man, as a husband, as a human being had been stripped off me and I was naked.  

Today we hiked 20 miles.    

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Chapter 9  Idyllwild

 

We got to Idyllwild by midday after hitchhiking in.  We settled up at a cabin with three extra beds, a living room, and a full kitchen.  This would be the base for the growing group of PCTers we were hiking with.  We ordered Jade’s new shoes from REI and got them shipped so they would be here in two days, right before Memorial day.  Today we hiked 4.5 miles.

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Chapter 10 Rest

 

Today we relaxed.  We ate everything we could get our hands on.  We commiserated with fellow PCTers about running out of water.  We shared adventures we had heard on the trail.  We celebrated life.  

Somewhere in the midst of that we realized REI didn’t ship the shoes right and they wouldn’t be getting to us for another 4 to 5 days.  The outfitters in town told us their shipment of shoes should be arriving tomorrow and talked us out of buying the shoes on amazon.  Today we hiked 0 miles.

 

Chapter 11  Still waiting on shoes

 

Most everyone in the group hiked out today in the morning, we were forced to wait for shoes.  By afternoon it was apparent that they weren’t coming.  Jade searched the hiker box and found some men’s shoes which she customized for her feet with a swiss army knife.  We started up Mt. Jacinto at around 4 pm.  Today we hiked 12 miles.

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Chapter 12 A long walk down

 

We had gotten to 9500 feet elevation yesterday, Mt. Jacinto peak was 10833.  We decided not to go up to the top since we lived in the area and have been at that elevation on other peaks.  Still only being 1500 below it made for a chilly and windy night.  It also made for a lot of beauty, you could see in the distance other peaks like Mt. Gorgonio (by Big Bear) and Mt. Antonio (by Wrightwood).  It was really surreal being able to see where we would be going in the next couple weeks.  Waypoints on a map now represented  by peaks pushing up through the clouds with patches of snow on them.  It felt a bit like a scene from Lord of the Rings.  Frodo and Sam finally see Mt. Doom and then spend another movie trying to get there.  Seeing the mountains in the distance gave a feeling of impossibility.  Could we really hike that far in four days?  The rest of the day we would be hiking down almost 7000 feet on constant switchbacks.  

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A lingering feeling I have been having is that the maps are wrong, that there is no possible way there will be a water source on this terrain, or a town at this elevation, or a campsite around all this rock.  It never goes away, every day I am surprised to see that the maps and guides are right.  This is especially strong feeling when hiking at night where all you can see is the 10 feet that your headlamp illuminates around you.  Your perspective of what is around you is left to that ten feet of illumination.  Your imagination is limited.  

Today I would walk by a rattlesnake hidden on a rock ledge.  My right leg would be within ten inches of his venomous fangs.  Apparently (according to a San Diego Veterinarian we ran into) rattlesnakes will only bite if they are rattling.  This guy wasn’t, but it was still another reminder of how dangerous it is out here, as if we needed another reminder.  Today we hike 21 miles.

 

Chapter 13 Two days in summary

 

We met a section hiker on the trail, he was only a couple miles in and taking a break, fatigued from the weight of his pack and the heat of the day.  He had a long haul ahead of him.  We passed a sign that said water and shade and later found out that they were giving away cold gatorade too, we decided to never pass such signs again without investigation.  We saw mountain goats about one thousand feet above us, looking out across the landscape like statues carved into the rock.  We walked through a wind turbine farm.  We saw a day hiker get transported off the trail via emergency helicopter.  Apparently they didn’t have enough water and didn’t realize how hot it was, we were within ten feet of the rescue party and fifty feet of the helicopter.  We spent the afternoon bathing and cooling down in a river and then followed the river up into the valley along the trail.  We stumbled upon a frog orgie and spent the night on a ant hill.  We walked fifteen miles through a fire closure and saw the new generations of plants, a lot of beautiful flowers.  We came across a private zoo, where a grizzly, tiger, and some other animals lived.  Seeing big eyes staring back at you through the beam of your headlamp at night is startling.  We camped right by the group we lost after Idyllwild and didn’t know it until the next day.  The last two days we hiked 39 miles

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Chapter 14 Big Bear

 

Big Bear was the new destination with the renewed promise of shoes.  After leaving Idylwild without them we ordered them again from REI to be delivered at a hostel in Big Bear.  When we got to the hostel we discovered that again REI had made a mistake and they were going to be delivered to Simi Valley where we have live for the last year.  Again we got on the phone with REI and again they tried to do right by us but we would be in Big Bear for the next couple of days waiting, again, on shoes.  This wasn’t a bad deal.  Big Bear is a fun town, with cheap places to stay and plenty of good eats.  We ate at Teddy Bear Restaurant which had homemade pies.  They also did their own biscuits for biscuits and gravy and had a pot pie which looked amazing.  After filling our faces we waited for Jade’s dad to come into town.  This was a special treat.  When Stewart did get into town we picnicked by the lake, drank some wine, and shared stories about the trail.  The night was capped by Japanese cuisine and our very own hotel room.  It was all very nice.  Today we hiked 14 miles.  

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