Saturday, 30 May 2015

PCT Day 11

Day 11
28 miles

I wake up at 4:50 am and I’m on the road for just after 5:15. I want to ascend the hills and reach 8750 feet before the peak heat strikes. I’m slow moving as it's just one gradual hike up. I pass an encampment of 3 tents and recognize the orange bag and bandanna which belongs to the trio I hitched a ride with to Idyllwild. I pass by their sleeping tents and hike on and up. The sun slowly rises and I enter a pine forest which is amazing. It smells so lovely and dry and earthy. It reminds me of being in Greece this time last summer. 

I plough upwards and pass a hiker who says there is water up ahead. Then I see a massive cat sized animal ahead of me which turns out to a hare. It keeps still eyeing me, then moves at the last second. I pause for some breakfast which consist of jelly, biscuits and porridge and then continue my slow climb up. I keep moving and the sun begins to creep up over the edge of the hills. It hits my back and the heat grows. I quicken my pace, still a long way to go. I get to 8000 ft and take a break. 

I pour water into a rehydrate pack of beans and omelet. I got it out the hiker box and thought I'd give it a go. It’s the last thing I have left and needs to be heated and I don't have a stove so eat it cold. I eat the beans and bury the rest. Up I go again and hear someone behind me. A guy wearing a lot of blue clothing, his gear is obviously very well chosen and light weight. I notice 2 curvy earrings and that he is motoring up this mountain as if he were strolling down hill. I stare. He smiles and bids me a good day. I return the gesture and follow at a much slower pace. I try to match his strides but there is just no way. He looks down on me from his position and soon disappears. Later I find out that he is Tuna-Helper - an endurance hiker hoping to set the new unaided speed record.

I eventually get to the top and whip my shoes off to let my feet breath. My blisters don’t look good. I clean the sand out off one and squeeze pus out of another. I apply fresh plasters and sort them out the best I can. Sitting back I close my eyes for a bit, glad I’m at the top and that it’s pretty much all downhill now. I hear a slight huffing and see Jeff followed by his Dad, Dan. We chat briefly and they push on. When I get up, I can descend the hill and it's a breeze, I soon forget about my foot pain and speed down. I pass the father-son pair.

That's when I arrive at the caged animal centre. It apparently trains animals for films but mistreats them. I see a grizzly bear crouch over in full sun, it has no shade at all. It’s wilting in the heat. It paws at it’s small, metal confined cage. A lion lays still resigned to it’s fate and a racoon paces round and round it’s small cage. I walk on saddened and re-enter the lush, desert pine forest, thankful for shade. Jeff spoke of some trail magic which might lie ahead. It spurs me on but in the midday heat but I am slow. They both pass me and I hike from tree to tree, shade to shade, enduring the heat in between. I come across a water cache and fill a bottle adding some pomegranate powder to flavour it. I've only peed once today which isn’t a good sign.

I walk on and find the father and son again sitting on the hiker crouch beside the huge metal bin of trail magic. It's amazing! Food, drink cans, biscuits, hand sanitiser, rubbish bags, sweets. I down a 7UP and eat biscuits so happy! Poptart joins us and we chill, savouring the magic. Then one by one we hit the trail. I descend down towards Big Bear City and soon we re-gather and hike together. We chat and the path turns stoney. My feet vibrate with every step and it's tough on my feet. 

We eventually get to the bottom and find some guys there with quad bikes. They give us Gatorade which tastes amazing! We head on for another few miles and refill at a spring. Hippie and Dan are getting picked up in 7 miles and Poptart and I decide to head into town together. I desperately need to resupply and she needs to pick up a package on Monday - 2 days away. We somehow monster up the hills at 4 miles an hour (it feels like it anyway) and get to the top - again, only a small hill but still a task. Then we go 2 miles and we find the road that Poptart and I need to hitch into Big Bear City from. We say goodbye to Hippie and Dan and wait for a hitch. 

After 20 minutes we start walking and when a hatchback drives by and we thumb it down. The guy stops and lets us in. He's a bit older than us and casually speeds down the dirt road. The lumps and rocks in the road are huge causing us to bump and crash into each other. He skids here and there and finally gets to the cement road. He tells us about how he picked up two 21 year old girls the other day and that they stayed at his and used his hot tub and says we can do the same. We politely decline (after he drove off we both agree he had creepy vibes) and he drops us off at the fire station where my book says we can get showers, but apparently there are three stations in Big Bear and this one seems closed.

Poptart calls a Trail angel who comes to pick us up. We're not waiting long until Pappa Smurf drives up and picks us up. This ride is a lot smoother. He takes us back to his home  where about 5 other hikers already are. It's in the suburbs and sits under pine trees. The needles are everywhere. His garden and house is packed full of stuff. A tent has been erected in the small space between his house and fence and we deposited our bags there.   He beckons us inside and we follow hobbling. He directs us to sit and feeds us Sloppy Joes which are amazing! I haven't eaten anything like this in ages and I eat the first one so quick I'm almost sick. I pace myself with the second one as Poptart showers. 

My shower is amazing and I sit in the bottom allowing the water to pour over me. My blisters are painful but this clean water is doing them the world of good. I sit and pick at them, cleaning the sand out. Left over plasters/band aids litter the bottom of the shower. I try and clean them out and put any other waste items in the bin. I chill outside with the others and Pappa Smurfs grandson talks at us while he has gone on a mission. He doesn't take long and he comes bearing free doughnuts! He knows the owner of the local bakery in town who has donated all his left over doughnuts to us - Hiker Trash. I eat 3 before I can't stomach any more.

I charge my things and one by one were all in bed for 9ish. Annoyingly my English phone takes ages to charge and I think it’s going to die. Luckily all my photos are backed up. I'm so glad I got an American phone when I got to LA. Even though I'm in a town its remarkably peaceful and I fall asleep with ease

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