Sunday, 28 June 2015

PCT Day 40

Day 40
Miles - 16

I can’t believe that it is nearly the end of June! I get up at half 5 after dosing and I’m on the trail for 6am. It’s all down hill through the valley as I meet deer and eat my final poptart in an open space trying to avoid the mozzies….. They are relentless. I make my way through Mcclure Meadow and cross my first thigh-deep river. I quickly remove my shoes, wade through and as I bend down to put my shoes back on the mozzies swam. I thrust my feet into my shoes, dirt and twigs still clinging to them as I speed on. I bash out ten miles by half ten and sit on the trail junction to Muir Ranch. I’m debating going there or if I should just crack out the last 15 miles on the trail straight to Vermillion Valley Resort.

I sit there eating the last of my crushed cereal bars and read through my guide book which mentions the hot springs there. Then a hiker comes up the trail from Muir Ranch.

    “Is it worth it” I ask sitting in the dust.

    “Definitely, the hiker boxes are individual organised and you can weigh your pack which is interesting.” I’m sold.

I get there and he’s right. There are loads of plastic buckets - the same as hiker bouncer buckets and they’re all labelled. Trail mix, instant meals, rehydratable meals, sweets, first aid, clothes, shoes.  I get some trail mix, some red twistie sweets, smash (instant mash potato) and some porridge which later turns out to be gross and not porridge... I end up sitting there for quite a while as I waste 2 hours watching hikers come and go. A mother and to teenagers arrive. They’re section hiking and are collecting their resupply buckets. They have so much stuff which turns out to be too much stuff. They offload mini gatorade bottles to me which I gladly except. I watch as tourists who’ve paid to be here for the weekend ride out horseback and ranch hands tend to the animals and run the tiny shop on site. I buy some deet, it’s expensive. Dogs run about excited by all the commotion. About a dozen or so wooden cabins and lodges are dotted around the grounds offering expensive accommodation.

After an hour I slowly move and head down to the hot springs. I leave my bags on one side of the river and wade across bare footed. It’s refreshing. I wander through the tall grass and find a stoney deep pond. I dip my hand in and it’s warm. It’s clear at first but as soon as I get in I disturb the bottom and the natural dirt rises. I strip down and get in. Its feels amazing to be fully immersed in warm water on the trail. I scrub all my dead sweaty skin away and chill. Enjoying the simpleness of being naked in nature. Tall grass surrounds me and ever greens surround the grass. I can hear the faint sounds of humans, others enjoying the warm of the natural hot spring.

I then hear two voices and two ladies appear. They spot me and wander over and ask if they can join me. They strip down to the nude and join me pleased by its warmth as we all squeeze in the little pond together. I think one was from Germany or Switzerland and the other was American. They say that the lake is a little cooler and that they’re pleased to have found this hotter bathing area. We chat about hiking, the PCT, the ranch which is where they are staying to night and then they go. I ask them for a quick photo of me and smile politely.

    “Show us your teeth” the German/Swiss lady says and I do my smile turning into a grin. “That’s better” and then they are soon gone.

I eventually clamber out, get dressed and walk back to my pack. It’s a cloudy day again but still warm. I brush my teeth, hair and clean my feet, then I get on the trail and this is the part where I take a wrong turn…..

I hike out feeling replenished and clean and nod at people on horseback as they return to the ranch. It’s amazingly starts to rain and I put my waterproofs on as a precaution. The drops are big but not plentiful. I hike along merrily then something starts to feel wrong. I sit under a tall dark-green pine tree waiting for my GPS to kick in on my halfmile app. When it eventually works it does confirm where I am and that I did take the wrong path. Instead of taking the trail back to the PCT I ended up taking the Florence Trail down to the lake….

I sit on a large stone and ponder my choices, I can either hike back up the trail and get to the PCT and hike about 18 miles to VVR. I have to be there in two days as I’m being picked up by a friend and her family to enjoy two weeks off the trail. Or I can decided to just follow it for 8 miles where I will hit a road where I can roadwalk or hitch to VVR in about 14 miles.

Then suddenly a crack of thunder booms overhead and the rain falls harder. I hike on and head to Florence lake. It feels wrong to be off the trail. I pass a few weekend hikers. I pause on a rock and eat my last mars bar and stare at a deer down below. It’s amazingly quiet beside the lake and so still. It is so low, I can see a 3m white rim around the edge of where the water should be. The dam looks pretty cold and cool. I catch glimpses of it through the trees as I hike along.

I follow the trail and come out at the road. This is the first road I’ve seen in over a week! I follow it round and pass bear boxes with benches and a lone camper discretely camped.  

A few houses are dotted here and there with real cars parked outside. I pass a mini store beside the jetty and reach the edge of the dam.  I head up the rocks to the dam and perch myself there overlooking the gorgeous lake. The dark clouds move over the sun which shines briefly over the mountains tops on the left as the valley falls silence. It’s not raining so I’m good to cowboy camp.


Saturday, 27 June 2015

PCT Day 39

Day 39
Miles - 23

I wake at 5:15 and lay still for a while, enjoying the stillness of the dawn.  Eventually I get up, tent down, stuff away and hike away first. I do always love hiking at first light. The air is cool and no one else is awake, I plan to continue early rising back home and walking when I can. I run into several random lone deer as they eat their morning grass. Brian catches up and I let him overtake. I’m running low on food again. I should actually plan my daily calorie intake. For the day I have

2 poptarts - 410
1 cereal bar - 170
1 mars bar - 240
1 noodle packet - 240
2 porridge packets - 300
2 wraps and choc sauce - 240+ 70 = 1970

I need to pack more food, I’m going to gorge myself at Vermillion Valley Resort.

I gradually rise up into the valley and think I must be dreaming. It so beautiful. The valley is lush and green with a quiet river flowing through it. Deer casually walk through it, their slender legs carefully picking their way through it.

I pass by many campsites, some have fire rings, flatten patches where tents have been. It’s all amazing, I follow the river as I ascend up the rocky pass, following deer hoof prints as I go. I find Brian soaking his feet and I wash my top which stinks. Then I fall in up to my knees and end up washing my shoes and socks too. I’m trying to drink more today and when I’m at the top I bother purifying my water. I eat two porridges packets - my hunger is immense today and I can’t wait to eat lots at VVR.  

Hiking on I find Brian on a large rock as the 11am sun shines down. I’m hungry. Its 1000 ft and 2.5 miles to the top, we can’t see the path but we walk on anyway. It’s rocky all the way and water flows down the path from melty patches of snow. I don’t stop and keep moving. I get slow and hungry but keep going, trudging along. It feels like I’m in Iceland. I’ve never been but it’s how I imagine it to be. Then I see it. John Muirs hut. One final zigzag up and I arrive. I eat a mars bar to celebrate and head inside to check it out. The hut itself is very impressive. Curved and made of stone with a wooden door. There is a fireplace and mantle piece but it’s all stoned in. I sign the book and we chat with some PCT hikers and I am filmed saying a quote from a Dr Seuss poem for the PCT 2015 class film. I recently found the video and it’s great! It brings back fantastic memories!

I then walk down  the other side which is more gradual with flowing rivers into lakes and stones everywhere. Everything is beautiful, apart from the mozzies which follow me here, there and everywhere. I catch up to Brian and we descend together then I stop for some noodles and to air my feet while he walks on. I hike on but don’t see Brian anywhere so I continue alone and walk down into the another stunning meadows with deers. It’s breathtaking. I walk till 7pm and pitch my inner pitch tent to keep the mozzies away. I smell a fire and watch mozzies try to invade my tent, thankfully their attacks are futile and I’m able to sleep in peace. I sleep in Mcclure Meadows.