Summary of our Pacific Crest Trail SOBO hike 2014 in numbers

It has been almost two months since Dirt Stew and I finished our hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. I thought I would summarize our adventure with a few interesting facts and statistics from our hike:

IMG_1576

We hiked 95.5% of the Pacific Crest Trail (roughly 100 miles short due to wild-fire closures)

The hike took 128 days

We took 8 “zero days” (days off) which included 4 days to go to a wedding

We walked an average of 20 miles a day (including zero days)

Longest day: 34 miles

We spent 97 nights camping on the trail

We spent 19 nights in paid accommodation (hotel, hostel, cabin, etc)

We spent 5 nights with trail angels

We spent 6 nights with friends/other

We had 15 days of rain or precipitation

We hiked on snow for at least part of the day for 16 days

We each went through roughly 5 pairs of shoes

The most north-bounders we passed in one day was 78

Number of other south-bound thru-hikers we met during our whole hike was 7

We spent $4,000 per person during the hike (not including food in mail-drops)

We had 17 mail-drops pre-made and 6 more were made during our hike

Our biggest expense was health insurance ($250/month per person)

Most expensive piece of gear lost: down jacket

Most water carried: 6 liters per person (we didn’t need all of it)

Base weight for Dirt Stew was anywhere from 10 to 15lbs

Base weight for Dormouse was anywhere from 8 to 12 lbs

Favorite sections: Northern Washington followed by the Sierra Nevada

We took 3641 pictures

The most picked up piece of trash was Mylar balloons, followed by plastic water bottles

We soaked ourselves in 5 different hot tubs

We hiked or hitched past 6 wild-fire closures (we found alternates for many, but not all)

We saw 5 bears (none in bear canister territory)

Most obnoxious animal: raccoon waking us up in the middle of the night

Cutest animal: the pika

Number of hikers in bad circumstances that we were able to help: 3

Best food experience: Aardvarks food truck

Cause of most painful full stomach experience for Dirt Stew: 1 medium sized pepperoni pizza followed by 1 large burrito

Cause of most painful full stomach experience for Dormouse: 1 order of mozzarella sticks, 1 bacon cheese burger followed by ice cream

Dirt Stew’s most missed creature comfort: a kitchen with food in it

Dormouse’s most missed creature comfort: sonic tooth brush

Number of voice recordings for the Halfmile project: 1500+

If you are curious about any statistics we haven’t thought of let us know in the comments.

< a href=”https://just2hikers.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/img_1498.jpg”&gt;IMG_1498

Julian to the Mexican Border

Highlights:  We hiked on from Julian through Mount Laguna after which we started seeing border patrol more and more.  We saw a tarantula on Halloween, and on Halloween night it rained on us for the first time since the Sierra Mountains.  We arrived at the Mexican Border around midday on November 1st and were greeted by White Jeep, who took us back to San Diego to stay there for a few days.

Day 120: Julian to Mile 60, 17 miles

October 29th:  We packed up and at the breakfast at the hotel we were staying at and headed to the library to write my last blog post.  The library in Julian was probably the best library of the whole trail.  Lots of computers, that actually worked, and didn’t remind you of the 90’s with essentially no time limit.  Wow!

We got a ride with an arborist back to the trail and hiked uphill in the heat… drenching us in sweat.
IMG_0435

Day 121: Mile 60 to Mile 36, 24 miles

October 30th:  In my last blog post I commented a lot about cacti, which were the dominant vegetation.  Now we seem to have hiked out of the land of cacti and back into the land of chaperral.  Chaperral covers the hillsides very well, making the look green, and leaving very few spots for camping or doing one’s business.  We hiked into Mount Laguna and were immediately given 10 apples by a school teacher who’s kids hadn’t managed to eat them all.  We wondered over to the Post Office with our fruit, and picked up a package that we had bounced from Warner Springs, and also inquired about a package from KEEN, hopefully containing some socks.  We were lucky enough to have been chosen by KEEN to receive socks every few hundred miles, but we probably completely messed up their system by going southbound.  In any case, we had been trying to get socks delivered to us at various addresses with very little luck, and this time we found out that they had managed to send a FedEX package to General Delivery at the Post Office.  Usually, the US Postal Service will not touch a FedEX package, but the post master there recognized my name and decided to accept it and attempt to forward it to Mount Laguna along with our other package.  Although this wound up not working out, I was very impressed with the Warner Springs post office for doing this!

We wandered around town checking out the mostly closed businesses.  The outfitter looked awesome, but was closed, and the cafe was mostly closed for food, but we were able to order a frittata at the drinks counter before heading out of town.  The folks at the cafe told us the forecast called for snow on Saturday, the day that we would be arriving at the border.  Mount Laguna is at 6000ft, and the border is several thousand feet lower, so there would be only rain for us.  But we couldn’t remember the last time we saw rain, and the prospect was very exciting!

The sunset was beautiful.  Clouds were building in the sky, but were light and fluffy, which makes for a spectacular sunset.  Since there is not much vegetation to speak of, we are always rewarded with beautiful sunsets and sunrises.

Pink sunset

Pink sunset

Sunset

Sunset

For the first time we started noticing border patrol aircraft namely helicopters.  From here on, border patrol will be appearing more and more.

Day 122: Mile 36 to Mile 11.5, 24.5 miles

October 31st:  Border Patrol became more and more abundant.  At every road crossing we saw them in their vehicles passing by.  We stopped at a campground with picnic tables to have lunch and one vehicle came into the campground and stopped right where the trail exited the park. Several other vehicles pulled in and out.  We sat there eating our lunch and watching them nervously.  As we exited the campground, passing right by the parked vehicle with the officer inside, the officer turned on the engine and exited the park.  From then on Dirt Stew was convinced our every move was being followed.  We passed a day hiker (undercover border patrol) who stopped and asked us:

“Since when did people decide it was a good idea to go Southbound on the PCT?”

He seemed annoyed.  Dirt Stew imagined this was because normally they have to have extra forces during northbound hiker season.

At some point in the day we realized it was Halloween and joked about dressing up as each other– the only “costumes” we were carrying.  I was excited that in the middle of the trail on Halloween, we saw our first tarantula.  I respectfully stopped and took a step back, pointing him out to Dirt Stew so that he could get his camera out.  Dirt Stew then proceeded to stick his camera about 1 inch away from the tarantula, scaring it into its hole, and all we got was a picture of a tarantula butt.

Tarantula's butt

Tarantula’s butt

Not only were there border patrol helicopters in the area, there were also many military airplanes and helicopters as well, probably carrying all sorts of deadly weapons.  All in all, this didn’t exactly make us feel more safe…  Eventually, we came across this sign:
Ummmm...

Ummmm…

As it got dark Dirt Stew was still convinced we were being followed by border patrol.

“They have infrared cameras, and they can see us even in the dark”  he said, half jokingly.

“Don’t they have something better to do than to follow a couple of PCT hikers who are hiking TOWARDS the border?”  I said.

Sometime in the night, the rain started.  It rained and rained and rained.

Day 123: Mile 11.5 to the Mexican Border, 11.5

November 1st:  In the morning, it was still raining.  We slept in.  As we had only 11.5 miles to do to reach the border, we weren’t exactly in a rush.  The rain persisted, so we decided to get up and get going.  Soon after we were packed up, the rain abated, and then stopped all together.  The sand we were walking on was now hard from being wet, and the footsteps we had been following for hundreds of miles had disappeared over night.  I suddenly realized that the people those footsteps we had been following were all no longer on the trail.  Sadie must have finished at least a day or two ago, and she was the next one in front of us.  Mother nature was reminding us that our journey too was almost over, and soon the land will forget us as well.

Why wasn't there one of these at the Canadian border?  We got the memo WAY too late...  :)

Why wasn’t there one of these signs at the Canadian border? We got the memo WAY too late… 🙂

We didn’t have far to walk, and as we headed towards a road that we were obviously meant to cross, we saw a truck parked where the PCT crossed.

“Border Patrol is waiting for us” Dirt Stew said, pointing at the truck.  I rolled my eyes.

As we got closer, we saw someone get out and wave at us, and Dirt Stew and I realized at the same time: “White Jeep!”  He had intersected us just 2 or 3 miles before the border to say hi, and offer us a honey bun.  From there there is a confusion of roads leading to the border with the trail winding through them.

So close!

So close!

As we continued on towards the border, we saw White Jeep’s truck again at another intersection, and behind it a Border Patrol vehicle.  “Just keep on going” White Jeep commented, as we passed him.  He drove on to the border, and I looked around for where the trail continued.  The Border Patrol officer, still stopped next to us, stuck his head out of his window and pointed down the trail “you’re on the right path” he said.  As we went on, he drove off, also toward the border.

“Ok, that one was definitely there because of us”  I said to Dirt Stew.

Finally we saw White Jeep’s truck by the gigantic fence of the Mexican Border, and we could just make out the monument marking the end of the Pacific Crest Trail.  Dirt Stew walked up next to me and took my hand so that we could walk the last stretch together, just as we had on the Appalachian Trail.  We walked up grinning, and walked straight up to the monument, looking at it for a moment before looking at each other for confirmation that we would touch it together to mark the end of our journey.

White Jeep was there to take many pictures, and I found the register on the back of one of the wooden pillars.  It was surprisingly cold and windy, so we didn’t linger for too long.

We made it!

We made it!

Whee!

Whee!

Yehaww!

Yehaww!

Signing the register

Signing the register

The border was amazing to me.  I couldn’t have touched Mexico if I wanted to.  There was a huge barbed wire fence with a dirt road behind it that border patrol were driving back and forth on, and a larger impenetrable fence behind it, and then Mexico was somewhere behind that.  We could see Mexico where a hill would stick up over the fence, and that was good enough for me.

The border-- with Border Patrol driving up and down constantly

The border– with Border Patrol driving up and down constantly

And just like that, it was over.

But we aren’t thru-hikers yet.  The miles that we had to skip around the fire closure in Northern California are still nagging us, reminding us that we did not hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail in one year.

Since we’ve gotten off the trail, we’ve showered and stayed with White Jeep and Seminole in San Diego for a few days.

Showering was a bit strange.  It felt like I was washing the trail off my body for the last time.   I was happy to see that even after washing my hands several times, there was still some stubborn dirt stuck in the grooves of my hands. The first shower, however wasn’t nearly as hard as the second.  You never take a second shower while you’re on the trail until you’re totally dirty again, and so it’s hard to convince yourself to get in the shower again once back in civilization while you’re still basically clean.

We decided that we’d better at least try to go back to Ashland.  The weather has turned quite a bit towards winter conditions, so we’re preparing ourselves with warmer clothing and some extra gear, but we would like to at least finish the last few miles of Oregon to have completed two states fully.  If the conditions are miserable, we’ll finish in Seiad Valley, but we’re open to hiking further if weather permits.  Chances are we won’t complete the Pacific Crest Trail this year, but we did give it our all.  There are probably many “thru-hikers” that didn’t complete the whole trail this year.  We have less than 10% left, and maybe, just maybe we’ll be able to get through there before conditions get too bad….  Stay tuned!

Cajon Pass to Idyllwild

Highlights: As we continue to hike the desert section of the PCT, we are enjoying the sections that are less desert-like, and melting in the sections that are at lower elevation.  We were surprised by personal trail magic; hiked up the Deep Creek area where weekenders trashed the area around the hot springs. We stopped in Big Bear, and lost most of a day waiting for our packages, then stopped at Ziggy and the Bear before hiking up into the San Jacinto Mountains.  We are now spending the night in Idllywild!

Day 107: Mile 363.5 to mile 342, 21.5 miles

October 16th-  We woke up to a beautiful sunrise and started hiking downhill towards Cajon Pass.  We are in the habit of picking up trash we find on the trail, and when I saw a beer can out of the corner of my eye, I pointed to Dirt Stew to pick it up.  He sighed, and picked it up as I hiked on.  “IT’S FULL!”  He shouted.  “Wow, who would have thought ‘trail magic’ would look so much like trash” I joked.  As the day grew warm and the trail was meandering a bit much, we decided to split the beer.  As we got close to Cajon Pass, I was surprised by how beautiful the rocks were.  They looked like the rocks at Vasquez Rocks- probably formed by the same tectonic plate movement of the San Andreas Fault.  Ironically, however, these rocks had power-lines running over them instead of being set aside as a State Park.  I’m sure if the Vasquez Rocks had not been preserved, they would have things built on them as well.

Rocks and powerlines

Rocks and powerlines

Dirt Stew and I made a beeline for the McDonald’s, and had some greasy food before deciding to stay in the Best Western across the street.  The Best Western had a hot tub, and I happily jumped in.

Did someone mention McDonnalds..?

Did someone mention McDonalds..?

Day 108: Mile 342 to mile 318, 24 miles

October 17th- We slept in and went next door to the Del Taco to order a few burritos for the trail.  The lady taking our order asked us where we were hiking, and when we told her we had hiked from Canada she said astutely “Wow, I’m definitely not envious… but I think what you’re doing is pretty cool”

We hiked out and were thankful for some fog for the first half of the day, and soon got to a lake.  What a concept!  A lake with water?  We hadn’t seen one of those in a while.
A lake with water in it? In the desert? Wow!

A lake with water in it? In the desert? Wow!

We took water from the lake, but were very sad to see that around the lake was mostly trashed. People had gone so far as to dump whole trash bags full of trash by the lake.  Disgusting.  We hiked past dark, which is now our usual routine, and I was very thankful that my hips were not too sore.

Day 109: Mile 318 to mile 290, 28 miles

October 18th- After a few hours of hiking we came across brown bag by the trail which had “Happy Anniversary Dirt Stew + Dormouse, SOBO thru’s” written on it.  I was so touched my voice started getting squeaky.  “Awwww! That’s so sweeeeeeeet!”  I squeaked.  We opened it up and there was a note inside from “Just Bruce” with a big bag of fun sized Snickers.  Bruce had read our blog and wanted to leave something for us.  There was also a gallon of water.  The thought that went into this gift was amazing.  It is tremendous to find something seemingly in the middle of nowhere with your name on it.  Thru-hiking, especially southbound is a very lonely experience, and sometimes you feel like there’s nobody but you for hundreds of miles. This reminded me that we weren’t alone.  People care about hikers, and care that we are successful, and are there to cheer us on!

Amazing trail magic

Amazing trail magic

We scratched “Thank you” in the sand next to where we picked up the magic, and took everything with us, so as not to leave any trash behind.  Soon we entered the Deep Creek area where many people hike up to the hot springs.  The area had more trash on the trail than we could pick up.  We were feeling down on weekenders and day hikers, seeing all the plastic bottles chucked next to the trail, and the graffiti on rocks.

And nature without graffiti..?

And nature without graffiti..?

It seemed ironic to me that the people most likely to carry that trash out were the people who would have to carry it the furthest.  Something that Adrian, another southbounder from France said to us several days ago came to mind.  “I just take two things that aren’t mine off the trail every day”.  He said.  That was probably the best way to deal with the problem.  We couldn’t pick up all the trash if we wanted to, but if every hiker just took two pieces of trash that wasn’t theirs, the place would eventually get picked up.  Now if only we could convince everyone to do this…  When we got to the hot springs, there were so many people that I wasn’t even interested in going down to the springs themselves.  A vicious dog came running up to us barking and growling.  Immediately Dirt Stew and I put our umbrellas in front of us like shields.  The dog looked confused.  “Don’t worry, he’s nice, he just is afraid of your umbrellas”  Said a guy sitting on a picnic blanket with a sunburn.  Well, I wasn’t going to put my umbrella away to find out, so we move on quickly.  The whole area smelled like human waste, and there was toilet paper everywhere to support the smell.  There had been a warning in our water report about the water there being contaminated with human waste, and that it could potentially contain a deadly virus.  I have no clue why people go there.  It’s not like in the hot desert you’re ever really craving a hot spring…?  I don’t get it.

Day 110: Mile 290 to mile 266, 24 miles
October 19th- Today we hiked up into a nice forested area.  My hips were sore, but I hiked fast to get to Big Bear in time to do our chores and get to bed at a reasonable hour.  After waiting at the road for a while, a nice couple finally picked us up.  They stopped at a store for us to buy a few things, and we were grateful because we could now cook ourselves a pasta dinner at the hostel.  Once we got settled in the hostel and introduced ourselves to the myriad of strange characters there, we cooked 2 pounds of pasta and gobbled them up with a jar of pasta sauce and some apple turnovers for desert.  I fell asleep very early, probably before 8pm, and didn’t wake up again until 11 hours later.

Day 111: Mile 266 to mile 254, 12 miles

October 20th- After sleeping a ton, I was ready to get going again.  The only problem was that our packages had not yet been brought to the hostel by the owner.  Nobody was up, and we hadn’t done our laundry the night before, so we decided to do that while we waited.  We waited and waited.  Once other people started go get up, we asked about our packages.  We were assured the owner would arrive by 10AM.  We reluctantly waited.  10AM passed, 11AM passed.  Apparently this guy didn’t value our time.  Eventually around noon, our packages showed up.  We got a great care package from our friend Mike who sent us cookies, removable tattoos and pages of facts, song lyrics, poems, etc.  Finally we would keep our minds more active while we hiked!
Care package from Mike!

Care package from Mike!

We started eating the cookies and then we realized we were actually hungry again.  We decided we may as well find a place to get a decent meal before we left town.  We found a burger place and Dirt Stew ordered a chicken pot pie while I ordered a burger.  The waitress was impressed that Dirt Stew finished his dish.  Apparently most don’t, but of course for him it wasn’t a problem.  He was soon munching on Mike’s cookies again.  We got a ride from a very nice lady who happened to be originally from Virginia back to the trail, and soon ran into a couple sitting eating snacks, looking a lot like long distance hikers.  We asked them what their story was, and they had flip-flopped from Big Bear and were finishing up their hike.  We were pretty surprised to see new hikers.  We finally found a nice spot under a cedar and set up camp.

Day 112: Mile 254 to mile 230, 24 miles
October 21st- The temperature at night was perfect, since we were at higher elevation.  In the desert the tree-line is reversed from the rest of the planet.  Instead of there being no trees above a certain elevation, there are no trees below a certain elevation.  Below a certain elevation (maybe around 6000ft), it just feels like desert.  Above that elevation, there are trees, and it feels more like forest.  At some point we went around a corner and the trail looked like it was covered in diamonds.  There were white crystals everywhere.  I’m not an expert on rocks, but I’m guessing they were probably quartz.  The whole trail was covered in a layer of them, and they all sparkled.  I felt like a princess walking on them.  We continued on, and were singing Moby (badly) at the top of our lungs when a heard a gigantic ROAR. I stopped in my tracks terrified.  Then I saw cages not far ahead and remembered that we were supposed to pass an area with animals in cages that are being kept as stunt animals for the movies.  The roaring stopped soon after we stopped singing.  As we approached, we saw a lion, grizzly bears, a cougar, and even a raccoon in the cages.  They looked unhappy, pacing about in their tiny cages.  I felt bad for them.

Cages with animals

Cages with animals

We continued on down a valley where the trail had quite a bit of poodle dog bush, and was washed away in many spots where it crossed a stream.  Normally this wouldn’t be so frustrating, but we were losing the trail frequently, and we were supposed to be mapping it for Halfmile’s project.  Every time I tried to go ahead to find where the trail went and then summon Dirt Stew with the GPS unit to follow me.  It took much longer than had we not cared and just followed the stream bush-waking wherever we wanted.  We kept ourselves entertained by learning the state capitals, one of the pages of facts that Mike had printed out and put in our care package.  I liked spending some of our hiking time learning, and wished I had thought of this earlier.  We continued by learning the lyrics to “Let It Be”.  We decided to camp before dark so as not to try to find the fairly missing trail in the darkness.

Day 113: Mile 230 to Ziggy and the Bear (mile 211), 19 miles

October 22nd- As we walked down the creek further, it became hot as hell.  We were descending into the hot, hot desert, and it felt like the hot, hot desert.  I constantly felt like I was just over heating and covered in sweat.  We came across a wind farm that let hikers fill up water.  We went to get water and they invited us into their air-conditioned office building and offered us cold bottled water.  This was the best kind of trail magic I could have asked for.  We sat there long enough to cool off and rehydrate and then carried on a few more miles in the heat to Ziggy and The Bear, a couple of trail angels who let hikers camp in their back yard.  We chatted with Ziggy for a while and she gave us cold sodas, and then The Bear arrived with Chinese food and we were so thankful to eat some real food and chat about The Bear’s career collecting marine animals in Seattle for aquariums and Universities across the USA.  I was exhausted and we needed to get up early to put some of these low elevation miles behind us in the coolness of the early morning.  We slept under the stars in their backyard.

Dormouse, The Bear, Ziggy

Dormouse, The Bear, Ziggy

Day 114: Ziggy and the Bear to Mile 188.5, 22.5 miles

October 23rd– Our alarm was set for 5AM, and I reluctantly got up and started packing up.  I was surprised to see The Bear was up to bid us farewell.  We headed out in the darkness and hiked across the valley to the next mountain range.

Desert Valley

Desert valley at sunrise

The trail was washed out in many sections in this valley, and we eventually gave up on trying to follow it, and just walked on dirt roads that appeared on our map.  Just as it was getting light I was about to step on what I thought was quite a unique looking rock, when I decided to step to one side and take a closer look at it.  Thank goodness I did, because what I thought was a rock was actually a rattlesnake curled up in the sand almost flush with the ground.  Had it been any darker, and I would have stepped right on top of him.

Rattle snake disguised as a rock.

Rattle snake disguised as a rock.

We took some pictures, and continued on, studying our steps more closely.  As it got light and we started climbing, it soon became hotter than hell.  Maybe you haven’t checked your elevation profile map of the PCT recently, but if you look at the elevation difference between Mile 211 and Mile 188.5, you’ll notice that there is almost a 8000 ft gain to get up San Jacinto Mnt.  If that doesn’t mean anything to you, let me tell you– that’s A LOT.  I don’t think I’ve ever climbed that much in one go before in my life, to be honest.  For the first 3000 ft or so, it was hot as hell, and there was no shade.  The next 1000-2000 ft climb there were short oak trees.  These are the kind of oak trees that will leave you covered in scratches without providing an inch of shade.  At about 6000 ft, real trees started to appear, pine trees and cedars, and the temperature dropped significantly.  The trail was poorly maintained until we got close to the top where they had obviously had started doing something about the poor conditions.  A few miles before we were ready to camp, we saw another hiker named Mark who was out for a section hike.  He told us there was a very small water source up ahead, which was news to us, since we had carried enough water to make it to Idyllwild.  He had thought that since he had found water there, some of the other sources would have water too.  No such luck.  His mistake meant that he only had around 2 liters of water to make it to the next source, which was only a few miles before Ziggy and the Bear.  He was also intending on taking 2 days to do the trek.  It was obvious to me that this guy was in trouble.  I had just taken one day to do that section, and as a small woman, I had drank probably close to 4 liters.  Since there was now water before Idyllwild, I turned to Dirt Stew and said “Do you think we can spare a liter?”  He agreed, and we transferred a liter into one of his water bottles before walking on.  A minute later I stopped and looked at Dirt Stew again.  “I still don’t think he’ll make it, can you go back and give him more water?  He needs it more than we do”.  Dirt Stew agreed, and we gave him more water to hopefully make it to the next source.  We also gave him our contact details so that he could let us know that he made it safely.  We have had so much help from strangers- from people leaving us trail magic to hikers offering us food when we were low in the Sierra to being offered someone’s condo to stay in!  It was certainly time for us to give back.  “You guys are angels.”  He said.  It really was the least we could do.  Us hikers have to look out for each other.

Wonderful trees at high elevation!

Wonderful trees at high elevation!

Day 115: Mile 188.5 to Idyllwild, 14 miles

October 24th– We got going with some energy since we knew we’d be getting to town today.  The San Jacinto mountains were absolutely beautiful, and we really enjoyed hiking through the trees and the cooler temperatures.

Beautiful trees!

Beautiful trees!

We found the water source that Mark had told us about, and spent a good half hour or more collecting a few liters.  It wasn’t the easiest water source to collect from.  We had to take a side trail to get down to Idyllwild called the Devils Slide Trail, followed by a road walk into town.  We got to town quite early and stopped by a Mexican restaurant in hopes of getting an inexpensive big meal, but in this touristy town even the Mexican restaurant had small portions and the prices were kind of high.  Idyllwild is really cute.  It’s a mountain town at about 6000ft with tons of little log cabin vacation rental homes and cute touristy shops.  We found ourselves a hotel room and did our usual chores before watching a movie and falling asleep.

Agua Dulce to Cajon Pass

Highlights: We took it slow once we got to the Saufley’s by taking a zero day.  Sadie and Adrian went ahead. Adrian has a deadline based on when his visa would run out, and he had to do roughly 27 miles a day to finish in time.  When we left, it was very hot, and we passed by the Vasquez Rocks in the heat of the day. We then started climbing up into the mountains, and had to navigate through two trail alternates: the poodle dog bush alternate, which bypasses some of the trail where poodle dog bush is growing in an old burn area (poodle dog bush is a poisonous plant like poison oak).  We also had to avoid the trail closure to protect the yellow legged frog.  We wound up walking for some time on Hwy 2.  We then climbed up to the top of Baden-Powell Mountain, which is the tallest mountain in this area, around 9,300ft in elevation.  We were grateful for a few days of cooler weather.  We hitched into Wrightwood, where we quickly grabbed some food and got straight back on the trail with the intention of making it the next day to Cajon Pass, where I’m writing this post!

Day 102: The Saufley’s, 0 miles

October 11th:  I woke up exhausted after going to bed late two nights in a row.  It had been a fun couple days hanging out with our SOBO friends and staying with Trail Angels, but I was now a tired Dormouse!  Adrian and Sadie were ready to do a 27 mile day out, so I said my goodbyes.  Dirt Stew and I relaxed in the trailer of the Saufley’s fixing some of our gear, eating food, watching a movie, and calling our parents.  We wished the Saufley’s were home for us to meet them, but their son was house-sitting for them while they were out of town.  In this section we only found 1 natural water source in nearly 100 miles.
The Saufley's trailer was an amazing spot to hang out!

The Saufley’s trailer was an amazing spot to hang out!

The Saufley's trailer was an amazing spot to hang out!

The Saufley’s trailer was an amazing spot to hang out!

Day 103: The Saufley’s to Mile 436, 18.5 miles
October 12th:  We got a late start out of the Saufley’s and stopped by the local bakery to get some pastries.  It was immediately too hot out, and we took refuge in the “Interpretive Center” of the Vasquez Rocks, which were on the trail.  These rocks were created by the shifting of the tectonic plates on the Andreas Fault.  After a break, we kept on and hiked up through a section with no shade.  We passed a KOA campground which had water.  It seemed like there were going to be very few natural water sources in this section.  My hip started hurting at the end of the day, and we camped by a Ranger Station right after it got dark.  We weren’t sure if camping was allowed, so we stayed quiet as we set up our tent.
Grateful for cooler weather and shade!

Grateful for cooler weather and shade!

Day 104: Mile 436 to Mile 410.5, 25.5 miles
October 13th:  After we packed up in the morning, a ranger stopped by asking us if we were thru-hikers.  He had water available, and he asked if we camped there the night before.  I said we had, and he told us there were better spots which he made himself.  I was glad to hear we weren’t breaking the rules.  The heat wave is supposed to break tomorrow, and we looked forward to cooler weather.  We headed out, and immediately walked through 2 miles of overgrown trail with poodle dog bush.  We decided that we would take the alternate once we hit the dirt road.  The dirt road was hot, and construction vehicles were zipping around on this dirt road doing some work nearby.
Ahh! Poodle Dog Bush!

Ahh! Poodle Dog Bush!

Poodle Dog Bush.

Poodle Dog Bush.

Lots of poodle dog bush

Lots of poodle dog bush

We followed the road all the way to a Fire Station which also had water available for hikers, and we filled up.  A lady there told us there was no natural water in that section.  Our water report told us there was a spring coming up.  Because I usually trust local knowledge, we decided to take enough water to skip the spring.  Several miles later we got to the spring, and there was indeed water.  Grrr.  We took a liter just in case.  We realized at some point in the day that today was our two year wedding anniversary.  We shared a snickers in our tent at night to celebrate. 🙂
Day 105: Mile 410.5 to Mile 384, 26.5 miles
October 14th:  Today we came across an old Boy Scout’s camp which had a water faucet, and we took 35 miles to make it to Wrightwood.  We had to take an alternate to avoid a trail closure due to the endangered yellow legged frog.  We walked the road, Hwy 2, which could be a very scary road walk, except that there was only roughly 1 car per half hour.  As we walked down the road, we realized that we had the choice between continuing on the road one more mile, or hiking the trail 3 or 4 miles over a 1300ft mountain.  Normally there would be no question, obviously we’d hike the trail, not the road.  But my hips hurt, and I wanted an easier time into Wrightwood.  I probably would have taken the road, but Dirt Stew said “What are we doing this for? To walk on an asphalt road, or to hike in the mountains?”  I hated the PCT for doing this to me.  I love hiking, and I had the chance to take a short-cut and save 3 miles and 1300ft elevation gain, yet skip a hike.  It would be like a hike up San Bruno Mountain.  “I would feel like such a bum” Dirt Stew said, convincingly.  So, we hiked the trail.  I was angry with the trail for making me realize that I had forgotten why we were hiking.  My focus every day had been to just put one foot in front of the other to make it to Mexico without my legs falling off, and what for?  If I wasn’t going to enjoy the hike, it’s not worth it.  I’m hiking for my own pleasure, nobody is forcing me to do this.  As we hiked up to the top of the mountain, we took a break and looked out at the view.  “Isn’t it beautiful up here?”  Dirt Stew asked me.  Of course he was right.  It was.
Beautiful sunset!

Beautiful sunset!

Day 106: Mile 384 to Mile 363.5, 20.5 miles
October 15th:  The sunrise was unbelievable.  We climbed up Baden-Powell mountain, the tallest mountain in the area, and looked down at the fog rolling out below us in the valley.  I imagined the clouds as a big bed that I was going to fall asleep in.
Amazing sunrise!

Amazing sunrise!

Amazing sunrise!

Amazing sunrise!

Amazing sunrise

Amazing sunrise

On the way up to the top, there was a tree which had a sign saying it was dedicated to some Boy Scout person, but more importantly, the tree was estimated to be 1500 years old!
1500 year old tree!

1500 year old tree!

We descended one more time back to Hwy 2.  I was about to look at our map for the options of walking into Wrightwood, as we had only seen one car per half hour at best on this road, so hitchhiking would be tough.  I was about to pull out our maps when a car came past and I quickly put out my thumb.  The car stopped and we got a ride into Wrightwood.  Everyone in Wrightwood was very friendly and knew about the Pacific Crest trail.  “Aren’t you guys a bit late?”  People kept asking us.  “Late and walking in the wrong direction”  Dirt Stew would reply.  We went to Grizzly Cafe and ordered their special for the day, which was meat lasagna.  We had hoped to get new socks in the mail, but when none were waiting for us, we bought a new pair at the Hardware Store.  Someone offered us a ride out, and we were very grateful to get back to the trail quickly so as to hike a few more miles today to make it to Cajon Pass tomorrow and spend the night in a hotel.  As we started hiking again, I felt completely sick.  I had more than gorged myself on the lasagna, and now I felt like a pregnant penguine waddling up the trail.  Pepto-bismol was the only solution.  Needless to day, I did not feel like having dinner that evening.  Tomorrow, Cajon Pass!

Tehachapi to Agua Dulce

Highlights:  We hiked out of Tehachapi in a heat-wave.  My hips immediately hurt, and each day that passes I fluctuate between not believing there is no way I could possibly make it to Mexico, and feeling like there is no way I could possibly quit since we’re so close to the end.  As we hiked on, we ran into Sadie again, and hiked with her to the Andersons (Trail Angels).  At the Andersons we met another southbound hiker, a French guy named Adrian.  The four of us hiked together for a day to make it to Agua Dulce, where the Saufley’s also host hikers.  We’re now hanging out at the Saufley’s enjoying the thought that they’ve put into their set-up.

Walking in the desert

Walking in the desert

Day 97: Mile 566.5 to Mile 551.5, 15 miles

October 6th:  We woke up in our hotel room and ate breakfast.  We mailed out our resupply boxes and returned our rental car at enterprise.  We were hoping for a ride back to the trail from enterprise, but they weren’t willing to drive us that far.  Instead we got dropped off at the bus station in front of the burger king, and we waited for an hour for the bus while gorging on some last minute calories.  The bus dropped us off at the same spot we stopped at four days earlier, and we started up the hill covered in wind farms.

Hiking through more wind farms

Hiking through more wind farms

It was HOT out.  I didn’t have a good idea of how hot it was, but it only took a few seconds to be drenched in sweat.  My hip only felt good for a few hours before I was in excruciating pain.  I was really really upset at this.  I had really hoped that 4 days rest would have basically cured me, but instead it was worst than before.  I felt like quitting more than ever.  I felt like there was no way I was going to be able to hike another 500+ miles with this injury.  Dirt Stew and I sat in the sand and discussed quitting.  I wondered if my hip wasn’t just stiff from not being used for 4 days, and decided to give it another day rather than go back to Tehachapi.  We kept on, and got to a water cache and a trail register.  I was excited to see who had passed us while we were off trail, but according to the register, nobody had.  We were really 4 days in front of the next SOBO?  The lack of footprints in the sand confirmed this.  In fact we could still see Robert’s footprints, even though at this point he was more than a week ahead of us.  It was still unbearably hot when we set up our tent and went to sleep.

Day 98: Mile 551 to Mile 526, 25.5 miles

October 7th: We slept in a whole hour later than usual.  We had messed up our internal clock by staying up late in civilized life.  We got going, and it was almost instantly too hot.  We came across a water cache, and took only a little since our water report told us there was a natural source coming up.  A few miles later we came across a trail register where a section hiker going northbound wrote that anyone hiking here should have enough water to make it to the aqueduct. We did not.  What about the natural source.  We hesitated, wondering if the source was dry, and wondering if we should head back to the cache.  We decided to trust the water report more than this trail register note, and continued on.  When we did happen upon the canyon where the natural source was supposed to be, I was immediately concerned to see only some wet mud, but as I went upstream slightly, I found running water, even if just a trickle.  A trickle can easily be enough to fill many water bottles, just with some patience, and we took a long break while collecting water.

Taking a break at the water source

Taking a break at the water source

As we descended into an enormous valley, we tasted the water from the canyon.  It tasted awful.  We would have to drink this for two days.  My hips continued to hurt, but I did get almost 15 miles in before they hurt badly.  We decided to take a long break to give my hips some rest, and that helped ease the pain for several more miles.  Walking through this valley was very different from anything else we had done thus far.  We were walking mostly on dirt roads, and it was very flat.  We eventually got to the Los Angeles aqueduct, which we would have to walk next to for many miles.  For the first section, the aqueduct was completely sealed, so there was no access to water.  We camped somewhere along the aqueduct road.

Walking along dirt roads in the valley.

Walking along dirt roads in the valley.

Day 99: Mile 526 to Hikertown (mile 517), then 6 miles on detour, 15 miles

October 8th:  By 8AM it was already ridiculously hot.  We continued on the aqueduct to where it opened up, and there it was, water!  Tons of it flowing through the desert.  It was so strange to see so much water at once when we were used to cherishing each drop.

Open aqueduct.  TONS of water!

Open aqueduct. TONS of water!

The trail followed roads through a town in this valley, and we passed a house with barking dogs where a woman was out feeding them.  I asked her if she knew the weather forecast.  “It is supposed to cool down.  High’s only in the 90’s today!” She replied.  I was a bit shocked.  I hadn’t realized it had been in the 100’s in the previous days.  No wonder it felt uncomfortable!  We got to a place called “Hikertown”, where hikers are allowed to stay, and fill up on water.  We stopped in and hung out in the hiker lounge drinking liter upon liter of water.  We decided to try to go to the local store which promised wifi, since we didn’t understand the trail closures up ahead.  We easily got a ride down to the store, and we got some icecream while looking up how we would need to walk to get through the next section.  It was going to be a road walk to the Andersons, a Trail Angel further down the trail.  The trail in that section had burnt badly the year before, and the trail was still closed.  Someone offered to give us a ride back to Hikertown.
"Hikertown"

“Hikertown”

  As we were driving back, Dirt Stew pointed to the road that we would need to turn down on our road walk.  “I can just drive you guys to Lake Huges if you want”, the guy offered.  “No, we have to walk that part,”  I said.  “But I’m driving you back to Hikertown now, on this road.” He said, confused.  “I know, but that’s because Hikertown is where we stopped walking”.  “I totally don’t understand what you guys do”  He said.  “I don’t either.”  I replied.  I have to admit, walking on roads in 100 degree heat felt pretty dumb.  Before we left Hiker Town, I jumped in and out of the shower with all my clothes, rinsing all the salt off, and cooling myself off for several hours.  Our clothes dried on our body quite quickly.  As we walked out on the road in the cooler hours of the evening, I felt pretty silly for what we were doing.  Since we weren’t on the trail, camping would be interesting.  As it got dark, we started looking for anything flat and hidden where we could spend the night.  We found a spot under a powerline under some trees where we quickly set up and fell asleep.

Day 100: 6 miles on detour to the Andersons (Mile 478), 18 miles

October 9th: We got up and started walking the road again.  A few hours later, a vehicle pulled over right next to us, and saw Sadie riding inside waving at us!  “Do you want to hike with them?” The man driving the truck asked Sadie.  “Yeah!” She answered.  Sadie had arrived at Hikertown several hours after we left and spent the night there.  We walked the rest of the way to Lake Hughes together sharing stories from the trail.  We stopped at the Post Office at Lake Hughes and picked up our packages before continuing on to the Andersons.  When we got there, Terri Anderson asked us if we knew about a French guy who was also supposed to be arriving at her house that night.  None of us had met a French guy.  We took showers and chatted while eating food, and several hours later another hiker showed up.

This is how the Andersons feed hungry hikers.  With Sadie!

This is how the Andersons feed hungry hikers. With Sadie!

  It was the aforementioned French guy whose name was Adrian.  He had hiked south from the Canadian border on July 31st, but had to skip about 400 miles.  He only had a visa for 3 months, and wanted to get to Mexico by Oct 27th.  It was great to chat with another hiker!  A bit later, Joe Anderson came home, and we all stayed up too late sharing stories and hanging out.  Joe talked about how he started accepting hikers into his home and becoming a Trail Angel.  “Anyone who can stand at the Mexican border and can think they can walk to Canada (or visa versa) must be an interesting person, I figured, and I wanted to meet them,”  he said.  That was an interesting point.  But on the flip-side, I also thought that anyone who was willing to have hundreds of hikers take over their house every year must be an interesting person! The plan the next day was to hike to the next trail angels, the Saufley’s.  It was about 24 miles from one to the other, and we were excited to spend another night at a Trail Angel’s.
At "Casa De Luna". The Andersons.

At “Casa De Luna”. The Andersons.

At "Casa de Luna".  The Andersons.

At “Casa de Luna”. The Andersons.

Day 101: The Andersons (Mile 278) to the Saufley’s (Mile 454.5), 23.5

October 10th:  We got up and were surprised to find pancakes waiting for us.  Joe gave us all a ride to the trail, and told us he would put two water caches along our route to the Saufley’s.  Sadie, Adrian and the two of us walked together towards our next destination: Agua Dulce.  Seven miles in we came across the first water cache, and Joe had just driven up to meet us.

Joe Anderson, Dormouse, Sadie (Kinda Sketchy), Adrian

Joe Anderson, Dormouse, Sadie (Kinda Sketchy), Adrian

We helped him carry some water to the cache, and we hung out there for a few minutes eating oranges that he brought and hydrating.  The trail through this section was really nice compared to what we had been walking through for the past few days, which had mostly been roads.  This trail was easy going, had a few trees here and there.  My hips liked it.  The sand wasn’t too soft, and there was enough up and down to keep things interesting without being difficult.  While hanging out with Sadie, we convinced her of the trail name “kinda sketchy,” which is an expression she says often.  For the first time she signed the trail register “Kinda Sketchy” and I wrote “SOBO’s UNITE!”  It was great to be hiking with a few other hikers.  The miles went by quickly and we were soon at Agua Dulce.  Someone pulled over and offered us a ride down the road to the Saufley’s.  The Saufley’s themselves weren’t home, but their son and daughter in law were house sitting for them, and they showed us around.  The place was amazing.  These people had obviously thought of absolutely everything.  They even have a buzzer so you can give yourself a hair cut!   We took showers, put on loaner clothes and rode bicycles into town to get food for dinner.  It was late by the time we finally got to sleep, closer to real midnight than hiker midnight, and I was completely exhausted.  Adrian and Sadie planned to take 3 days to get to Wrightwood, which meant three 27 mile days.  I couldn’t imagine getting up to hike 27 miles after staying up so late, so I decided we’d probably say goodbye and take our time.  I fell asleep very quickly.