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PCT 2015 Day 16: Surprising Miles

  • Start: 232.0
  • End: 256.2
  • Miles: 24.2 + 0.5 for water
  • Camping: Arrastre Forest Camp

After a relatively good night’s sleep I wasn’t too keen on getting out of the sleeping bag when the alarm went just before 5am. The ever dangerous snooze button got a couple of hits in, but I just couldn’t get going. It took an hour to break camp, although I was still second of five to leave! I had mixed up some granola but hadn’t eaten it, planning as usual to get some miles in on a cereal bar before stopping in the sunshine to breakfast properly. Unfortunately this morning the first 8 miles were steeply uphill to get out of a deep canyon. My legs didn’t want to know. They shut up shop until I stopped on a vaguely sunny rock at 7:30am to give them some calories to work on. 

Those 8 miles took from 6:20 until almost 11am, lots of 30 sec recovery breaks, lots of water and lots of determination. I was still one of the first out of the canyon that morning, though 12Percent passed me around 5 miles in, having camped higher up the night before.

I stopped at the top, where there was a picnic area with a spring. The spring had icicles on it, to give an indication of how cold it gets up here at 8,000ft at night. We went up to 8,700ft today, and given the first 8 miles of the day I was very doubtful of getting in more than another 8 so I would have been camping at that elevation. Thankfully the day changed from that point on.

We had emerged into a forest, albeit a burn area although that didn’t last the whole afternoon. The canyon walls of the morning gave way to views across back to San Jacinto where I could have sworn I’d been just a couple of days ago. Oh right, it looks far, it is far, and I WALKED it.  The gradients became shallower and my legs forgave me for the morning after a peace offering of 2 salami and cheese tortillas and 2 cereal bars. I finished the 8 miles I thought would be the final ones of the day by 3pm.

I picked up Doc and Colin on one of the plateaus and discovered we had a similar pace on the current terrain. I still felt pretty tired, and they were heading respectively to mile 256 and 259. I thought would be too far given the high mileage of the previous days and the brutal climb this morning, so I stopped and let them go on, intending to stop at mile 253 making a 21 mile day. As it happens I picked them up again taking a break at mile 252 and stopped to eat something with them. All of us are hungry all the time now. Even after we eat. So a food break isn’t normally something to turn down. I’m stopping in Big Bear tomorrow so even if I eat all my food today I can get more then. Might be a hungry 10-15 miles first thing though. I’d packed out an orange from the trail magic bin a couple of days ago and we shared that, lamenting the lack of fresh food on trail. It is generally too heavy for the amount of calories it provides (being full of water) and it spoils easily. Oranges are a pretty nice treat but I won’t carry them often. 

We made it to mile 253 where I’d been planning to camp and found a magic box full of trail magic from the hostel in Big Bear. Chocolate! Lemonade! And a trash bag so we don’t have to pack the rubbish out! We also found cell service and I was able to retrieve a message from Diogenes saying there is 1-2 inches of snow forecast for tonight and 1-3 inches for tomorrow. What we didn’t find there was a) a proper campsite or b) shelter in the form of trees. Decision made, it was only 5:15pm and the campsite at mile 256 was only 3 miles and nearly 1,000ft lower. I tried to get a message out to Chug about the snow, and to let him know the next campsite looked better but unless he made it to 253 chances are he won’t get it. Hopefully they are ok. Both of their tents are freestanding so should survive snow better than mine!

I arrived in plenty of time to pitch the tent firmly and get into my sleeping bag before the sun went down although the temperature at the campsite had still dropped, being in shadow. There are lots of trees to shelter the tents, and people around if it all goes horribly wrong, and we all need to bail out together but I don’t think it will be necessary. My tent the way it is pitched now should easily stand 1-2 in snow, and my sleeping bag is rated to 10F. I put my water filter, shos and clothes into a spare cuben fibre bag in the bottom of my sleeping bag so they won’t freeze. It’s going to be a cold one though!

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