I’m glad I left this journal until the evening. I was planning to start it at siesta time but the morning really sucked and I was in a terrible mood when I stopped at 11ish. It had been all downhill, and not even short and sharp because the PCT is graded for horses. So 5 miles of gradual, knee-grinding downhill. I was tired and hot and needed something to look at but the scenery hardly changed owing to the gradual slope and the continuous switchbacks. The first water was at Tule Spring, down a steep spur trail from the PCT. It was kind of nice, lots of shade and lots of water so I tried to be cheerful and made lunch. But there were about 20 hikers and a dog (a beautiful Siberian Husky) which I don’t think really has any place on a hot and dusty desert trail. I gave up trying to relax around so many people after an hour and hiked out around 12:45 to be grumpy by myself. Mistake. I was too full from lunch, with no space to put any more water in my stomach, in the hottest part of the day. I struggled on for a couple of hours but didn’t make very good progress. Could this day get any worse? I was definitely leaning towards no.
I plopped down on the top of a hill at mile 141 and sat in the wind for a bit which helped. I took off the lower part of my trouser legs and put the umbrella away. I wanted to take a stab at getting to Hwy 74 so I could either go to the Paradise Valley Cafe before it closed or hitch into Idyllwild for the night. A long shot, another 10 miles which at 3pm is looking pretty tough. There was a backup option at mile 149 for camping so I figured not much to lose. At that point, everything changed. I got faster and faster as the day wore on, storming up the hills to make up for my shaky downhills. I was feeling strong, invincible even. No more knee pain. All fatigue forgotten. I flew over three hills in record time.
I had been thinking I’d be cutting it fine for the cafe which closes at 8pm – I’d assumed I would make it somewhere between 7:15 and 7:30. The hitch would be hard afterwards but the hamburger would be worth it. I had messages from Diogenes and Chug both showing surprise I was attempting it and both giving me encouragement. They were both astonished when I pulled a 26-mile day out of the bag and reached the highway by 6:15pm. To tell the truth, so was I. Almost an hour earlier than I had been expecting!
Cheney was hitching at the trail and was speechless when I turned up. He had started around 10 miles further down the trail than I had and had arrived around 10 minutes before I did. I helped him to get a hitch (somehow picking up hitchhikers is less intimidating when one is a girl) and we made it to Idyllwild just as the folks here taking zeroes were headed out for dinner. We were reassured the place served until 10pm and we had time to clean up first. Sadly arriving at 8:15 we were turned away as the kitchen actually closed at 8pm on Sunday. Serious question: how are hikers meant to know what day it is? It is very important that we don’t turn up at the Post Office on a Sunday (or Saturday in some places) but it is very hard to keep track of the days on trail. I’m sure that my “Day X” titles will go wrong at some point when I lose the ability to count in a straight line. Anyway, Cheney and I went to the Gnome across the street and had some great food so we weren’t too disappointed at not being at the hikertrash table. I’ll catch up with the others before breakfast tomorrow, and I’m sure we’ll see each other on the trail.
I’m doing a near-o tomorrow (nearly a zero) because doing a 26 today necessitates a rest. If nothing else it will give the body HQ chance to interpret all the error messages and demands for sustenance and repair coming from various extremities. Today is the turn of the Achilles’ tendons which are complaining about my racing up 4 miles of hills in little more than an hour. Fair play, Achilles. You get a stretch and some naproxen tonight. And tomorrow you make me pay. This is how it works. So a near-o to do errands (buy more food bars, stock up on ibuprofen etc) and hike out after lunch. That’s the plan.
Miles: 24.6 + 1 for water and coming down from Mike Herrera’s place
Camping: Idyllwild (not camping)