Hiked out early from camp and cranked out around 10 miles by 10:30am. We passed mile 100 just after breakfast, all feeling pretty good about life. We’d started early so it was cool, especially in the shade of the mountain. It got hot even by 10am though, and it started to become a switchback-laden few miles into the Barrel Springs campsite. The PCT is graded for stock, so the inclines and descents are pretty reasonable which on one hand is great (I’d say better for the knees but I’m shaky on my first hand evidence there) but on the other means switchback after switchback alongside the mountains. After a while even the most patient person comes close to rage. You look at the destination, calculate the distance as 2-3 miles and wonder how on earth the trail map says 11 miles to go.
Unfortunately the early start and fast pace was a mistake. The bandage which had been working so well yesterday ran out of magic and the knee pain returned over the last 5-6 miles. I hiked out of Barrel Springs ahead of the group in order to hike more slowly and still finish at roughly the same time and found myself alone at the start of a long, dry section over a flat prairie type landscape. I saw Starfish ahead in the distance but let her disappear behind the rock before setting out so I wouldn’t be tempted to chase her down. The others caught me up around Eagle Rock and we walked the last field wondering exactly what angle this rock looks like an eagle from. We soon found out. I wonder if anyone has ever hiked out here from town with a chisel or if it naturally looks that eagle-like.
The last part of the journey was pretty nasty. Whilst a lot of it was more in the shade, I was trying to walk slowly. For me this requires a lot of concentration, and lapses can be painful. I reached the highway after what seemed like an age, only to find a sign showing the Warner Springs Resource Center a further 1/10 mile down the road. Ouch.
Luckily we arrived at around 2:30, with last call for hamburgers, soda and pasta salad ($6) at 3pm. Food always tastes better on a mountain but a cheeseburger is the ultimate proof. Well earned.