Day 10: Ups and Downs
Friday, March 30, 2018 10:12 pm
Location: Campsite 124.9 (124.9 miles)

After one of the most restful nights I’ve had on the trail (owing in no small part to tenting under a tree on grass with nice weather), I wound up getting a later start than anticipated, had a very tiring hike, didn’t meet my distance goal for the day, and had all sorts of annoying things go wrong.

The day started well enough, at the Warner Springs Community Center. Thanks to that glamorous invention, the microwave oven, I was able to have heated pop tarts for breakfast. I spent a not insignificant time repacking my pack, as my food bags were stuffed with way too much food. (I think I have three extra dinners worth of food, and probably a week’s worth of snacks, given the slower rate of consumption than I expected and the math error I made determining how many I’d need. It ultimately required really squishing my tent to about 3/4 the size I usually compress it to, and relocating my drink mix bags to the rear pouch on my pack. (In an interesting twist, that space is only available due to the broken zipper on a side pocket, which required moving some items around to ensure the pocket was both usable, and that nothing would fall out.)

That ultimately caused me to leave closer to 8:30, than the before 8 I wanted. The morning hike started off well, beginning California Section B of the PCT and going through one last cow pasture before entering the woods. Gnats were hard at work in the pasture attempting to fly into my eyeballs. Fortunately, my sunglasses thwarted their dastardly plan.

Leaving Warner Springs
Leaving Warner Springs

As the trail traveled through the pasture, in the mountains to the northwest, I could just make out domes from the telescopes at the Palomar Observatory.

Shortly after leaving the pasture, the trail passed through part of a physical challenge obstacle course, before roughly following the Agua Caliente Creek for a few miles, crossing it a few times and providing a few options for good water for the day.

After about six miles, I stopped at one of the creek crossings for a snack and to get more water. Three different groups of hikers passed me while I was there (Kaylee and James; Hulkspiration, Sierra, and Cowbell; and Mountain Goat and her two friends), all of which I wound up passing later in the day. This break started off unnecessarily long, and then got longer as I was leaving and discovered there were ticks crawling on my pack. This then required unpacking everything, checking all my stuff for ticks, and repacking everything, hoping I didn’t miss any. My pack will definitely not be in the tent with me tonight.

That somewhat dampened my mood for the remainder of the long uphill slog for the rest of the day, with over 3,300 feet of total elevation gain (the most so far). The new (and very white) long sleeve shirt I got yesterday helped immensely. The three extra days of food I’m carrying significantly put a damper on my speed, though.

Unlike the last long uphill climb, there was some occasional shade, and besides the two short snack breaks I took, I took dozens of micro-breaks whenever I got tired and there was shade. The landscape, mostly green, also helped morale on the climb. In the afternoon, some thin wisps of clouds formed, though they didn’t really block much of the sun’s heat.

By late afternoon, near the end of the day’s climb, the trail started to take on a more rocky-deserty feel, with small plants not completely covering the ground in the distance, and large boulders sitting around for show. I had hoped to make it at least 17.5 miles to a water tank at a trail angel’s house, but I was just moving too slowly, between the uphill and overweight pack.

I stopped for a while at one tentsite, but found when setting up my tent that it wouldn’t fit in the available space. (My old tent probably would have, and would have been easier to make that determination.) So, I pushed on a little further to the next available tentsite about half a mile further, and found it also definitely too small. Getting pretty tired and running out of energy, I went almost another mile (uphill, of course) to one last campsite, and managed to find a place with a great view that just barely held my tent. The tent wound up being a bit crooked, but it’ll hold up.

However, I then discovered I had drank far more water than I was expecting: my water bladder was almost completely empty, and all I had besides that was the 1 liter bottle I was saving as camp/emergency water. This means, of course, that I can’t cook dinner tonight, so, dinner of candy bars it is. I’ll have to have dinner-for-second-breakfast after getting to the water tank, about two miles ahead, tomorrow morning.

When setting up my tent, I discovered some abrasion wear on the tent’s bag, so that’s definitely not going to bode well for that bag lasting the duration of the hike. Later, when trying to find some Advil packets I pulled from a hiker box two days ago, I discovered that I had placed my tent on top of an ant nest. And that my headlamp was missing. (I used it last night, so unless it’s been creatively packed, it likely fell out in Warner Springs when I was organizing my pack.)

At least I’m comfy in my sleeping bag.

Tenting in the Desert
Tenting in the Desert