March 26, 2014
Mile 20 to mile 41
Last night around 11:30, one of the increasingly strong gusts of wind pulled a stake that had anchored my tent. When I climbed out to repitch the tent, I stepped into a foggy mist that was pushing silently through the campground. Everything outside my tent was soaked with droplets deposited by the cloud that had apparently enveloped the hillside.
Five hours later when I reluctantly began to pack for the day, the cloud had thickened and I could hear bursts of heavy mist pelting my tent.
I hiked the first ten miles with the three guys who had started with me the day before. The mist-rain let up and the sun began to break through the heavy clouds, bathing the green meadows and oak trees in warm light. The trail meandered through some hills and then led under a couple large, well-trafficked roads. Though over half of the PCT is in designated wilderness, many portions of the trail, especially in Southern California, are within sight of civilization.
As the trail climbed away from the last major road, I hiked ahead of Ken, Paul and Johnny and stayed in front of them for the rest of the day.
After stopping briefly for lunch, I followed the trail across another road and onto the side of a mountain where a 180 degree vista opened up before me. I tried in vain to pick out the sliver of trail denoting my future route. In the distance I could see a freeway teeming with cars.
I continued around the hillside into a sort of pass and was met with a punishing wind. The sky to the West was filled with low-hanging clouds that scudded towards me as I climbed the next hill. Soon I was swallowed by the thick moisture of the cloud. Visibility became limited as the mist shrouded nearby hills. I hurried under dead trees that whooshed with the wind, afraid to linger where I could see branches that had fallen before. I began to feel angry at the weather. This was supposed to be desert. It was supposed to be hot and dry, and the sun was supposed to be burning my skin. I was supposed to be hiding in the shade to avoid heat exhaustion. Instead I was making use of my rain jacket and my gloves, and when I stopped for more than ten minutes at a time, I would begin to shiver and lose control of my fingers.
I pushed up onto a ridge, unable to tell exactly where I was because of the lack of visibility. Strange songs began to play in my head against the sound of the rushing wind. I stumbled in a strong gust, but caught myself. I knew I was getting too tired and too cold. I needed to camp, but I wanted to be sure of where I was. I had planned to pick up my first resupply in the morning. When I finally reached a trail sign, I had made it within a mile of my Mt. Laguna resupply.
Under a fir tree, I pitched my tent low to the ground and crawled inside with my pack. I tucked my wet clothes between my body and my jacket to dry them and then wriggled into my sleeping bag.
Things I learned today:
1. Trail Magic is awesome, even when you don’t need it. I came upon a cache of water left for hikers in need. Luckily for me, I had plenty of water and was not hot considering I’d been walking in a cloud for a few hours. However, it was touching to think of people devoting their time and resources to helping pct hikers who will probably never be able to thank them in person. There’s a generosity present in trail angels that seems absent in many other people. Or maybe I’ve simply been absent or oblivious when other people perform similarly selfless acts. As a hiker, I feel a little bit selfish knowing that people want to help me. It’s a strange feeling and one that I hope I can mitigate somehow in the future.
2. I need more food. Around lunch time today, I realized that I’m chewing through calories much more quickly than I had anticipated. Luckily, I ramped up the daily calorie count significantly in future resupplies.
3. Missing people is hard but helpful. While being angry at the cloud today I realized that I was using the people I miss as motivation to keep walking. I’m glad that there’s more to missing someone than sadness.