Day 11

Day 11
April 29
19.8 miles

Since I got no sleep, it wasn’t hard to get up to see the gorgeous sunrise! I packed up my things before everyone else and went over to Andrea Jane to apologize about my tent noise. She said she didn’t hear anything except the wind itself! The morning started out along a beautiful ridge with soft green mountains below. On my first break, the two Swedes passed by and asked me what I was eating. I told them it was my second breakfast. They said, “Second? What was your first?” and when I answered Poptarts, Robin answered, “That’s why!”. I guess he was right. Later on, I played leap-frog with two guys I had never seen before- Ted and Andrew. I asked them if they had seen Muk-Muk and they said they saw her taking a break at a creek yesterday and that she seemed to be taking her time.
I continued along and as I thought about the trail angels who put water out for us and all the people who help us in making our dream of walking from Mexico to Canada come true, tears gathered in my eyes. Sometimes I think that all we are doing is walking and not doing any good for anyone else… Why do we deserve this?

The scenery became more brown and dusty as I walked and the temperature rose. The only decent water source in this area was a quarter mile off the trail. I set my pack down behind a rock and took my water bags and filter down the dirt road. As I walked, a saw a patch of brilliant green trees where the water was. Amazing! Ted and Andrew had walked down as I was taking off my pack and we each found a bit of grass to sit on and filter our water. One of them asked about Muk Muk… “So, she’s your friend? She seems pretty cool…” I just said yes, she is. (Apparently every single guy on the trail immediately fell in love with her!) The Swedes came down as I headed back up the hill and I showed them where the water was and asked them if they wanted to borrow my filter since they had a slow-pumping one. They said they were fine. The heat bore down on us and a little ways ahead, the Swedes decided to seek refuge under a tree. I kept going and bypassed a perfect spot to take a break at- under a huge willow tree near a small stream filled with green algae. I felt that I didn’t need a break at that point.
By the time I reached the Oasis cache, I was sweltering. I took a peak at the registry, filled up on water, and then looked around for a bush to rest under across the dirt road. I laid out my sleeping pad, set up my umbrella in the branches above me, and tried to close my eyes. Flies landed on my legs and I had to keep brushing them away, and my body was still sweating even though it was still! I was so uncomfortable that I started to wonder what I was doing out there and that maybe I didn’t want to be hiking in the desert after all. However, after I envisioned myself lying on my couch back at home, I said “no way! I’m going to keep going!”. My thermometer read 102 after being in the shade for 40 minutes. I packed up my things and heard chatter at the water cache. I wanted to get a bit more water before I headed out so I went back to it. I told the older couple what my thermometer said and the man immediately dismissed it, saying it couldn’t be right or they couldn’t be hiking right now. Ummm… actually it is right and that is why I needed to seek shelter under the bush!! Then Greg appeared and said, “Wendy! Where did you come from?”
I said that I came from a bush over there!
I then started the next climb. I saw many beautiful desert flowers- yellow ones, pink ones, red ones, and purple ones. Even though I don’t know anything about the plant life out there, at times, a word such as “lupine” would come into my head when I saw a particular flower. I don’t really know where that was coming from.
As dusk approached, I started to look for a campsite. Nothing obvious was appearing and I went off the trail a bit to look around in the woods. I decided to keep going. Then, I came upon some tents. Anastasia, Archie, and Joey were set up and called out to me. “How far are you going tonight?’ one of them asked. I said, “Right here!”. I went over to say hi for a minute and thought it was so cute that they had set their tents up in a triangle formation with the doors facing each other. I had first seen this group at Mike’s place. They were friends from Redding, CA. I looked for my own spot and after the first place ended up not working, I moved closer to them, behind a small tree. It was already getting dark and I was tired. Once inside my tent, I noticed a tick on my rain pants! I had forgotten all about checking for them and this sighting caused me some concern.
All of us were excited to get to the Paradise Cafe the next morning for breakfast. It is normally closed on Tuesdays, which tomorrow was, but we had heard a rumor that the owner was opening it up for us hikers for the next couple of weeks! Hooray!

Day 10- Back to hiking!

Day 10
April 28
Mile 110.5-129.2
18.7 miles

I was still extremely tired in the morning and all I wanted to do was sleep. But I was hiking in the desert and needed to get up early and get some miles in before it got too hot. So, I got up at 5:25. Three owls were singing to one another in a cycle. One would call out, a second would respond, and then a third. And then they would start again. It was cute. I ate two chocolate poptarts and broke down my tent, trying to be as quiet as possible (really an impossible task when shifting everything around and stuffing it back into a pack) since Muk Muk didn’t appear to be awake yet. I figured she would catch up to me later on. I was on the trail at 6:34 and it was cool enough that I wore both my wind and rain jacket. (It was 47 degrees when I woke up). After a few miles, I came across two very friendly guys still in their campsite. One seemed to be standing up in his sleeping bag, changing his pants. They told me that they had gotten dropped off at Warner Springs from kick-off around 4, sorted through their resupply, and then slept in. They said they would see me later and said “bye!” in unison in a singsongy voice. How sweet!
Up ahead, above the second creek, I came across more campers who were not as friendly. Then, I saw a guy meditating on rock by a river.
I continued on and after I crossed a river just after 8am, I decided it was time for a snack. I found a nice big rock to sit on that was out of the way. The guy who had been meditating approached the river with his journal and looked around. I told him that I was leaving and that he could take my rock. He was envious of me doing the whole trail and said he wished he had more time out here.
My pack was so heavy that I needed to take it off every 20 minutes! Every time I found a nice spot, however, it seemed like I had just taken a break…
And when I really needed a break, I couldn’t find a good place!
I was eating a lot during my breaks! On one them, I actually lied down for a couple of minutes which felt really good. Later on, I got a bloody nose and was forced to lie down until it was under control.Later in the day, I found some rocks to the side of the trail and went to sit down for a minute. I couldn’t believe how much cooler the air was within the rocks! I ended up unrolling my sleeping pad, curling up my knees, and napping for about 20 minutes. The wind started picking up and the air was getting even cooler, so I packed up and hit the trail around 2. I felt better after that bit of rest. At around 2:40, I came to trail magic sign! Already? A girl came down the path and told me she had just spent 2 and a half hours there. She said that Mike had just put hot dogs on the grill and that there were a lot of people there. I was excited!
Mike’s house was down a road off the trail. He had a huge water tank that he let hikers drink out of and if he was home, we could rest under the shade of his porch. Logan, who started the trail the same day as me, greeted me and said that it had been awhile. I didn’t know anyone else there. I got some water and ate a hot dog with potatoes on a tortilla. They even had pink lemonade! Then, I had my first foot bath on the trail! I left some extra food that I was carrying in the hiker box and was going to head out when Mike said
said he was going to have smoked chicken in 2 hours…
Hmmm… Dehydrated pasta or chicken? I decided that I could make use of the extra time by journaling a bit. I could journal a bit. Finally, the chicken became available. People were eating it with bare hands and no plate! I didn’t find that so appealing and managed to at least find a plate. I finally left at 6:30. Greg and some others had come in and had decided to camp on the property. I climbed up to a ridge where a man had set up camp and looked around for a spot for myself. Then, I saw Andrea Jane sitting up in her bug net, wondering what to do. Logan was set up a bit away. I found a spot in the middle and went about setting up my tent in the strong wind! It was not an easy feat! I staked it as best as I could. Then, the Swedish boys arrived (they were the friendly ones I had met earlier in the morning!).
They set up close to Logan. I heard them saying they were from western Sweden- on the coast. I went over and told them I had relatives in Falkenberg and they said they lived a half hour from there and that Robin’s mother was from there!
I returned to my tent to finish setting up my things. Then, Robin made rounds to see who wanted coffee. “Decaf?” How sweet!
I took my jetboil over to their area and Rasmus started boiling water. They even had powdered milk and sugar. I told them they were the nicest thruhikers on the trail and Robin said, “You have to spread the happiness!”. They told crazy stories about their first few days on the PCT, carrying 75 pound packs with gallons of water and a laptop! They only made it 6 miles on the first day because Rasmus drank so much water that he depleted all of the minerals in his body and passed out! Then, they ended up running out of water before they reached Lake Morena. They were also wearing calf-high boots, as that is what they needed in cold and wet Sweden! They had no idea about Yogi’s guidebooks and didn’t know what to bring. And they also expected to be the only people on the trail! At 8:36, one of them said, “Well guys, we need to go to bed. We have to get up very early tomorrow!” And so, that was that.

I felt happy after the coffee and company. I ate a peppermint patty in my tent and then hunkered down in my sleeping bag.
Even though the pole remained upright and the stakes in the ground, the wind flapped the sides of my tent all night long and I couldn’t sleep at all! I hoped it wasn’t keeping everyone else awake, either!

Day 9

Day 9
April 27
Kick-off plus one mile

Muk Muk and I met up for the bagels being handed out and then headed over to Dr. Sole’s, laughing the whole way there. While we ate breakfast, we discussed our options for getting a ride back to the trailhead. There was a ride board, but there were tons of people looking for rides to Warner Springs and only a couple of drivers headed there whose cars were already full. I suggested we ask Leanne when she was headed back and if she had room. We then headed out to start our day, as I had my second yoga session to teach, and she had to work at the Dirty Girl gaiter booth again. While I was at my tent, trying to change, I saw the trail angel in my campsite, asking for me. The girls pointed to my tent. He made a comment about not needing to take my clothes off and then asked when I would be ready to leave. He said that he had been sitting with Muk Muk at the registration area last night and that they had both told each other that they were “done” with this. (Actually, she was done with you!). I told him that I wasn’t sure what seminars I wanted to go to and he took his pocket schedule out and started going through the list. “You don’t need to go to this. There’s no snow.” (In fact, yes, I do need to go to that!). I told him that I needed to get ready for my yoga class and he made a comment about letting me wake up. He also said his back was hurting and that he probably wouldn’t attend my session today.
I headed down to the lake, and this time was joined by about 25 or 26 others. It was my biggest yoga class yet! I ended up leading them for close to an hour and a half and it was probably more physical than they needed at that point, but it seemed well-received. A couple more people came up to me afterwards. One lady wanted to know where I was trained and who my favorite teachers were. Another man lingered after everyone had left and said that he was in a different mental place after the session- in a good way! I was happy to hear that. My bandaids would not stick to my open blisters, so I had a painful walk back. I checked in with Muk Muk at her booth and she asked if I could be the one who asked Leanne for a ride. (I really don’t like doing these kinds of things, but I agreed). I also met Chris, who also desperately needed a ride back to Warner Springs. We all thought he could ride with the trail angel and he wanted me to ask about that, too (since the guy clearly favored women). He held his hands up in prayer and thanked me.
I headed over to listen to part 2 of Ned Tibbets talk, which was a lot of repetition from the day before. I wanted to stay until the end (the guy can talk for hours!), but I had to gather together everything that I did not want to carry in my pack, such as my yoga clothes, and ship them back home at the mobile post office before they left. I backed away slowly, trying to take in every last piece of information that I could.
I made it to the post office in time, got to see a bit of the gear contest in which a Swedish hiker was showing off his carved wooden spoon, and then headed over to the geology talk. I sat next to Abby, who had attended one of my yoga sessions, and we talked about why we were hiking the PCT. The talk wasn’t holding either of our attentions, so we made our way out. I was feeling extremely tired. I managed to find Leanne and she said that she and her husband were planning on leaving sometime after the burger dinner and that they did have room for me and Muk Muk! I went back to my campsite to break down my tent and pack everything up. Muk Muk and I met back up at Dr. Sole’s. She was so worried about the trail angel hunting her down. I kept telling her that she could stay in the RV and that Dr. Sole would protect her. He ended up giving her one of his hats to wear as a disguise. She wanted to take a shower before dinner and then we waited in line for the burgers, wanting to get ours as fast as possible and then run back to Dr. Sole’s RV. While we were in line, the trail angel started calling out for Muk Muk, scanning the lines of people for her! I kept my eye on him and would duck down and move to the right or to the left, hiding behind the people in front of us. The guy behind us wanted to know what was going on and when I mentioned the trail angel’s name, he understood right away! Everyone seemed to know about this guy, and yet, I had heard nothing before actually being there in person! I didn’t think that was cool. We managed to avoid being seen, grabbed our burgers and ran out of the area. Muk Muk didn’t even want to take the time to add the condiments she wanted to her burger. We ate inside the RV, our stomachs still filled with dread. We wanted to get out of there and back on the trail! I went back to find Leanne and ask when they were leaving. She said as soon as they finished their burgers. I told her where we would be and returned to the RV. We waited and waited, but no one was coming. Then, a truck stopped along the road and the driver waved. I waved back, not realizing who it was! It was the trail angel! Of course Leanne told him where we were! Our stomachs hit the ground. He told Dr. Sole that he had come for the free samples of soap he was giving away. Muk Muk and I knew better… As he stared at Muk Muk’s name tag that Dr. Sole was now wearing, Muk Muk told him that we were getting a ride back with Leanne, but that Chris was looking for a ride. She tried calling him, but he didn’t answer. The trail angel didn’t seem at all interested in helping Chris out. Muk Muk excused herself and headed to the bathroom and I was left to say goodbye to him. It was a rather pitiful sight to see him walk away with his head down.
Darkness was falling and still, there was no sign of Leanne. We had a long drive to even get back to the trailhead and then we had to hike a bit… I saw Cookie Monster and chatted with him for a bit, and he tried to calm me, telling me that if they didn’t show up, we would get a ride another way. Finally, our ride appeared and we stuffed our packs and ourselves inside an already stuffed car. Poor Muk Muk had to hold her heavy pack on her lap the entire time. As we drove out of the campground, everyone seemed to be staring at our car. I wondered why until I realized that Leanne’s husband had his arm out the car and was frantically waving to everyone he saw! He then started yelling, “Byyeeee!!!” to every person he saw in a loud and strange voice. Muk Muk and I couldn’t believe it…
Finally we were out of the campground and onto the road! We passed a small gas station and then, oddly, turned back and pulled in! Nooo…! The trail angel was filling up on gas there! We couldn’t escape him! He asked Leanne’s husband if we wanted to let our packs ride with him…”No. We’re fine.” Luckily, Muk Muk had decided at the last minute to bring all of her things with her to kick-off- everything but her tortillas that she had left in his freezer. Fortunately, Dr. Sole had some extra tortillas in his freezer, so that problem was resolved. We headed out again. I was so tired and my stomach was hurting, so I closed my eyes. Muk Muk wasn’t feeling so good, either. Then, we found ourselves taking a long side road… Where were we going? I asked and the driver said he needed gas. (Why didn’t he fill up back at the gas station we were at?? Everything was so strange!). It was a long side trip! Later, we were in a line waiting to be questioned by border control. Muk Muk and I looked at each other. Where were we and where were they taking us? I started to worry that they were taking us back to the border! Again, I asked and was reassured that we were headed to Warner Springs.
Once we got close, they asked us if we wanted to head to the trail angels house with them. No… We would like to start hiking, please! So, they let us off on the side of the road in complete darkness, said our goodbyes, loaded our packs on and then opened the gate leading to the trail. I saw a light ahead and assumed it was another hiker’s headlamp. Maybe we can camp with them! I was so tired that I just wanted to set up my tent and go to sleep. Muk Muk, however, really wanted to get as far away from the trail angel as possible so he couldn’t find her. The light did not belong to another hiker after all and we kept walking. My headlamp was not strong enough to see anything, so Muk Muk lead and I relied on her and her headlamp. The sky was purple and the stars were amazing! We saw a pair of shining eyes to our left and then discovered that they belonged to a horse! There were many of them! They seemed to be attracted to our headlights and would come toward us, but upon discovering what the headlamps were attached to, they quickly turned and ran away. I found the experience to be quite magical. Muk Muk kept being startled by scary bugs that she saw crawling on our path. There were spiders all over the place and then a centipede! I told her I was glad I couldn’t see anything! Then, a rat ran straight toward her! She screamed even louder, which made me scream. And then they both got scared and jumped into the grass on the right side of the trail. We broke down in fits of laughter. I told her at least she was wearing pants!
Soon, we came to a sandy area and I saw a spot under a big tree that looked like a good place to set up camp. Muk Muk agreed. I had quite the time trying to set up my tent, though! The stakes I had (meant for snow and sand) would not stay in the ground! My pole support fell over again and again. I was so tired, and so frustrated. Muk Muk had set her tent up in a matter of minutes with ease. By the time I got into my sleeping bag, it was after 11pm. A stake flew out of the ground and the walls became soft and floppy. At least the tent managed to stay upright.

Day 8: First yoga class!

Day 8
April 26

I woke up fairly early, went in search of a cup of coffee (I only found a bad one), went through my class plan, and then headed down to the lake, where the yoga session was supposed to be held. (Last night’s session was held in a much closer location to the campers.) It turned out to be quite a walk! Once I reached the lake, I searched out the most level area I could find and then waited and waited and waited… Where was everyone? Why was I the only one there? Finally, I saw a single-file line of people making their way down. I guess the class would just start later than it was supposed to. I had worried so much about my voice being able to carry outside, but it turned out to be just fine. Everyone seemed to be able to hear me and at the end of the class, I felt like it was one of the best classes I had ever taught! A few people came up to me afterwards to chat, which was nice.
Then, I headed back to the pavilion to listen to a panel talk on desert hiking techniques. I sat on the floor in the back where an infestation of ants had apparently found some leftover food. Eventually, I realized that I wasn’t learning anything new from this talk and went to see if Dr. Sole could take care of my shoulders and blisters. I had open, stinging blisters from wearing my crocs, which were too tight, around kick-off. Dr. Sole already had a line of people waiting for him, including the German who had been hiking southbound. When he saw me, he immediately began making snide remarks, telling me that I was going slow on the climb to third gate and asking if I was okay. Yes, I was fine… It was a very hot afternoon, and I was climbing! And I wasn’t going that slow. What was his purpose in saying that to me? I didn’t want to be near him after that interaction, so I walked back to the pavilion to listen to the “new way to walk and avoid injuries” talk. By this time, I was getting very hungry, but no lunch was being served! Luckily, I saw some people with hamburgers and was pointed in the direction of some trail angels who were serving burgers. I asked Dr. Sole if he would like one and brought one back for him.
Then, I returned to the pavilion to listen to the water and snow report, where I found Muk Muk! The water report was very, very boring, and something I also did not need to hear, so we went back to see if Dr. Sole could fit us in. I didn’t get a chance to soak my feet, but he washed out my stinging blisters, put a rainbow band-aid on it, and put some more goldbond powder on my shoulders. (I had been excited to wear my yoga outfits, but had forgotten about the unsightly sores that my backpack gives my shoulders! It was not a good look…)
Once again, I headed to the Pavilion to hear Kolby Kirk’s talk on journaling. I loved this talk! He is an incredible artist and journaler and it was nice to see his work! I then waited for Ned Tibbets’ snow and safety presentation to begin until someone informed us it was being held outside. So, I went to listen to this very confident, skilled, and knowledgeable man talk about hiking in the snow in the Sierras, how to use an ice axe, and how to ford the rivers of snowmelt. I tried to soak in as much of the information that he presented as I could. And then it was time for burritos! I couldn’t find anyone I knew, so I went back to Dr. Sole’s RV, where I met his son Boomer. Dr. Sole was still hard at work patching up injured feet!
I headed over to the short film festival and sat by myself in the crowd of people, laughing at the absurdity of some of the things that were being shown and then, once more, headed back to Dr. Sole and the fire he had going. Several people had gathered around. Finally, Muk- Muk showed up. She was very upset about being made to sit with the trail angel at the registration desk all evening (when no one was showing up and she obviously wasn’t needed), and listening to everyone laugh at the movies she couldn’t see. And all of this after having to sell someone else’s product all day! I told her that this kick-off weekend was meant as a celebration for her and that she should not be working! I encouraged her to tell the trail angel that she wanted to attend the events and deserved to do so. Dr. Sole agreed. Both of us could not stomach the idea of riding back to Warner Springs with him. We had to find another way back! Dr. Sole invited us over for coffee and breakfast burritos in the morning.
For having done no hiking, it was a tiring day!

Day 7: To Kick-off

Day 7
April 25

To my surprise, no one got up super early! We spent the morning packing up our things and loading them into the truck. Leann, the other woman who spent the night there, would head out later in the day. We got into the two seat pick-up with Muk Muk in the middle, straddling the gear shift. It was not a comfortable ride in any sense… We headed back to Lake Morena, which we had by now hiked 90 miles further north of.
As we approached the Mt. Laguna Store, we spotted Lion King walking down the road. The trail angel asked him if he wanted a ride, but he declined. (I’m not sure where he would have fit…) He stopped the car and went inside the store to scope out the hiker box. (He had containers full of food and hiker supplies that he had picked out of these boxes for himself back at home). The store owners were delighted to chat with Muk Muk and I patiently waited. Then, we headed back into the truck for the final leg of the trip. The trail angel asked Muk Muk her age and tried to teach her the lyrics to a song. He had her sing the opening lyrics over and over and over… It was driving me crazy. I just wanted to get to our destination and out of that truck! We pulled into the campground, waited for him to chat with people, and then he drove me to my assigned campsite. I was put in the single girls area (it was named “Girl Power!”) and picked a spot to set up my tent. Once I was settled, I headed back to the main part to try to find Muk Muk, who was going to sleep inside Dirty Girl’s RV. She hadn’t registered for kick-off and the trail angel said he would get her in by having her work at the Dirty Girl Gaiter booth. As I walked by the restrooms, a man asked me if I needed shampoo while someone was shouting my name across the way. My attention was torn. I told the man no thank you- that I had showered earlier in the day! I then saw that it was Muk Muk and the trail angel who were calling me from inside his huge tent set-up. They had just finished eating and were about to head out to their assigned jobs. I started to worry about not bringing extra food for the weekend. No food was being served this first night and no lunches were being served, either. I headed back to my campsite to do some catch-up journaling on the first section of the hike. I also had to finish planning my yoga classes! I got a text from Drama saying that he hoped I wasn’t too mad at him, but he and Lorax decided not to go to kick-off and just continue north instead.
After registration officially opened, I went over to check in and receive my PCT class of 2013 bandana! I felt so proud! I ran into a familiar face there, as well. Cookie Monster! I had met him outside of Pinkham Notch on one of my test hikes for the AT in September of 2008 and he played a big part in my decision to go ahead and hike the AT. I thought he had hiked the PCT years ago, but found out this year was his first attempt! When I triggered his memory about how we met, he said, “Welcome Home!”. What a small world!
Later, I found Muk Muk again and she said that she wanted to introduce me to a doctor who had fixed up her blisters, given her 2 pairs of hiking shoes to try out, and attached sheepskin padding to her shoulder straps. She thought he could help me with the sores on my shoulders from my pack straps. I went over to meet him and found out that he was actually a retired truck driver who, for the past four years, was helping PCT hikers fix their foot problems! He said that I didn’t need the padding that he had given Muk Muk and wanted to put some medicated Gold Bond powder on the affected area instead. Since he was busy and I wanted to go to the yoga session that evening that was being lead by another hiker, I agreed to come back later.
As I was warming up a bit on the lawn and going through what I planned to lead in my class tomorrow, Bones came skateboarding down the road! We chatted a bit and he told me that he would try to attend my Saturday session if he wasn’t too-hungover. He planned on walking the 20.6 miles from the border back to Lake Morena tomorrow for fun. The yoga session was quick and ended in the chilly air that came with dusk. I returned to my tent for my headlamp and warmer clothes and then headed back to Dr. Sole’s RV, where Muk Muk and I were invited in for cookies and coffee! We were so cozy and content!
Then, it was time to bid each other goodnight and head to sleep. On the way back to my tent, I stopped in at the Pavilion to watch the end of a movie about the AT. It brought out a lot of emotion in me. I felt thankful to have discovered this lifestyle and community and pride for what I had already completed and what I was about to embark on. Tomorrow, I would lead my first yoga session down by the lake!

Day 6- 100 miles, the Eagle, and Warner Springs

Day 6
April 24
13.5+ miles to Warner Springs
Mile 109.5

While I was getting ready for the day inside my tent, a friendly hiker passed by and said hello! I didn’t know who it was, but I returned the greeting. It was a pretty morning and I made slow progress due to wanting to photograph the changing colors of the sky. I made my way along the ridge and then started a descent. After a few miles, I took a small break where Luke caught up to me. He said Drama was up ahead. We soon passed by some stones set in the shape of a ‘100’ along a slope! We had hiked 100 miles! Just up ahead was a second ‘100’ marker on the ground just off the trail and we stopped to take photos there. Luke was very excited about this milestone. Maybe it was because I had already hiked a long trail and knew how long we still had to go, but this milestone didn’t have the same impact or excitement for me. I was happy for Luke, though. Soon, two German hikers came along silently. Luke couldn’t believe they didn’t let out any hollers after passing this milestone. He and I walked together and he told me about a strange dream he had had about a teacher from the Philippines and the trail. The Lorax then made an appearance in the dream at a sad point and told Luke he could grant him one wish. I suggested that maybe that could be his trail name. I think he was hoping I would say that because right after that, he started to introduce himself as ‘The Lorax’. We reached a pretty meadow area with big oak trees (another surprise for me in the desert) and then found Drama and a couple of other hikers by a water trough. Drama was also demonstratively excited about reaching the 100 mile point. When Smooth Operator approached (Mike had acquired a new trail name as well as shoes, socks, and poles after his town stop in Julian!), Drama asked him to do his 100 mile pose. He simply held out his first two fingers. After filling up and filtering water, the four of us headed out. Drama talked about how his first few miles in the morning were slow and meditative (calling them his library hours) and then his energy built as the day continued and he would test his limits of how fast he could walk. He also talked about how he sometimes would think of moving from his solar plexus chakra, which I found interesting. He and I reached some nice flat lands where we spotted a herd of cows. I really wanted to get close to them and debated whether or not to take the time to do so. Drama was not interested in this diversion, but humored me anyway. The cows were a bit skittish!
I was excited about getting to the first famous landmark on the PCT- the big stone eagle! I had been seeing lots of rocks that looked like eagles on day 1 and a couple today. But I couldn’t wait to get to the real one! Drama thought it was the Eagle Creek trail with the waterfall when I mentioned it and I had to tell him that was all the way in Oregon! I got to the landmark first, followed by the three guys. Two hikers- Dan and Hillary were already there. I climbed up to the eagle’s head and tried to straddle it because I wanted to ride it, but the rock was so wide! I guess it wasn’t the best choice for a picture, as Drama kept saying, “Look alive! Look alive!”.
Smooth Operator had no need to be photographed on it- he hadn’t even known about this landmark and took off first, followed by Drama and the Lorax. I needed a snack so I stayed there longer and then headed out on my own. We had only a few miles to get to Warner Springs! We were all tired. I had felt a lot of pressure since I had started the trail to get to Warner Springs by today, as the trail angel who had played a big part in organizing the yoga sessions at kick-off told me he wouldn’t be able to give me a ride down there if I arrived on Thursday. I probably wouldn’t have pushed so hard in the beginning otherwise. It’s not good for your body. I caught up to Lorax and then Drama, who was sitting on the side of the trail, not sure which path to take. None of us knew, actually. We decided based on what we read in our guidebooks and took the path to our right. It was a much longer walk than I expected. At one point, I thought I saw some hikers near a building that looked like a school below us, but The Lorax thought I was wrong. We kept walking and came to a garbage can oddly placed along the trail. We then saw a hiker carrying his resupply box back up this path! How strange! Why wouldn’t he have repacked his pack at the post office and thrown away the box? Finally, we reached a road, but again, had no idea which way to go! I tried calling the trail angel who said he could pick me up, but there was no answer. We stood there for awhile, not knowing what to do. Then, Mike came walking down the road and told us the post office was a mile that way and that the Community Center was in the other direction. I wasn’t going to walk a couple of miles carrying my pack and resupply box and said I was going to the Community Center first. The Lorax agreed to do the same while Drama chose to walk to the post office. Finally, we found the community center, which had been set up by some elder local volunteers to help out the PCT hikers after the resort shut down last year. They offered showers for $8, laundry for $6, and burgers for $5. Many hikers had gathered inside to escape the sun, use the computers to write home, and take an extended break. I walked in dirty and disgusting-looking! The desert and I don’t agree so well… I was quickly greeted by Ben and Jaime who rushed over to me, surprised that I had already caught up to them! Jaime looked so different in her glasses and dress that I almost didn’t recognize her! Unfortunately, they weren’t going to kick-off, so they would be three and a half days ahead of me leaving Warner Springs. It would be a tough feat to catch back up to them!
I wasn’t sure if I should order a burger or take a shower, or just try to hold out until the trail angel came. He called back and told me to just wait and asked if the Brooks Cascadias were still in the hiker box. He asked me to set them aside for him. I went outside to use the hose to rinse off some of the dirt off my legs and feet. The “fun” group was there, as well as the two girls, several hikers who had been ahead of me, and now Lorax and Drama. The trail angel showed up with a female who I did not know and after chatting with other hikers for a bit, the three of us got into his pick up. We picked up my resupply box at the post office while the trail angel rummaged through the hiker box, looking for things he could use for his own future hike. As he and the girl were getting into his truck, he asked me if I would turn around. I thought he wanted to kiss the girl without me seeing, as he definitely seemed interested in her. I thought this was strange, but agreed. He then said, “See? Doesn’t she have big calf muscles?” to which the girl agreed. He said (again) that he could always spot an AT hiker from the size of their calf muscles. I had already told him on the phone that those muscles had disappeared a long time ago and that any muscles I had now were from yoga. I still couldn’t figure out who the girl was on our way to his home… She was clean, pretty, nice-smelling, and had a foreign accent, and the guy said she would be working at the Dirty Girl Gaitor booth at kick-off. I assumed he must have found a new girlfriend already (he had talked about his ‘ex-girlfriend’ on the phone with me before I had left for the trail when we were discussing the yoga session).
It wasn’t until I saw her pack and we started chatting together that I realized that she was also a thru-hiker who had started on the 15th and was suffering from a lot of blisters. This trail angel saw her at the community center and invited her back to his home. They seemed very chummy together and I felt like wallpaper during my stay there (which was just fine by me!). Another woman was staying there as well, and again, I could not figure out who she was. I took a shower and was given a homemade vegetable pizza. I updated my journal on the PC (which was difficult for me to figure out how to use), and helped the Australian girl go through her huge pack and get rid of a lot of things, including a bear bell! She was carrying paper maps for the first 700 miles of the trail (!), as well as an extensive array of medical supplies. The trail angel kept saying things like, “Do you want to see my first aid kit?” and then opened a drawer and held up some duct tape. He definitely wanted to be the center of attention, but wasn’t interested in actually helping the poor girl get rid of some serious weight that was hurting her body. He didn’t plan on leaving until 9 in the morning (kick-off didn’t start until the next night) and I wondered why I had to push so hard to get there so early.
In the evening, Roz, who had been considering taking the trail name “Dunno”, was telling the trail angel about a note she received from her friend Sarah (her inspiration to do the trail) at the start of the trip. Sarah had given her the name “Muk Muk” – a British Columbia species of marmot- because this was Roz’s favorite mascot of the Vancouver Olympics where the two met. Sarah had previously hiked the PCT and had put the idea into Roz’s head. I thought the name was perfect! I loved the story and it was also a cute name! So, she decided to take it.
I slept in the living room/kitchen area while Muk Muk slept in a second bedroom. Before we went to sleep, the trail angel went into her room and started massaging her feet! He turned out the lights in the middle of it! What was happening? I didn’t like what was going on at all…

Day 5

Day 5
April 23
Mile 77-about mile 96
19 miles

I broke down my camp, packed up, walked quietly past the hikers still huddled in their sleeping bags under the bridge and headed over the road and up the notoriously hot hill. It was a slow start. I was fascinated by all of the new forms of cacti I was seeing- more typical of the kinds you would expect to see in the desert. I kept looking back at the road and bridge behind me, observing where I had been and thinking of those who were still there. I got hungry and decided to take an extended break, getting out my jetboil to use as a bowl to eat some granola with powdered milk. Two girls walked by and introduced themselves: Midnight Chocolate and her friend (later to be named Cowgirl) from Colorado. We chatted for a couple of minutes and they continued on. We played leap-frog when they decided it was time for a break, themselves. I didn’t see any rattlesnakes today, but I did see two slate blue ones napping on the trail, as well as a yellow and black one that slithered off the trail. I crossed paths with a German man who was hiking southbound from Warner Springs to kick-off. He wanted to know how far behind his friends he was. I continued to hike through a burn area and descended to some lower land where I saw a group of five hikers taking a break beside a bush. They said hello and we chatted for a bit. Spoonman, Werewolf, Marijke, Sierra Bum and B-rad (I believe). They invited me to join them and said they were all funny. I wanted to keep moving, however. Ahead of me, I could see a hiker who was moving a bit slowly. When I caught up to him, I realized it was Luke, who had started the same day as me. As I chatted with him, the fasted hikers from the group of five began to pass. I hiked with Luke until he realized that he had left his phone back where we had taken a small break. Our first big destination of the day was the third gate water cache. There were no natural water sources along this stretch of trail, so a generous group of trail angels took it upon themselves to stock water for us PCT hikers. This year, the cache was moved about a quarter mile down off the trail to make it easier for the angels to maintain the supply. As I approached the sign reading “water”, I began to see hikers seeking refuge under every bush in the vicinity! I had only seen the two girls and the group of five all morning and had no idea so many people were in the same area! I tried to see if I knew anyone, but it’s hard to tell when everyone is disguised in wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses and hiding under bushes! Two hikers pointed to the water sign and told me there was water that way. I felt like I had just arrived in munchkin land! (“Follow the yellow brick, road…!) Another told me to find a bush to rest under. Some had their tarps set up. I couldn’t find an unoccupied bush until I started down the water path. It was a very hot afternoon and no one was about to move! I set down my pack to claim my bit of shade and brought my water bottles down to the cache. This was a nice cache! There were lots of gallon jugs of bottles, all neatly organized and tied together with a rope. The “fun” group had found a tree off the trail to relax under and invited me over but I said I had already found a spot. I made my way back up the hill with full water bottles, opened my chrome umbrella for the first time and set it in the branches over my head. The sun was burning my feet, though! I had to keep shifting the umbrella as the sun moved. I kept expecting Luke to come down the path, but he never did. Another hiker passed by me who recognized me. I tried to recall who it was. “Greg, is that you?” I had met him briefly at the Pioneer Mail water source and he had his hat and sunglasses on then.
I didn’t allow myself to rest too long, as I had my goal for the day, so I packed up and got moving, trying my umbrella out as I walked. It was difficult to hold up, however, and a bit annoying to fit over my wide brimmed hat. By this time, I couldn’t wait to switch my hat out! I regretted my choice as soon as I took it out of my pack at the San Diego airport. It was crumbled and shapeless from being stuffed in my pack and I realized as soon as I stepped out onto the dusty and very windy desert trail that what looks good in your apartment has no bearing on how it will be on the trail! The thing would not stay on my head in the wind, even with the chin strap that I added. And white is not a good color when you are living in dirt! So, I asked my resupply people if they could ship out my western hat instead. I was counting down the miles with this hat…

As dusk approached, I began to look for a spot to set up my tent. I was now on a ridge, making this task a bit more difficult. Finally, I spotted a piece of dirt just off a bend in the trail that turned out to be just big enough to fit my tent. I set it up, cooked my pasta dinner and greeted the two girls as they continued down into lower land for the evening. I had no desire to night hike or set up camp in the dark and was thankful I had found a spot to sleep before the sun had set.