I surprised myself by getting up early and getting on the trail before the others and was greeted by another beautiful rising sun! How lucky was I? Looking out over the mountain folds in the distance, I made my way down towards the road that lead to Paradise Valley Cafe, a mile off the trail. I texted Muk Muk to let her know that it was indeed open today, and that I was headed there now. She was several miles behind. I arrived before it had opened and waited on the porch with Kim. I think I was more excited about using the restroom to wash up then I was about having breakfast! When I finally got in there and washed my hands, I realized that one washing was not going to be enough! So I washed them two more times and then tried to remove some of the dirt from my face! Wow… What a difference this trail was from the AT! As we waited for the servers to open the restaurant, Anastasia, Archie, and Joey arrived, followed by Roadrunner and Will. The group from Redding invited me to join them at their table and Kim came over, as well. I was amused when Joey came back from the restroom and told everyone that he washed his hands three times! (I love it when other people have the same exact experiences as me!). I learned they had been referring to me as “Olive Oil” because of my floppy hat- which after thinking about, I didn’t actually mind. I wanted to be that girl after seeing the movie! But I told them I already had a trail name. I enjoyed my first real meal-an omelet and toast and coffee- since starting the trail, but didn’t feel I had a real need for it. The others were talking about sticking around for lunch. As I reached into my hipbelt pocket of my pack to take out my camera, my zipper completely broke! Great… It was damaged within a few days of my Colorado Trail hike but I was told by another hiker out there that ULA doesn’t fix the zippers on the hipbelts. Now, I had a completely open pocket that would fill with water when it rained!
We filled up our water bottles from a hose outside and then the owner came by and asked if any of us wanted a ride back to the trail. Yes, please!! We loaded up our packs and hopped into the back of his truck, holding tightly onto our hats. Kim, Will, Roadrunner, and I were now resuming our hike at the same time and place. It took us a couple of false starts to find the actual trail and then a bit more time to fall into our own rhythms. And then, once again, I found my own space where my only companions were the lizards and horny toads and pretty flowers and bushes. That was where I was most comfortable. As the afternoon wore on, the trail began climbing steeply. It was quite a change from the gradual ascents we had early on! My body clearly wasn’t used to this type of work! Luckily, with the climbs came more shade, as we entered an environment that supported tree growth!
I planned on getting water off Fobes Saddle (a half mile off the PCT), as my guidebook advised not going to Apache Spring, but I couldn’t figure out where the side path was! I saw an old sign at what I thought was the saddle and looked everywhere for a path. As I continued on the PCT, I checked my GPS app and it said that I was now past this side trail. I was not about to climb back up the hill, and decided that I would ration my water instead. When I reached the bottom of the hill, I came across two wooden chairs and a sign reading “Fobes Saddle”. Hmmm… something was not right! I took a short break and moved on. As I started the next climb, I looked down into the valley and saw a water tank. My app did not match the location of the water. That is why I couldn’t find the side trail! And now, I realized that I was further behind than I thought. I continued to climb, determined to get to the Apache Spring intersection, where I thought there would at least be a camping spot. The wind had picked up dramatically, and I knew that I would have to cowboy camp or my flapping tent walls would keep me up all night again. The sun began to set and my heart began to beat faster as I was running out of time to find a camp spot. I looked off the trail here and there, but found nothing suitable. Then, I came upon a group of hikers who were sitting around having dinner to my left. I recognized a few of them from kick-off. I said hello, but they didn’t hear me, so I said, “Hi, guys” again. (It would have been creepy of me to pass by without acknowledging them). Finally, one of them saw me and the leader of the group invited me to camp with them. The area was already crowded with tents and I was intent on making it as far as Apache Spring, so I thanked them and said I wanted to hike a bit more. It turned out that there were no camping spots around the Apache Spring area, so I kept going as the sky grew darker. I was now on an exposed ridge with nothing but small shrubs along the trail. I needed to find something quickly! After a little scouting, I decided on a pebbly area next to some shrubs. The earth was quite sloped, but I couldn’t find a better flat spot. I set up my groundcloth, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag and fastened all of my things together so they wouldn’t blow off with the wind. The view of the folding ridges and setting sun helped keep me calm, as this was my first night of real cowboy camping, and I was not feeling comfortable at all! Since it was now dark, I didn’t feel like getting out my stove and cooking my disgusting pasta (why I bought the same kind of dinner for every night on the trail, I don’t know…). Instead, I just snacked a bit, set my pack to the downward sloping side to act as a barrier if I rolled off that way, and tried to relax. I felt a tingling sensation in my foot and felt that it was likely the presence of my brother coming to reassure me that I would be okay. The temperature dropped and the wind howled, and I dug myself further into my sleeping bag.