Day 36: Back into the Wind!

Day 36
May 24
558.5- about 582
23.5 miles

I woke up early, but was only briefly able to speak to my friend, as he was running late for jury duty. He told me that he could call back at 9 am, my time, but I told him I would be hiking!
I walked over to the fastfood restaurant and founds Weeds and Icebucket. They had taken my advice of bringing over their Starbucks via packets, as this town had no good coffee! I asked them where they got the hot water and they said they just added it to the coffee from the restaurant! I ordered the french toast special and sat with Weeds, while Icebucket returned to the motel. I felt very rushed, as I had still had to fill up my water bottles, which I had forgotten to bring to the restaurant, and finish packing my last few things. Weeds reminded me that Cheryl Strayed had started her hike from Mojave, and I sat there for a moment, taking in this information. I wondered what motel she stayed at and thought about how she had spent her last night before the start of her hike. I also thought about how much of the PCT she had skipped. I told Weeds my opinion of the book and that to me, the conclusion of the book seemed too nicely wrapped up to be believable for someone that had hiked only 1,000 miles. I had already backpacked over 3,300 miles, and my life is definitely not drastically different and better than before I ever hiked. She is definitely a very good writer, and describes what it is like to be on the trail extremely well, however. Weeds told me that she has already witnessed transformative changes in some hikers. One time, she found a hiker crying on the side of the trail, saying, “I’ve been an asshole my whole life.” She said she has witnessed others writing deeper things in the registries along the trail. I suppose the amount of change one can expect greatly depends on the person’s starting behavior, as well as how much they truly want to change themselves.
Weeds left me to finish my french toast and said she would stall Ted. I hurried back to my room, filled up my water bottles cup by cup (as they were too tall for the sink), and packed everything up. My phone wasn’t even fully charged.
Everyone was standing around chatting by the car and hadn’t even begun to fill out Ted’s questionnaire for the article. I suggested we start doing that. Weeds and Ice Bucket wrote down some basic info and I wrote a few lines on why we hike these long trails and what it does for us. Weeds was growing impatient and called me a “time consumer”! Then, we were off to the trailhead! Ted entertained us with stories about mingling with Miss Ohio and Miss California at a conference at Disney World during our drive.
We arrived at the PCT, got out of the car and had our picture taken by Ted for the article. As he left, I shouted out, “We’ll never forget you!”.
Weeds said that I most definitely won’t be forgotten, either- along with Miss Ohio and Miss California!
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There were a lot of informative signs in the area at the start of our hike, and we took our time reading them and taking pictures. Weeds put on a bandana so the wind wouldn’t blow her hair all over the place and it gave me the idea to put on my buff. But I was antsy to get going, so I decided I would do that later.
I headed into the brown hills feeling happy and alive. The wind was forecasted to be strong again today, but we are thru-hikers and push through whatever is given to us! I headed towards the next batch of windmills.
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Ahead, I saw a farm and lots of cows and I stopped to observe them for a few minutes. Two hikers were approaching and I saw that it was SunDog and Giggles, who had stayed in Tehachapi. SunDog told me that he had come up with a trailname for me- Sweet Tooth because I have a cute smile and eat lots of candy, he said. He thought it was much a much better name than Sasahy. (I had stopped introducing myself as Sashay after Chip kept calling out, “Hey Sasha!” over and over again while he and Mark were hiking with me. It was very annoying!). SunDog opened the gate for Giggles, and I wished I had a nice strong man to do the same for me!
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I found a bush up ahead to stop and dig out my buff. Ice Bucket came by and asked me if I was okay! My friend from home said he would call me at 9, but did not. I kept checking my reception and finally found some at 9:23 and texted him, but he did not respond. I later stopped under a bush and left him a voicemail. Weeds and a male hiker that I had not met passed by me.
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We descended a series of switchbacks down to the road, arriving at a small water cache. SunDog, Giggles, Salty, Weeds, and Icebucket were all there. We headed out in pairs at slightly different times, walking along a road. I asked Salty if he was going into Lake Isabella and he said that his father was coming to pick him up at Walker Pass on Wednesday. “Wednesday? Then you better slow down!”. I told him that I planned on getting there on Tuesday and he walks faster than I do!
As I continued to walk, I thought about my friend having to serve on jury duty, as well as continue to work full-time, and I felt bad that I was out here hiking for myself without having to deal with any of that kind of stress. Then, I realized that I had CHOSEN to do this, and that he could do the same if he wanted to!
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We walked over the highway 58 overpass and soon found a display of trail magic treats that had been left by Chief’s wife! She had left homemade cookies, apples, and soda, and while I definitely did not need any of this food, we all stood around and enjoyed it for a few minutes. Icebucket was having some problems with his most recent download of PCT maps and waypoints and was only getting an image of the Atlantic Ocean, which I thought was funny.
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The trail continued along the highway for awhile before climbing back up. When these climbs are built up by people before I start them, I often dread them, but once I am actually climbing, I remember that this is what I love to do! I passed Ice Bucket, feeling very strong.
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When I took a short break along the trail, I saw him approaching. For some reason, he did not seem to see me! I said, “Hi Icebucket” to let him know I was there and not be creepy and he jumped back like I had just given him a heart attack! “How could you have not seen me?” I asked him. He told me that he gets very lost in his thoughts when he hikes.
I continued to the top of the climb and found a Joshua tree to rest under while I ate something for “lunch”. Salty passed by and I later caught up to him and SunDog and Giggles after their break. They all went ahead sometime later.
I was very thankful for the sleeping pad that Ted had given me, not only for sleeping on, but for sitting on during breaks. The PCT is a very dirty, sandy, and eroded trail, and a sitting pad is necessary for breaks! There is no outfitter store in Mojave, and it was incredible that he did this for me! Somehow, whatever I needed was appearing…
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I decided to stop and cook my dinner instead of waiting until I set up camp. Ice Bucket walked by and got scared again when I said hi! I wondered how he doesn’t get lost all the time if he is that into his head!
I even scared him a third time when I caught up to him after resuming my walk! He had to have known I was going to be right behind him! By this time, my lower back was on fire from chafing, which I didn’t understand. Why was this happening after I had already hiked 580 miles and why was it happening on the day I left town, after having washed my clothes?
I kept pushing on, wincing every few steps. When Ice Bucket pulled over, I followed him, complaining about the pain. He didn’t understand what I meant by chafing, but when he lifted up my shirt to see, he gasped! It was all red and raw. I asked him what I should do- put goldbond powder on it? He said he had the perfect thing and went about digging in his pack. He pulled out a purple tube and told me it was a miracle cream- Vagisil! He rubbed some onto my wound, and told me to let it heal overnight. I said I was going to continue hiking! He said I should sit for 10 minutes to let it soak in and then see how it was tomorrow. If I needed more, I could wait for him. And he told to buy a tube for myself in Lake Isabella.
Weeds came along and asked me to watch their packs while they scouted out their campsites. She was afraid of bears taking them. When I told her I was going to move on, she was very dismayed. “Stay with us! We’re a hoot!”.
“But I am stopping at Lake Isabella and you guys aren’t, so I have to keep moving.”
I told her I would see them tomorrow.
I continued on through the evening hours. More windmills came into sight! No! We weren’t done with them yet! These ones were of an older style.
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As the light began to fade and the mountaintops glowed pink, I rounded a corner and saw three deer! The sight of them took my breath away.
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I was glad I had continued on. (Although Weeds and Ice Bucket probably saw an incredible sunset where they stayed!).
Then, I saw another deer and two grouse with funny plumes sticking up on top of their heads!
I rounded another bend, and this time, I was just stunned. The moon was just coming up behind the mountains, hanging full and bright in the sky.
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My jaw dropped open. Is this real? It was huge! I had never seen anything like it. This was the reason I was out here! I watched it rise as the remnants of light faded.
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I knew that I wasn’t going to make it to the water trough tonight (where I thought everyone else was camping) and started scanning for a place to camp. Just above a bend in the trail, I found a space that would just fit my sleeping bag. I wedged it in between a bush and rock, put on my warm clothes, and washed up. I was talking to myself, as I was taking out my contacts and was startled my a hiker. I told him I didn’t think I knew him. He said his name was “Jug.” I wished him a goodnight and tucked myself in. It was 53 degrees by 8:20. The temperature had dropped quickly and the winds began to pick up…
I would not be able to sleep again…

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