Day 38

Day 38
May 26
mile 603.4-624.3
20.9 miles

I finally slept well! It was neither too windy nor too cold and I had some very intense dreams. I would wake up and then go right back into the scene repeatedly. I allowed myself to sleep in until 6:30, but I really wished I could have slept so much longer! I was so tired!!
I started walking at 7:36 and soon caught up to Salty. He called down to me from above the trail and I asked him what he was doing up there. He said that he was checking out an old water tank. He wanted to go down the hill and explore some log cabin ruins that his guidebook had talked about. I wanted to get in my miles (especially since I had just started the day) but I ended up going down the hill to find the ruins with him. It was fun to do something a little different and wonder about how people lived out here all by themselves many years ago.
As we walked back up to the trail, Chip and Mark came along. We took the lead and stayed ahead. Salty was getting overheated and wanted to take off his extra layers, but said he would wait until we got to the next water source. I told him that was still 2 miles away! He pulled out his GPS to confirm what I had just told him and then stopped right there. I told him I would let him catch up to me.
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I crossed over a marshy area and then a dirt road and came to a registry. There were benches beyond it, so I put down my backpack and went to look for a place to go to the bathroom.
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I was happy that I had a little time to myself. Salty came along and after reading through the registry himself, said to me, “I wish you had stayed with me… I just saw the biggest bear of my life! I stood there watching him for five minutes.” Darn it! I totally missed that! My stupid hat really restricted the view of my surroundings! Salty said the bear was making its way out of the marsh. Its fur was all wet and he assumed it had been taking a bath. He also told me that he had seen a mountain lion in the dark after the Anderson’s oasis cache! Lucky guy!
We walked to the road and then turned left to head towards the campground which had a water source nearby. Salty contemplated spending the day there since he had so much time to kill before his father would arrive. He said he has a hard time taking zeros in town and I wondered how he was going to take a zero out here and watch everyone walk by him! He agreed that that would be a very tough thing for him to do. I asked him why he didn’t call his father to ask him to come earlier and he said that he had had no reception. “What about at that blue house?” I asked.
“I saw a man walking around that house with a pistol on his hip! I didn’t see a sign that said ‘free Wi-fi'”, he exclaimed. “I wasn’t about to linger around that place!”.

We both moved on after filtering our water and having a snack. We came to yet another burn area and as I stopped to take pictures of flowers, Salty went on ahead.
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As I descended to the road and water cache, Mark caught up to me. I arrived there just before 1.
Salty spotted a lone Joshua tree across the road and up a hill and wanted to take his break there. I didn’t want to spend the energy to go all the way over there, so I set up in the sand on a hill above the water. I shaded my legs with my umbrella and snacked on a power bar, an english muffin, some peanut butter, some pork jerky, and a snickers. Chip and Razor came along and joined the other guys under the Joshua tree.
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I tried to nap a little in between wind gusts that threatened to blow my umbrella away. When I finally got up, I discovered that I was covered in dirt!
I was the first to head out at 2:10, and Mark followed close behind. As I read through the next register, which dated back to last year, Mark went ahead. For the rest of the afternoon, I walked alone, which was really nice.
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We had another big climb coming up and with four liters of water, my pack was very heavy! Joshua trees dotted the environment and the sand on the trail was deep, which took a lot of energy to get through. I took my time and plodded along.
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Once on the ridge, I sat down and ate another power bar. The sun was burning my legs! Forty-five minutes later, I was hungry again.
I was also having bad chafing problems in the area I was having trouble with yesterday. It was incredible painful. I finally decided to walk without my underwear on. For 10 minutes, I experienced incredible stinging and then, very slowly, it subsided a little.
I reached a flat area that looked like it would be ideal for camping, but I wanted to get in another 2-3 miles. I walked on and came to another spot that I could see myself camping in. I debated for a couple of minutes, and even though it was only just after six, I decided I had better stop here or I would have proven to myself that I didn’t learn my lesson after that awful night when my sleeping pad blew away. I could see that we had a climb ahead and I didn’t want to be caught on switchbacks in high wind again. So, I set up my cowboy camp under a Joshua tree that I hoped would provide enough shelter from the wind. As I was cooking dinner, Salty walked by, but didn’t seem to see me. I called his name, startling him a bit. I wasn’t expecting to see him because he had told me that he was going to walk down to a campground 2 miles off the PCT which had water and spend the night there. Apparently, however, Weeds and Icebucket made it to the water cache before Salty left and said there would probably be a barbecue at Walker Pass tomorrow because it was Memorial Day. But Weeds told Salty he would never make it there by then. “Don’t even try!”. At that point, he decided he was going to get to Walker Pass by Monday no matter what! And so, his plan was immediately changed!
He asked if he could join me for dinner and then headed back out to get in as many of the 28 remaining miles to Walker Pass as he could. Razor later walked by and told me about having set up his tent in a saddle. He was cooking dinner when the wind came whipping through, ripped up a tent stake, and knocked over his boiling noodles! He then decided to pack everything up and move! (He also told me that he had gotten sprayed in the face by a skunk earlier on the hike!).
As the last remnants of light were fading, Chip came along in his funny hat, with a smug smile on his face. He asked if I had seen Mark and seemed intent on catching up to him that evening with the help of the moonlight.
(Oh, Chip…)

It took a long time to wipe the dirt from my legs, and the extra time that I thought I would have to journal quickly disappeared. I wrote down a few words with cold hands and then huddled in my sleeping bag.
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