Miles: 23!!
Camping: PCT mile 258.4
Hikers seen on trail: 9 (4 of which were PCT hikers)

Set my alarm for 4:30, so naturally didn’t get up until 4:45, and only because my bladder forced me to. I was dreaming that my cousin Elena (Hello Elena! XOXO)was making a huge breakfast of sausage and eggs, and I never got to eat it. The food dreams are getting more intense, but especially last night due to my overly hungry state. I vowed to start today out differently.

First order of business was hydration. I filtered a liter of water from the stream and added electrolytes, making myself drink it before hiking. Then I ate a superfood bar, a solid 300 calories, which I figured would hold me off until my mid morning snack at the next creek crossing in 3 miles (where we were supposed to camp last night).

Immediately on the trail I saw the infamous poodle-dog bush. Known to give blistering rashes, it has been talked about and speculated on up until now, “is that it? How about that?” Once seeing it for the first time though, there is no question. It is unmistakable. Fortunately it was easy to avoid this morning, but I know it gets tricky farther up the trail (with an entire detour around it in one section). I have never been prone to poisonous plants (ivies or oaks), but I’m not keen on finding out if I’m affected by poodle-dog bush the hard way. Like other plants, some people are just immune (fingers crossed!)

The first 3 miles were hard! Uphill the entire way at 5:30 am and I hadn’t even had coffee. At least it hadn’t grown hot yet, but I was immediately glad I hadn’t tried to hike these miles in my weak condition last night. The last creek crossing was in a beautiful spot with tall cedars and pines. It was chilly even after 3 miles of uphill hiking, so I was also glad I hadn’t had to pull myself out of my toasty sleeping bag there this morning.

After filling up on water I ate a protein bar made from bison that was amazing, and some spicy corn nuts. Then came one of the best hiking days ever. The climbing continued into another high alpine forest (about 8800 ft) that reminded me of the Sierra Nevada. Boulders and pine needles all wrapped in crisp mountain air. I love the smell of alpine forests!

The ascent mellowed out and it was happy hiking through the hills for the rest of the day. I stopped for lunch in a clearing overlooking the desert and Mt. San Jacinto which we climbed a few days ago. I decided after yesterday to make lunch a hot meal instead of just bars, as it should sustain me longer. I ate some spicy seasoned rice with veggies, made a cup of coffee and had a Snickers bar. I was practically soaring after that! The miles were easy and lovely.

I stopped on a ridge to take a quick break and guessed there would be a cell signal, as I was close to a road. I turned on my phone and had so many lovely messages! It is so great to hear from you all, and if I don’t have time to reply to everyone right away, I will in time. It means a lot, so keep ’em coming! It set me off down the trail like a rocket until I reached mile 250. It was the only bad part to the day. Half a mile before I arrived, I could feel the sadness, and soon I was confronted with what I knew was there, but I couldn’t believe my eyes.

There is a place where “retired” wild animals are sent after Hollywood has had their way with them. It is a row of sad, small cages with very little shade. First I was met eye to eye with a Bengal tiger who lay in one place watching me walk by. Then the grizzly bear who didn’t even bother to lift its head, and a male lion with a full mane who looked at me with sadness in his eyes. My heart broke into a million tiny pieces as I looked at these amazing creatures, ripped from their wild habitat, now sadly wasting away behind chain link fences. I moved on quickly, but with a heavy heart … feeling somewhat guilty of my ability to walk off into the woods, as they were born to do.

As the day had been on such a high note, I marched along, my spirits lifting with the beautiful day and the beautiful view. I passed by Space Age (a NASA engineer), Dozen and Karen on my way to the water cache left by Big Bear Hostel, where I will be staying tomorrow night. Boy, what a cache! There was a sofa next to a dumpster that said, “PCT magic.” It was full of cookies, candies, sodas, bananas, apples, lotion, canned meals (and a can opener), and a trail log. I fished out a grape soda (another treat I haven’t had since childhood), some chocolate cookies, a banana, the lotion and the trail log. I sat on the comfy sofa and began reading and snacking. Karen, Dozen and Space Age soon appeared and we all marvelled at the treasure we had scored. I sat hoping Blisster would appear, but he didn’t. I was growing cold and had a sugar rush that demanded miles be hiked, so I pushed on.

When I reached the place we had talked about camping I was still feeling the sugar rush, and wanted to go more miles to get into town even sooner tomorrow. I left a note for Blisster and hiked on. Space Age, Karen and Dozen all had the same idea and we marched ahead together, high on sugar. After about a mile of walking and talking with Space Age, I started to feel like we were all walking in sort of a race. It felt weird and I wasn’t enjoying the walk anymore – it felt strangely hurried and slightly stressful. I decided to break off from the group and set up camp in a lovely spot by the river. It’s only 7.5 miles from the road to town, so if I’m up and hiking by 6, I should have no trouble catching the 9 am shuttle.

I soaked my feet in the river, but it was ice cold so it didn’t last long. They got clean enough, and that was my main goal. I then made dinner…2 hot meals in one day seems indulgent, but I’m lying in my tent and not feeling hungry for once. I hope it lasts until I can acquire eggs and bacon in town…nothing can get me motivated like the promise of breakfast. I imagine ordering 4 over medium eggs with rye toast, bacon, sausage and a side salad. I miss eggs! I’m also craving banana pancakes with real maple syrup almost daily now.

It’s now 8 pm, almost dark. I hear the creek rushing nearby, and am cozy in my tent. Time to knock a chapter from my book (I’m reading “Skywalker,” which is about the PCT – I can’t get enough of this trail!). More from town tomorrow.