Miles: 26
Camping: PCT mile 308.5
Hikers seen on trail: 14

The moon has been so bright that I can hardly tell the difference between moonlight and first light. I wake up many times, confused, not ready to hike. A little more sleep. I sleep best in the early morning hours, often with strange dreams.

I woke this morning at the usual 5:30, and was on the trail by 6. It used to take me an hour to get ready in the morning, but I have a system now so the time is cut in half. It helps that I eat breakfast while walking. I like to get going in the morning, it gets the blood flowing.

This morning was very pretty, passing through hillsides covered in lupine. I concentrated on being in the moment instead of anticipating my next meal break or town destination. Someone mentioned in their PCT blog once that there is no yesterday out here. You are always moving forward, never backward. I considered this and really found it to be true. There is only now, and the needs of the moment are the only true concern.

I arrived at the next water source lost in thought, where I pulled up onto a rock and began snacking. I actually had leftovers from last night, as I was still satisfied from that huge diner breakfast. Amazing! I had made rice and beans with veggies and pepper jack cheese. One of the best trail meals I’ve had to date.

Hiking after that was a sure change in terrain, the desert once again rearing it’s head in the distance. For a while though, the trail followed a river from above, then dropped down to the water’s edge. There I found Peanut and Dozen enjoying the shade by the river. We sat and snacked, commiserating about the gnat situation. They were everywhere, constantly in my face, causing me to swat at them sporadically and often maniacally. Peanut said, “I wonder where gnats live that they can follow me down the trail for 10 miles abandoning their home.” I thought that was pretty cute.

After I collected water to move on, Pabooshka appeared. I hadn’t seen him since Ziggy and the Bear, as Babooshka had head back home to Tacoma. We walked together for a bit, catching up on the past few days before he disappeared behind me. I kept going, knowing a bridge awaited with a shady spot to cook up some lunch. It was a hot and exposed stretch approaching the next water source,  getting up over 90°. I pushed on, the promise of spanish rice and a Snickers when I arrived.

There were several other hikers under the bridge at a beautiful pool in the river. Everyone was lounging through the heat of the day. I cooked up some rice as Peanut, Dozen and Little Debbie all showed up. We sat around eating and talking, then I decided to jump in the water. What a treat after a hot trek across the desert. Just what I needed, and too rare a treat out here.

The hike after that was pretty easy, it followed the river from above, winding through the canyon. The views were amazing and I saw my second rattlesnake. This one was also a baby, but more developed than the last one. It shook it’s tiny rattle tail feather and scurried off the trail. I wasn’t able to snap a picture this time, but better that we kept our distance.

When I approached the river where I was planning to collect water and camp, I was met by stagnant pools of algae. I pondered this dilemma, as I’d already hiked 24 miles, and was ready to call it a night. A couple and their dog (Marge, Jarge and Sarge) were also in the same boat. Jarge was checking out possible paths that cut down to the larger river below. We all found a way to scurry down for better water, and they decided to stay there and camp on the beach. I wanted to do some night hiking, so I got out of there before dark. My goal was to find a place to cowboy camp until about 3 am so I could avoid some of the miserable heat predicted for tomorrow. I was hoping for something before the hot springs, as I knew people were partying there, and you can’t technically camp there…plus that was 26 miles for me, and that sounded like a lot.

Unfortunately, that was how it went down. The sunset was brilliant, and just after dark I approached the hot springs. I could hear people partying it up below, but I was just too exhausted and wanted to sleep more than anything. I found a spot way above the party and set up my tent free standing with the intention of waking up early to hike.

The party is still going pretty strong, but it’s been a long day and a new personal record for me. My feet are screaming at me, and I just want to close my eyes. Goodnight.