Miles: 20.14
Camping: PCT mile 623.5
Hikers seen on trail: 14

Whoever put me in charge of alarm duty should’ve known better. I come with a warning: “will hit snooze, sometimes unintentionally.” When Ninja was in charge, it was much easier to wake up, mostly because he doesn’t come with a snooze button. So, this mornings 4:00 alarm turned into about a 4:25 wake up. Not terrible, but on the other side of the day, things could’ve run a lot closer to schedule if we could have had an earlier jump on the day.

Johnny and I set off just before Dozen and Peanut, making quick miles to our last water source for 21 miles. The morning walk was extremely easy and pleasant, all of us hiking in our down jackets and making over 3mph. The water was a 1/4 mile detour to another piped spring.

At the spring, we all filled up for the day and drank what we could at the source. Learning from yesterday’s no coffee experiment, I made a cup and drank it with one hand while filtering with the other. My priorities were conflicted, but equally met. We did have the intention of hiking the bulk of our miles before the heat of the day, so there wasn’t a lot of time allotted for leisurely activities such as morning coffee. It’s one thing I will not miss about this desert.

Peanut had arrived last to the water and reported that she’d seen a bear! It was a small one that hid behind a sage bush to watch her hike on by. We were all jealous, especially Dozen. He’s wanting to see a bear bad enough he considered hiking back to have a look. I have yet to see anything that exciting, with my rattlesnake count at only 3, and tarantula sightings at 0. I do happen to see a bunny nearly every day, obviously my spirit animal out here. Every one else has cool stories though, including one guy who saw a tarantula wasp dragging a tarantula to it’s nest! I’m not sure how well I would stomach that, but in the end it would be pretty cool. They paralyze the tarantulas and lay their eggs in them, then the larvae eat their way out. Crazy stuff goes down in the desert.

After about 8 miles, we ran into a man headed the opposite direction. He reported that we were soon going to lose the lovely shade we had grown accustomed to within 1/4 mile. This prompted a break where Johnny and I shoved snacks in our faces gluttonously, enjoying the shade of some Ponderosas. When Peanut walked by, she asked, “is it snack time?” All I could think after that was, “when isn’t it snack time?” Aside from water and sleep, food is pretty much all we think about…and it’s often thought of above all else.

When we lost the shade it still wasn’t all that hot out, though the temperature was rising. We stumbled upon an unexpected water cache where we sat and drank up what we could stomach. There we met Robodoc who is scouting for the water report, hiking southbound. We sat and chatted with her for a bit while drinking up.

Johnny and I decided to get a couple more miles done before it got real hot, so we bid farewell to Robodoc and the water cache and marched into the desert. What we soon realized is that real hot was happening fast, as was no shade-o-clock. There were no shady areas we could see, and we were soon losing precious water through our pores. We were way out of our element, he from the UK and I from Portland. We live under clouds most of the year, and suddenly we found ourselves under an unforgiving and cloudless sky. This made me especially nervous as I looked to my thermometer which read 100 at 11am. This is blister breeding heat, and I absolutely cannot grow any more of those suckers. I’m finally on the mend, and so close to getting out of the desert. So close.

Finally we spotted some Joshua trees a bit off trail. We hunkered down in the limited shade, ate lots of snacks, took naps, read, ate more, napped more and reevaluated our plan in the span of 4 hours. It was so hot we watched heat rising from the horizon, and we decided that we needed to chop some miles from our goal for the day, as well as take an unplanned detour for extra water. We had planned to skip the detour before the reality of the heat set in, realizing it was better to keep hydrated and shorten our mileage goals for the day. We aren’t in any big hurry, so no need to push ourselves.

The detour was awesome! We got ro scramble down a gully over giant boulders, and it was mostly shady. I had a blast going down there, and when we got to the water Lowlander was already there welcoming us. There was a pond and lots of grass where we sat in the still hot sun to make dinner. I treated myself to a Mountain House lasagna which was delicious. Soon Biscuit and Dirty Joe showed up, and we all relaxed for a bit before moving on.

The climb out was a bit brutal. It was the longest 1.6 miles I’ve walked in ages. Though the sun was setting, it was still hot, and we were walking straight uphill, fully exposed to the sun. At the top we took a break and ran into two young guys from LA doing the trail in 3 months, and averaging 30 miles a day! Ambitious and impressive, I say. They are taking video of how people got their trail names, which should be fun to watch.

We walked just a bit more and are cowboy camping beneath Joshua Trees against the stars. I’m quite tuckered out from the day, and we face a big morning climb. Off to dreamland for me!