Day 4 – Nothing Gained, Everything Ventured

I woke up super early in the lodge.  It seems I’ve lost the ability to really sleep in now, damn.  I felt a little nauseous so all I could do was lay in bed and hope it went away.  I laid like this for a couple hours until I decided to get up and get all my gear together.  I grabbed all my freshly cleaned clothes and threw them in my stuff sack and double checked my food: I still needed a couple more meals.  Woops.

As I was going about my business my dad asked if I wanted to get food.  Initially I wasn’t feeling too crazy about the idea, but hunger took over and we headed down to the restaraunt where we ate the best breakfast quiche ever.  We sat next to other hikers and listened to stories about rattle snakes and trail injuries.  There’s something really great about the people out here, I love listening to their stories, as early into the hike as it may be.  A lot can happen in a day out here.

We left the restaraunt and went to the store to pick up more food.  I was kindly offered some freeze dried meals by a fellow hiker, but I really love my menu right now.  Plus I’m not huge on freeze dried stuff anymore, it’s not worth the stomach problems.  My dad and I went back and sat outside our room for a while and talked to a father son duo hiking the PCT and listened to their stories of hiking the Appalachian Trail.  Really cool guys, we spent so much time talking to them that by the time I was ready to go it was already 12:00.  Woops.

I walked back to the campground and got back onto the PCT.  My new home.  I’m home!  The hike out of Laguna kind of sucked after taking a zero, my momentum was gone.  It took a while to get back into it.  Along the way I met a thru-hiking couple who were having issues with their phone apps and couldn’t find the trail.  Their confusion in turn confused me, and suddenly I wasn’t sure where we were.  I offered to run ahead and check things out and give them a shout if we were on track.  Of course we were, the PCT is super easy to navigate.  I leap frogged with them for a little while, then eventually lost them.  My momentum started coming back.

The first leg of the hike was uneventful, some ragged forest resisting to transition into desert, trees scattered where they shouldn’t be.  But eventually the trail led us out of it and started taking us up, then down, then up, etc.  I knew we were in for a good view today, I recognized a certain peak in the distance from the thousands of trail pictures I’d seen.  But the trail kept veering away from it.  Maybe I’d missed a turnoff or something?  I started feeling a little disappointed.  The trail wrapped around the opposite side of the mountain and away from where I felt we should have been.  Oh well.

Then suddenly we’re on a ridge overlooking what seemed like the entire desert.  Oh.  My.  God.  OH MY GOD.  I stood on the ridge and just stared.  I then stared harder.  I inched closer to the edge and sat down on a rock.  Yep, I’m taking a break here.  I gaped at the dry desolate land below me and snacked mindlessly on my food.  Oh my god.

After a while my eye caught the remainder of the mountain to my right.  I can climb that.  I should climb that.  There seemed to be a route of rocks leading up as to avoid crushing the already desperate desert flora.  I’m gonna do it.  I left my pack behind and sprinted up the mountain side.  My sense of scale was off and suddenly the mountain loomed above me.  I got halfway up until my rocky route ran dry.  If I wanted to push ahead I’d have to stomp over all the plants.  Not wanting to be ‘that guy’ I turned back and looked for my pack.  I threw it over my shoulders, said goodbye to my favorite view, and walked away.

As I walked, the trail kept bringing me to ridge after ridge offering different angles on the view.  Each time I had to stop and just stare in empty wonderment, not a thought going through my head at all, just feeling it in its entirety.  This is something I’ve often felt on hikes or weekend trips but is so much more potent on a thru-hike where your life becomes so simple you have more room to appreciate these things without the “I have to go back home at some point” nagging at you.  To a fault even, because I was losing so much time.  I wasn’t even coming close to making the miles I should have been.

That became all the more true when my foot started to resist me walking on it.  Something along the outside edge of my right foot started to ache.  I’d pushed myself way too hard the first couple days and now it’s coming back to bite me in the ass.. er.. foot.  My compensating for the pain in my foot brought along a healthy dose of knee pain as well.  My usually good pace was brought down to a limp, but it was a happy limp.  The scenery started to transition into the desert of my dreams whenever I thought of hiking the PCT.  I was in a state of pure bliss.

Eventually the trail brought me to a point where I could see an outcropping on the mountainside to provide me a somewhat unobstructed view of the desert once again.  I decided this would be my last break for the day before camp.  I sat on a rock and wondered what it’s like down there.  I’d love to hike it some day.

Things became less dramatic and turned into that strange lush green desert again.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful, but I love the dry desert.  I hobbled along until I saw a tiny sign in the dirt saying “water in parking lot”.  Hey, I like water!  I turned off the PCT and found myself in a nice little picnic area with all kinds of tents potking out of the ground.  I asked around where I’d find the water and was directed to a trough on the opposite end.  I made my way over and saw someone already filtering their water.  I looked into the trough and saw dead bugs floating about.

“This must be the delicious water I heard about” I said.

“It’s not so bad” She replied, and pointed to a spigot on top that released clear water.  “If you’re going to come out here, you should be prepared to drink something like this sometime anyways” referring to the bug water.

The conversation somehow went to food, and she offered me some extra cheese she had.  I was running low and absolutely love it with my lunch, so I happily accepted the extra weight.  Hooray!  I found a spot to set up my tent and made dinner.  What’s on the menu?  Instant potatoes.  One packet practically overflows my titanium pot, it’s so much food!  I don’t have the stomach for it all yet, but force myself to eat it anyways.

I wandered over to the bathroom, picked up all the trash outside that had been blowing around and put it back in the trash can and made my way back to my tent.  As I got there the girl at the water source came by handing me the cheese, and offered for me to come over and sit by a fire with her friend.  I only did 10 miles that day, so I wasn’t exactly tired.  I wandered over, why not?

We sat by the fire for a while and talked about hiking stuff mostly and found out that they met while doing a trek in Nepal to the Everest Base camp.  I shot up a bit, that’s so on my bucket list.  I was really happy to have met these two.  Slowly I’m coming out of my shell on this trail.  Not wanting to hover too long I thanked them then went to my tent.  Before I crawled in I stopped and looked at the desert one more time.  I love this place.

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