Day 9 – My Sweet Dusty Home

Day 8 was spent tooling around town, not much to say about it really.  I didn’t take notes so I don’t remember much about it, whoops.

I woke up today feeling determined to get on trail.  I’d spent yesterday keeping my foot in and out of a tub of ice water which monumentally sucked but it seemed to do the trick.  My foot was a little stiff and a little sore but I decided to go for it.  My dad and I made a quick breakfast stop and headed down the long winding road back to mile 77 at Scissors Crossing where I got off trail.  4 days off.. oh my god I can’t wait to get back.

My dad parked near the trailhead and checked under the bridge where all the hikers were helplessly hiding from the sun to see if there was still water cached there.  He’d make a quick run into town later to resupply it, yay water!  We both started back onto the PCT:  He dayhiking, me re-launching my thru-hike.  The trail wound up up and up towards the nearest mountain.  At the foot of it my dad turned around, some day he’ll be out here section hiking but at the current moment he’s having some back issues.  One step at a time dude.  He’d meet me again in Idyllwild.

I continued on to see what the day held for me.  I kept hearing horror stories about the climb out of Scissors Crossing, but really it wasn’t all that bad.  The grade was fair, almost flat even.  As I hiked the wind started to push me around here and there and I couldn’t stop laughing.  It’s good to be back.

The miles started to really drag on however as the trail engaged in endless switchbacks.  I actually love going uphill, but I also like to feel like I’m covering ground. For a good half of the day I felt like I was going nowhere, but at the very least I was gaining elevation I suppose.  Every so often I’d look over my shoulder to look back at the flat bed of the desert I’d walked through days previously, saying goodbye.  Thru-hiking is incredible, but leaving certain grounds behind can be somewhat sad.

Eventually the switchbacks ended and I was walking along ridges gaining a better view of the territory ahead of me.  Southern California is the most indecisive terrain I’ve ever encountered.  Some areas were dusty, some were stubbornly green as if to say “Take that, desert!”.  The valley I happened to be on the opposite side on reminded me a lot of the hikes I’d do at home, then it occured to me that I already was home.  For 5 months I’d be living on this narrow band.  Every day I’d have a new place to sleep, every day would be a new view.  I don’t really need to be anywhere in particular, the trail just ushers me and my odd dream along every day.

I was trotting along carelessly occasionally looking at my maps that I wasn’t always paying attention to where I was putting my feet.  I was checking my mileage as I heard a small hiss transitioning into a deafening rattle.  I didn’t think about stopping, I had no clue what was going on, but my body sure as hell did.  I stopped dead in my tracks and looked down to see a rattlesnake defensively coiled up just one more footstep ahead of me, ready to strike.

Holy FUCK” I uttered and jumped back.

We stared at each other for a moment while I evaluated what to do and how to get around it.  There was a little embankment leaning downhill that I wasn’t too crazy about but I didn’t have many options.  I told the snake to chill then walked around it carefully, paranoid it would start chasing me.  I got around with no problems but was a little startled, then I remembered there was another hiker behind me.  I tried to write a warning in the sand to no avail, so I opted to hang out and wait for him to let him know.  By the time he arrived the snake had slithered into a bush higher up from the trail, annoyed by my presence.  As me and the other hiker talked and evaluated what to do, the snake sat in his chaparral kingdom, still rattling.  What a jerk.

We both survived, and I started back at my usual pace making a note to watch where I’m walking.  The trial stayed along a steep ridge for the remainder of the day, wind blowing every so often.  We were heading towards a greenish mountain in the distance and I groaned a little bit.  I wasn’t ready to leave the barren landscape behind me, camping in the bushes gets a little old.  As we pressed on I noticed a pipe gate, and as I got closer I could make out the number 3 on it.  3rd gate.  3rd gate water cache!

I signed the register locked up in a plastic box and followed the signs for water.  The trail went on longer than I expected and after a while I started to doubt that I was going the right way, convinced I had passed the cache somehow.  But I kept going and eventually saw blue tarps poking out of the ground.  I dropped my pack and started filling up, I’d only take a liter and a half.  I had deprived myself of water to make my haul last, so it was nice to re-hydrate a bit.  I hope I wasn’t breaking some kind of trail rule by doing this.

I sat around sipping my water until I got bored, got my stuff together, and went on a mission to find somewhere to camp.  There’s places to pitch a tent all over this area, but I wanted a good one.  I made my way up to the pipe gate and found a spot sitting comfortably under a tree.  My tent rested cozily underneath and in the shade.  Aw yeah!

I wandered around for a bit and found myself near a ledge.  I looked out at the mountains in front of me and saw a cluster of clouds rolling in over the summit.  Looks like a storm blowing in maybe?  I went back and secured my tent firmly to the ground, I had a feeling I’d need it.

When I went back to my viewpoint I heard someone yell “HEY” from above me.  I looked up and saw a guy up on the trail, he bushwhacked down to me to ask if there was any good camp sites available.  His name was Mathew, a German native come to the PCT to see the natural beauty of ‘Murica.

“There’s places all over here, and there’s also water down the trail a bit.  Just follow the signs, you’ll get to it” I said.

“Oh wow, thank you” he replied, and disappeared into the bushes.

People!  Yay!  I sat by my tent and tapped at my phone for a while, and Mathew eventually came back to set up his tent near me.  We ended up wandering back to the ledge to cook our dinners and eat there, watching the storm blow in.  We talked about hiking (duh), rattlesnakes (duh), beer (duh), and the differences between America and Germany.  Awesome guy.

So here I am sitting in my tent listening to the wind pound at the helpless silnylon walls of my tiny home.  It’ll be amazing if I sleep tonight, but you know I’m back on trail, so I couldn’t be happier.

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