May 2 (~07:25 – ~20:00)
Before Radio Tower – before Kelso Road (22.5 mi / Total: 615.4 mi)
Weather: Great temperature for hiking. It’s warm but there’s a lot of shade because of of the day runs through the forests.
Yesterday felt tough. Mentally and physically it dragged, and when I wake up in the morning I’m still not feeling Prince’s idea to do two long days and a short one to get into town. It’s not something I want to commit to. I just want to relax and hike. It’s 60 miles to Walkers Pass, the turnoff for Ridgecrest, so it makes more sense to assume we’d hike three normal days, and hitch in on Sunday morning.
When Speedy drops by before heading off I tell her how I feel, and she relays the new plan to Prince – it makes sense. We all head off separately, and I’m one of the last to leave the tentsite.
Today it different from the past days, and for the first time I head into the forest. Every section is a little different, and every bit of forest is unique – some more dense, some sort and light, some covered in fallen trees I have to climb over. I enjoy it – I love forests, and it’s a great after all that desert. It’s clear we are getting closer to the Sierras. I still feel heavy, as though all my muscles are recovering from something great, although after 600 miles on the PCT, I guess they are. I don’t have that spring back in my step, but I dawdle through the day, and that’s quite nice as well.
The only downside to the forest is that it looks like the perfect playground for bears, and I can’t help but worry about seeing them. Everywhere I look – is there a bear? I try to forget it, it’s silly and useless, but my one previous experience with bears was when I got followed by one on a trail in Japan, so perhaps they like me. Who knows?
As I walk and look out for bears I think about the Sierras. We’re only 100 miles away now. This is an unusual year. The PCT is covered in snow – everywhere apart from the desert is socked in. The snow is higher than even a high snow year, and in Ridgecrest we want to get all the information together, and decide if we’re heading in, or if we’ll be flipping around, and come back to the Sierras when the snow has melted a bit.
I didn’t want to do this when I planned to hike the PCT. I want a continuous line going up the country, but I also want to enjoy the Sierras. I realise I might have to adjust my expectations, and consider what’s important to me, drawing the following conclusion:
Before: Thruhike the PCT
Now: Hike ALL of the PCT / Hike all the sections northbound / Finish in Canada
It’s something we’ll have to look into more in a few days time, so I leave it for now, and dawdle on. I pass the 600 mile point, find water, and have a few amazing breaks in the spacious forests.
It’s already quite late in the day when the trail turns and suddenly, out of nowhere mountains rise. I’m going up into some rocky trails and far ahead of me I see peaks that look like the beginning of the Sierras. There’s no snow on them, but I check the map – these are the low ones. Nevertheless, it’s amazing to watch this stretch out ahead of me. I’ve done 20 miles now and I wonder if I should camp somewhere, or continue on a little more.
Then I spot Speedy’s tent. She tells me Prince has gone on ahead, keen to do his first 30 mile day, and he may be heading into Ridgecrest earlier than us, and will wait for us there. I guess we all needed to do our own thing today. I tell her I feel pretty good again, and we could probably get to Ridgecrest for Saturday afternoon, and we decide to play it by ear. It’ll all work itself out.
When I head off it’s late. Light is slowly disappearing, but the views are growing in magnificence, and I switchback down the mountain into the grand desert again, the colours of the sky changing continuously. I love this time of day – the early morning and the late evening are the prime times to walk. Everything looks like magic. It also gives me that spring in my step back, or perhaps it’s just a sense of urgency that makes me run down the mountain. Adrenaline kicks in late at night for me, knowing I need to find a save place for the night. I keep on walking fast, farther and farther into the bare desert now, and find a camping spot a little off the trail, a plateau that overlooks everything around me. I really hoped to cowboy camp, but the bare desert has me thinking of mountain lions, of course, and I set up my tent instead, just in time, just before it’s dark.