PCT Day 40 : The Mojave Shines

May 3 (~06:25 – ~18:45)
Before Kelso Road – after Yellow Jacket Spring turnoff (23 mi / Total: 638.4 mi)
Weather: It’s a good hiking temperature, although it gets very shot once I go up the last mountain. It’s still chilly in the morning and evening.

I set my alarm early, but I can’t help but snooze. It’s still dark. I think about the mountain lions I was scared of before drifting off to sleep, and the rustling of grass against my tent that sounded like footsteps throughout the night. I’m still apprehensive about what I’ll find outside, but of course – there’s nothing. Just my tent in the vast desert landscape. I set off at 6:30 and I’m happy, this is much earlier than I usually leave, and the sun has only just emerged from beyond the mountains to illuminate my camping spot. It’s a great way to start the day, just as it was amazing to finish the section I began last night during dusk. Everything still quiet and veiled in emerging light. When I continue the trail I spot a tent nearby, it was just the two of us up here.

It’s only one mile to the first of many dirt roads I’ll be crossing today, and this one has a water cache. Many gallons of water in huge containers I couldn’t possibly lift are siting next to the road. I’m happy enough one of them is already open and only contains a few more litres, and I struggle to dispose it into my water bottle. I couldn’t imagine everyone being able to take water from these heavy containers.

I try to figure out how much water I’ll need. It’s 15 miles to the next water cache – I can probably make it with my two bottles and the tiny bit of water I have left in my pack. It can’t be more than two litres altogether. I know I should take a little more, but these containers are just too heavy. I don’t want to go through the motions of lifting one again. I head off instead.

The morning turns out to be unexpectedly stunning. I thought I was done with it, but once more the desert shines. These dry, faded landscapes remain some of my favourites. The barren land dramatically dotted with scarce vegetation and shades of rugged mountains in the far distance. There are Joshua trees everywhere. I just need to avoid a flock of cows on the trail. One of them is too stubborn to move so I have to detour around, and then run – because cows are terrifying. After that I find one imprisoned by Joshua trees aggressively snorting at me. I’m happy when I cross the next dirt road and I can leave the cows behind.

Despite my marvel around the landscapes, it doesn’t take long to realise I didn’t pack enough water. I definitely need more than two litres for 15 miles. That’s almost 25 kilometres. It was still cold this morning at the water cache which made me think I didn’t need much at all, but once the sun came out the temperature rose, and now it’s pretty warm already. And I’m thirsty. I plan to divide the 15 miles into three parts, and I’ll have two quick breaks in between, which will help me keep an eye on my water intake and conserve it.

The desert keeps changing today, and it goes from dramatic rocky views to some sections that are a little more monotonous with lightly undulating hills. Then the sand underfoot thickens and a long uphill await, which turns into quite a slog.

Then, views onto the bare valley floor open on the other side of the mountain, and I look down, onto those thin paths carved into the land, and I wish one of those small dusty trails could be ours, but it’s not, it never would be. Instead I go up and up until the trail steadies and meets another dirt road and the next water cache. Water. I made it.

The next spring isn’t until tomorrow, in thirteen miles and a little off trail. I’ll probably get there in the morning, so I don’t bring too much water – it’s just too heavy. I plan to stay at the water cache for a while so I can properly rest but suddenly a host of other hikers show up, and I decide to keep on going, and break somewhere else a little longer. Now all I have to do is commence the final uphill for the day.

The ascend is not what I’d thought it would be. It’s hot and steady and I climb up huge sweeping switchbacks. The sun seems to burn more than it did before. It’s as though the heat lingers and swells around 3 to 5 pm, even though the sun is supposed to weaken. Immediately I’m thirsty once again and wish I’d brought more water. If it wasn’t for the numerous flowers lining the trail and panoramic views onto where I just came from, I wouldn’t have enjoyed this.

By the time I reach the top, I’m done with today. I’m exhausted although the scenery is perfect in every sense: everything looks like it’s from a movie, big views, rocks and cute campsites. I want to sit down for a break but when I check the time it’s already after 5 and I’m shocked. I’ve only done 3.3 miles since the water cache, and I’d wanted to walk another 7 before camping. I slowly realise this isn’t going to happen. I snap my hip belt together again and instead of breaking I continue to walk.

Just a few more miles, I think, but when I’ve done those the woods around me just look like the perfect place for bears to come out and play, and I keep on walking and walking, until I hear a loud noise and see… three deer! I continue through the forest for what seems like hours, until I reach a tentsite annotated on the Guthook app, where I assume other people may be. I’m right. Speedy is there, and a few others. Although I generally prefer to camp alone, I’m happy not to be on my own tonight, and on top of that I even get the luxury of setting up my tent in daylight. What a day.

4 thoughts on “PCT Day 40 : The Mojave Shines

  1. Hi Rosie, You are doing great! I live in mountain lion country (central Oregon) and like you I walk or hike mostly alone. If your hiking in mtn lion country it is best to not wear ear phones. You need to be aware of your surroundings. That said, most people still wear their ear buds and nothing ever happens. Your more likely to be hit by a car than attacked by a mtn lion. Mtn lions most generally will not bother you when your in your tent. They may walk around it like a curious cat would, but will leave you alone. I do not think they will bother you cowboy camping either. You just do not look like prey, .ie., deer. If the unlikely event you encounter a starving mtn lion or one gone wacko, the last thing you will remember is this big paw across the front of your face. They get you from behind. So, my recommendation is just be aware of your surroundings and not listen to loud music. It is best to hike with some friends. Mtn lions do not like people with numbers. I can almost guarantee you have been watched by several mtn lions already and never knew it.

    Now bears, on the other hand, will stick their noses in your tent. Especially if they are hungry coming out of hibernation and have been exposed to careless hikers leaving their food out. So you may have to punch Yogi or Boo Boo in the nose or bang your pots against your trekking poles. When you get to bear country, practice good bear hygiene and keep food, soap, lotions, anything that might smell like food to a bear in your bear canister about 30 meters from your tent. That also includes your cooking utensils. A woman I hiked with a few years ago said a bear pressed it’s face against her tent walls trying to see if there was food inside while she was trying to sleep. That would wake me up! Bears are not interested in eating people, they want the food people are known to carry. Wave your arms and bang your trekking poles above your head and shout with an authoritative voice “Hey Bear.” I saw a huge Black Bear near Mt. Jefferson on the PCT last September and he just quickly moved away. It was fun to see one. I hope to not see or hear one at 2:00am in the morning, ha ha.

    You and your friends are impressive thru hikers.

    Bob F.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know I spent some time practising my authoritative voice, saying ‘hey bear’ after first reading your comment 😊 ! Thanks for all the info! So far I have yet to encounter any big and scary animals on the PCT…. I’m hoping to keep it that way. I’d rather not get a tent visit from a bear like that woman ha!


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