PCT Day 163 : The Home Stretch

September 14 (~09:00 – ~19:35)
Crabtree Ranger Station – Cottonwood Pass (16.8 mi / Total: 750.2 mi) (+0.9 bonus miles to Crabtree Ranger Station)
Total PCT miles: 2604.9
Weather: Very cold in the morning. It warms up though.

Just like the last couple of days it’s so cold in the morning I’m reluctant to get up. I wait and wait, hoping the sun will hit my tent soon but it doesn’t. I don’t end up leaving until 9, and walk away from the campsite, across the few wet logs that have been placed across the creek. I’ve passed these three times already, but this time, my left foot slips and plunges into the water. Great. One wet foot, and I just put on my clean second pair of socks for these last few days. I momentarily consider dipping the other foot into the water as well, but decide against.

I’m on my final three days to Kennedy Meadows and my expectation of this stretch are well off. I thought they would be scenic, with alpine lakes and gorgeous views just like the past few weeks in the Sierras, just lacking the high passes. I thought the trail would gradually be going down from now on, but it’s not. There are lots of small climbs up and down and those mind blowing panoramic views that come with the high Sierras have gone.

But I have more pressing concerns. My leg still hurts, despite spending all yesterday afternoon and night in my tent. I can feel the sharp pain, it’s even there during the uphills. I have a bad feeling about this, it’s only going to get worse, so I sit myself down and take two painkillers to start my day.

In the morning I chase short climbs up and down through a sparse forest, a landscape that doesn’t really change. It’s cute but it’s boring, and the trail itself proves maddening. The soil is sandy and dry, littered with rocks of all sizes, and I keep slipping, and twisting my feet on the rocks, causing only more and more pain. There’s a long set of switchbacks leading down to a river and the pain is growing beyond me once again. The painkillers do nothing. It takes me an hour to get down the last mile, and I cross the low creek, getting both feet wet, before I find myself a big rock and sit down.

I figure a cumulative usage of painkillers may be more effective. It’s been 4 hours since taking the first set now, so with my lunch I take two more. I soak my leg in the cold creek water, and tape it up with more Kinetic Tape, adding pressure. When I get going again, the pain is less. I don’t know what it was, the cold water, the tape, the painkillers, or a combination of all of those, but I’m able to walk again.

I continue though the forest, the sand, the increasingly rocky surroundings. After three hours, the pain comes back. It was the painkillers. A hour later, I take the last set for the day, and the pain lessens immediately. I’m able to walk just a little further, into the night, the golden glow of evening light as I snake along a ridge, overlooking a busy lake. Lots of tents are scattered around, but I only take slightly yellow water from the outlet, and continue on after putting on all my layers again. It’s cold at night.

I don’t get much farther. Today wasn’t as productive as I’d hoped, my leg slowed me down too much. I make it just beyond Cottonwood Pass, the junction to the small town of Lone Pine, before I lose the last of the light, and set up my tent just off the trail, in a large sandy field.

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