Day 12 – Tuesday April 25
Mile 116.1 to Mile 131
PCT Miles hiked today: 15.4
Feet Ascended Today: 3385
Feet Descended Today: 1850
Current Elevation: 4722
I woke up early this morning determined to be the first one out of camp. With my sore foot I’m going a bit slower than normal and so it’s easier for me to keep up with my friends when I get an early start.
Right before I left camp, another hiker walked by and inquired if any of the ladies lost an item of clothing. We all saw the pair of ladies’ undies by the side of the trail yesterday and knew he must have picked them up. “Nope, not our underpants!” we told him.
I was on the trail by 7:30 am and started climbing up up up. I stopped 3.5 miles up the trail at Lost Valley Spring to get water. I only had a liter and a half and the next water source was reported to be 7 miles up the trail. The Lost Valley Spring is located down a side trail and turned out to be the nastiest water source I’ve encountered on the PCT yet. The water in the cistern smelled swampy and had dead bugs floating in it. I was low on water, however, and filtered a half liter anyway just in case. I used a silk tea bag liner to filter out the nastiest bits before putting it through my Sawyer Squeeze filter. Stefan gave me some raspberry drink mix powder that he found in the hiker box to help mask the taste.
We were hoping to run into Halfway or Cool Breeze at Lost Valley Spring, but it was shortly after 9:00 am by the time we got there and we must have missed them.
Garnet Turtle and I hiked most of the day together, either listening to headphones or chatting. It was an overcast day, which made the ascent easier to handle. We continued climbing up and over 5000 feet and stopped for a lunch break. I was a little hungrier today than I had been previously – I ate a tortilla with peanut butter and jelly AND a tortilla with deli-style tunafish for lunch, along with some of a Snickers bar. At some point “hiker hunger” is supposed to set in, and I’ll be hungry all the time but this hasn’t happened yet. But I feel like it’s starting to get close.
After lunch, we rounded a corner into a canyon and the landscape changed a little. Previously we had been hiking through high desert bushes and shrubs and cacti, and now the landscape changed to predominantly feature large red boulders and rocks. It felt like we had just walked to another planet.
Shortly after 3:00 pm we arrived at the junction to the water tank and to Mike’s Place. It’s 10 miles to the next water source and we knew we’d be dry camping tonight, so we loaded up on water and took a short break. We elected not to hike into Mike’s Place, a popular hiker hangout hosted by Trail Angel Mike, as I didn’t want to get stuck into another vortex.
By this time it was starting to get late in the day, and we considered where we might camp. The next campsite was 2.3 miles up the road at an elevation of 5571 feet, but it was reported to be quite exposed. The next one after that was in 4.6 miles and seemed to be a better option, so we decided to try for that one.
The hike out of Mike’s Place was indeed up a long hill, and we slogged up it with our packs heavy with water. We reached a saddle at 5571 feet and were treated to stunning views. Several tents were set up at the top and it was quite exposed – great views but it would be miserable if it got windy. It was after 5:00 pm at this point but we elected to keep going.
I had kept my foot pain in check up to this point by stretching, walking slowly and using the foot cream, but the last few miles of the day were excruciating. Downhill is always way worse than hiking uphill and the trail descended sharply here. I slowly hobbled along, leaning on my hiking poles like crutches and trying not to cry.
I eventually made it into camp after 7:00 pm, and my friends saved a spot for me. Yay! We were all dragging and feeling sore. I ate dinner in my tent and was too tired to brush my teeth. Some extra dark chocolate did help me feel a little better though.
The underpants guy was camped right next to us, and we chatted with him while we made dinner. Apparently he asked around all day if anyone lost a pair of underpants, and eventually left them at Mike’s Place. “I feel like Captain Underpants” he said. “OMG that should totally be your Trail name!!” I said. He wasn’t keen at first, but we thought it was the most hysterical name ever. I hope he keeps it.
I woke up in the middle of the night to pee, like I do every night, and could see the lights from a distant city twinkling in the distance. Palm Springs, maybe? Haven’t seen that in a while.