April 25, 2022
Campsite at mile 80.4 to campsite at mile 96.5
My alarm goes off at 4. It’s the first time in the past week that I wake up with the alarm instead of hours before it. Finally, a good night’s sleep! I figure I have plenty of time before our planned departure time of 5 AM, so I edit blog posts for a while until I hear Petra’s alarm. I still think I have plenty of time. Then somehow it is 4:45 and I’m frantically packing my gear up and filtering water while Andy and Petra stand there with their red headlamp lights like a couple of cyclops, waiting for me again. One of these days I will be ready first. It will happen!
It’s supposed to be hot today, which is why we are starting so early. We need our headlamps at first, but not for long. It begins to grow lighter and lighter as we follow the contours of the trail. We stop to appreciate the sunrise. We eat snacks and drink water. Andy and I swap stories about fun nights and terrible hangovers.
Just before 10, we reach the Third Gate water cache, the only cache considered reliable on the PCT. Our first 10 by 10! We did it! The cache is truly impressive, with pallets of gallon jugs full of water. We fill up and then find a spot under a tree. We blow up our sleeping pads and get comfy. Soon Petra catches us and the three of us lay in a row. It’s not long before I’m asleep. I wake myself up drooling and feel like absolute peak hiker trash.
Lunch is a tuna wrap, chip drink (a bag of intentionally pulverized chips that you eat with a spoon or pour directly into your mouth), and a metric shit ton of Skittles (read: one bag). Since we don’t really have much else to do but nap and eat while we wait for it to cool off, we end up just eating a lot for a few hours.
In theory it sounds nice to chill out all day, but after a few hours we start to get antsy. We decide to hike a few more miles now and then some more in the evening. Petra sets out first, then Andy, and then, much later, I finally get going.
It’s hot, but I put in my headphones and start jamming down the trail. This is how I hiked most of the AT, and it feels good to do this again. But I do start missing hiking with Andy and Petra a bit. I just met them a week ago and hiking with them already feels like the natural order of things. The trail, man! It’s a weird place. Stuff happens fast and very slowly all at the same time.
When I eventually catch up it is stinking hot on the exposed dry hill. Andy and I go ahead for a couple of miles until we reach a campsite on a ridge. It is a beautiful spot. The sun is getting ready to set, and it bathes everything in a soft light. Petra joins us and we set up our tents, then eat our dinner and drink tea.
Andy disappears for a bit and then calls us from the top of the adjacent hill. We walk up to meet him and are treated to a beautiful view across to the other ridge, down to the valley below, and over to what we think might be the San Jacintos. The sun is setting now, and the light is divine. We really made a day out of it today! It feels great.