PCT Day 8: Hot, Clean, and Sexy

April 26, 2022

Campsite at mile 96.5 to campsite at mile 112.5

16 miles

This is a long one. But I think it’s pretty good. Read on.

The start of the sunrise wakes me up before my 5:45 alarm does. It streams through my thin tent walls and bathes the campsite in orange. I start to pack up and then get out of the tent and look at the world waking up. Gooooood morning, PCT!

Andy is doing this thing now where he sets a time for me to be ready and a separate time for him and Petra. You know, because of my complete inability to be ready to do things At Times. The result is that I am technically ready to go by his time of 6:45, although one of my 700 mL water bottles has mysteriously disappeared and I can’t find it, not even on the top of the hill where we watched the sunset last night. Mountain lion? Practical joke? Extremely thirsty hiker? I shrug it off and get ready to go.

Petra zooms ahead today. She took ibuprofen and her heels are clearly feeling better, because today she is a hiking machine! So I walk with Andy for most of the morning. It’s more smooth path curving through canyons and back around to the fronts of the mountains. It is another absolutely beautiful morning. Liquid gold. Tequila sunrise. Whatever. Glowing, awesome light. We are alive!

We catch up with Petra at the 100 mile mark. We did it! The first 100! I can’t believe we already made it this far in just over a week, even with a zero day. I was not expecting to cover miles like this. Another hiker, Carrie, is there, and she takes a photo of the three of us. She calls us “the trio.” Dare I say… this is my tramily? I’m getting emotional. 100 miles is so small compared to the whole trail, but damn, we have already been through some big moments together. I stand there with my arms around my friends thinking of what we’ve done and what is yet to be.

100 miles!

We cruise the first five miles to the road and, after not succeeding in getting a hitch, we get a shuttle to the Montezuma Valley Market, which is small but perfectly catered to hikers with lots of standard favorites as well as some interesting new items. I just pick up a few things because I have a larger box in Warner Springs.

Ellie!

We eat prepackaged sandwiches at the picnic tables outside the store, charge our devices, and visit with Ellie the hiking dog, who is extremely cute. Then that thing happens again where Petra and Andy are ready to go and I am Very Much Not. I still have to get water, organize my electronics back into my bag, and fill up my bottle of hand sanitizer because it’s four more days to Idyllwild and I’m almost out. Flustered, I go to get water from a tank out back, hurriedly filter it, then pile into the shuttle again. It’s not until I get to the trailhead that I notice that my hand sanitizer bottle isn’t where it usually is on my pack. “It’s on the front,” Andy says. It’s completely full.

We have eight more miles until Warner Springs, where Petra and I both have boxes waiting at the post office. Petra has to make it there with enough time to organize her stuff and then bounce ahead a few items, so we are full speed ahead all afternoon.

It’s so hot though, and there is no shade. The trail curves through some scrub oak and then down into a grassy meadow broken occasionally by cows and huge trees. I don’t have that much water, and I’m trying to conserve what I do have. We take a break in the grass under a tree, and I eat some food simply for the sake of not carrying it. Then we continue along a lovely flowing creek, where I filter some more water and put my Buff headband and hat in the stream, then put them on. I can almost feel my body temperature decrease by several degrees.

Soon after that, I go uphill and then wind up in another huge grassland as far as the eye can see. There are occasional boulders strewn across the expanse. I follow the little path, watching the wind sift through the grass and poppies. I put my arms out and almost feel like I could take flight.

Soon I’m at Eagle Rock, which looks shockingly like its namesake. AMERICA! At the rock we take loads of photos and are treated to trail magic by Hamburger Helper, who used to cook hamburgers for PCTers but had to stop once the trail got so popular. Still, the candy and cookies are pretty great. Thanks, HH!

Eagle Rock

The trail is more hot grassy fields for a while before it goes into the trees and follows the creek again. We’re full speed ahead now, bound for that post office and an ice cream in Warner Springs. At the road we take a right and walk the mile into town, which feels interminable.

Finally, Petra and I go into the post office, get our boxes sorted out, and re-pack our food bags. Then we go next door to the gas station. I get a Coke, an ice cream bar that I come very close to dropping, and a water bottle to replace my mysteriously disappeared one. A trail angel comes by and offers us a ride back to the trail in half an hour. Of course, he comes back when I’m in the bathroom, and Andy has to come hurry me up to hop in the car, where everyone is waiting for me. Why. WHY.

Before we go back on trail, we take a beautiful, leisurely stop at the Community Center. We charge our devices, then take bucket showers, which entail filling up a Home Depot bucket with hot water, going into an outdoor stall, and using a pitcher to pour the water over yourself. It is actually amazing. Petra and I bucket-shower at the same time in adjacent stalls and giggle through the whole experience. Next we do laundry in buckets, and finally, we decide to cook dinner there rather than going back on trail first. Dinner for me is a Fernweh Food Co stew of coconut rice, red beans, and vegetables. It’s so good. Kudos, Fernweh!

Bucket showers!

Obviously, it takes me longer to make, consume, and clean up from dinner than it does the rest of my tramily. Eventually, I get everything sorted out, and we head out, feeling like a million bucks, like new people, like the sexiest, cleanest humans to ever walk the earth.

We follow the trail and are smacked in the face with the most beautiful sunset across another meandering meadow. Something collectively infects us then. We take photos of each other in the perfect golden light. We walk slowly and drink in the sunrise. Andy says, “We have really seen some shit together, haven’t we?” 100 beautiful miles so far on this ridiculous beautiful trail. This thin ribbon and its people are everything right now. There is nowhere else I would rather be.

We walk for three miles through a world turned soft with twilight. It is cool and fragrant, huge trees, swaying grass, wide dry creek bed. We talk at times and are silent at others. We watch the light fade out over the mountains, and then, when the daylight is just about gone, we put down our bags and set up our tents.

It’s not until I’ve set up my tent, tossed in my sleeping bag, and inflated my pad that I realize that the mysteriously vanished water bottle was at the bottom of my pack the whole day. I laugh. I laugh at myself a lot on this trail. What’s the point of life if you can’t do that? Everything is ridiculous and funny. Water bottles. Bucket showers. Ice cream. Always being late. Road walks. Photo shoots at sunset. Friends you met a week ago that you already love. Thru-hiking.

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