May 19, 2022 – Exactly one month since starting the PCT
Bouquet Canyon Road water cache at mile 465.6 to campsite near Lake Hughes Road at mile 485.8
The plan is to start walking by 5, but naturally that doesn’t happen. By the time DLT and I actually start moving around 5:30, Petra, Andy, and Beetle are already gone. We head out, pass Catless cowboy camping a bit up the trail, and start making our way across the ridge and uphill.
Of course every day on the PCT is beautiful in its own way. But in comparison to many of the sections we’ve seen so far, today is… not noteworthy. The plants are pretty uniform: manzanita, scrub oak, chamise. We work all morning up a hill that takes us to the top of a hill below buzzing power lines. It gets so hot so fast. One interesting thing is that we pass a few ceramic art pieces, one of which has a note reading “Greetings PCT Hikers! You got this!” This is not really Leave No Trace, but I really like them. It has me looking out for more art the rest of the morning. I don’t know who made these little clay creatures, but thank you! They were a little treat.
About six miles in, we walk uphill towards a road. There’s a car there with its trunk open. Trail magic! I feel terrible, but I totally can’t remember the woman’s name. She started hiking with her husband but decided to get off trail, but still wanted to be a part of the trail community. She gives us Gatorade (we were just talking about Gatorade this morning, so this is extra amazing!), white cheddar Cheez-Its, and oranges. It is genuine magic on this hot morning. We thank her and then continue up the hill.
Soon we pass a beautiful bench below an actual tree with shade. DLT and I stop there for a few moments, drinking more water and eating more food. I feel slow and hungry this morning. There isn’t much of a dramatic view, I’m congested, and I do not feel terribly motivated. We sit on the bench for a little while longer until we are compelled to start moving again. Bye, shady bench! You were very good.
DLT and I play a few more rounds of Green Glass Door as we near our lunch destination. One of them really stumps me. Turns out, the rule is “things that were around before DLT was born.” Clever.
All of a sudden, I pull over and have to dig a surprise cathole. As I’m sprinting into the bushes I notice that I’m covered in pollen from the chamise bushes. Then a huge swarm of insects passes by. Migrating bees, maybe? What is happening? So many things are going on while I’m struggling with digging a hole in this hot desert dirt.
After this thrilling experience, it’s just a few rolling miles down to the Green Valley Fire Station, where there is a picnic table under a roof and a water spigot. When we get there, we see Andy, Petra, and Beetle’s packs, but they’re nowhere to be seen. Turns out, they went into Green Valley to the gas station for ice cream. DLT and I think about going in to join them, but then I realize that I’m less likely to accidentally spend too much money if we have lunch here at this table first. By the time we’ve done that, the other three are back and Catless has joined us, so we’re just staying here for a while.
I set up for nap time under a pine tree and pass out almost immediately. When I wake up, there’s a huge group of sleeping hikers spread out all over this area. That’s how you hike when it’s stinking hot, I guess: big miles in the morning, fat nap, more miles at night. I’m hungry again when I wake up, so I make one of my pre-packed Thanksgiving dinners that I put together before I came out. It’s very heavy and gross-looking, but it tastes amazing.
Eventually, everyone starts waking up and moving around. I go over to sit with Andy for a while since I haven’t seen him much yet today. He’s doing the 50-mile challenge where you walk from Hikertown to Tehachapi in 24 hours, so he’s trying to push a little further today so that he can nero in two days into Hikertown before he starts the 50. What a machine! We discuss his plans and then our ideas for Tehachapi, where we plan to take a double zero since we’re all pretty exhausted and Andy will be extra tired after 50 straight miles of hiking.
Eventually, Andy leaves the picnic area to start hiking with Snake Charmer, and then Beetle, Rob, and Petra take off. DLT and I are the last to leave. It’s a little slow going for the last seven miles of the day, first uphill to another power line and then a smooth cruise in the evening. DLT tells me a little about his job that he had before coming out here, then we notice we have service so we stop for a minute so he can order new insoles from REI.
After that the hill is pretty much done, and we enjoy a smooth, cruisey few miles into camp. I keep noticing these plants with spiky green fruits, and I find out from my PictureThis app that it’s a wild cucumber. They look so alien. Neat! I keep meaning to look up a bunch of the plants I’ve found whenever I have service, but I always forget. It’s good to know this one.
It’s not long before we run into Petra and Catless. We walk more or less together for the last mile to camp, right before Lake Hughes Road. It’s a lovely clearing surrounded by bushes. We set up for cowboy camping in a circle, and soon we’re joined by Power Plant, Knuckles, and Topo. It makes me so happy to be sitting here in a circle with my trail friends beneath the mountains. I eat a Mountain House yellow curry, which is objectively the best backpacking dinner I’ve ever had (shoutout to Andy for discovering his gem), followed by some dried mangoes for dinner. Backpacking, man. It’s the simplest and most beautiful thing.
I can’t believe it’s already been one whole month on this trail. Time is weird out here, moving quickly, slowly, standing still. We just keep moving past everything, occasionally stopping to sit, sleep, eat, or enjoy the view. Kind of like life, I guess. I love the people I’ve met so far, the things I’ve seen, the places I’ve been. What’s next? I don’t know, and I like it that way.