PCT Day 38: Frog Water

May 26, 2022

Highway 58 and Tehachapi at mile 566.4 to campsite at mile 585.8

19.4 miles

No! I don’t want to get up! This bed and I have merged into one fluffy entity. It is a part of me now. Goodbye, world!

Just kidding. I wake up when I hear DLT rustling about. I can tell just from the sounds of his pack straps swishing that he means business today. We’re headed back to trail today, and while it’s going to be stinking hot, I feel like it’s time to go home.

DLT very excited about his new shoes and sun hoodie

We eat one more enormous hotel breakfast, double-check the room, and then get a ride from Sarah, one of the local trail angels who volunteered to host us when we were coming into Tehachapi a couple of days ago. DLT and I realize that we forgot to get hand sanitizer at Walmart so she takes us to one of the other hotels that has a hiker box to see if they have any. DLT gets a little bit, and Sarah, seeing that his bottle is still nearly empty, says we can stop at her house for some. As we’re in the parking lot, we see Machine. He is saying goodbye for now because he has to go back home to take care of something related to his business. It’s really sad to see someone we know have to get off trail! We hop out of the car and give him hugs. We’ll miss you, Machine!

Sarah swings by her house and gets us some hand sanitizer, then we head back to the trail. I can’t believe she picked us up with so little notice and helped us silly hikers ensure we aren’t grosser than we already are. Thanks, Sarah!

We’re back to the trail and hiking around 8. It’s a flat, terrible walk along the highway for a bit, then it turns up and starts switchbacking up the side of a mountain. At first, I feel terrible. My pack is heavy with my resupply and I have five liters of water because the first source is 18 miles from today’s start. I move slowly on even the slightest uphill. I let DLT get ahead, then Jive Turkey and Feather. I follow wearily for five hot, sweaty miles. Then something just clicks. I feel rested and energized. I put in some music and start zooming up. DLT lets me pass, and I call, “Strongest goose!” (The first person in the front is the strongest goose, the second is snake bait, and the third is caboose. I’m in strongest goose mode today!)

I cruise switchbacks and hills and rock out to my music. I don’t know why I feel so good right now, but I’ll take it. The trail passes campsites beneath stands of Joshua trees, then into an open grassy area, around some rocks, and farther up into the trees. Trees! Actual trees!

Once I reach the top, I start to slow down. I need a snack and I have to pee. I pull over and scramble into the woods, then get ready to keep moving. I’m tired or my music now, so I switch to listening to an audiobook: Where the Crawdads Sing. It’s very atmospheric, and I’m transported from these dry Sierra foothills to the marshes of North Carolina.

By the time I’m at the bottom of the hill and working on the going up next one, my high has definitely worn off, and I am really slowing down. I see DLT and M&M under a tree and join them, glad for the break. DLT calls REI about a return because he bought a half-size too small, then we keep moving.

The trail follows a ridge for a bit, then drops down and joins a dirt road for several miles. Petra is walking with us now, and the three of us casually make our way down the hill. At some point Petra decides to take a break, and later DLT spots a good shade tree when I say I’m starting to fancy a lunch stop. We sit there for at least an hour. Catless joins us. I take a tiny cat nap after eating cheese and pepperoni wraps followed by so many gummies. When we get moving again I walk with DLT for maybe 10 minutes before he kicks it into uphill mode and I give up.

I trudge up the dusty, rocky road, not really enjoying it. It evens out, I drink some more electrolyte water, and I wind up on another ridge with wind turbines in the distance. I pass through a lovely rustling meadow and then down and around another ridge, where I catch up to and then walk with Petra for a while until she stops. Then I catch back up with DLT, who has been chugging his water since we’re so close to the spring now.

Soon we turn a corner and see the telltale group of hikers that means we’ve found the water source. It’s a very slow spring that empties into a trough where a group of frogs makes its home. They get on a ribbit roll every few minutes while we sit there gathering water. Some people who have CNOCs—a popular type of large-mouthed water bladder—scoop from the trough because it’s easier than waiting for the trickle. DLT, however, despite having said type of water bladder, sits there for half an eternity at the trickle while Petra and I wait. This drives Petra insane. The dynamic is very entertaining to watch.

Once I finally get my turn to fill my water container (not a CNOC, but it makes me feel want to get one very badly), I decide to cook there instead of further on so I don’t have to carry more than necessary. DLT, Catless, Petra and I sit in a circle crunching liberally on our fresh resupply, chatting with the other hikers that have shown up to the spring. Meanwhile, the frogs call occasionally in the background.

It’s a few more miles after that. It would feel interminable, but I walk and talk with DLT about movies. In the middle of one of his synopses, while I am simply walking up the trail, one of my massive water bottles falls right out of the pocket and slides down the hill. “Are you okay?” DLT asks, thinking I’ve fallen, and then, seeing that it was just my damn water bottle again, says, “Oh my god. You really need to fix that.” I trudge down the steep sandy hill, collect my renegade bottle, and stuff it back in.

Our goal was to make it to a big campsite down the hill, but it sounds like everyone and their mother is going to be there tonight and we aren’t sure if there will be enough space for us. So when we see Petra waiting by a site at the saddle of the hill, we follow her to a flat spot out of the wind and claim it. Ah, that peaceful feeling of being at camp and knowing where you’re sleeping and being done for the day.

It’s a lovely spot with a view towards a mountain in the distance. We sit and talk while I drink a hot chocolate and DLT stretches and laugh at whatever. I feel peaceful tonight. I can’t believe we’re already past Tehachapi. I can’t believe that we only have a few more days of the desert. I’m going to savor it.

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