Water: not enough; lone fountain; tap at Ziggy and the Bear’s
I wake surprisingly not sore after the gargantuan effort through the snow. It’s not even as cold out as expected, though my tent is completely soaked with condensation and yesterday’s soaked socks optimistically left to dry on a rock frosted solid overnight. I still need to finish getting off this mountain. It’s 13 miles to water, all downhill, but there’s just over a liter left in my bottle.
There’s hope that a seasonal creek a mile down is flowing again with all snow melting up top, but when I arrive the only moisture is that still soaking my shoes. Even a foot of fresh snow on peak fails to trickle a thousand feet down. The desert floor we need to cross is 5000 more feet below.
As I walk, yesterday begins taking its toll. I roll my ankle in the painful kind of way. I watch the ground attentively to place my feet with more care only to crash head down straight into the one and only tree branch overhanging the trail. Then I notice hot spot beginnings of blisters. Everything seems difficult. Other hikers, part of the new Idyllwild snow bubble, but whose names I do not know, appear to be gliding serenely down the trail in the distance. I watch enviously, only to roll my ankle again. I do the only thing I can besides walking: sit down in the middle of the trail and eat chocolate until the wrapper is licked clean.
Though the destination is visible far below the trail is eroded and confusing. I accidentally take a short cut and wrong turn only to find myself heading back up the switchbacks. I am imprisoned in an Escher painting, where all downs lead to the top again and there is no escape. But I must be making progress because the air grows warmer with each switchback. I think constantly about water, though not dehydrated. Eventually I pass rocks marking mile 200. Over half way down I think, and drink most of my water in celebration. But a few minutes later there is another little 200 marked out in stones. And then, after what seems like a whole mile more of twists and turns, an official PCT post marking 200. Who built this secret mile between miles? Is this extra credit? And why did I pack an entire box of raisin bran? It is so heavy.
The water source, finally , with its usual cluster of hikers. A water fountain sprouting right out of a large pipe. Filling bottles from its watery arc is comical, especially in the wind. A few hikers comment that it is wasteful, watching the spray miss their containers. But perhaps it is a calculated inconvenience, ensuring we not take any more than we need.
Only 5 miles to Ziggy and the Bear’s, long time trail angels, hosting hikers for 18 years and counting. They even purposely bought a house near the trail. A crazy slog in loose sand along and finally under train tracks and the I10. It seems harder than yesterday’s snow, longer the the interminable switchbacks. I walk with Grey, we keep looking back at he peak, covered again I clouds that somehow we were above less than a day ago.
The house is a hiker oasis with everything hikers love. Like Showers, cold gatorade and wifi. Bear and Ziggy help me mail return my ruined shoes (and even know the mail return address for REI). And, walking around to hand out ice cream just before lights out, they offer me a real fruit Popsicle alternate in my choice of three flavors when I politely decline the dairy product without explanation.