Water: 4L+ from Walker Pass troughs
I wake up two minutes before my alarm, just in time for my tent to finally succumb to the wind and collapse on my head. It rained again last night and I lay awake, feeling very scared and exposed up on a saddle, hoping for two things: that the rain does not belong to a thunder storm and that my tent stays up in the rain. At least it is no longer raining.
I pack quickly and am soon on trail, my earliest morning yet, and Chef is not far behind. The view is spectacular with the rain-rinsed sky and the sun lighting up a few remaining clouds. The trail follows the ridge, the expanse of desert out one side so vast I can’t imagine how I have walked here; and green tree covered hills, the Sierra out the other. Past and future on display.
I leapfrog with Chef and we eventually join forces for the last few hours to water, the end of the longest dry stretch on the PCT. We talk about food almost the entire way. Vegan brownies with cashew frosting; the farmer’s market in San Diego. Sushi. Fueled by conversation, we make the 18 miles by 1pm.
The campground is eerily deserted. It seems like no one else it out here today. Just a hiker box on a picnic table full of the usual dead shoes, empty fuel canisters and dregs of sunscreen. I dig through anyway and am rewarded with am orange, I peel and halve, too good not to share.
I open a bottle of cache water and it reeks of plastic, having been left in the sun. We renew our efforts to locate the actual water, which is down the road .3 miles. There’s a cinder block trough full of tall cattails and green algae. But clear cool water flows steadily from the side. We fill bottles, wash socks, rinse dusty bodies.
As the sun begins to sink, we head back out. There’s a red truck at the road crossing, driving in the shoulder, following us down the trail. Always a bit creepy. A bearded man gets out “Are you PCT hikers?” he asks excitedly. He’s the McClure Meadows ranger in Evolution Valley, he explains, and just wanted to say hi. Then I realize I have met him before, last summer on the JMT, and ask his name to confirm. “Dario” he says. And it is him. I had asked about the weather, one of thousands I am sure, not that he would remember. Still so random, on this lonely road.
Up we wind again, gaining elevation that will soon be lost and gained again. But there are people up here. Lots of people. It seems everyone had gone to town at the road. Chef and I stop to camp, wanting to be sure we are out of the still blasting winds tonight. And then who walks up, but Greg and Cheese, and later Grey. All of whom I had assumed were well ahead. Happy reunions all around as Chef had started with Greg and Cheese, and I started the same day as Grey. And there is phone service up here too, the first in four days. Though only when it feels like it.