May 6, 2018
It was still taking me two hours to be ready to hike every morning. I think a big part of that was because I was always trying to be really quiet and not wake anybody up which of course takes longer than just flying through all my morning chores. I was ready before 6:30am and hiked out before Ghosthiker which was fine because she’s faster than me anyway. I wanted to make as many miles as possible before it got hot but it turned out to be a consistently overcast morning so it wasn’t bad at all. We had 19 miles to the next water source and I was carrying about 5 litres. That would have been more than enough for a normal hiker, but with my apparent health issues I knew I needed to be drinking a lot of water.
I’d been carrying a mini spray bottle of bug repellent made from essential oils that I had yet to use, but that morning the gnats were pretty obnoxious so I pulled it out and sprayed a little on my face. I was immediately taken back to the time I went backpacking with my brother and sister-in-law, and the mosquitoes had been so bad that we’d covered ourselves with the same essential oil mixture and we ended up smelling like toasted fruit loops. We didn’t get bit by a single mosquito.
The memory made me miss home. I missed my family. I missed my Zoe. Like so many hikers before me, I’d come out to the wilderness to gain some clarity of mind and decide which direction I wanted my life to take me. At least I still had quite a while to figure it out. Maybe if I decided to come back and pick up the miles I missed south of Tehachapi, I could skip over to Arizona afterward and try to summit Picachu Peak again. I’d climbed it when I lived there a few years ago and had gotten about ¾ of the way to the top, but I didn’t have the right shoes or enough water and the elevation had started hitting me hard, so I went back down. A trip to Arizona would also allow me to visit some family I have down there. And maybe after that, I’d take my friends Tom and Nicole up on their offer and go down to Costa Rica to visit them. I planned to make that trip a gift to myself for successfully completing the PCT.
Ghosthiker and I hiked 18.6 miles that day. My feet were doing well in my new shoes. I had one or two hot spots but put some lavender on them before going to sleep, hoping it would help. It usually did, for the little ones. But the trail was beautiful. Tons of flowers everywhere! I hiked the first 5-6 miles alone and around break time the trail had circled around a very small valley. I found a large rock to sit on while I ate some breakfast and waited for Ghosthiker, which was fun because I had a nice vantage point and would see her coming a mile or more away. I’m still having trouble eating in the mornings. Mostly I just add calories to my coffee whenever I can. Carnation Instant Breakfast is not exactly quality calories and has almost zero protein, but calories are calories, I guess.
We ran into Sparky and Oats about 5 miles from the water source, Robin Bird Spring. They said they were taking it slow so we could catch up, but they wanted to hike another 5-7 miles beyond the spring at mile 602, which meant another 10-12 miles of hiking. Ghosthiker and I set out with that plan half in our minds, but I was sort of dragging my feet by the time I arrived at the spring a little after Ghosthiker. There was no sign of Sparky or Oats, so we assumed they’d already collected their water and hiked on. We decided to stay. Trail families evolve all the time and Sparky and Oats seem to hike well together and at the same pace, so of course we wouldn’t begrudge him deciding to hike with her instead. We’d miss him, though.
I found a random spot along the trail that gave me two bars of cell phone service, so I immediately dropped my pack to take a break and call my mom. Service had been pretty sketchy since leaving Tehachapi so I took the opportunity while I could, supposing it was all just a precursor to what it would be like hiking through the Sierra Nevada – completely cut off.
Speaking of which, Ghosthiker pointed out that Kennedy Meadows is just a little over 100 miles away! I know 100 miles is a lot, but after almost 600 miles it sure felt close! It seemed utterly surreal that we were almost there. The long-awaited Sierra Nevada was so close I could almost taste the snow as I dug my trekking poles into the scorching, sandy trail.