Total Miles: 101.1
With yesterday’s weather having blown through, we found ourselves with the most favorable hiking conditions thus far and with an early start we tried to take full advantage.
The climb up through the San Felipe Hills was gentle, though lengthy, but the reward was near constant views back across the valley towards the mountains from which we came yesterday. Weather aside, it’s already clear that you can cover more miles in less time and expend less energy on this trail than back on the AT. Not only that, but the views never stop coming. The trail can be maddeningly wandering at times as it traverses basin after basin at nearly a level pitch, but it’s fun to be able to see the trail snaking its way ahead sometimes miles in the distance. As Proton put it earlier today: “I think I can see the future!”
Although the conditions were incredibly kind today, it wasn’t difficult to imagine how cruel the sun exposure would be on this stretch of trail on a hot day with potentially a 34-mile section without water. In reality, the 34-mile waterless stretch is broken by the existence of a water cache along the way.
The first we’ve come to, water caches on the PCT are a bit of a paradox. Basically, a water cache is a spot where a trail angel stocks jugs of water at a predetermined location that is accessible by either a side trail or a jeep road that connects to the PCT so that hikers avoid the need to carry very large quantities of water. Prudence would tell you not to rely solely on the existence of water at a cache since previous hikers may have already tapped it dry. On the other hand, not counting on a water cache means carrying the same amount of water that you’d need to carry if it didn’t exist at all. We opted to take a compromise position and planned to have an extra liter of water remaining by the time we reached the cache in the event it was dry. It turned out to be fully stocked with enough gallon jugs to make Crystal Geyser proud, so we snacked and took a liter apiece to get us to the next water source.
A quick side note about trail angels. A trail angel is a good Samaritan who in some way or another goes out of their way to help thru-hikers. Their gesture might be as big as to host you at their home before starting the trail, like Scout & Frodo, or it might be as simple as giving hikers cold soda or food at a road crossing in the middle of nowhere. Trail angels who stock water caches like the one today at mile 91 do so on their own time and out of their pocket.
The big news of the day was passing our first big milestone–the 100-mile mark. Even though it’s a mere fraction of the entire trail, when you stop to think about, going 100 miles on foot is a hell of along way. Proton, ACE and I all have the blisters to prove it.