Total Miles: 617.7
The Milky Way and all the stars that studded the sky were perfectly clear as I rolled out of my tent at 3:30am, bleary-eyed from another night of little sleep. The scheduled days of the desert–waking before sunrise to beat the heat, resting for hours during the worst of the heat, and moving again in the evening–have begun to exact a toll. This morning I felt both physically and mentally fatigued, anxious for the Sierra, a return to a more relaxed hiking timetable, and most of all for the days of not needing an alarm clock. One of the greatest joys of trail life is both waking with the sunrise and going to bed with the sunset, a natural rhythm I’ve dearly missed these first 600+ miles as my watch alarm has been a constant presence.
The character of the trail since leaving Tehachapi has been nothing like I expected. Instead of the outdoor oven on the floor of the Mojave desert, the trail has clung to the mountains that skirt its edges. Not only that, but the barren, shadeless expanse I anticipated is nowhere to be found thus far, with dry forest of pine beginning to appear among the low scrub. I’m certainly not complaining.
Despite some of the surprise shade, this is the driest stretch of the entire PCT, complete with a 42-mile waterless stretch that began at our midday stop. One thing I’ve neglected to mention is the importance of the water report–a crowd-sourced report giving the latest status of every single water source along the trail. I cache it on my phone for offline access and reference it multiple times a day to see whether upcoming springs are reliably flowing or not and thus plan out my water needs at each source. Fully loaded with 8 liters of water for this 42-mile stretch, it should be enough to get me through two more days of our early starts and late finishes before reaching Walker Pass, from where only a little over two days of desert hiking remain. I’ll miss the unique character of the desert, its surprising bursts of color and it’s dramatic sky, but I’m ready for the cool of the High Sierra, its shade and its plentiful water.