Good job. Pink bandana huh? I'm heading for Ok Freewheel tomorrow. First time for one of those. Probably be the last. Those things are expensive.
Jun 07, 2018
Texas Hill Country
October 12, 2020
The lack of stakes was thankfully a non-issue for that first night. I woke up and rubbed my neck. It stung. I rubbed my head. It stung more. I'd have to figure something out. Sunscreen alone wasn't doing the job. I tried putting my spare underwear on my head. No use, the sun would shine right through the leg hole. Something else, maybe...?
I wound up using my neck warmer as head scarf. My thick black wool neck warmer. Certainly not an ideal solution, but incredibly, my head felt cooler with it on.
Just as I was packing up to go, Monique passed through and stopped at the water cache. For the next three miles or so, I spoke in French and she spoke in English so we could both practice. I asked her if my neck was brulé. She confirmed that it was.
"Rose ou rouge?"
"Euh, strong pink?"
We mostly talked about history after that. A few miles later, I got away from her.
Within a few hours I was at Scissors Crossing at about 10:00 in the morning. It was hot down there. This was, I believe, the lowest elevation the PCT had gotten to by this point. There was plenty of water cached underneath the overpass. I spent almost an hour having lunch and drinking water in the shade.
With some reluctance, I emerged from the darkness to take on the hill that would make up most of the remainder of the day, including the very hottest hours. Along the way I met two guys, Sage and Malibu, who were carrying solar umbrellas. It was about 2:00 PM when I met them, and they intended to go another 16 miles. I considered that wishful thinking.
Another hiker, named Trace, had what I believe was some kind of African accent. When she saw me wearing my neck warmer as a head scarf, she offered me her spare bandana. Naturally, it was hot pink. Naturally, I embraced it.
With the bandana on and my shirt collar flipped up, the Sun didn't feel nearly as bad as it did the day before, even with a hotter air temperature and a big hill to climb. I maintained a pace I didn't expect. Late in the day, it looked like it would be possible to make it to the mile marker Sage and Malibu had intended on reaching. At some points on the trail, you could see over a mile behind you. Neither one of them were within sight. There was no way they'd make it without night hiking. But I could do it.
As evening was setting in, I came across the 100 mile mark. Then I crossed it again. And again. It seems as if people thought they were at the 100 mile mark on four or five different occasions and kept spelling out the number '100' with rocks in the dirt. I only took a picture of one of them.
One mile later, I made it to an ideal campsite. A big flat area with shade trees and a nearby spring. All of those things were rarities at this point. At this hour, the shade wasn't a big deal, but that also meant the trees would keep me out of the wind. With no tent stakes, that was an issue. I rinsed and and wrung out all my clothes in the spring, had a snack for dinner, and went to bed. At least an hour later, Malibu arrived by light of his head lamp. I guess he made it.
I was hoping my clothes would be dry by morning, and I had heard of a trick: If you keep wet clothes in your sleeping bag with you overnight, your body heat will dry them by morning. All it did was make my sleeping bag clammy. My clothes were just as wet in the morning. The cool, beautiful foggy morning. The world simply looks more magical in the fog.
In only a few hours, I was in Warner Springs. Warner Springs had been described as hiker-friendly, but I simply hadn't realized how much. The community center, practically on the trail, offered water, a chance to wash your clothes out, bucket showers, and had a hiker box full of goodies. With over 100 miles down already, I scavenged so much free food I wouldn't resupply until I had hiked over 150 additional miles.
Shortly after Warner Springs, I met a couple out for a day hike. They were stopped in the shade having a picnic. I spoke to them for about two sentences before being invited to join them. I ate about four pieces of fruit and a little bit of cheese. Normally I eat a lot of fruit, but it's hard to take with you on the trail. One of them was an environmental scientist, and the other was a philosophy professor. In may surprise you, but this calculus teacher has an interest in both of those fields.
Ever since Warner Springs, the terrain has been more forgiving. It's more reminiscent of the classic southern California chapparal landscape. It's still hot and dry, but it's not full-blown desert.
Hiking is inherently boring, and doing it for hours at a time makes you start to notice things you normally wouldn't. I notice patterns in the footprints I follow. Some shoes have distinct tread patterns that stand out among the rest. Since I tend to move faster than most hikers, I usually only see the same set of fresh prints for a day at a time. One day I was following a pair of Saucony Peregrines, then the next day, a pair of La Sportiva Wildcats, then the next, Brooks Cascadias. For some reason, I haven't noticed any Solomon Speedcross, even though they're the most easily recognizable footprint. I guess they're not as popular out here as they are on the AT.
For the first time, camping without stakes was an issue. I did my best to set up the tent out of the wind and used rocks to space out the corners, but it wasn't enough. The walls of the tent flapped in my face all night. It worked, but it wasn't fun.
At some point I met two Czech hikers. Like most thru-hikers so far, they didn't have trail names yet. They introduced themselves as Maja and Alsha and seemed confused when I introduced myself as Coyote, not realizing it wasn't my real name. It occurred to me that I'd never given anyone a trail name. Hours later, I thought of a collective hame for the pair of them: Double Czech. And I'll never get to use it!
Somehow I've gotten in the pattern of camping at high altitude, spending the morning descending, then afternoon taking on the day's longest climb. The opposite is ideal, not only for doing the toughest miles while it's cool out, but also for not-as-cold nights at lower altitude.
The heat has been getting more manageable, likely through a combination of less harsh terrain, drinking more water, and the hot pink bandana. I could probably drink even more water, either that or could get away with carrying less. Water is the one thing you hate to carry, because of its weight, but it's also the one thing you'd hate to not have. By carrying it and not drinking it, in a way, you're wasting it.
And to the Trail Angels that maintain caches of water for the hikers, thank you. Y'all are saving my butt. You've probably saved someone's life at least once.
Read about Coyote's adventure with his father in Central Texas. Music, food, wheels, family, all the finer things in life.