Pacific Crest Trail Diary 3: Day 35 (Lone Pine, California)
Updated: Sep 21, 2018
It's been awhile since I've had the opportunity to write, and I suspect that this is how it'll be for the entire distance of the PCT. I suppose that I expected to see more trail towns along the trail that provide public access to computers, but that doesn't seem to be true. For the most part there are very few towns along the trail, and those that are along the trail are barely excusable as "towns." For example, the last trail town that I stopped into had a population of 20--no wifi, no internet access, and absolutely no cell phone coverage. For the most part the towns that are "on trail" are 15-30 miles away and require hikers to hitch from the trail to the location, and upon arrival in those locations it's usually kind of hard to find what you need. Like trying to find a computer and keyboard--absolutely IMPOSSIBLE! This is literally the third opportunity that I've had to type on a keyboard in the last 35 days, and only one of these locations was actually on the trail itself. So I guess that the point is that I ask your forgiveness in not posting things like this more often. I assure you that if I could, I'd be typing daily, because each and every day there is something that happens that is truly spectacular and hard to be alone with. The last time I posted I had hiked to Agua Dulce (PCT Mile 450ish, I think) and was in Palmdale after a 30 mile hitch. Today I am at PCT mile 750, and so a lot has happened in the mean time. Let me see if I can just really quickly go through the happenings: I left Agua Dulce and walked about 23 miles before arriving at a trail closure which also led to Casa De Luna (a trail angel home), so instead of starting the road walk, I went to visit the Andersons and had the pleasure of being exposed to... well... I think that this is sort of a PCT "secret" so I'll keep it from being told. Let me say this though, and it's something that I picked up from another hiker: "There are two types of PCT thru hikers; there are those who went to visit the Andersons at Casa de Luna, and there are those who WISH they'd gone to visit the Andersons at Casa de Luna." It was an adventure. A lot of people got sucked in there for up to a week, but I escaped after only about a half a day. I was fed taco salad that night and pancakes and coffee in the morning. Then I headed off to the road walk.
This perhaps is a good time to discuss road walking. I fully expected in starting this journey that most of the people on trail are here to hike from Mexico to Canada. This however is a farce. I venture to guess that 90-95% of the people who call themselves "thru hikers" hitch hike through segments of the trail. Let me explain further: there are several sections of the trail that are closed because of old fires, current fires, Poodle Dog Bush, or endangered species closures. In these spots, hikers have a choice to just skip the section and catch a car ride to the end of the closure or walk the road around that part of the trail. I am personally on this trail so that I can walk from Mexico to Canada in a continuous line, so I do all of the road walks. The majority of PCT hikers however (the VAST majority) do not believe that this is appropriate, and so they hitch. Sometimes they hitch to the end of the closure, and other times they'll just skip the entire segment and go to the next trail town (in some cases skipping double digit miles of open trail in doing so). I think that this is kind of weird, and although they're allowed to do what they will, I want my friends and family to know that I'm actually walking a continuous trail. I'm doing the road walks, and unless there is a road walk that exceeds 2 weeks, I plan to continue this to Canada.
So anyways, I road walked from the Andersons, and that took about 2/3 of a day.
After the road walk I hit back on the trail, up a mountain, and then back down to Hikertown. From Hikertown I went off into the Mojave. Let me say this about the Mojave: No thanks! The Mojave is nothing but wind and windmills! I walked along a paved aqueduct and then went into the windmill farms. The windmill farms lasted for about 2 1/2 days and were miserable. Windy as all hell and boring. Just these giant industrial mills for as far as the eye can see. It isn't pleasant. And the wind makes it really bad. The wind was constant and strong for those two or three days, and at the end of the mills I climbed this mountain and it was one of my worst days on trail. I couldn't find any other hikers, and I only had about 50 yards of visibility. It was blowing around 60-80 miles an hour, and I just couldn't find a moment of hope or happiness. It was a really hard day, but I found a place to camp that was tucked into the trees, and that night was actually quite pleasant. From there forward there wasn't any more serious wind, and that made me very happy.
I started having phone problems at about mile 300. My phone battery won't hold a charge and it burns through about 10% of its battery life in an hour. Since I use my phone for maps, Half Mile notes, music, podcasts, and pictures, this is sort of an important tool to have problems with. I'm now having to carry 3 backup batteries just to keep my phone going from day to day. I'm hoping to get it replaced in Mammoth Lakes (about 100 miles from here), but as I walked through the Mojave, this stress only added to the troubles. Hopefully the batteries will keep it going until I get to Mammoth Lakes and can get a new one.
After the Mojave I went into Lake Isabella with a fellow hiker and rented a motel room for two nights. I rested and resupplied there, but more importantly, I got to meet my biological grandfather for the first time! It turns out that he lives in that little town of about 3,000, so when he leaned that I'd be coming through he asked to take me to lunch. We had a really amazing time, and the dude even looks sort of like me. It was a really special opportunity. We only had a few hours together, but it was really special. If I could have spent longer with him, I would have, and hopefully I can in the future. That's about all I'll say about that for now.
From there I hiked with this same hiking buddy for about 60 miles. We made it about 22 miles on the first day out of Lake Isabella, then 25 the day after. We were planning to go a full 30 on that second day to make it to Kennedy Meadows, but we got word on the trail that it wasn't a very nice place to stay. Apparently Kennedy Meadows had a lot of hikers (very busy) and there was a "birthday bash" going on that night. So rest and relaxation weren't going to be a possibility if we went another 5 miles. We were at a BEAUTIFUL river valley though, so we decided to take up that opportunity.
The guy with whom I was hiking was a spiritual seeker, so to speak. I don't want to give too much of his story on here because that is his own, but what I can say is that much of his philosophy, "religion," and practices in life have lined up with my own. He's a bit older than me, but we have very similar experiences and perspectives.
The next morning we continued into Kennedy Meadows, the gateway to the Sierras. When we arrived we received applause, which was strange, but apparently all the hikers who came into KM got that round of applause. It was really cool. Unfortunately, Kennedy Meadows was about as much as I'd been warned about on trail--the burgers were good, and they had good resupply, but the camping was a bit over-crowded, and the porta-johns were nothing short of a human atrocity. So for the sake of staying healthy, I decided to bounce out of there after short of a day. Later I got word from online sources and from my dad, who has been following PCT news pretty closely, that a lot of people have been becoming sick at Kennedy Meadows because of the conditions there, so I'm grateful to have gotten back on the trail after not too much time.
One of the biggest problems at Kennedy Meadows however was the fact that they didn't have wifi or cell coverage. You see, when I left Lake Isabella, I knew that I had a lot of equipment that I needed to replace, but I planned to wait until arriving at Kennedy Meadows. From there I planned to order all the things that I need and have them shipped to Bishop (about 100 miles north of KM). But since Kennedy meadows didn't have access to wifi or cell phones, I couldn't order anything, nor could I call my family support and ask for my next food box to be shipped. So I ate a few burgers and ice cream at Kennedy Meadows, then hit the trail two days ago at about noon.
The guy with whom I'd been hiking for a few days, he hated Kennedy Meadows far more than I did. He didn't like it from the moment he arrived, so after one night there, he bounced first thing in the morning. The plan was for me to catch back up with him, but now I believe that it was in our fate to become separated. I do not know if I'll ever meet him again in this life. As soon as I got back on trail (about 2 hours after my friend left), I became aware of some problems. I had a small tear in my backpack that started to become more severe, but of even more concern, my shoes were falling apart and producing injury.
I expected that my shoes would get me 700-800 miles, and these ones only had 500 miles. They fell apart quickly though, and as soon as they reached "that point" they started making my feet hurt. My left foot in particular developed a slight injury that became worse with each step, and by the end of the day I was at a full limp. This alone wouldn't have been too much a concern except for the fact that the limp was causing my knee to hurt, and since I already have knee injury on that side going into this hike, I needed to do something. So I talked to some other people on trail and learned that the small town of Lone Pine (45 miles north of Kennedy Meadows) had a nice, but small, gear store. So for the last two days, I've been limping my way to Lone Pine where I sit now.
Here's a list of the things that I needed to replace (in no particular order):
1) Backpack (A rip in the bottom is threatening to throw my gear out the bottom, so I've had to sew it and order a new one to Mammoth Lakes)
2) My Tent (The zipper has broken completely on the "door" so I'm now cowboy camping and not using a tent until it's replaced)
3) My Shoes (Broke down after 500 miles and started producing injury)
4) My Gators (had them for about 500 miles, and they are torn to hell)
5) My Water Filter Cartridge (It's exhausted, and I just need to order a new one ASAP)
6) My Hiking Poles (Broke one on the day out of Lake Isabella, and fixed it with a tent spike and duct tape)
7) My Phone (This is the one that's causing me the most stress)
Yeah... that's sort of a lot of stuff, and it's all pretty important. So going beyond where I am now was not an option. I came into here, got new shoes (thank the lord!!!) and ordered everything else to be shipped about 100 miles north to Mammoth Lakes.
The motels in this town are all around $90 a night, so I'm staying at the local hostel. It's nice for what it is, and is much cheaper than the motels. I need to go get a bit more food before heading out in the morning, but other than that I'm about done with this town. I will get a ride back to trail tomorrow and then it's back to the trail.
As for the trail itself, let me say this: I am now in heaven! The first 702 miles of the PCT are mostly desert. That desert took a lot of people out; I've met quite a few who did around 100 miles at the start and either dropped out or skipped ahead to mile 702 (Kennedy Meadows). But that said, I've been in Arizona for 10 years, so the desert is sort of my bread and butter. Yeah, there were times where it absolutely sucked walking through that much desert, but as a whole it was a really great experience. But after that, the Sierras start, and about 7 miles outside of Kennedy Meadows the trail climbs its first big pass, and then "we ain't in [the desert] any more Todo." The mountains are nothing like anything I've ever seen before. You can just see the time laid out in the old burned logs and the trees that have grown up since that fire that must have happened hundreds of years ago. The temperatures are much more reasonable in day and night time, and the water sources are much better! In the desert there were several 30 mile stretches without water, but in the mountains it's EVERYWHERE. I counted, and of the 32 days that I was in the desert, I only had three nights that were camped by a water source! So to celebrate, I spent my first night in the Sierra next to a river camped cowboy. It's been really magical.
That said, my foot was really hurting me the last two days, so I'm excited to get back on trail with new shoes. I also am slowing my miles down a big now that I'm out of the desert. My trail days in the desert were all between 25-30 miles per day; now that I'm in the most beautiful part of the trail, I'm aiming closer to 20-25 per day. I'm planning to practice my spirituality more here as well, and shorter miles should afford me the opportunity to do that. Tomorrow night is the full moon, so I do have something planned along that line.
Overall I'm really enjoying the trail. It's a lot harder than I expected, but being in the mountains is a relief to the spirit and to the mind. I'm excited for the next 500 miles, and will undoubtedly have stories to tell the next time I find a keyboard. I'll summit Mt. Whitney in two days, then from there I'm off to Bishop and then Mammoth Lakes. If all goes well, I hope to get a keyboard in Mammoth Lakes, so I'll update there.
I miss my friends, family, students, dog, and everyone else in my life back home and very much look forward to talking to you again. Before I see you next however, there are miles to cover.
And with that, I'm off until next time.