Mile 517.59 to 634.93
This was the section where the Sierras, hitherto a distant and vague idea, suddenly started to loom large in everyone’s minds. Mile 702 (Kennedy Meadows) marks the real start of the Big Stuff, although we have been walking in the Sierra foothills for some time now.
Our feelings regarding the desert have become schizophrenic: on one hand we’re utterly sick of the 25-mile days with no water and we’re very ready for a change, but on the other hand, we’re a little terrified of the snow and roaring creeks that await us. This is one of the highest snow years on record, and it will test us.
Our tent sites in this section have been dictated by the sparse water sources, which has made for some crowded evenings, but we’ve greatly appreciated the chance to catch up with old friends whom we doubted we would see again.
Mile to 383.9 to 517.59
This section took us through three of the most famous trail angel establishments, each almost within a day’s hike of the next: Hiker Heaven, Casa de Luna and Hikertown. It felt like a much-needed final party before we enter the vast mountain wilderness of the high Sierras. Our hike is about to become a mountain survival expedition, which is why our beer intake has increased severalfold this week.
Mile 151.8 to 369.6
Another two hundred miles of trail down. Our mileage is approaching 20 per day, which should stand us in good stead to hit the Sierra at just the right time. There are more long sections without water now that we’ve reached the desert proper, which sometimes entails carrying six liters each in addition to our food.
Our homes are often thrown up in the fading light and dismantled before dawn as we seek to maximize our mileage. Such long days puts pressure on feet and knees, so this section ended with a luxurious double zero in Wrightwood while we recovered.
Mile 77.32 to 151.8
We’re now two weeks into our hike, and every day brings new refinements of gear and new ways to make our time more efficient. Our daily mileage has grown from five to ten to eighteen, helped in part by a shift to desert timing: get up before 5am, hike ten miles before the sun gets too hot, take a long siesta and then hike into the evening.
This has meant that we’re rolling into camp later. Betty gets the dinner going while I set up the tent and blow up our mats, then we have a little time to eat, watch the sunset and chat with other hikers before bedtime, usually 8 to 9 pm. This changes when things get windy, since the tent would fly away if both of us weren’t working together to stake it down.
This week has indeed been characterized by high ridge camp spots with exciting wind to match, but so far the tent has held up well. We also enjoyed a wonderful rest day in Idyllwild with some new hiking buddies.
Mile 0 to 77.32, April 16th to 23rd
And we’re off! The first week of hiking has surpassed our expectations as we progressed through varied and beautiful habitats, from lush fields and pine forests through to the desert proper.
However, I would like to avoid the pitfall of only writing about the big picture: the huge scenery shots and massive miles traveled. My favourite part of other people’s journals is the home-making minutiae: what does your sleeping spot look like? What did you eat for dinner last night? What was the view from your tent door? This makes the story feel much more real for me.
That’s the purpose of this series, 150 Homes, which I’ll try to update once per week. Each day I’ll take a pic of our camp and describe our surroundings, sometimes focusing on the tiny details of long-distance living that might ordinarily be skipped in favour of the next huge vista. Please let me know if there’s anything you’re curious about and I’ll include it in a future post!
We decided to record some thoughts and expectations of our experience before we set out, as a reference point while on trail and after. We both answered the same set of five questions. Betty’s answers are here.
1. What made you decide to thru-hike the PCT?
My parents were both avid hikers, and some of my most magical early memories were of the bleak beauty and profound silence of the English Lake District hills. Waking up in a tent on top of a mountain, smelling the camping gas and the first sizzles of bacon; seeing a crow flying below me as I stare down into a valley. I treasure those memories. There’s something so right about being outside, wearing sturdy shoes and carrying my entire home on my back. I didn’t appreciate this enough when my parents were still able to hike with me. My dad died right when I was just beginning to understand that my time with him might be limited; in fact, he died just when I was starting to plan our first hike in years. In a way, I feel that a thru hike will be a tribute to his legacy, and will give me some closure on all the opportunities to spend time with him that I never took.
Me in the Pyrenees in 2004. So young; so ignorant in the ways of hairstyles.