Day 8: 100 miles!

14.8 miles (Mile 94.7 – 109.5)
PCT Mile 94.7 – Warner Springs

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Our hills! So pretty!

What a day! Again! It was hot, the hiking was great and tough, we hit a milestone, saw a famous PCT site, found some trail magic, and made it to Warner Springs a day earlier than we planned!

The milestone we hit was the PCT 100-mile mark! We were pretty excited. It’s kind of a tradition on this trail to draw the milestones out with something, and it was already done when we got there. On stones, right along the trail was this:

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Yippeeeee!

Our water source today was Barrel Spring. There’s a spring that runs down to a spigot that constantly runs into a cement trough. We had to treat it, but it was good… and pretty cold! BUT! The best part? The trough of cool water had cans of soda in it! I had a root beer and a cola and they made me burp pretty good. A bunch of days with no carbonation, then two full cans? Burp city!

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Whitney Houston and Mr. Green enjoying Barrel Spring

A little later, after a hot, shadeless stretch through a huge cow-grazing meadow, we saw Eagle Rock. If you’ve ever followed a PCT journal or saw any videos related to the trail, you’ve probably seen a picture of it… as you will now! I had to climb onto his head, of course!

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Eagle Rock

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Eagle Rock

We took a long break in the shade before moving on just another couple of miles to Warner Springs. There is a community center here with volunteers for us… PCT hikers. They have a really nice shower outside, porta-johns, laundry, meals, light resupply, computers, a power strip for charging electronics, hoses for water, a shady tree with green grass (funny story about that in a minute…), and three full hiker boxes. Hiker boxes are a place for us to toss in food or gear that we no longer want or need that another hiker can have if they want.

So when we arrived, we bought cold Mt. Dews that REALLY hit the spot! And I finally had a craving today! For a NutRoll! They only had Payday for sale… close but not the same. I’ll look for one in our next town, I guess…

Hikers can camp behind the community center, and there’s this really sweet patch of green grass in shade out front. When we got here that’s where everyone was hanging out. We were the last ones there, cooking dinner before heading in back to camp. All of a sudden the sprinklers popped up and started spraying water all over! We scrambled and laughed as we tried like heck to get our stuff all out of the sprinkler range! I only got a little wet when I ran through to get my and Rachel’s socks that WERE drying on the nearby fence. It had to be a sight.

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Where we wish we could've camped (minus the sprinklers)

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Where we are camped... Voodoo Cheese is the shirtless camp model. :)

A few randoms:
In my 100-mile shot I’m wearing those rediculous pink silkweight pants to keep the sun off my heat rash. It got too warm so I took them off. The rash didn’t get any worse, so that’s good.

I got another new blister on my left pinky toe. The count is at 3. Not bad…

Rachel washed the boogers off from the corner of my bandana today. What a good friend (she knew they were there, too)!

Tomorrow morning we buy breakfast, heal blisters, and start back on the trail in the afternoon after the heat of the day.

Good night!

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Day 7: Water Cache

17.7 miles (miles 77 – 94.7)
Scissors Crossing – PCT mile 94.7

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WATER!

We are cowboy camping (no tent) for the first time… on a ledge 94.7 miles into this trip. What a day!

Adam dropped us off at Scissors Crossing and we hit the trail at 7:15am. We hoofed it pretty good all morning and had 9 miles in by 10:30. We saw a lot of new types of cacti and plants so we stopped to take a lot of photos.

Oh! We also saw 2 rosy boas around 9am. They’re really cool-looking snakes and much calmer than the rattlers.

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Rosy Boa

Today was all about water and dealing with heat. It was in the 90’s out here in the San Felipe hills, the sun was at least twice as intense as our hottest day yet, and we were hiking on exposed ridges with little to no shade. It was really challenging. But we made it through…

…thanks to a water cache.

It’s kind of pounded into our heads not to count on the water caches in case they’re empty. (A water cache is when some awesome trail angel(s) drops gallons of water in helpful places for hikers to drink.) This particular stretch had a cache 13 miles in. The next water source after that is another 9.9 miles. We cameled up before leaving and found ourselves drinking way more than we thought we would… and that made us nervous. We really needed more.

We hiked the extra .4 miles downhill to the cache hoping there’d be some there. There was. A lot, too. We met one other hiker there at first – Whitney Houston. He let us join him in the tiny bit of shade under a tree. It was 1:30 when we got there, so we just stayed through the heat of the day and rehydrated ourselves. A few other hikers showed up, too. We all took off around 4pm.

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Lots and lots of water. Probably a little more than half empty jugs, but plenty to go around!

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Rachel and I hanging in the cache's shade with Whitney Houston

We made it about 4 more miles and found the smallest patch of flat right alongside the trail for camp. Then Whitney and Jenna showed up, and they’re sharing our camp with us. It’s a tight squeeze, but we managed pretty well. It’s fun camping with other hikers.

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Cowboy camping!

As a result from this brutal day, I ended with a new, very tender but small heel blister, and a nasty sun/heat rash. My calves got it the worst. It’s red and stingy, but it’ll go away after a while. I’ve had it before… it’s just quite annoying.

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Makeshift calf-covers to keep my heat rash out of the sun.

So in the end, today was really hard, but the challenge felt good. We’re happy after eating a Knorr noodle side with Texturized Vegetable Protein (TVP) and oreos for dessert. And as I type this, I’m lying in my sleeping bag watching constellations come into view. I love this life!

A couple sidestories from me and Rachel during a maybe-semi-delusional, slightly dehydrated and overheated state:
So there was no shade anywhere to be found… but just around the next bend was this cave. It was 20º cooler in there. There was a waterfall, too. With salmon jumping in it. And bears eating the salmon. Nice bears. Care bears, in fact. And the cave had popsicle icicles hanging from the ceiling. The photos wouldn’t upload for some reason… darnit!

We felt like zombies marching down the trail the last 3 miles to the water cache… I mean the brains cache.

So… anyway, in all seriousness, we are hydrated and feeling good. Those were just a couple of examples of some of the weird crap we make up as we hike. Hope you enjoyed a little look into our crazy! :)

P.S. To whomever is stocking that water cache… ohmygosh THANK YOU! I think that seriously, possibly saves lives out here. You are amazing, and we are very grateful!

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Oops. Darn toe holes!

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Brutal, HOT landscape

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More cacti

Day 6: Kickoff Zero Day

0 miles
Currently at mile 77 on the PCT at Scissors Crossing

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Getting ready for the class of 2013 photo

We slept in until 10am. It felt good, too. I didn’t have a whole lot to do today, but the most important thing was to get prepared for the next stretch of trail.  But before that…

Adam and I chatted with #2, a fellow Wisconsin hiker. He and Adam were discussing who the Packers drafted. Then we wandered through the vendor tents. I didn’t really need anything, but it could’ve been really easy to drop $500 on a super-light setup. All the best lightweight companies were there selling their gear… drool!

I did buy a new Z-pack brand side pocket for my backpack. I don’t have snack pockets on my hipbelt like most new packs have today, so this is a good solution for me. It allows me to have a place to put my phone, camera, maps for the day, my notebook and a snack.

I also got to meet Yogi today. I bought her trail planning guides and they are priceless. It was really nice to meet her… I also met Halfmile at the class of 2012 video showing. We are carrying his incredibly accurate and up-to-date maps. Everybody here is so down to earth. Love these people!

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Meeting Yogi!

Later in the day I went to a malt shop with Adam. I had a corn dog  and a chocolate malt… which I couldn’t finish! My tummy was feeling rebellious today. I blame Coors.

Rachel and I went through our gear and got our food all packed, and I sewed up a pair of my underwear! Can you believe it? I sewed! Let’s see if it holds!

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Look, mom! I'm sewing! :)

The nighttime movie showing was the PCT class of 2012 video. It was absolutely incredible. Photos and video submitted by last year’s hikers and put together by one guy, VirGo. I cried a little throughout… of happines and excitement. Once you put good music to some of the crazy, amazing scenery we’re going to hike into, it’s hard to hold back emotion.

Aches and pains are still present, but very manageable. I heard of a  poor girl who had 20 blisters on her feet after day 1! Youchy!

Tomorrow we wake at 4am and hit the road for Scissors Crossing where we left off. I can’t wait to get back out on that PCT baby! Woo-hoooooo!

A few randoms from this past week:
We had to throw away some oatmeal because they tasted chemically and rancid.

If you have a bandana that can also be used as a bandage it’s a bandandage.

When the trail is a mix of sand and gravel, we call it sgrandvel. And it’s hard to hike in.

“Go bears” is our code for, “do I have any boogers?”

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Gear and food explosion

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Icing my knee

Day 5: Pie

8.6 miles (miles 68.4 – 77)
Rodreguez Spur Truck Trail (water tank) – Scissor Crossing

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Amelia and Grady working their hitchin skills

We woke up early to a still very bright moon. We were camped near a water source with a handful of other hikers, and we were all anxious to get on the trail. There was talk about a place in Julian with pie. FREE pie! Naturally we had to go see if these rumors were true!

We hiked into more desert conditions today and are seeing a lot more cacti and many different types. It’s really fun to see everything change from day to day.

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Socal desert trail

We got to the road an hour and a half earlier than we planned, but Adam had been there. He left some trail magic for all of us. Water, Gatorade, and a couple of chairs to sit on. Rachel and I watched all the hikers we were with hitch rides to pie… I mean town.

We finally decided we didn’t want to wait, either. We were ready to stick out our thumbs when two ladies pulled over and offered a ride! Easiest hitch ever! Thanks Okie Girl and Julie!

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Rachel and I with Okie Girl and Julie

We got to Julian and walked into Mom’s Pies. The rumors were true. Free delicious pie. With ice cream. And whipped cream. Oh my… yum!

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Oh my pie!

We had to say farewell to the group of friends we’d been hiking with. Adam met us at the pie shop to bring us to kickoff, and they were all moving on. I sure hope we see them all again up the trail!

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Our trail buddies!

ADZPCTKO. It stands for Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off. It’s a huge gathering of past, current, and probably some future hikers. There are vendors with gear, books, maps, advice, food… and there’s seminars on journaling, food, the important water report, bears, and more. There is so much going on! It’s fun to meet so many other hikers, too. What an awesome community.

Did I mention free food? Yup! On top of it being free, Rachel and I got to join the other 2013 thrus at the front of the food line! They had 2,000 burritos waiting for us! I only ate one, though…

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Burrito dinner line at kickoff

At dark we enjoyed the PCT film festival on an outdoor rigged-up Tyvek projection screen. After that we walked around until we found “the” campfire. It was a big bonfire with a whole bunch of people hanging around. There was a kind of a strange air about it so we didn’t stick around too long. Rachel and I did get to say hi to Bacon Bit, though! That was awesome! We followed her blog last year. She’s super nice!

I don’t even know what time we went to bed. All I know is that I was tired. What a busy day!

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We met back up with Pascal and the badonka donkeys at kickoff

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A few new desert flowers. Even a green one!

Day 4: Surprise weather

Day 4
18.4 miles
Mile 50 below Garnet Peak – Mile 68.4 at the Rodreguez Spur Truck Trail (water tank)

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We were again surprised at what the PCT had to throw at us. We were heading into a 34-mile stretch, known for its exposed ridges, hot weather, glaring sun and lack of water resources… besides a few tanks. I haven’t looked inside of the tanks and don’t plan to, but I’ve heard there are sometimes dead lizards and/or rats floating in them. The water from the tanks flows downhill through a pipe with a spigot where we hikers fill our bottles. And treat the crap out of it. Which I did.

Anyway, this section… in Mt. Laguna, we were told, “carry all the water you can. It’s dry. You don’t wanna get stuck out there without water.”

This is probably normally  true, except that last night a huge cloud rolled over and stayed. The wind blew strong all night long, and when we awoke it was pure fog and misting… and cold! We packed up camp as quickly as possible, dressed warm and got moving. For the first few hours of hiking we could see nothing but trail in front of us. At one point the trail was narrow with a solid rock wall to our left rising straight up into the fog. On the right the trail drpped off, but when you looked over the edge all you could see was white. It was a bit intimidating. But also pretty, of course.

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Morning fog. Sooo perty!

After about 10am all the clouds left and the sun came out. We still had a strong, cold wind until about 2:00. Then it got hot again. It was a crazy day with weather. I was glad I still had my rain gear, long undies, fleece and nanopuff jacket!

My lunch was pretty interesting today. We have these english muffins that were difficult to eat because they were crumbly and dry. (Mom, you are gonna love this.) I crumbled it in my dish, poured water over it, added peanut butter and craisins. It wasn’t too bad! Just needed a bit of doctorin’.

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Lunch... um, yum?

My knee felt better today, but I was medicating with ibuprofen. My pinky toe blister seems to be doing okay, too. I feel great to be hiking and I’m loving the long distances. Getting up early and hiking in the cool, quiet morning has been great, too. I am happy.

Tomorrow I get to see Adam! He’s picking us up at Scissors Crossing and bringing us back to Lake Morena for ADZPCTKO, a PCT kickoff party. Shower! Food! Craziness!

(I already can’t wait to get back on this trail, though!)

A few other photos from today:

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Beautiful yucca flower close-up

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Holy giant yucca!

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Pretty little butterfly

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Oh, PCT...

And one last note: just came into the tent to lie down after watching a full moon peek over a hill behind us. It started with a golden glow almost like a sunrise. Watching it finally come into view was really awesome. That’s all. :)

Day 3: Amazed

Day 3
16 miles
Mile 34 – mile 50 near Garnet Peak

(If there’s no photos in this I’ll add them in later… still figuring out the trail blogging thing.)

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Morning view

I am finding myself amazed each day out here. The views are a bazillion times bigger than I’d imagined. How did I not realize, after so much research, how much climbing to incredible, expansive viewpoints we’d take? It really is a big world! I’m being constantly reminded how tiny I am in this great big place. It’s already an amazing and humbling perspective to soak in… and I’m only on day three!

So obviously one of the highlights from today was the views. A look back on the hike this morning revealed far-off mountains draped in clouds… all except for the tiny bits of their peaks. This afternoon opened up an entire expanse of white, sage-spotted mountains surrounding a very barren-looking desert. And right before we found camp we were given a special gift – layers of shorter mountains, a few clumps of pine trees with white clouds rolling in around them, a sun peaking through and laying a silver glow on the clouds, and a rolling mist that floated right past us as we set up camp.

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Big views!

Another awesome part about today  was our visit to the town of Mt. Laguna… and I got to see Adam! He picked us up on the road so we didn’t have to walk the extra 3/4 in. We stopped at the little Mt. Laguna sport shop first, had our photo taken and registered with Super, the owner. Great little place full of everything a thru-hiker would ever need!

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Mt. Laguna sport store

Then we head to the trading post and ran into a bunch of other hikers. Some we new and some we met for the first time. There was a whole store full of snacks, but for some stupid, unknown reason, I had no cravings. It actually made me sad. I didn’t even want ice cream! So I had a coffee and some Gatorade. Boring!

We spent three fun hours in town before cameling up (filling every jug we had available with water). We each were carrying 11 pound in water alone! We were going to be dry camping again (meaning by no water source), and we’re headed into a very hot, dry section. We needed all we could carry.

The hike to our camp was actually kind of cold! It got breezy and the air had a chill in it. We settled on a spot just past our 50-mile mark, ate some couscous with pink salmon, and crawled into our sleeping bags. Another great day on the PCT!

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Camp

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Dinner!

A couple of sidenotes:
We pickled someone on the trail today.

I found my 2nd geocache – totally on accident!

I learned the hard truth that my knee pain while hiking is the result of a heavy pack. The more water, the more ouchy.

And… Happy Anniversary, mom and dad! I LOVE YOU!

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I thought of you all day, Uncle Dennis. May you rest in peace. Love you!

P.S. Aunt Judy, I send my love and a huge Laatsch-style hug and kiss your way. I’m thinking about you. Love you!!

Day 2: Scream Rattle Scream!

Day 2
13.4 miles
Lake Morena CG – PCT mile 34

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Our camp on day #2, on a big ridge

We saw our first rattlesnake today, and it was a BIG one! Rachel was leading and we came around a corner. Within about about a millisecond, she screamed, and as she jumped back towards me I heard the rattle and instantly screamed too. I hadn’t even seen it yet, but I knew for sure what it was! Right behind us was Dave, another thru we’d met earlier. He was totally calm, and tried to scare it off the trail by flinging some sand at it, but Mr. Snake wasn’t having it. We ended up walking around it through some scrubby brush. It was definitely a scary but awesome moment on the trail today! I laugh at the thought of the scene from Dave’s point of view. Two girls seeing their fist [very angry] rattler! It had to be a sight!

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Rattlesnake!

Our day started out on sandy trails and reminded both Rachel and I of a couple of training hikes we took at Pictured Rocks this year. I don’t think our sand-walking feet were still in shape though… we both have blisters on our feet. We also had more hot-hot weather, climbing, rocky trail, sweat and dirt. So we had a few factors working against us. We did our best to do what we could about them and we’re feeling pretty good about all of our decisions… but we still have tons to learn!

We’re meeting lots of fun people, too. Stopping for breaks with others is always a treat. We’ve met hikers with trail names like Unicroc, Scat tracker, Glasses, #2, and Cuddles… to name a few. Conversations are usually about water availability, food, blisters, a most recent climb, trail names… Rachel and I still wonder how our names will transform. We’ll see!

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Taking a break at a campground

Aches and pains are prevalent today. I started out with a slightly sore left hip, worked that into a twingy left knee, aquired the start of a chafe spot, and wrapped up the day with my very own, brand new pinky toe blister! My first PCT blister! Guess I better get used to all this. We’ll get stronger, but getting comfortable being uncomfortable is challenging… and a big part of the awesomeness of all this!

We stopped and set up the tent high up on a ridge tonight. Our GPS coordinates put us almost right on PCT mile #34.  We ate one of Rachel’s dehydrated noodle meals with cut-up meat and cheese, and crunched up cheez-its on top. We sat on a rock and ate as the  sun sunk down behind a mountain.

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Yum! Dinner!

Now I’m off to bed. We hope to get sn early start tomorrow morning. There’s cold sodas in 9 miles!

A few more pictures from today:

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Cactus

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Swallowtail??

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A super-cute little horned toad

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Out on a ledge