Day 13: Hard climbs = good views

16 miles (Mile 152 – 168)
+2 miles off PCT to get water
Paradise Valley Cafe – PCT Mile 168

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Mountain springs

Where do I start? It was such a scenic day again… they don’t call it the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail for nothin’! I could write a novel every day with how much I see and how often the scenery drastically changes throughout the day… I’ll hold back, though – I already write too much!

I’ll try my best to quickly describe what we encountered today. It’s hard sometimes because I want to do it justice, but I just can’t. Photos, videos and journaling is all I can do. You just need to get out here! You wouldn’t regret it.

So Adam dropped us where we left off on the PCT this morning and we were hiking by 7am. We immediately hiked into brand-new scenery, right off the bat. There were giant boulders everywhere, and the trail wound around them. We took little hills up, then around a house-size boulder, then back down, back around another boulder the other way, and we continued this for the first couple of hours. The trail surface was gravelly and sometimes we’d be walking on top of buried rock – very flat and hard. It was simply fun hiking – for the variance in the trail surface, the winding route and the scenery.

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Fun boulder trails

Then we started climbing, and with the exception of one steep downhill to a trail junction, we climbed the rest of the day. Climbing is hard, which is one reason why I love it. The best reason is what you are rewarded with at the top. Views. We got to a ridge after part of a climb that gave us the view of a lush, green valley to our left and a barren, sandy and flat desert floor to our right. The backdrop on both sides were layers of mountains in different shades of blue that got lighter and lighter until they blended into the horizon. In front of us were peaks full of green manzanita and white granite boulders jutting out in between. And…that’s where we were headed!

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Great views!

We then went downhill on small, sharp and steep switchbacks to a trail junction, and then we climbed some more. That was some of the steepest grades we’ve encountered thus far. Brutal and tough, but awesome!

We were headed toward a high ridge for camping, but it got so gusty and windy that we stopped in a clump of tall pines (at 7,000 feet elevation) where we think it’s less windy than that ridge would be… but I don’t know. It’s wailing pretty hard and the tent is shifting and shaking and flapping around. And we unintentionally found an exciting slope to set it up on, so we’re both sliding downhill. We may not sleep great tonight, but this is all part of the adventure!

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Campin on a slope

We saw a ton of wildflowers today, and we hiked an extra 2 miles to get water at Cedar Spring. It was a downhill hike to a cedar grove that popped out in the middle of nowhere with spring water, shade and friendly humming birds. It was sort of magical-feeling. I could’ve stayed all day but we were only 10 miles into our day… onward!

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Flowers! These were everywhere!

I felt so good today. I was happy to be climbing enough to find my rhythm. I started with my feet – small, even steps to avoid cranking on my knees – then I added my arms, lightly landing my trekking poles with each step. Then I got my breathing to steadily follow the beat of my walking. My heart rate followed. Once it was steady I just climbed and climbed. I could feel my leg muscles work and I was sweating pretty good. I just love it out here. It’s the best hard work around.

Sidenote: I felt a little uneasy with how negatively I was thinking about my zero day in Idyllwild… the positive angle is that even though they’re going to be busy, it will always result in progress. And no matter how overwhelmed I may feel when we hit civilization, I feel lucky that I get to see Adam and spend time with him. I really can’t complain. That alone makes zero days awesome and a huge treat to look forward to. :)

I need to sign off before this does become a novel!

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Giant pinecones

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Rest time!

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Trail dinners always rock!

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