25.4 miles (Miles 418.8 – 444.2)
Mill Creek Summit Fire Station – Soledad Canyon Road
I think this might be the last time you read about me navigating poodle dog… or at least we can all hope! I think I got through the last of it today! Ohmygosh that’s exciting, isn’t it!?
I got going at about 5:45 this morning, and when I crossed the road to where the trail was I had to make my decision – poodle dog trail or road alternate. The thought of an 18-mile road walk made me feel kinda’ bummed, so I started up the trail. What the heck, why not give it a go? Looking at the map, the trail crosses the road in a few spots and comes pretty close in others – I figured I could always bail if I got too frustrated or overwhelmed with the poodle dog. I was also ahead of schedule, so I even had the option to turn around if I had to.
I’m glad I made the decision I did. I ended up taking the PCT all day with the exception of three miles from mile 427 – 430. Before and after that 3-mile section I had only a few spots where I had to move a plant to the side to get by. I adopted a technique for this. I collapsed and packed my trekking poles away, and found two sticks to replace them. I called them my “temporary poodle dog defender sticks.” I used them to move around the plants when I needed to, then tossed them back into the brush when I was done. I hope it worked!
When I got to mile 427, to my left was a yellow gate to the road, but I thought I’d keep going. I got about 25 yards in and there were two big bunches of the noxious plant on either side of the trail, about 4 feet tall, bowing together into the trail. No way was I going to get through there without coming in contact – even using my stick-defense technique! I jumped on the road there. It was a tough climb for a road, too! I met up with some other hikers at a junction in the road a little later (so happy to see other people – meant I was going the right way for sure!). I enjoyed the company of Tortuga, Beeker, Dragonfly, Storytime, and Wild Child.
At one point I came to this small section that was a meadowy-looking hillside covered in wildflowers! I think it displayed every color and type I’ve seen on the trail so far! I tried to get a photo, but not one did it justice. I just stopped and just stared for a little while… with a big smile on my face. What a glorious day.
After a lunch break at the N. Fork Ranger Station, I had 8 miles of hiking before I hit Soledad Canyon Road where I could get to the hiker-friendly KOA. I hauled butt… I had the thought that maybe Adam would be at the road waiting for me. It got downright HOT out. I never sweat so much! I got about one mile from the road and gave Adam a call. He was 8 minutes away – with cold Gatorade!! Confession: I jogged a little bit because I was so anxious to get there. Something cold on such a hot day? Yes, please! Jogging actually felt good. I think it used different muscles, or at least used my hiking muscles in a different way. I was pretty pooped after a 25-mile day, but man, did it feel good! (I also got my 10 x 10 today! 10 miles by 10am! Woo-hoo!)
Adam was sitting next to a cooler full of ice and Gatorade when I came around the last bend. Aaaah.
He had Lion King with him (a fellow ADT thru-hiker!). We all went to dinner at a Mexican restaurant. I was dirtier than I’ve ever been out here so far, so I got a few funny looks. I walked through with pride… donning my salt lines and dirty, filthy legs – I had to crawl through the dirt on my knees to get under a fallen tree earlier. Awesome fun!
After dinner we did some trail angel shopping for tomorrow, then dropped Lion King off at Casa de Luna. I was so out of it by then (beyond tired!). I said hi to a few people I knew there, but it was dark, and I didn’t recognize anyone else. There were a LOT of people there! I think we might go back tomorrow night.
I am cowboy camping at the KOA now, next to Adam, and there’s some wildlife refuge nearby… you can hear lions roaring. Why does everything have a weirdness to it out here? Haha! I just love it!
Tonight I love (believe it or not) poodle dog bush, because it taught me how to do the poodle dog dance and kept things exciting and risky for a while. I might come back and change this statement if I break out from it though! ;)