May 23, 2018 | miles 313.4 to 345.7 |
Feet hurt. Knees busted. Taking the toll of a 38 mile day yesterday — I woke up in the morning with my feet feeling like they normally would after 20 miles. Today’s gonna be tough.
But not so tough that we can’t make miles. The morning was a blur – condensation had covered my quilt in the morning, and I immediately wet my shoes crossing the creek we slept by – not a very fortuitous beginning. Then began the steady trek over to the campgrounds: 15 miles down with restrooms and fresh water taunting us in the distance. Aside from Heaps we all started fairly slow. Mugwart and I chatted a little before he passed me, after which my earbuds came out and music started rolling to distract me from my aching feet.
After about two hours, I suddenly see Mugwart hiking with a familiar face in the distance: Jupiter! A second wind took me as I raced to catch up, and we chatted as a group for the next hour. We eventually caught up to Heaps next to some large metal pipes, after which Heaps sped forward with Jupiter while Mugwart and I both displayed our fatigue lagging behind.
After another hour or so I suddenly see Heaps, Jupiter, and Sam (who had passed me in that last hour) walking back toward me. Apparently we had all missed our exit for the campground. Drat. However the day was still young. We marched back – me slowest by far with my feet yelling at every step and made it to the area before 11.
The campground recreational area exceeded all expectations with a huge selection of restrooms, a well-pressurized water fountain, and even some shared picnic tables. We all relaxed and enjoyed some much-needed rest over conversations about food, water, and whatever else came to mind. Jupiter showed me his maltodextrin breakfast drink which I’ll likely start using as well. But noon approached, and we all had our minds set on McDonald’s another 13 miles forward, so ahead we left ready for another arduous trek.
If my morning hike was like walking on a frying pan, then the afternoon was walking on the flames themselves. By midway, every step had took utmost mental concentration as I tried to withstand the my feet protesting that they long had enough. But I still had six miles to go.
I tuned into my audiobook for Dune, making it another three miles before needing yet another five minute rest in the shade of one of those large metal electric poles.
But fortunately for me, the last three miles were one of the prettiest portions of the PCT to date. After a half mile uphill, the trail overlooked a cliff view of the distant Angeles mountains East of LA sand their beautiful foothills. The remaining portion followed the Crest of the Foothills down as you enjoyed the incredible view.
The beauty was truly a saving grace, since my feet had long since exceeded their pain tolerance levels. Furthermore, the downhills were especially steep causing my left knee to throb with every step. The two miles descent, which would normally run me a half hour, ended up consuming a full 90 minutes, but the destination at the end made it all worthwhile. McDonald’s. Never have I ever been so excited to get to a McDonald’s.
I wharfed down a feast of 2 McDoubles, 2 McChickens, a Bacon Ranch Salad, 4 Crispy Buttermilk Tenders, and medium fries while all of us refreshed ourselves both physically and mentally from the 28 mile journey that took us there. Not a long distance by our standards now, but certainly not easy after a 38 mile day previous.
We rested at McDonald’s for quite a while as our friends: Mugwart, Greg, and Jupiter (all of whom had stayed longer at the recreational area) streamed in. Eventually we left at 7 to search for a place to camp despite joking about “camping” at the Best Western nearby.
We found an initial candidate, but thought it was too close to the train tracks, so we pressed on with limited sunlight. A foolish decision. It too another three miles of ridge walking in the dark – all while trying to avoid poodledog – a plant similar to poison oak all over this portion of the trail. But finally we found a campsite and sleep awaited us.