Day 18
Miles: 21
Creekside camp to Arrastre Trail camp

We have big plans to go big miles today – I still don’t want to get up. My infected blisters from last night don’t look better but they don’t look worse. “What are you going to do about them,”asks J.
  “Walk twenty-one miles on them, I guess,” I say glumly.

By the time we pack up camp it’s almost nine. Jacques walks through while we’re packing up. He made it! I wasn’t sure we were going to see him. Our commiseration session must have been as therapeutic for him as it was for me. Sometimes the affirmation that things are hard keeps them from being impossible.

We barely landed out of the desert last night, underneath the big oaks. A hearty climb to start the morning turns us around a corner and suddenly we’re in pines. Trees, glorious trees! The shade may be patchy but it sure feels fine. J and I are both feeling good. Maybe we can do this.

We get to one of the last water spots before a dry stretch and find a water bladder on a rock. It’s full. We don’t know whose it is, but it’s probably someone we know. J empties it out and packs it up. (We’ll carry your water bladder, but not two extra liters.) We hike maybe a mile more than run into a guy who asks us if we’d seen a water bladder. We pull it out and give it to him. He’s pleased as punch to have it back, but depressed it’s empty. He’s even more depressed that he’s had to backtrack three miles. Looks like he’ll be refilling at the last water spot with us.

After mile 240 there is a 16 mile stretch with no water. If we really do hike 21 miles today, we’ll be able to make it to that next water source. We sit and filter a bunch of water, then we eat lunch, then we hang out for a minute, and then it is almost 1pm and we have 16 miles left to hike. At our current pace, that’s 8 hours… if we take no breaks at all. We’ve tried to hike faster but we’ve never managed to keep it up for more than an hour. We’re still feeling good though, and the weather is perfect, and there promises to be shade… We take off at our best clip.

We make it about 20 feet before water is running from my pack, down my leg. “Shoot!” I do the panicked, rapid unpack of everything to pull out my camelbak. Check the hose, check the nozzle, J checks the hose, checks the nozzle. Looks good.

Twenty feet later we repeat the whole drill.

Twenty more feet and we do it again. I’m about to rip the camelbak in half. I unload my water into some of J’s containers. The camelbak is retired. We’ve lost half an hour…

And we’re cruising. For the first time ever, we break past the 2mph barrier and pull 3mph all day. I can’t believe it. I finally got my feet under me. J too, is feeling great. He’s been struggling with toe blisters and heel blisters and tendon pain too. Today, though, everything comes together.

The forest walk is wonderful. Oaks, pines, cedar, and manzanita on the south and east sides of the slopes, pines and firs on the north and west. There are grandmama ponderosas and stately cedars. We pass an outcropping of sparkly white marble. “I wonder what other people think of this rock,” muses J. “Sugar mountain…”

Later in the afternoon we come up on the animal cages. I’d heard rumors about this – large, exotic animals being kept right next to the PCT. I couldn’t wait to see a tiger. The cages are more depressing than I’d imagined, and it’s hard to see much. I spot a bear asleep in one. J points out a lion, also asleep, and another bear, pacing his cage. 1, 2, 3 turn. 1, 2, 3, turn. He goes back and forth, back and forth, back and forth – what else can he do? It’s awful to watch. “I can’t believe I was excited to see this,” I say, distraught.
  “Do you remember the hullabaloo about the Copenhagen zoo euthanizing animals last year? They did it because they won’t send their animals someplace like this.”

We cruise again to get past that outpost of suffering. I realize that I’m walking like a Hollywood mom out for her morning power walk. I make small robocop noises to change the effect. “I’m Power-Gizmo,” I declare to J and he power walks too. We’ve been busting three miles an hour all day! I feel big things coming our way.

A mile before water my janky knee just quits. I take the second pole from J and crutch it out.  (I should really buy my own poles.) The last mile is never easy. But 21 miles! And a new top speed! We may just do this after all. Two days ago I was sure I was done – we’ll see what tomorrow brings.

The nefarious poodle. This is actually poodle dog bush.

San Jacinto pops up again.


It’s way more impressive in kilometres! 400 baby.

Getting closer to Big Bear.


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