Saturday, May 14, 2016

Day 14 : Yay! Back on the PCT

22 miles today
2399 miles to go

It's dark and silent. Silent as death. Why can't I hear anything? Ear plugs, I remove them. Still silent, though I can tell I'm not deaf.  The festivities have long since ceased. When, I can not tell. The cool moonlight night provides a restful backdrop as I drift back to sleep. 

I awaken a little later and check my clock/phone. Five am, still silent but suddenly less so as I open the valve on my air mattress. PFTSssssssssssssssss goes the mattress as the early morning stillness is shattered to life. I hear Braveheart in her tent begin to shuffle things around. I am always amazed how she pops out of her tent, pack already packed. She takes down her tent and packs it away and she's ready to go. My stuff is strewn all about and in various states of readiness. I get out and make breakfast under the early morning color show in the desert sky. Every color of the rainbow is represented though much less organized as the sun lights the clouds from beyond the horizon.

We head out before the revelers from last evening are awake. We head through downtown Pioneertown trying to understand what it means. Part tourist trap part commercial space. Part something else. Strange anachronistic mixings of real and imagined ‘olden days.’ We pass the bowling alley, a relic from nineteen forty seven and perhaps the newest building in town. Then we are on the highway heading up and out. Much less traffic on a Saturday morning. It is Saturday, right? Hard to remember when all your days blur together in a string of walking days.

We pass over the hill and into Rimrock. A place rimmed in by, you guessed it, rock. The valley’s sides appear to be walls and piles of rocks haphazardly jumbled together by a giant toddler. The properties are all unique. No CC&Rs to deal with here. You want a compound with a chain link fence and barb wire? It's yours. You want a house based on an old trailer with an A-frame atop. Build it! How about a miniature western town the scale of the bunny rabbits hopping around. Consider it done. Nothing is too outlandish, garish, or impractical. Whimsy rules the day. The dry desert climate keeps your incomplete dreams intact for the world to see. That half finished fence is still half finished. The strange monument to Toby still sits there like the day you finished it. Nobody pays for storage. You just leave your stuff out in the yard. It'll sit there until you decide to retrieve it in a decade or so. Or maybe you forget; it will sit there for eternity.

We stop by Jason's to get water. Jason has gotten the word out. Like ants visiting spilled soda pop, Thru-hikers are popping out from everywhere and gathering around Jason's water valve. Jason has one of those sturdy farm style valves that you have to pull up to unlock then pull up a little bit more to fill your water bottle. Us city-slickers have never used one of these types of valves before and more than one water bottle is blasted into the dirt by the tremendous volume of water released if you pull up too much. It's quite comical and you can tell which hikers were city dwellers in their previous life even though we all have basically the same grimy tattered appearance.

Enough water to reach the stream in fifteen miles. How much water is that? I guess about four liters and my pack feels like it. We climb, the road changes. The stripe down the middle disappears, the road narrows the pavement disappears, eventually we are following a winding canyon road with underlying bedrock jutting out in places. As we climb the canyon a black SUV approaches. The back window comes down and a budding young trail angel leans his head out and says, “There's water and goodies in a cooler around the corner, oh, and sign the book.” God bless you young angel, everything came to pass as you said. The cooler, the goodies, even your helpers, one of them I believe was your grandfather. I signed your book. 

The road seem interminable. I've forgotten what a trail is like. We are road walking to Canada. Jeeps and other four-wheel drive vehicles pass us. Some at a clip great enough to leave us in a layer of fine brown haze. Enough to make brown boogers, Eeeeew! We pass through forests of Joshua trees. The strangest tree I have ever seen. They look like they belong in a Dr Suess book. They have furry trunk, except the fur is really spiky dead leaves. When the tree is old enough the leaves finally reveal a normal looking trunk. The wood is soft and fiberous. Little birds create little holes and make nests inside the trunk. Some trees look completely dead except for a single tuft of green spiky leaves on the end of a single branch. We stop for a break under a particularly large Joshua tree and I remove my shoes. My feet are tired and hot. They feel so much better with my shoes off. Even though I have gotten over the soft blister stage, I'm hoping some additional hardening happens to them. The soles of my feet are the sorest part of me. They immediately feel better when I take off my shoes and socks.

We climb and climb, up and up inching our way closer and closer to the PCT, our home. We both miss it, with its comforting predictability. We are tired of having to constantly be listening out for motors. Are they coming from in front of us or behind us? Where to stand to avoid the dust? Some parts of the road are much steeper and more rutted than I've ever seen on the PCT. Finally late in the day we reach the stream. Only a few more miles to the PCT. The last bit stretched on and on. Five hundred feet, four hundred feet, three hundred feet, ok stop looking at the GPS App. Eighty feet. Finally, there it is. We completed the bypass around  the closure in a day and a half. We are on the north side of the lake fire closure with over two thousand miles of trail stretching on and on. A trail of magic and wonder. And the best part is I haven't violated my central tenet of a continuous footpath from border to border.

We mosey up the trail at an easy pace. It's four miles to the trailhead where we are both exiting for resupply. We want to do that in the morning. We find a clear open spot overlooking the Mojave desert. All we have to do is deal with a little bit of wind. Ok a crazy amount of wind. This is good training for those future days when not only is it windy, but also raining. My tent is flapping and fluttering in the wind. So far it hasn't come unmoored or broken anything. I am hoping and anticipating that it will die down when the sun sets.

I cook dinner on the left side of my tent. This blocks the wind and provides shelter for heating water and eating. After dinner it's time for bed. Yes, it's cooling off and still windy. Too cold to be outside or even outside my sleeping bag. We are camping at seven thousand feet the highest we've camped so far. Tomorrow, Big Bear! There might be ear plugs tonight if the wind doesn't die down.

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