Hi, my name is Isko Salminen.
I'm an adventure seeker and I love exploring nature with my camera and Australian Shepherd called Fire

Day 37: Day of hurt

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Date: June 5, 2017
Miles: 8.2 miles (13.2km), from Tylerhorse Canyon to mile 549.7.
Health: My right shin is hurting badly. Every step hurst.

We sleep in the shade of a large tree and I keep dozing off but not falling in to deep sleep. The sun keeps moving so I have to constantly switch places, and the ants keep getting into my sleeping bag. I do however get some sleep as every time I wake up, there are new people under the tree. Soon every inch of shade is used by a hiker. It doesn't even need to be flat.

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Waiting out the heat.  

Waiting out the heat.  

Once the sun starts to set, everyone perks up a little. Packs are being packed up and slowly people head out to the heat. We wait for a little longer as there's no reason to go out too early.

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My shoes and KT taped shin.  

My shoes and KT taped shin.  

While we wait the girls sing show tunes and everyone's having a good time. While I'm tired I'm still in a good mood. I use KT tape to tape my shin hoping that would help. Queso and Pony also give me some muscle relaxers and stronger painkillers. Thank you guys!

Getting ready to leave.  

Getting ready to leave.  

Then we slowly start heading out, one by one. The hike is beautiful as we watch the sun set behind the mountains and paint the windmill farm down below with golden hues.

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Dandelion hiking in the setting sun.  

Dandelion hiking in the setting sun.  

The trail is relatively easy. There are few longer climbs but mostly it's nice and even. During one long climb the sun finally goes behind the mountains and all light goes out. It's time to take out the headlamps.

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As I climb the shin that has been good so far starts hurting more and more. Soon I have to seriously slow down. I take more painkillers but they don't seem to work. I'm forced to limb again.

I look at the map and I'm 10.6 miles from the road where we hitch to Tehachapi. I know I can't do that with this leg tonight. There's a nice campsite few miles up, and from there it would be mostly downhill to the road. I decide to do the rest tomorrow and just make it to that campsite for tonight.

Sunshine, Roller, and Fireant taking a break.  

Sunshine, Roller, and Fireant taking a break.  

Even those few miles to the campsite are too much and by the time I make it there, my shin is hurting so bad that I have tears in my eyes. Thankfully others have had the same idea to camp here so I pull up next to Blis and set up my cowboy camp. It wouldn't make much sense to get to the road in the middle of the night as hitchhiking to town would be kind of sketchy.

Those were some hard 8 miles. It doesn't look good. I quickly fall asleep as I'm still tired from previous night.

Day 36: Night-hiking the LA aqueduct

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Date: June 4, 2017
Miles: 24.1 miles (38.8km), from Hiker Town to Tylerhorse Canyon at mile 541.5.
Health: My right shin is hurting and after 10 miles walking becomes painful.

We're crossing the Mojave desert today and tomorrow. As temperatures at the desert get really high, and there's practically no shade, we're hiking this section during the night.

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We spend the entire day just relaxing and eating at the Wee Vill Market. I eat tacos, burgers, and milkshakes all day. Everything is really good and all the amenities are easily available. This is one of the perks of thru-hiking: you can eat like a pig and still lose weight.

Blis.  

Blis.  

We try to sleep in the small areas of shade but the flies and the heat make it impossible to fall asleep and soon retreat back to the cool air of the market. Waking up early, not having any sleep during the day, and going out for an all night hike is not the best option. Sadly there's not much we can do.

When it's hot outside.  

When it's hot outside.  

We eat and rest and eat and rest. Finally the sun starts to set and we start to head back towards Hiker Town. Our ride arrives and we all hop on. After an interesting 10 minute ride we arrive. While everyone's getting ready Blü and Fyre join us from Hiker Town. There's a lot of hugging and yelling.

Hiker roar! 

Hiker roar! 

From Hiker Town the trail goes along a small road for awhile. We sing and dance down the road towards the Mojave and the sunset and everyone's in a really great mood. I love the goofiness of our trail family.

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After the road walk we reach the open part of the aqueduct and turn sharply to right. We walk along the concrete side and wonder why the water seems to be going away from LA until we realize it's probably going towards the water treatment plan down the road.

The end.  

The end.  

Soon we take another sharp turn to the left and cross the open stream. From here the aqueduct continues as a large metal pipe. The trail follows on the top of the pipe and we form a line like ducks. It starts to get dark.

We follow the pipe for few miles and more singing and laughing occurs. While the trail would be pretty fast to hike on, as it's mainly flat and straight, we move really slow. It gets so dark that we need to turn on our headlamps.

Hiking along the aqueduct.  

Hiking along the aqueduct.  

We take another sharp turn, this time to the right and leave the pipe behind. Now the aqueduct follows underneath us in a concrete channel and as we walk on top of it, we can hear the sound of the rushing water. Now the trail is so wide that we all walk side-by-side. This is fun as normally you could never do this on the trail, and now you can hear what everyone in the group is saying. We played all kinds of games to make the time go by.

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Even though it's already late, the desert floor is still very hot. We stop every now and then to have a drink pause and just cool our bodies. I look at the clock and our progress and we're doing about 2 miles per hour. A far cry of what we usually do.

As the trail turns up from the desert floor towards the wind farm, the wind picks up. The large windmills look eerie against the black night sky. Soon it gets so windy that we have to put on our wind or rain jackets to get some protection. The wind is so heavy that we need to really lean into it to keep walking.

My right shin has been progressively getting worse and worse as we have hiked. By now it's hurting so bad that I keep popping vitamin I like it's candy. I'm sure the ibuprofen is taking the worse of the pain away but it still hurts so much that I'm limbing and keep biting my lip. I can barely keep up with the group even though they slow down to wait for me.

Entering the wind farm.  

Entering the wind farm.  

Blis keeps me company and talking with him distracts from the pain a little. But still the last miles to the bridge where we've planned to stay for the night are pure pain. It's already 2am and I'm tired but we would need to wake up in two hours to hike the 7 miles to the only shade where to spend the day sleeping. I know myself, and with my limbing, that I won't make it there before the sun comes up, so I decide to keep going. It means I have to hike throughout the night, against heavy wind, limbing, to get to the shade.

Few people tell me to stay, looking at my limbing, but I have to choose between limbing in dark and cold, or in sunlight and extreme heat. I choose the colder weather.

Watching the sun rise behind the windmills.  

Watching the sun rise behind the windmills.  

Pony and Queso also want to get all the way to the canyon before the sun comes up and leave with me. Pony gives me some muscle relaxers and stronger painkillers. Me and Queso head out first and Pony says she'll follow us.

I can't keep up with Queso in any way and I stay behind immediately. Pretty soon I don't even see his headlamp anymore. I'm limbing alone in the dark, trying to protect my face from the wind, and try to avoid stepping on the small jumping desert mouse that cover the trail. They get completely disoriented when my headlamp hits them and start running against my legs. Few run against me and I try my best to avoid the cute little beasts. Hope I don't see any rattlers.

Every now and then I look back but I don't see Pony's headlamp. Strange. She's a fast hiker and I'm basically crawling forward, she should catch me in no time.

The combination of the wind and the pain on my shin gets tiring and I have to take breaks constantly to rest and stretch. On one long uphill I finally run completely out of energy and as I see a small brush that provides a little coverage from the wind, I stop for a small night lunch. Looking at my progress I'm doing about 1.5 miles per hour, which means I barely make it to the canyon before the sun starts to heat up the desert.

Pony catching up to me.  

Pony catching up to me.  

As I get up to walk again, I see a headlamp climbing not far behind me. Pony. I hike slowly upwards, she'll catch me soon. We stop in the wind, between the windmills, to talk for awhile. She's also having a tough time. I wish her luck and she soon speeds ahead of me.

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The sun is already getting up and we see the scenery better. I catch up to Pony every time she stops to take photos of the hundreds of windmills around us. This would be a perfect spot and timing to take some great sunrise photos but I'm too tired to stop. I just try to take few snaps and keep limbing. Need to get to the canyon before the sun gets too high.

Finally I reach the last climb up and at the bottom I meat Dragon and Andrew who've camped there. They comment that I look like shit. I feel like shit. I quickly continue as I just want to get up and to sleep.

The canyon.  

The canyon.  

The climb feels like torture and my tired legs aren't helping. When I see the canyon I start to smile. I see Pony and Queso setting up a camp under a tree below and yell to them to keep me a spot. I hop and limb down as fast as I can and set up my tyvek and sleeping bag and quickly fall asleep. Rough night but made it here before others and before the sun made the air too hot for me to hike. The plan is to stay here all day and then start the next climb as the sun sets.

Now it's time to sleep.

Day 35: Zero at Wee Vill

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Date: June 3, 2017
Miles: 0
Health: Feeling rested but my shin feels a bit iffy. 

I slept poorly last night. The trailer, and the night, was so hot that I was up still at 2am. To add to the hotness, the wind picked up at night and kept rocking the entire trailer back and forth. Sleeping outside would've been a better option.

My trailer.  

My trailer.  

As the sun rises so early in the morning that it's almost impossible to sleep anywhere which isn't in a shade. I woke up as the trailer felt like a sauna and escaped it only to realize there was nowhere to go to escape the heat. The desert floor, and everything else down here, was just unbearably hot.

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Wilder chilling in Hiker Town.  

Wilder chilling in Hiker Town.  

In the bunk room I find Taylor and the Swiss. Taylor is using MLD Burn backpack, which is the 38 liter version of the 48 liter Prophet I'm using. As I'm having trouble filling up my pack, and I've been wondering about the size of the Burn, I ask Taylor if I could try out his pack with my gear. He throws me the empty pack and I run into the trailer to see how my gear fits inside the 10 liter smaller pack.

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Hiker Town.  

Hiker Town.  

I can easily fit all my gear, plus 3 days of food, to the pack. Wow. I seriously want a smaller pack. Only thing that I don't like is the small opening of the Burn. It makes getting stuff in a bit harder.

Soon the first people of our trail family start appearing. By the look on their faces, and the stories they tell, I'm not feeling bad at all about skipping this section. Apparently he trail was hot and full of biting flies. This matches what other people before them had been telling. I feel bad for my friends who are still out there as the sun starts to really heat up the air.

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Neenach market.  

Neenach market.  

We take the early morning shuttle to the Neenach market to eat breakfast and to enjoy the air conditioner. It's all about the small things here. After filling our bellies with soda and burritos, we make our way back to Hiker Town.

Map of where all the hikers are from.  

Map of where all the hikers are from.  

One by one everyone, except KB (Sunshine) and Blis, arrive at the Hiker Town. Pony had heard a tip that the Wee Vill market would be a better spot to camp and starts to organize a ride for everyone there.

I was a bit skeptical and didn't really want to commit to leaving Hiker Town. It's where the trail continues, and I had already spread out all my gear. But the more I heard about the Wee Vill, the more it made sense to go there. There we could sleep on grass (instead of the never ending sand we've been on for the past month), and the restaurant and store would be right next door instead of a 10 minute ride away.

Hiker Town.  

Hiker Town.  

I ran back to my trailer to put my things back together and barely made it to the ride to Wee Vill. But I'm happy that I did. It turned out to be a great place. Other that our trail family there were hardly any other hikers there, and the place was pretty cool for resting and spending a day out of sun.

We setup our cowboy camps right along the fence on the soft grass and went to the restaurant to stuff our stomachs full. I had carne asada tacos and they were SO good!

Tacos! 

Tacos! 

As the place was closing up for the night, I managed to call Blis and Sunshine who were still on the trail and get their orders in before the restaurant closed. An hour later they both joined our ranks and Blis got to have the burger he had been talking about the whole day. It was good having most of the tramily back together again.

Eating with Queso.  

Eating with Queso.  

During the night I got woken up by the wind as it was just whipping everyone's gear around. I tried to secure Pony's stuff under her as she was sleeping next to me, and had to push Roller back on to her side as she had encroached a bit too much of my sleeping pad. The grass felt so soft to sleep against.

Day 34: The one with the camera

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Date: June 2, 2017
Miles: 0, hitch from Casa de Luna to Hiker Town.
Health: Feeling good and anxious to hike again. My shin keeps hurting. 

 Note: as my camera is still broken (see day 25), all photos here are from iPhone 7 Plus. 

I first woke up at 5am. No one from our group was moving so I got back to sleep. I woke up again after six and slowly started to get up. The pancake breakfast was at 7am so I had nowhere to be before that. Sunshine, Fyre, and Blü were still sleeping.

Fyre sleeping.  

Fyre sleeping.  

It doesn't take me long to get my things together so I head out of the forrest and down to the house. As I get there I see Blü. I thought he was still sleeping?

As we're waiting for the pancakes we all sign our trail names on the sheets covering the front of the house. Soon the first ride goes out but no one from our group is on that.

KB.  

KB.  

I've decided to get a hitch to Lake Hughes, get my camera, then hike the 2.1 miles (3.4km) from the town back to the PCT.

I don't get full from the pancakes so I get my gear, fill up enough water and hike out to the small cafe in town for second breakfast. I order breakfast burrito with extra bacon. As I'm eating two older gentlemen strike up a conversation about hiking the PCT. They also wonder where I'm from due to my accent.

Blü doing his mark.  

Blü doing his mark.  

As I tell them about my plans to hitch to Lake Hughes, they offer me a ride. The other gentleman tells me he's going to the same direction and can give me a ride if I don't mind waiting for him to do few quick errands. I don't mind.

We hop into his car and drive around the town to do his tasks. It doesn't take us longer than ten minutes and then we're on our way. He's originally from New Zealand and we talk about how he got here and differences between the two countries. He's running the local newspaper in the area and everyone we meet seems to know him.

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We drive by Lake Elisabeth, which has almost dried up, and soon arrive to Lake Hughes Post Office. I get in, show my ID and they start searching for my package. There's only a handful of packages and I can quickly see there's no Amazon packages in the pile. The two workers spend ten minutes looking for it but can't find it. We try to search it by the tracking number but as Amazon didn't ship it with USPS, that's useless.

It's not looking good.

I call the shipping company and after a moment with the representative, they can't seem to know where the package is either. The problem is that I've shipped the package through general delivery, but that only works on USPS. And apparently using common sense is not an requirement for shipping companies, so they can't find Lake Hughes Post Office without a physical address on the box. Lake Hughes is a town small enough that if you blink while driving through, you'll miss it.

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So the representative takes my number and says he'll call me back once they find my camera. So now I start thinking where I can send the camera next as I'm going to be leaving the town right away. Even if they would find it, it's Friday and the post office won't be open until Monday. And now I can't get on trail before I hear back from the shipping company and can give them the new address where to ship my camera. I start counting days and miles. Will it make it to Tehachapi? That's 4-5 days, but only two business days. Lake Isabella? That's over a week away.

As I'm doing all this in my head, the gentleman who gave me the ride has been patiently waiting and offers to drive me a little ways down the trail. As I can't get on the trail right away and lose cell reception, getting a bit ahead and then waiting for others and the call sounds like a good plan.

We start driving and stop by at a small grocery store so I can do my resupply. We drive down few minutes and then we pull up on the road, we're at Hiker Town. I'm two days ahead of everyone else. One problem at a time, first I need to locate my camera. So I get into Hiker Town and just wait for the call.

My kind helper, thank you! 

My kind helper, thank you! 

Hiker Town is a, how should I put this, a place with a lot of character. What that character is, I'm not sure, but it's definitely unique. Bob, the caretaker of the place, shows me around and I find a lounge area where to chill. It's really hot outside already as we're on the desert floor.

After few hours my phone rings and it's the delivery company. They plainly inform me that they've lost my package and that they're going to look for it for 8 days and get back to me. Great!

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I call Amazon, explain the situation and they offer to refund me immediately. I accept. As this is happening I realize that there's a larger city of Lancaster not far away and they have two Walmart's. Walmart has a camera department. A quick call and the lady at the other end confirms they don't have the camera I'm looking for. But I have better luck with the second Walmart. Now I just need a ride there.

Hiker called Papa Homie is going the same way so we first take a ride to Neenack market and then hitch a ride to Lancaster from there. A lovely lady who picked us up takes us all the way to the Walmart. I head to the camera department while Papa Homie does his thing.

As I reach the camera department I can quickly tell we're at the wrong Walmart. We forgot to specify which Walmart we were going. Dang. After Papa Homie finishes his shopping we take Uber to the second Walmart.

Best Buy.  

Best Buy.  

I run in and go directly to the camera department. No luck, again. They don't have the camera here either. I've come all the way here so I really want to find the camera. I ask around a little bit and there's a Best Buy in town close by.

Another Uber drive later we arrive at the Best Buy and there at the camera department I see my camera. One MasterCard swipe later I'm holding a working camera again in my hands. I feel so relieved.

Good burgers and tons of calories.  

Good burgers and tons of calories.  

As we get out we notice the Five Guys restaurant opposite the Best Buy and as we're quite hungry, decide to do a quick pit stop. I devour over 3,000 calories in under 20 minutes. That's a great thru-hiker lunch.

We take another Uber to get back to Hiker Town. On the way we stop at Neenack to buy some beer and snacks for the evening.

Finally! 

Finally! 

As we get back to Hiker Town, few other familiar hikers have hiked in but not anyone from our trail family. I'm pretty beat so after few beers I crawl into the old trailer where I'm sleeping tonight and go to bed. It's hard to sleep as it's so hot.

Day 33: Casa De Luna

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Date: June 1, 2017
Miles: 4 miles (6.4km), from mile 474.2 to Casa De Luna.
Health: Well rested after long sleep. Pain on the front of the right shin bothers a bit.

 Note: as my camera is still broken (see day 25), all photos here are from iPhone 7 Plus. 

I woke up lazily. The saddle I was sleeping on was perfect as it kept the sun out, both in the evening, and in the morning. I was in no hurry. I had to do 4 miles and it was mostly downhill.

My shelter had dried up nicely during the night so I could pack it up again and not worry. I probably won't be using it again for awhile. I stuff my pockets with a light breakfast, I'm trying to make it to the Andersson's for the famous pancake breakfast.

The trail is easy but my right shin is causing some problems. I take some ibuprofen and continue hiking. Hope this isn't going to be a problem as I really don't want to slow down now.

The road! 

The road! 

The miles go fast and soon I see the road. Down where the trail end at road, I see a car waiting, a ride to Andersson's? This would eliminate the few mile road walk there. I know there's a small group of hikers just few minutes ahead of me so I start slowly jogging down the trail. I'm hoping to catch them and hop on the same ride.

Soon I see them a little bit ahead. We arrive at the road about the same time and I see some familiar faces around the car. It's the girls, Morgan, Kristen, Laurel, and Pig Ben. They're heading out as I'm coming in.

The ride to Andersson's.  

The ride to Andersson's.  

I get a big hug from Terri Andersson. She's giving rides back and forth to her house. We wait few minutes to see if the two other hikers behind me need a ride as well. They are pushing on so we leave to make it to Casa De Luna for breakfast.

It's a short drive and as we arrive, we meet Joe Andersson who gives us a quick go around, tells us the rules of the house, and then tells us to go enjoy the pancakes. I'm hungry so I run into the kitchen.

Front yard at Casa de Luna.  

Front yard at Casa de Luna.  

The front yard is full of hikers and I quickly find our trail family. We exchange stories as I finish my pancakes. While I'm eating, Terri brings in another group of hikers. The place looks great for relaxing. I'm also offered a selection of Hawaiian shirts to wear. Everyone else is also wearing one.

Once I'm finished I start to wonder around a bit. On the front yard there are tables, seats, and sofas for hikers to chill in. There's a rock painting station, portable toilets, a charging station, and trash cans. On the side yard you can do laundry and chill in hammocks.

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The backyard opens up to a small frisbee golf area and then to a magical manzanita forest. There are multiple trails that lead into the forest and they wiggle around. There are spots for sleeping and all over the forest you can find the rocks previous hikers have painted. Going around the forest is slow as you constantly stop to read the messages on the stones.

One of the entries to the forest.  

One of the entries to the forest.  

So true.  

So true.  

I quickly find a spot for myself close to Blü, Fyre, and KB (Sunshine). After that we go out and explore all the different paths around the forest. You could easily get lost here in the dark.

For lunch we all head out to the small Cafe close by. I order a BLT with fries and a large chocolate milkshake. Their milkshakes are done from five big scoops of real ice cream. Yummy!

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I'm way too full to walk but we slowly make our way back to the house. Now it's time to wait for the taco dinner at 7pm. If we're not hiking, all we think is food.

We chill in the hammocks and drink beer. It feels great just being, doing nothing. I also take a shower and do a little laundry.

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Around 5pm we see a familiar face appear to the side yard. Blis! Finally! He was off trail for three days and has now caught up to us. His ankle is doing better and he also has new shoes that are helping with his ankle.

Blis is back! 

Blis is back! 

At 7pm there's a big table on the front yard with a huge taco dinner. Terri makes a speech about the proper etiquette and then tells everyone to go wash their hands. Then about 50 hungry hikers line up to stuff themselves with tacos.

Terri's speech.  

Terri's speech.  

Lining up for tacos.  

Lining up for tacos.  

I make such a huge dish for myself that I don't think I can finish it, but soon I'm standing behind Blü for seconds. He's getting his third round.

After the dinner all the new hikers gather on the front yard and after doing a small surprise chore, get their PCT bandanas. I'm "officially" a PCT thru-hiker now as I have my bandana.

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We stay out for a little bit and then it's time to find our way through the dark maze to our own spots in the manzanita forest. This is one of the coolest spots I've ever slept in.

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Tomorrow I need to get to Lake Hughes, which is about 8 miles away and 2.1 miles off trail to get my new camera. Hope it's there as the Amazon tracking has been showing it arriving for three days now and I really don't want to end up waiting in Lake Hughes as my friends hike onwards. We're hiking the LA aqueduct in three days and I really want to do that with everyone.

Day 32: Leaving Hiker Heaven

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Date: May 31, 2017
Miles: 19.9 miles (32km), from Aqua Dulce to mile 474.2. 
Health: After two days of laying around my legs are not in hiking condition. Slight pain on my right lower shin.

Note: as my camera is still broken (see day 25), all photos here are from iPhone 7 Plus. 

I slept poorly again. While Hiker Heaven is an awesome place, it's not great for resting. People make noise until late at night, and the sun wakes you up around 5:30am.

Morning tasks.  

Morning tasks.  

Today the morning was luckily cloudy and I woke up around 6am. Time to pack up everything and get on the 7am ride to town.

All my gear quickly find their spot in my backpack but my shelter is still wet from the moisture. Sadly there's nothing I can do, I have to dry it out later today.

Everyone getting ready to leave.  

Everyone getting ready to leave.  

About 20 hikers climb onboard the first ride to town. I lost my 0,75l Smart Water bottle so I need to get one from the store before going out. As I'm in the store I politely ask if the lovely ladies running the Deli could make me a breakfast burrito. The Deli opens at 8am but the lovely lady agrees to make me one if I can wait 10 minutes. I gladly agree.

Aqua Dulce General Store.  

Aqua Dulce General Store.  

While I'm waiting I hear that the driver is giving a ride to the end of the road walk out of town. The PCT follows a paved road from here for about two miles. Hiking on the narrow road is not only boring, but dangerous, so getting a ride to the trail would be really helpful. Sadly the Deli lady is already making my burrito so I have to pass on the ride. Everyone else hops on.

After I get my breakfast I start the dull road walk out of town. I eat my bacon burrito and try to avoid the traffic. It takes me about an hour and a half to reach the proper trail again.

Road walk out of Aqua Dulce.  

Road walk out of Aqua Dulce.  

As everyone's about hour, hour and a half ahead of me, there's no way I'm able to catch up to them. Right after the road walk, the trail gains around 2,000 feet (600m) of elevation so I spend the next two hours climbing up.

The start of the sand trail and the mountains we climb.  

The start of the sand trail and the mountains we climb.  

On one of the more open vistas I can see Sunshine and Fyre far ahead of me. I start a timer on my clock to see how far they are. Once I reach the spot where I saw them I look at my clock and they are only 30 minutes ahead of me.

Almost at the top.  

Almost at the top.  

Once I reach the top of the climb I get a message from Sunshine that they are now at the next water source. I look at the map and it's only about a mile away. I try to send a message that I'll be there in 20 minutes but the message doesn't go through and I lose the reception.

As it's all downhill to the water I try to hike faster, hopefully they're taking a break at the water and I can catch up to them. As I reach the water, there's no one there. I look around and the spring looks kind of creepy, and there are tons of flies around. Not a nice spot to take a break. It's almost lunch time so they must take a break soon, maybe a bit down the trail?

More climbing.  

More climbing.  

I refill my water bottles and head back on the trail. Whenever I see more of the trail I try to look for them to see how far ahead they are. But I can't see them. At one point I can see a long stretch of the trail but see no movement on it. They must have skipped lunch, or maybe I missed them somewhere and they are behind me? I hike on alone.

Other than that quick sighting of Fyre and Sunshine, I've seen no other people on the trail the whole day. Finally I'm getting so hungry that I have to stop. I make some cold soaked ramen and add a bit of tuna in it. As I wait for the ramen to soak I fall asleep. I've been sleeping poorly for the past couple of nights and the lack of sleep is catching up.

The road and where I fell asleep.  

The road and where I fell asleep.  

I get woken up by water falling on my head. Rain? It's raining a little but not enough to actually get wet. This is the second time it has rained on this trip. I eat my over soaked ramen and get back on the trail.

Right as I'm leaving Riley pops up around the corner. It's good to see a familiar face. I haven't seen him since we climbed San Jacinto together. He's hiking with a friend and they are stopping so I continue alone.

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After the first climb the trail is pretty easy. I see tons of lizards, two snakes, hummingbirds, bugs, and tons of flies. What's up with all the flies?

At one point I run into Dragon and Andrew. They're having a break along the trail and they tell me Sunshine passed them over an hour ago, and Fyre over half an hour ago. And that they are both pushing the full 24 miles (38.6km) to Casa De Luna – as the home of trail angels Terrie and Joe Andersson is know.

Dragon and Andrew.  

Dragon and Andrew.  

The trail feels so effortless, and it's still early, that doing the last 6 miles to Casa De Luna would be fairly easy. But my body is still reeling from not sleeping enough, and I feel like getting to the Andersson's would make this another night of poor sleep.

I decide that I'm staying at the camp spot 4 miles from the Casa De Luna, getting to bed early, getting a good nights sleep, and then hiking there in the morning.

I get to the camp spot around 5pm and I'm in my sleeping bag before 7pm. Instead of cowboy camping I pitch my shelter to let it dry during the night. The spot where I'm sleeping is on a saddle high up, so there should be no condensation in the morning.

My spot for tonight.  

My spot for tonight.  

Just as I'm thinking this is the first night on the PCT that I'm sleeping alone, I hear a group of hikers coming up on the saddle. I know few of the hikers from yesterday as we shared a ride to Hiker Heaven. One of the girls is called Snake Bite.

My shelter is on a good, well protect spot, but the ground is a little slanted. I stuff my food bag under my legs to even out some of the downhill. Hopefully tomorrow I can get a ride from the Andersson's to Lake Hughe post office to pickup my camera.

Day 31: A month on trail

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Date: May 30, 2017
Miles: 0 in Hiker Heaven (mile 454). 
Health: Feeling rested. 

 Note: as my camera is still broken (see day 25), all photos here are from iPhone 7 Plus.

We're all enjoying a zero day in Hiker Heaven, and as I've now been on trail for a month, I though it would be a good time to cover things that I haven't had time to talk about in the daily posts.

Overall the trail has been amazing. I was worried that once the "honeymoon period" was over, I might slowly start losing my interest to hiking long days everyday. Instead it has gone the other way. I keep getting more and more excited about hiking as we go on.

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I can still remember how my "normal" life back at home felt like, but by now it feels so distant and far away that it seems like a lifetime ago. At home time moves so quickly, weeks can go by in a blink of an eye. In here, days feel really long and every day is a new adventure. Although the heat and the trail are constant, no two days are the same and it's hard to feel like what you're doing is a routine.

The trail life feels amazing.

Gear changes

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While I thought, and still think that I had a pretty well thought out gear list, I've made few changes during the first month.

One of the best advices I heard before leaving for the trail was that you're not locked to the gear you start with. Sure it makes sense to have a well thought out list and gear that works, but it's not like you're going to spend the next five to six months in total isolation. You'll have plenty of places along the trail where you can change out your gear. I've seen people change almost all of their big three on the trail.

Most gear changes are done because people change to lighter gear, or because gear failures.

So what have I done? I send my solar charger and knife back home from Big Bear. I didn't use my knife once during the entire trip. I was completely fine with my small titanium scissors.

Tiny enjoying the sun.  

Tiny enjoying the sun.  

The solar charger went home because I found out that I had more than enough power from the battery pack alone. And sending them both home saved weight.

I also switched my cold soaking container to a smaller Talenti ice cream container. I didn't need that much volume and it took too much space in my backpack.

I'm also planning on switching to a smaller backpack once we're done with the Sierras and I don't have to carry a beer canister. My current pack is a 48 liter MLD Prophet, but I'm having a hard time filling her up even with longer food carries. So I'm looking to switch to either the 38 liter MLD Burn, or the 40 liter Pa'lante Packs Simple Pack.

Food and eating

Queso making us a dinner.  

Queso making us a dinner.  

From the start I've gone stoveless and haven't regretted it once. Not having to deal with fuel, carrying extra weight, or waiting for food to cook is just liberating. And lighter.

So what do I eat?

For breakfast I usually eat bars, trailmix, or anything that can be eaten while walking. I usually aim to eat about 1,000 calories for breakfast.

For lunch I eat something that requires a little bit more preparation. My favorites are salami-cheddar-bacon-mayo-hot sauce bagels or tortillas. Cold soaked ramen with tuna also works. I aim to eat 1,500 to 2,000 calories for lunch.

More food.  

More food.  

For dinner I usually just eat what ever is on the top of my food bag and easily available. I aim to eat about 1,000 calories.

On top of those, I try to eat snacks throughout the day, adding anywhere from 500 to 1,000 calories to my diet.

So how much does my daily food weight? It's a bit hard to weight but I carry approximately 2.2lbs (1kg) of food per day of hiking.

Body and sleep

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I haven't had any really bad problems with my body or feet. In the beginning I went to sleep way before hiker midnight every night and woke up without an alarm around 4am. But since, as working on this blog takes about an hour, hour and a half every night, and as we keep hiking later and later in the night due to the heat, I've been getting less and less sleep. And I can definitely notice that. And I'm not a young guy anymore so I don't recover as fast as the younger hikers. But that just means I have to take rest days every now and then.

Howie going on a road trip.  

Howie going on a road trip.  

My biggest problems with my feet were due to swelling, which was fixed by changing to wider shoes at Warner Spring. And since then, hiking in the zero drop Altra's that I've never worn before, has caused few other problems. The new shoes kept causing blisters for few weeks but that seems to be going away now.

One other thing about the zero drop shoes is that my legs are definitely doing a lot more work (compared to 12mm drop on Cascadians) and I do notice that after a long day. But that'll probably go away as my legs get used to the zero drop.

About the trail so far

KB and Howie snuggling.  

KB and Howie snuggling.  

I've gotten many comments about the amount of people on the trail, and the experience overall. There are few reasons why you see so many people on my photos.

First of all, there's a very short window each year to start the PCT. Therefore you and tens, maybe hundreds of other hikers like you who wish to thru-hike the PCT, start the trail around the same time. From the same spot.

Secondly, while we hike most of the time alone, we usually congregate around water sources and camp spots that are available in very limited quantities along the trail. There might only be one or two spots to sleep in on a 30 mile section, so naturally everyone gathers around these spots.

Also, I tend to take a lot more photos in these places, instead of photos of an empty trail, so it might look like we're constantly surrounded by a massive bubble of hikers. It would be really boring to write about, or photograph, the 8 hours of hiking alone we do daily. That's why I seem to focus more on the social side of the hiking.

Food makes happy hikers.  

Food makes happy hikers.  

Also, I want to follow the great advice many past thru-hikers have given: photograph the people you meet, not the scenery you see. I think that's an excellent advice. While I love seeing all the amazing vistas and scenery we pass by daily, it will be the people I hike with daily that I want to remember for the rest of my life. Also, as we've already seen, you'll never know when you'll see someone for the last time on trail.

How we spend our time on trail?

Most of our time on the trail is focused on water and food. The daily discussion evolves always around "where's the next water source?" and "how much water are you carrying?".

At times it also feels like we're here to eat. And then to do some walking between meals. I can definitely already tell that there are going to be few food items that I don't want to see ever again after this hike.

We usually hike between 6 to 10 hours and then the rest of the time is spend resting, preparing, resupplying, or just goofing around.

My photography workflow

Tents in Hiker Heaven.  

Tents in Hiker Heaven.  

I shoot most of my photos on the Sony RX100 V that I carry on my left shoulder strap. I transfer the photos over to my iPhone using Apples Lightning to USB adapter and edit all my photos on my phone using Adobe's Lightroom. When ever we react a wifi spot I try to sync them online to the Adobe's Cloud for a backup. Once the photos are in Lightroom I delete the version on my phone.

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As my camera is broken, I've used the iPhone 7 Plus and shooting with the Lightroom camera using DNG format. It's an ok solution but the 28mm lens (vs 24mm on Sony) and poor low light quality make it no match for the Sony.

Did I leave anything out? If there's something you'd like to know, please let me know in the comments.