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 15: The Big Suck

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Date: May 14, 2017
Miles: 17.3 miles (27.8km), from mile 226.2 to mile 243.5. 
Health: My legs are totally done. My knees are starting to hurt as my leg muscles are not doing enough work.

Today sucked. Big time. Looking at the elevation profile in the morning I could already tell it was going to be a ruff day. But elevation profile gives you only the big picture. What it doesn't tell you is how much going up and down you'll do to make those elevation gains. And we did a ton of up and down today.

Leaving from camp in the morning. 

Leaving from camp in the morning. 

I started from camp with Neal, Justine, and Fure (Alex). Neal and Justine soon speed off and I hiked with Fyre for a while. She had hurt her angle coming down from San Jacinto and she was moving slow. I'm always slow in the morning. Soon we leapfrogged each other for a while and I lost count weather she was ahead or behind.

Fyre (Alex) crossing a stream.  

Fyre (Alex) crossing a stream.  

The trail was pure torture today. I was not feeling it at all. I tried listening to music but it didn't help. Audiobooks helped a bit and I got lost in the world of How to Make Myself Happy. While the audiobook was good, it wasn't enough to distract me from the pain of the trail. I had hiked for almost three hours and had made barely any progress. Usually by this time I've hiked almost 10 miles, today I had done barely 6. It was time for a siesta and lunch.

Hiker lunch.  

Hiker lunch.  

I found this really nice shaded spot right next to a small stream that none of the maps or water reports mentioned. I sat down under the brush eating bagels and was soon joined by Blis (Theo). He sat next to me and we ate lunch together. We were soon joined by more hikers, among them Happy Hour (Bob), Dragon (Pin), and Andrew.

Siesta.  

Siesta.  

After a while me and Blis decided to push on to the next water source that was only 3.4 miles ahead. As soon as we left the stream we ran into the infamous Poodle Dog Brush. It was right on the trail and you do not want to touch this plant!

We maneuvered around the plants and hiked on. Oh boy, 3.4 miles has never felt this long. We ascended few hundred feet, then descended the same amount, only to ascend again. The trail made no sense, we were just moving up and down without any purpose, and not moving forward. I can't remember the last time I've used this many curse words.

Burned trees.  

Burned trees.  

Today's hike was a bit different from all the other days so far as we were hiking through a fire closure. The area is prohibited for all others except us thru-hikers. We can hike through the area but are not allowed to camp or sleep within certain perimeter. The fines for doing this are quite high so we all wanted to time our hikes so, that we would clear the non-camping area before the day was done.

Hiking through the burn area was eerie. Some of the plants had started to return, but it was still very much devoid of life. The dark, burned out tree trunks reminded us of what had happened and made the experience even weirder. I didn't like this section at all.

Climbing up and up.  

Climbing up and up.  

After a while we made it to the next water source and met other hikers there. Thankfully I wasn't the only one who didn't like this section. Pretty much everyone agreed that this was a sucky section.

We tried to rest for a while put as there was no shade, soon everyone wanted to head out. We still had a long climb ahead of us and to minimize the weight of our packs, we didn't take too much water. Instead we decided to use the next water source only few miles up the hill, a bit off trail. Any miles you get to hike uphill without extra weight on your pack are welcome.

We make it to the next water source and after some searching find it about 0.3 miles off trail. Now we need to pack about 4 liters of water for a longer waterless stretch. While going uphill.

Snoopy filtering water at off trail water source.  

Snoopy filtering water at off trail water source.  

While we are filtering water, everyone's getting a bit cold. A cold wind starts to blow and it cuts straight through us. I scramble for my wind jacket but soon need to get my puffy out too as I'm freezing. This is strange in Southern California.

Fish, Blis, Airplane Mode, Snoopy, and the author.  

Fish, Blis, Airplane Mode, Snoopy, and the author.  

Before heading back on the trail we decide to use the picnic table close by for late lunch. Me, Blis, Airplane Mode, Fish, and Snoopy gather around the table and swap trail stories and compare our quickly emptying food bags. Mine is getting quite empty but I give some of my mac and cheese to Airplane Mode as she's almost out of food. I accidentally bought the version of mac and cheese you can't cold soak so I can't use them. In return I get a package of bean soap.

Enjoying the evening sun. 

Enjoying the evening sun. 

Me, Blis, and Airplane Mode head out together with Fish and Snoopy not far behind. The air is so cold that we keep adding layers as we hike, even though we're going uphill. At some point we cross a service road where we meet an older section hiker who's going southbound and she informs us that there's a storm front approaching and that there's a change of snow. That explains the cold wind. We are already at quite high elevation and keep climbing higher so we need to get down from this mountain soon, before that storm hits us.

We keep climbing and enjoying the beautiful scenery that opens up ahead of us. We see no sign of the storm but the air is getting really cold. I keep shivering while hiking uphill. Soon the air gets too cold and we realize we need to stop before we freeze. But as we're on a narrow trail on a side of a mountain there aren't that many places to stop for the night.

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We hike on and on and eventually find an outcropping where we see two other tents and decide to use the opportunity to stop for the night and before we freeze even more. Getting ready for a windy night we storm-mode our tents and tarps. As soon as we have our shelters up we get inside to get some shelter from the ice cold wind. I'm shivering completely.

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Hopping into my sleeping bag, I do some push-ups to get warm and soon my 10 degree bags warms enough for me to stop shivering. I'm wearing all my layers to bed.

Settled in for the night.  

Settled in for the night.  

It was a sucky day, I'm hoping the night isn't going to be as bad.