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 21: Deep Creek Hot Springs

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Date: May 20, 2017
Miles: 12 miles (19.3km), from mile 305.9 to mile 317.9.
Health: Legs are good and blisters are gone. Left knee feels a bit iffy. Wondering if I should have my knee braces shipped ahead on the trail. 

I cowboy camped on the small flat area at the foot end of Morgan's tent. Most of us are starting to switch, or have already made the switch to cowboy camping. It just so easy. You stop walking, open your pack and throw down your groundsheet, throw your sleeping pad on it and then your sleeping bag or quilt. In the morning just reverse the order and you're ready to continue hiking.

This comes especially handy now as the weather is heating up again and we need to switch back to the early morning – late at night routine.

I woke up late again, as did most of the camp. We had no rush as we were only doing few miles to the Deep Creek Hot Springs. We had to camp a bit outside of the springs as overnight camping is prohibited within mile of the hot springs.

First hot spring.  

First hot spring.  

We quickly do the miles and make it to the hot spring early in the morning. As I get there, there are already some people in the water. The Deep Creak flows around a bend, and on that bend there are springs that spew hot water. That water is directed to the man made rock pools. The area is also "clothing optional". That, combined with the fact that it's also Saturday, we were expecting to see a lot of old naked dudes.

As I arrived I only saw a bunch of other thru-hikers in one of the first hot springs and few other, dressed individuals. I quickly made my way to the pool.

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As soon as I get in the water, an older gentleman who has chosen the clothing optional option, comes over to inform us that there are far better pools up where he just came from. We inform him that we're good, and thank him for the info.

We soon also spot the many squirrels that run around the area. My first though is "how cute" but that quickly changes as we see them charge our backpacks and trying to bite through to get to our food bags. Fyre's pack takes a little damage and we carry our packs right by the pools so we can keep a better eye on the steeling little rats.

As the day goes on, more hikers and more swimmers arrive and soon it's quite a hot springs party at the river. People in different levels of nakedness enjoy the cold stream and the hot springs. Most of us hikers have moved to shade by this point as we're trying to wait out the hottest part of the day.

Hiding from the sun.  

Hiding from the sun.  

We hear information that after two miles from the Hot Springs, the trail turns to quite exposed without any shade. Guthooks advices not to cross this section during the hottest part of the day. So we wait it out by the stream.

500km in! 

500km in! 

But people are getting itchy, we've only hiked couple miles today, so some head out to the heat. After the cold period of past week, I'm all worn out by this heat. My thermometer maxes out at 120 degrees (49C), and it's maxed out in the sun.

Sunshine crossing the rainbow bridge.  

Sunshine crossing the rainbow bridge.  

What we're hiking through.  

What we're hiking through.  

We eat, sleep, and try to avoid the sun all day. As the evening comes and the sun starts to set, we head out. I hike out with Sunshine (Justine). There's only a little uphill from the creek to the trail and I'm already sweating like crazy. Sunshine tells me that she can always tell if I'm hiking behind her because I'm either blowing my nose, or burping. I laugh as I can't really argue with that. Guess you start to know someone when you've hiked with them for 21 days.

As we hike on, we talk about how funny the Finnish language is, how we met on the first day on the trail, how our first discussion only happened on day six, and how that led to my trail name.

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As we round a corner on the mountain side, we see a couple stopped, and as we get closer, we notice a dog laying on the ground. A dog really shouldn't be out on this kind of trail in this kind of heat. We stop to talk to the couple and ask how they're doing. They tell us that the dogs paws have turned raw and he can't walk anymore and that they still have 2 miles to their car. I look at the dog and he's not wearing any boots. They've gone out in this heat, hiking on a trail that's covered with hot sharp rocks, with a dog that doesn't have any protection on his feet?

Damn. That's a big dam.  

Damn. That's a big dam.  

We try to see if there's anything we can do for them, but come up short. I tell them where to get good dog booties for the next time and inform the man how to carry the dog if they have to. They've come to the right conclusion that they have to wait out the sun, get the dog in a shade, and then try to move out once it gets colder. We also inform them that there are more hikers following us, and that maybe some of them will have bandages that could be used to protect the poor puppies paws.

We make sure that they have enough food, water, and that they have headlamps, and then continue on our way.

The "let's see who falls in" moment.  

The "let's see who falls in" moment.  

We hike for few more hours and right as it's getting dark Sunshine receives a message from Blis, informing us that he's camping not far ahead. We decide to cut our 15 mile night hike plan short and stop at the same spot. There's also water there so no dry camping.

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Tomorrow we need to push 20 miles to make it close to the Cajun Pass McDonalds. After the McDonalds there's a 21 mile dry section that we want to night hike. The plan is to get to the McDonalds in the morning, eat there all day, and then head out right as it's getting dark and get through the dry section while it's cold so that we don't consume and have to carry so much water. That will put us almost right up to Wrightwood.

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We get to the camp area and it's already dark. We meet Dragon and Andrew and they inform us that there are ants at the first area so we push deeper and find Blis there. There are also other familiar faces among the many hikers but most of them are already sleeping so we try to be as quiet as possible.

Hiking at dusk views.  

Hiking at dusk views.  

How far until the campground.  

How far until the campground.  

Right as I'm finished setting up my camp I feel an urge to go dig a hole in the desert. I rush deep in to the brush to give back to the country where I'm hiking in. As I get back after an successful hole digging, Andrew and Dragon inform me that I should include more of these kinds of stories on my blog posts. So, this one's for you two :)

Day 20: Swimming holes and 300 mile marker

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Date: May 19, 2017
Miles: 20 miles (32.2km), from mile 285.9 to mile 305.9.
Health: Still feeling good. Legs are slowly getting stronger. Knees are a bit iffy but I try to shuffle gently to not put too much strain on them.

We had talked about hitting the trail early and waking around 5:30am. I woke up at about that time, listened and could not hear any movement around the camp. I poked my head out of my shelter and everyone was still sleeping. It was cold and I had no desire to get up, so I closed my shelter and got back to sleep.

Hiker worm.  

Hiker worm.  

The past week has been quite cold so we haven't had reasons to do the whole "hot weather hiking" routine and instead we can just hike straight through the day. It's easy but doesn't prepare us for the upcoming heat and desert crossing.

Everyone gets up around 7am and we quickly get on the trail. We all leave about same time and start wiggling up and along the mountain side as a one big worm.

Hikers (below) and the scenery.  

Hikers (below) and the scenery.  

Today's hike is almost as uneventful as yesterday's. We for few hours to the next water source, take a long break, then hike few hours to the next one and take a break. On one of the breaks Dragon (Pin) tells me how she saw a dream last night about my blog. She had seen a title on my blog called "Day 55: Why I quit the PCT today". This freaks me out a bit. I don't even want to think about quitting, little less to jinx a day like that. I hike on thinking that I'll do everything in my power to not make that dream true.

Break.  

Break.  

Chill step (Sam) and Crimson (Trevor) taking a break.  

Chill step (Sam) and Crimson (Trevor) taking a break.  

Salami cheddar bacon shiracha tortilla.  

Salami cheddar bacon shiracha tortilla.  

The next break is a bit different, we get to a stream with a swimming hole. Everyone gathers along the sandbank of the stream, washing their feet and socks in the ice cold water. Few brave even swim in it.

Getting ready to end siesta.  

Getting ready to end siesta.  

We already have good mileage in so far so we spend a good chunk of the afternoon resting and eating by the stream. We make jokes about the roughness of thru-hiking fully aware what's still ahead of us.

If you find a bench you take a break.  

If you find a bench you take a break.  

As we still have about 6 miles (9.7km) to our last water source before the Hot Springs, we head out around 4:30pm. The trail follows the stream high above along a narrow path with steep drops down to the rocks below or to the stream. The trail is nice to hike but I feel lazy and the miles seem to go very slowly.

Dinner.  

Dinner.  

All of a sudden we turn a corner and there it is, the 300 mile marker (482.8km). We've already done over 10% of the trail. We take the mandatory photos and hike on.

300 miles!  

300 miles!  

We move very lazily and keep taking breaks at every possible spot, but still make good time to the last stop for today. The water source is a stream passing through a small valley with rocks and sand. As there are quite a few of us here, it's hard to find enough flat ground to sleep on so most of us cowboy camp in very creative spots.

I fall asleep watching satellites and planes fly overhead while listening to frogs and crickets. I love this life!

Queso Grande and Sunshine.  

Queso Grande and Sunshine.  

My spot (on the right) for the night.  

My spot (on the right) for the night.  

Word about my strategy from here on out

Sunshine getting water.  

Sunshine getting water.  

This year has been a big snow year and that means there are still a ton of snow in the Sierras. Usually people try to aim to get to Kennedy Meadows by Ray Day, June 15, which should give the snow enough time to melt, and the hikers enough time to make it over and to Canada before the winter.

This year this might not be possible as there is still too much snow in the Sierras for most thru-hikers to safely cross the highest passes. According to the trail rumors there are already around 120 hikers stuck in Kennedy Meadows waiting to start their Sierra crossing.

Blis having a zen moment up in the mountains.  

Blis having a zen moment up in the mountains.  

What that means for us is a) we don't really want to rush to get to Kennedy Meadows as there's nothing to do there, and b) once we can start crossing the Sierras, we'll still be facing a ton of snow but have less time to cover the Northern California, Oregon, and Washington.

Fyre.  

Fyre.  

So my plan is to get to Kennedy Meadows a week or two after the Ray Day, hopefully by that time the snow has melted enough, and to be as physically rested and in good condition as possible. So I'm coasting across the desert section trying to cause as little damage to my body and legs as possible to be able to a) get over Sierras, and b) start doing big days to make it to Canada before winter.

Blis crossing a stream.  

Blis crossing a stream.  

So far this plan is working out well. I have no big injuries, I feel like I could start doing Big days already, and I haven't heard anything from Sierras that would suggest any other viable plan.

This year is going to be a rough one for thru-hiking the PCT.

Day 19: Easy miles out of Big Bear

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Date: May 18, 2017
Miles: 19.7 miles (31.7km), from Highway 18 to mile 285.9.
Health: After two days of rest I'm feeling great. Legs are strong and knees feel good enough.

We had reserved a pickup from the Hiker Hostel at 7:30am. The weather wasn't going to be hot so we had no need to get on the trail super early.

This next section is going to be an interesting one. We've resupplied food for five days, enough to get us to Wrightwood, our next resupply town. The distance there is little bit over 100 miles (161km). On the way there, there are hot springs that we stop at to swim at around day three, and the famous McDonald's that's right on the trail.

Leaving the Hiker Hostel.  

Leaving the Hiker Hostel.  

As I have food for five days, but I'll probably stay an extra day at the hot springs, it means I'm one days short on food. My plan is to get to the McDonald's by the time I ran out of food and eat myself full there. And then buy my backpack full of cheeseburgers to fuel me the last 25 miles (40.2km) to Wrightwood.

Getting back on the trail.  

Getting back on the trail.  

With our backpacks heavy from all the food, me, Blis (Theo), Fyre (Alex), Justine, Queso Grande, and few other hikers got to the trailhead. After two days in town we all felt quite non-thru-hiker like. We found it hard to get back dirty, being still way too comfortable from all the wonders of modern civilization.

Slowly we started hiking on but the usual energy was definitely missing. We kept joking how spoiled we had become during just two days.

Looking back at Big Bear Lake.  

Looking back at Big Bear Lake.  

As we wanted to keep our pack weights down, none of us were carrying much water. The next water source was just few miles down the trail. After we got to the water source, we all removed our packs and sat down. We soon realized that we had been sitting there for way too long, doing nothing. Lazy thru-hikers.

We soon forced ourselves up and moving again. Me and Justine headed out first and thought others would be right on our heels. Little way upwards Justine's phone rings, it's Blis. Apparently Fyre (Alex) had fallen forward right where we had just been. It's not bad and she can continue but they are coming a bit later. As there's nothing we can do, we continue forward.

Views at the desert.  

Views at the desert.  

The trail is almost too well graded and we soon find our hiking rhythm. We don't talk much, I just concentrate on my feet to get my shuffle going again. Thru-hiking requires a different kind of a step and I always find it a bit difficult to get back to the groove if I haven't been doing it for a while.

Trail signs.  

Trail signs.  

The quiet soon ends and we get into this epic discussion where we go from the musical differences of Metallica and Iron Maiden, to mid century torture devices, to native Americans and colonization of America, to lost empires, to population over growth, to the lost libraries of Alexandria, to Pol Pot, to Second World War, to Germany, to October Fest, and then we are interrupted by arriving to the next water source. How did we do 9 miles already?

Horse trouth. Or thru-hiker water source.  

Horse trouth. Or thru-hiker water source.  

The trail is super easy and fast. At the water source we find Dragon (Pin) and Andrew. They left Big Bear yesterday. Soon everyone else it at the water source, laying in the sun, except Fyre. We start to get worried. We meet one fast hiker who left way later than us and therefore should have passed Fyre on the trail. He says he didn't pass by anyone matching Fyre's description. We get even more worried. Just as we are planning on going back after her, we see her getting to the water source.

Lunch at not the most beautiful section of the trail.  

Lunch at not the most beautiful section of the trail.  

Fyre's moving slow today. Her knees and ankle are still bothering her, and the fall earlier didn't help. It feels so bad seeing someone having a bad day.

We sit in the sun for hours eating and drinking water. This doesn't feel like thru-hiking. After a while we force our lazy asses up and back on the trail. The next water source is a river 10.7 miles (17.2km) down the trail. I take 1,5 liters of water as it's not that hot and I really don't want to carry any extra weight with my already heavy food carry.

Salami cheddar sriracha tortilla.  

Salami cheddar sriracha tortilla.  

Me and Justine leave last as we had to even out our waters as she gave me a bit of her own, but we soon catch the others. Justine stays with Fyre but I want to test out my fresh hiking legs. I set out to the pace of 4 miles per hour and see how that feels. I soon pass more hikers and going at this speed feels good. Can't wait to get my trail legs so I can keep up this pace through out the entire day.

The trail isn't anything beautiful today. It goes through a burn area and everything looks dead and charred. I just focus on my feet and the trail.

Miles go by fast and I soon reach the next water source where Dragon and Andrew are already waiting. We eat and others slowly reach the area as well.

My campsite for the night.  

My campsite for the night.  

Fyre arrives last and she's clearly not feeling it today. I wish I could cheer her up but also know that when I have a bad day, I like to have some space so I try to give that same space for her.

We move our camp 0.3 miles down to where the stream is and start setting up our tents for the night. Despite the late start and the lazy hiking we got the almost 20 miles done quick.

Setting up for the night.  

Setting up for the night.  

As we setup our gear, a bunch of other hikers arrive also and soon there's a nice little thru-hiker tent village next to the stream. We all huddle up together and exchange trail stories and chat about the upcoming section, water, and so on, while eating dinner. 

Dinner party at hiker village. 

Dinner party at hiker village. 

As the sun goes down it soon gets too cold and we all withdraw to our shelters to crawl into our warm sleeping bags. We agree not to rush with the waking up as tomorrow is not going to be a hot day and we only have 21 miles to the hot springs. We want to pace ourselves so that we'll be there early the day after tomorrow. But as camping close to the hot springs is prohibited, and enforced with a hefty fine, we want to camp at least a few miles out. That means tomorrow is not going to be a long day.

Evening tasks, filtering water from the stream.  

Evening tasks, filtering water from the stream.  

Day 18: Trail names and a zero in Big Bear Lake

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Date: May 17, 2017
Miles: 0
Health: Good and rested. Knees a bit sore.

We watched the O.J. Simpson series on Netflix late last night and slept late this morning. We're totally getting off of our thru-hiking rhythm.

Blis all excited about our resupply.  

Blis all excited about our resupply.  

We spend the day resting and preparing for the next section to Wrightwood. We need to resupply food for five days. After breakfast we got a ride to the mall where they have the Dollar Store and Vons. We decided to go to the Dollar Store first to see what they had for us. Wow! We ended up doing almost all of our resupply from the Dollar Store.

Blü, Nuts, and Otter.  

Blü, Nuts, and Otter.  

While there we stumbled to Otter who we haven't seen in many days. She was heading out as she needs to be in a wedding the next weekend and she wants to get ahead of everyone so that she won't stay too much behind. She told me she was going out with Blü. I hadn't seen him for awhile either.

As we got out of the store we saw Blü who was waiting for Otter outside. He's heading out to the Hot Springs, but says he's going to be hiking slow as his legs are hurting, so I'll probably catch him by Wrightwood.

Food for 5 days on trail. Before shot. 

Food for 5 days on trail. Before shot. 

After the resupply we headed out to $1 fish tacos and ate our hearts out. After that Blis had some personal phone calls to make and I met up with Justine, Fyre, and Queso Grande. We went walking through the Big Bear Lake main street. Girls did some rock shopping, I got some milkshakes and then I had to head back to the Hostel as I had a delivery coming from ZPacks.

After.  

After.  

Later we went out to eat and for few beers at the brewery. It was a great lazy day.

Trail names

  Fyre, Queso Grande, and Sunshine.  

 

Fyre, Queso Grande, and Sunshine.  

It's hard to remember everyone by their real name as you meet so many Mike's and Jim's. So instead hikers use trail names to call people with.

People get their trail name given to them by others. It can be anything from how you look, a quirk you have, or a funny thing that happens to you on the trail. The hiker given the name can always veto the name, but it doesn't always work.

Here are some of the trail names of hikers around me, and the story of how I've heard them getting that name (so take this with a grain of salt):

Blis - got his name because he had really bad blisters in the beginning.

Pony Express - she has everything you need in her back and she finds other people's dropped gear and then delivers that to them later on the trail.

Otter - she carries a small stuffed otter toy with her.

Blü - got his name on AT. He's always wearing blue shirt and a hat.

Fyre - Blis wanted to name her Fire Inside but it didn't stick. One day on trail she and others were singing a song from the movie Mulan, and it had a line with "Fire Inside" and it developed from there. 

Dragon - she drags her poles during the day so you can always tell if she's in front of you by the marks on the trail.

KB Sunshine, KB and the Sunshine Band - she's always happy. The meaning of KB is only shared with the closest trail family ;)

Milkshake.  

Milkshake.  

Crimson - he marked all his gear with red dots. And he has red hair.

Snake eyes - he kept walking past snakes.

Radio - his voice sounds like one of those great, deep, radio voices.

Queso Grande - he's the head of cheese department in Whole Foods.

Airplane Mode - on the first day on trail her phone kept ringing so hikers around her started recommending her to switch to airplane mode.

My trail name

$1 tacos.  

$1 tacos.  

I've been given few trail names but so far I've vetoed them all but two of them kept sticking. One of them had a funny backstory but sounded quite doughy if you didn't know the backstory, so I didn't want to go with that. The other, Reindeer Time, was kind of better of two. It doesn't have a great backstory, but it was the one most people started to know me with, so I went with it.

You kind of want to lock down your trail name early as they are only going to get worse as more and more funny stuff happens and people get more and more creative.

So, if you happen to see a trail name Reindeer Time in a trail register, that's me.

Support my hike

I've gotten few requests about how to help or support my hike. I setup a support button before I got on the trail but on purpose put it a bit hidden on the PCT article index page. If you wish to support my hike, you can either find the support me button on the PCT 2017 page, or click the button here: 

Day 17: Nero to Big Bear Lake

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Date: May 16, 2017
Miles: 4.6 miles (7.4km), from mile 261.5 to Hwy 18 access to Big Bear. 
Health: A good nights sleep, feel great.

We woke up early with Blis as we went to sleep so early. Kelly and Derek were still in their tent when we left. It's amazing how fast you can pack up your gear when you know you're getting to a town.

It was still really cold so I hiked out with some extra layers and my wind jacket. Even the sun didn't warm up the air enough to hike in my regular hiking clothes. This cold front has really put my clothing choices to a test.

The pickup to Big Bear.  

The pickup to Big Bear.  

We hike fast as we're hungry and don't feel like eating any hiker food, instead we're saving our appetite for the hiker breakfast in town. We make the 4.6 miles faster than we calculated and make it to the ride hour earlier than we had planned. On the way we pass Dragon and Andrew, and few other hikers who all were still in their tents.

We wait few minutes to see if there are any other hiker coming behind us and then jump in to the van and head towards Big Bear.

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Blis and I had made reservations to both Motel 6 and the Hiker Hotel. We felt like we'd go to the Hostel instead as we'd heard it was more centrally located and had better hiker services. Once we saw the Motel 6, and how far it was from everything else, our minds were made up.

Luckily we made reservations as once we got to the Hiker Hostel it was starting to get full. We wanted to stay for two nights so we got in front of the line. Our room wasn't ready yet, it was only 8am, so we got instructions where to go for the $5 hiker breakfast, and that once we're back we could use all the hostel services. The one we were most interested was shower and washing machine.

Squarepants, Furball, and Blis.  

Squarepants, Furball, and Blis.  

We left our packs at the hostel and headed for the breakfast. As we entered the restaurant, I heard "Reindeer Time!". It was Furball and Squarepants. I guess that's shaping up to be my trail name?

We sat down with them, ordered our breakfast with extra bacon and sausage, and traded trail stories.

Breakfast.  

Breakfast.  

After the breakfast we headed back to the hostel, threw all our clothes to the washing machine, and headed to the showers. Being clean felt so good.

The rest of the day was spend resting, meeting other hikers, and raiding the hiker boxes. We wanted to go to the local brewery and also to see the Guardians of the Galaxy II at the $5 Tuesday movie night. We ended up being so busy with all the sitting on the sofa and eating that we missed both. Maybe tomorrow?

Doing a nero and zero is going to feel so good! I'm hoping to give my legs some well deserved rest and few of the remaining blisters time to heal.

Day 16: When it's freezing in Southern California

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Date: May 15, 2017
Miles: 18 miles (28.9km), from mile 243.5 to mile 261.5. 
Health: After the long night of sleep my feet are working again. I need to make sure to sleep enough.

It was a cold night but the storm that we were afraid of never showed up. When I woke up I looked at my temperature meter and it showed 30 degrees (-1c). What the. We're in Southern California. Maybe it was the elevation as we were above 8,000 feet (2,500m).

Waking up above the clouds.  

Waking up above the clouds.  

All my water bottles had an ice covering and as I peaked outside of the warmth of my sleeping bag, I didn't want to get out. I'm so glad I upgraded my bag from the 20 degree to the 10 degree (fahrenheit) bag.

I heard Blis starting to rustle in his tent next door so it was time to get up. He had made oatmeal in his tent and accidentally poured it inside his tent. Auts.

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We had gotten to the camp quite early and went to bed quick so I had gotten a good long sleep. I noticed this immediately in my legs and I was quick to take down my camp.

Even though it was freezing, I was quite sure that the air would warm up as soon as the sun would come up in an hour. You don't really want to leave the camp in the morning with too much clothing on as you spent the rest of the morning repacking your pack as you get hot. For this reasons I left camp in running shorts and a shirt. In an 32 degree (0c) weather. Not smart.

Snoopy and Fish warming up in the morning sun.  

Snoopy and Fish warming up in the morning sun.  

For about an hour I shivered while hiking as I waited for the sun to get up but eventually had to give up. This was going to be a cold day. The cold wind made any attempts to warm up in the sun futile.

Compared to the previous day, today was a breeze. The trail was easy and fun to hike and we quickly made progress. At one point we came across Fish and Snoopy who had passed us at night and camped further down the trail. We had no idea where Airplane Mode was as she was supposed to camp with us but we couldn't find her in the morning.

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As we got around the mountain our cellphone got reception and we called to Big Bear Lake to make reservations for the Hiker Hotel for the next day. We had heard it was quite full so we wanted make sure we got a room. Our plan today was to get close to the Highway 18 where we could hitchhike to town, and then do the last miles in the morning and take nero and zero in Big Bear Lake. Little rest was in order.

Dirty hiker legs.  

Dirty hiker legs.  

I had no idea where the rest of our bubble was, but I suspect that most of them are ahead of us. Maybe pushing to Big Bear tonight. While we could do that as well, we didn't want to get to town at evening and pay for the room for an extra night.

Trail obstacles.  

Trail obstacles.  

At one point we came to the private zoo that's right next to the PCT. It's a "zoo" where they keep animals from some Hollywood movies. It's actually quite a sad sight. The animals are locked up in small cages where they have no protection from the sun and no room to move. There were bears, tigers, a mountain lion, and others.

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Few years back some PCT hikers started a petition to get a better living arrangement for the animals but sadly it got no results. The sight was so sad, and I felt our presence stressed out the animals, so I wanted to move on as soon as possible. Why can't these animals be set to some wildlife sanctuary where they would have better lives?

We hiked on but I couldn't shake the bad feeling about the animals.

250 miles! 

250 miles! 

The trail was fast and while it was cold, it was also very easy to hike. We soon crossed a 250 mile marker (402km). We took quick photos and hiked on.

Of course there's a sofa on the trail with some trail magic.  

Of course there's a sofa on the trail with some trail magic.  

The rest of the day was quite uneventful. We lost the trail few times and got lost one time. The trail was badly marked but it wasn't a big problem.

My shelter for the night. Notice the flag ;) 

My shelter for the night. Notice the flag ;) 

The weather was really windy and as we were getting close to the Highway 18 pickup point, we started to look for a campsite for tonight. We soon found one that had some cover by the trees and set up our shelters. I looked at the clock and it was 6pm. With nothing to do and it being too cold to be outside, we went to our tents and started to sleep. It was going to be another cold night.

Blis happy with his shelter.  

Blis happy with his shelter.  

Tomorrow we would have a short 4.6 mile hike to the Highway 18 where we would try to catch one of the rides to the Hiker Hostel. I can't wait to eat a proper breakfast and some real food beside the trail food. I feel like I'm losing too much weight too fast and I need to start upping my calorie intake. This means eating like crazy in towns. Yeah!

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.