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.
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.
Today's hike is almost as uneventful as yesterday's. We hike 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.
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 ones even swim in it.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Word about my strategy from here on out
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.
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.
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.
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.