Trail Miles: 374–444.3
I woke up well rested after a night in a real bed. The trail angels, Mike and Sue, were very kind and generous. I was the only hiker staying the night and I had a good conversation over dinner with them. I’ve been amazed by all the trail angels I’ve met along the trail — they’re all so kind and generous to complete strangers.
After gulping down the half a sandwich left over from dinner the night before I hopped in the car with Mike. He dropped me off at Vincent Gap which was at the base of Mount Baden-Powell. After saying my goodbye and thanks I did my morning stretches and started out on the 4 mile, 2,800 foot climb. With a 13% grade it was the steepest uphill I’ve encountered on the trail so far. The past 300+ miles of hiking paid off and I powered up the hill in a little under 2 hours. It was the first time I noticed how much the trip has changed me physically. Here I was with a 30 pound pack and I was passing day hikers with nothing more than a liter or two of water and some snacks in their backpack.
Reaching the summit I relaxed and ate my apple. I also took some time to think back on how Lord Baden-Powell, the man whom the Mount was named after, had changed my life. He was the founder of Scouting. Without Boy Scouts I would have never gotten into backpacking. And without backpacking I would never be on the PCT. Without one man all those years ago my life would be totally different — and not just because I would have never gotten into backpacking. Boy Scouts has done so much for me and taught me so much. So yeah, he definitely deserves having a Mount named after him.
After soaking up the views I continued on down the trail to Little Jimmy Spring to fill up my water. Right before I got to the spring I sipped the last of my water which meant that I had planned the water carry just right. It’s always nice to have just enough water — it means you didn’t carry any extra weight. As I rested at the spring several runners stopped by for a fill up. The runners were out training for the 100 mile race this fall. Running up Baden-Powell only took them around 30–40 minutes or less— almost a quarter of the time it took me.
Refreshed and filled with Cheese-Its I headed out. I hiked alone for a while as I enjoyed the views and thought about the many random things flowing through my mind. What do I think about when I’m hiking? I don’t know. In the moment it’s whatever comes to mind, but at the end of the day it’s a blur. Sometimes a song comes to mind. Sometimes I pray. Sometimes I think about soda or ice cream or other food I don’t have on the trail. Whatever it is it passes the time.
With four miles left for the day I took a short break after crossing Highway 2. Two hikers, Tebow and Shiggy, hiked up and I joined them for the last miles of the day. We had a 3 mile walk along Highway 2 because of a trail closure. It’s not very fun hiking on the highway, but it was better with other hikers to chat with. Reaching Buckhorn campground we met a trail angel named Ron. He said he comes up a lot and has snacks and drinks for PCT hikers. Tebow and Shiggy continued on, but I stopped for the night. I chatted with Ron around his campfire and then turned in for the night.
I woke up with a scratchy throat, but the rest of my body felt ready for another day. I packed up and headed out. The morning was uneventful and I made good time to the Camp Glenwood — a private cabin with a public water faucet for hikers. I took a longer break there and used the cell service to text Monica.
After I filled up on water I headed off down the trail. My next stop was Sulphur Springs Trail Camp — a National Forest camp that people can drive to and camp. Right before the camp I saw my first human of the day laying on the side of the trail taking a break from the heat. We chatted for a bit and then I continued down to the camp. Unfortunately the camp was quite trashed by day campers. It’s really sad when we don’t take care of our trash — especially when you bring a car to your campsite. You don’t even have to carry it on your back to throw it out!
After searching for a solid 20 minutes I finally found the water faucet tucked back at the end of a faint trail covered by overgrowth. All filled up I headed out to conquer the rest of the day. The next chunk of miles passed uneventful and quiet. Climbing the last peak of the day I could see a wildfire burning in the distance. Checking my phone I learned that it was the Stone Fire near Agua Dulce. The trail goes right through Agua Dulce and because of the fire is now closed for several miles. At that point it was a solid 45 miles ahead of me and I didn’t need to worry about it.
With 19 miles behind me I still had 6 to go for the day. Fortunately they were downhill miles and a water faucet and pit toilet awaited me at the end. As I hiked on I passed a local who was out looking for deer and other animals. I soon reached the campsite which is right next to the Mill Creek Fire Station. I chatted with some hikers who were already there as I cooked up my ramen for dinner. Soon after my dinner they headed out for the night and I settled in to my tent for a nice night of rest after 25 miles of hiking.
Thankfully no fire sirens woke me up in the middle of the night and I had a good night of sleep. I had 18 miles to go to my campsite for the night, and supposedly the ranger station at the camp had hotdogs, ice cream, chips, and soda. There was also no water until camp that night so I stocked up with 6 liters of water. Heading out there were lots of ups and downs throughout the day.
Poodle Dog Bush is a plant that grows in burn areas. Contact with the plant can causes blisters and a reaction similar to poison oak. It also can take several days for the reaction to happen. And on repeat exposure it can cause a memory response that makes previously exposed areas react again even though they were not directly in contact again. That plant was all along the section of trail for the day. I don’t think I touched it, but since it can take several days to react I’m not sure.
I made good time and had an uneventful hike. The last two miles had a lot of vegetation covering the trail with some poison oak mixed in for fun. I blazed my way through that and soon sighted the ranger station. Upon arrival the volunteer ranger, Ron, informed me that he was out of hotdogs and ice cream, but still had soda and snacks. I sat down and relaxed for a couple of hours while I enjoyed 3 ice cold sodas. Ron chatted with several of us hikers and we learned that he did the PCT back in the 90s. Back then he said there were so few people on trail that you knew everyone out there. Mostly from trail registers that everyone signed, but there were so few people it was easy to keep track of everyone. This year alone he said there were over 4,000 PCT permits issued.
Since I had cell service I called Monica and chatted for a bit before I headed to bed.
I woke up ready to go with only 9 miles to go until a KOA where I would take a zero. They have a pool, hot tub, showers, laundry, and a small store. Leaving the ranger station I hiked down for a little while before I started a short uphill section. The views were incredible as fog blanketed the mountains in the distance. As I climbed up some fog rolled across the trail and with it brought a nice cool breeze. I soon spotted the KOA in the distance and picked up the pace to reach the KOA sooner.
I’m sitting in a break room at the KOA charging my phone and typing this post out. I picked up my sleeping bag and tent, so no more cold nights sleeping in just sleeping bag liners! Once my resupply package arrives with my laundry pods I can do my laundry and then hop in the hot tub!
This past section was hot and challenging with some long days, but I’m making good time and am having a good time. I’m glad I’m still on the trail even though it’s different without Monica.