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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

PCT - Day 20: 5/8/2018 - A Day to Remember

Trail miles: 21.8 from 320.1 - 341.9
Miles hiked: 22.6
Brutal Morning Sun
Today was a day that will live in my memory forever. Anja and I started our day very early and were on trail by 5:00 am in an attempt to beat the heat. I had covered the first eight miles to the Cleghorn Picnic Area by 8:00 am. Anja had beat me there by 30 minutes thanks to me dealing with an upset stomach.

I met another hiker there named Smokey who’s aptly named since he likes to take smoke breaks often. He offered me a slice of pizza and gave me some Gatorade powder, since I think I was still recovering from my previous day’s dehydration.
Bring on the Sun
Smokey and I hiked a bit and got to know each other while Anja had raced off to try to make the 22 miles to Cajon Pass before the sun got too hot. Eventually Smokey kept going while I took a needed break in the shade about 8 miles shy of Cajon Pass at 10:30 am. I had covered 14 miles in 5.5 hours, but needed to cool down. 
The sun was fiercely hot today.  My impatience gave in and I started hiking again at 11:00 am when the slightest thin clouds appeared. Within a mile, I was burning up again and desperately searching for shade. I found some again just after 12:15 pm and hid from the dangerous sun until 2:30 pm.

Rest in Shade
 At 2:30 pm, I woke from a nap where I had a dream and was sweating profusely. I had been eating sugars, salts, and protein all day. I was still feeling dehydrated. I drank the rest of a Gatorade I had and realized I was down to 1.5 liters of water, and I still had 6.3 miles to go. I decided I needed to leave the shade and just push through the heat before I drank all my water sitting in the shade. My weather app on my phone said was a “real feel” of 99 degrees.

I covered the next 6.3 miles in 2 hours and 15 minutes, mostly out of fear of heat stroke. I only stopped twice for two pictures. When I arrived at I-15, I was never happier to see a McDonalds in my life. I’d made it to Cajon Pass, barely.

I walked into McDonalds where 12-15 other thru hikers were sitting. Anja had been there for over two hours. She said I looked worse than the previous day as she handed me a cup, which I went and filled with ice cold water. I sat there for thirty minutes and drank a couple liters of water and a very large Dr. Pepper. I also ate a ten piece nuggets, a hamburger and a large fries. French fries with so much salt tasted like heaven.

Suddenly my day got really interesting, when I looked outside and saw Legend walking up to McDonalds. Legend is a hiker who lives in Denver that I’ve been following via his blog and Facebook for a while. Last year, he hiked the triple crown in one calendar year. For those that may not know, that’s the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail.  He did that in ONE YEAR! He’s on a whole new 7000 mile adventure this year. He had come 34 miles from the Deep Creek hot spring that day. I immediately jumped up and introduced myself.

After about 20 minutes of conversation while he ate, Anja, Legend, and I walked to the Best Western. We all shared a room, showered, did laundry, and went to the hot tub. Beers were had, good conversation and stories were shared, and friendships were formed.  

This day that started with me thinking about how to convey the things on the trail that are hard to get across with photos and writing. The smells, the heat, the feel of the hot Earth through your shoes, the little gnats that like to float right in front of your eyes while you walk, the dryness in the desert air that cracks your skin and solidifies anything in your nose, etc.

The middle of the day, for me, was a pure survival effort in the most real sense of the word survival. That was followed by the sharp contrast of being able to press a button in a fast food restaurant and have ICE CUBES!

Lastly, the day ended super strong with two great friends and the most fun I’ve had any night on trail yet.

Now to sleep, so I can wake up in six hours and hike 27 miles up over 5000 feet in elevation to Wrightwood on a day that is supposed to be hotter than today. It’s a section that is water-less except for two unreliable water caches that cannot be counted on. I’m carrying, 6+ liters of water to start, and I don’t know if that’s enough for me. Guess I’ll find out...

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