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Sunday, May 20, 2018

PCT - Day 31: 5/19/2018 - Spiders, Rattlesnake, and the Desert

Trail miles: 35.7 from 498.2 - 533.9
Miles hiked: 36.5
sunrise May 19
It was incredibly windy overnight, so I was already awake when my normal 4:15 am run to the pit toilet was triggered.

Ten seconds after I sat on the toilet a giant spider fell off the ceiling and landed on my thigh. Without screaming, I hastily brushed it off me.  I finished my business while keeping my headlamp trained on this evil thing.

Adrenaline was flowing, so sleep was again a fickle mistress. At 5:00 am, I packed up and started walking just in time to see the best PCT sunrise thus far.

500 miles
Mile 500 came and went without a celebration. My mind was in other places. I stopped at a cistern to get water and ignored the dead animal carcass in the water as I lowered a bottle full of rocks 25 feet into the nearly dry cistern where I was lucky to scrape a 1/2 liter from the bottom.

Water Source
Back on trail, I hiked mostly alone lost in thought occasionally having brief conversation with other trail family members as they passed me. Ziploc passed and we discussed the tension in our group briefly before she hiked away clearly upset. I wondered if it’d be the last time I saw her.

Hiking in the Trees
During one of my zoned out moments, I landed a step with my left foot and a rattlesnake lunged and missed a lower leg strike by a few inches. Simultaneously I screamed “Holy Shit!!!” and I jumped and ran like a character in Looney Toons with my feet moving before I even hit the ground. Adrenaline again filled my bloodstream.

Trail View
Soon, Chilly Bin and HoosierDaddy caught up and we talked about the changing dynamic in our hiker family. As we were discussing this, we rounded a bend and saw Ziploc sitting in the shade eating and visibly upset. I dropped my pack and gave her a sweaty hug which just brought more tears. 

HYOH - with trail family
The four of us talked directly about the delicate balance of HYOH (Hike Your Own Hike) and wanting to belong to a great trail family. Eventually, we rose from our break spot with less tension but still unanswered questions.

Dusty Trail
We flew down the dusty trail into the real Mojave desert. I stopped at Hikertown to pick up a resupply and a new hip belt while the others caught a ride to a nearby market for their resupply.

Trail to Hikertown
Hikertown has received mixed reviews from hikers. I fall into the “this place is creepy as fuck” group. There are secretive video surveillance cameras setup on the premises. The mail room shack where hikers get there packages has a wall full of assault rifles. And most importantly, the guy that runs the place just rubbed me the wrong way. My plan was to stay here until 3 pm on Sunday and night hike with Chilly Bin across the L.A. Aqueduct and through the wind farm. I immediately knew I wasn’t spending the night at Hikertown and changed my plans to hike out at 6 pm on Saturday. With 19 miles already in the books today and now I’ll night hike after a few hours of rest, a resupply, a bowl of Ramen, and a bucket wash and rinse of my disgusting smelling shirt and my socks that radiate dirt.

On a side note, the ankles are feeling better, but the wrist is worsening. I was cringing in severe pain just swapping my hip belt on my pack. I decided I’ll go to the Urgent Care in Tehachapi, so that’s just more motivation to cover the 48 remaining miles from Hikertown to Tehachapi as soon as possible.

As I was leaving Hikertown at 6pm someone asked if I was leaving. I nodded and mentioned I’m shooting for 17.3 more miles.

He replied “You’re a fucking legend.”

I thought to myself “Nah, I know Legend1.” and replied “No, I’m just stupid.”

Shadow of a Thru-hiker
I left Hikertown at 6:15 pm. Ziploc, Opera, and Tapeworm were behind me by 30 minutes or so and caught me on the aqueduct about 6 miles in.

After watching a so-so sunset, we continued into the night. Ziploc and I fell back as Opera and Tapeworm pulled away.

We shared life stories, fears, and dreams to pass the time only taking two short breaks as to not let our muscles stiffen up. Sometimes we just hiked in silence watching the crescent moon fade behind the horizon, leaving just silhouettes of Joshua trees, views of the Milky Way, and flashing red lights from the wind turbines.

Just before 12:30 am we stopped just short of the targeted water source and collapsed into our sleeping bags with exhaustion. We had escaped the heat and completed a very very long day. It was my longest hiking day ever.

1. - See day 20 to fully understand this statement.

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