We were promised that it would be super easy to hitch back to the trail from town. We were also told there was an hourly bus that went directly to the trailhead; if the times matched up we were happy to do that instead.
I was with three of the boys who agreed that we should get one last coffee in town first thing in the morning, and then head out.
We got the coffee. We tried to head out. Although it was early (7:15AM), car after car passed us. The bus was only seven minutes away, so we were okay to wait and just jump on that if we didn’t get a hitch first. We got the bus.
The bus driver said, “Yep, no worries – you just jump off at a parking lot and switch to the next bus and that one takes you hikers exactly where you need to go.”
We trusted him.
We also trusted the second bus driver who confirmed that this was the best and easiest way to get to the trailhead, and all piled on. When she started explain what street junction she’d drop us off at and what roads we should walk down to meet up with the trailhead, the boys and I started looking at each other a little concernedly across the aisle..
“Sorry, ma’am, we were told we’d be dropped off right at the trail?“
“Yes, right where you need to go to get to the trail. It’s just up this street and then you turn left and walk a little more, then right, then keep going and you’ll get there.”
Meanwhile, I was zooming in and out of my map, trying to line up the roads the driver was talking about, and it just didn’t make sense… That was easily five, even seven kilometres away from the PCT.
“Oh, don’t worry – it’s a really pretty walk.”
Lady, we’re already doing a really pretty walk.
A really pretty looooong walk, and we don’t need to tack on an extra 25% of today’s mileage just because your stretch is ‘prettier’ than what we’ve seen already.
I might sound ungrateful, but I don’t mean to. I was just confused and frustrated, as were the fellas.
We were dropped off at the ‘perfect’ junction, waved goodbye and Mike got straight onto Uber to organise a lift – stuff walking an extra two hours with full packs before even beginning the trail for the day.
We were picked up, four of us and our packs crammed into a little Toyota Getz American equivalent, and drove a further ten minutes down windy roads. Eventually, we pulled over on the side of the highway where we had walked out from the trail two days prior and left off where we began – this time, on the opposite side of the highway. Two and a half hours after we left our cabin (which was only really a thirteenish minute drive away altogether).
Technically, this section was closed. A fire had raged through earlier in the year, and the path wasn’t yet fully restored, so a 4km alternate detour was in place. But just like our dilemma this morning with the buses, adding on extra 4km was not an appealing idea for any of the four of us… So we loosely devised a plan where Mike and Kevin would run, Manuel would speak in German and I’d just play the girl card and cry if a ranger caught us and we got in trouble. Not sure how tight that plan was, but we never had to use it. And the countless footprints in the ash and sand before us said that others had figured the same.
This 30km stretch was quite an easy, beautiful one. No huge up or downhill parts to tire me out or wear on my knees; just blue skies, a cool breeze and a view from the opposite side of the lake. I could even see where our cabin was! (And I’m sure, with binoculars, could have spotted that foosball table).
I wasn’t entirely set on doing the whole 32km either. I was just still a little sleepy, this morning’s disappointing bus ride had drained me and I was running a lower gear than my usual.
There were more W’s left for me in the dirt, I made friends with a little lizard, and then found a different Kevin to walk with, who got me into camp.
Kevin was a Godsend.
Like I said, this stretch really wasn’t hard. There wasn’t much shade but the sun had no strength in it to sap us of energy, and his pace was just that teensy bit quicker than mine – so it was perfect for me to push and keep up with him. On the uphills, I’d ask open questions and get him talking, throwing in a, “Uh huh” or “Oh yeah?” when my breath would allow it. He was a great sport and asked me questions on the downhills. It was a brilliant match for this afternoon, and we smashed out more than 14km in less than 2.5hrs. Pretty good for me, considering I have a base weight of 10.5kg, plus the six days’ worth of food (6kg) and 4L of water I was lugging.
The campsite was c r a z y windy, so I topped up my water and kept going a little more, until I found a spot I was happier with.
Sometimes this is a gamble. Tonight, it was a good idea. Half a mile beyond the wind tunnel labelled campground that had nearly twenty tents battened down, my eye caught a small clearing in a copse of trees. When I got closer, I realised the gold mine I had stumbled into: not a leaf fluttering in the breeze, and yet I could watch trees swaying back and forth above me. This was one of the best sites I’ve found yet.
It was cold. Even with my great sleeping quilt I wear thermals, an insulator jacket, sleeping socks, gloves, buff (pulled down to cover my nose) and ‘beanie’ (another Enlightened Equipment masterpiece).
I can deal with cold if there’s no wind – so I thought, “What the heck!” and opted for cowboy camping. Aka. no tent: groundsheet, mattress, me, quilt. I reckon I’ll sleep just fine.
And I’ll stick with that ‘winning!’ theme and hopefully catch Speedy tomorrow.