Thursday, May 29, 2014

Rejoicing At The Walker Pass Ruck - (5/28/2014)

Mile 637 to mile 651.4
14.4 miles

Today was the day, the day this nightmare of a section would be over and we could get into town. The only thing that stood between us and finishing was fifteen little miles. 

I woke up from a night of not sleeping well, crammed a Pop Tart down my gullet, and packed up so we could get the show on the road. I was not in the best of moods, I was tired, hungry, thirsty, and wished I was someplace else. 

We soldiered on for a few miles before running into a few other hikers that were taking a break. One of them was ChemoRob, a hiker who has brain cancer, and the other two were Pixel and Shazam, a couple. Pixel recognized us from Facebook, I had chatted with her a little bit before the trip about doing thru hikes as a couple. We all chatted for a bit before we continued on. 

We were hiking slow so Pixel and Shazam caught up to us in no time and breezed by. ChemoRob would pass us when we took a break a little while later to eat the last of our food. We emptied the last tuna packet onto a couple of tortillas and called it a second breakfast. We were now out of food will 11 miles to go. It was kind of a sad demoralizing moment. 

We could do this, it was just gunna suck, hurt, and take most of the day. 

We lucked out today in that most of the trail was fairly level, some ups and downs (actually one big down at the end but it was better than a big up) and there was lots of shade for us to hide out in. 

The trail would eventually turn into a dirt road that we would walk along for a couple of miles and then get back onto the trail. I noticed that there is some psychological change that happens when we go from the trail to the road and vice-versa. Road walks, either dirt or paved suck and hurt like hell to walk on. They are depressing and we take a psychological hit from being on them. When we get back on the trail it feels so much better, both on our feet and in our head. It feels similar to being back home after a long trip, it feels right, it feels like we are where we are supposed to be. It is an odd change in demeanor that I noticed today. 

Some how we managed to click off another 6 miles, which meant we had 5 to go. The anticipation and excitement started to grow which I have learned is not a good thing. When that happens the miles don't seem to click off as fast as they were before but it was difficult not to get excited about being done. To add to the excitement, we had heard from some other hikers that there might be some Trail Magic at Walker Pass, our destination. Trail Magic in the form of hot dogs and hamburgers, water and soda pop. It was just a rumor so we tried not to think about it. 

The last 5 miles were downhill and by now we were really hurting. Our muscles wanted to cramp up, joints were not moving as freely as they should, we had back pain, and overall did not feel good. We were walking zombies by now.

On our way down we saw several Horned Lizards. A couple of them were playing in the middle of the trail and really didn't pay us any attention. Mandie picked one up and baby talked to it. Further down the trail we passed a couple of older gentlemen, probably in their 80's that were chugging up the hill. It was impressive and inspiring to see them hiking up the mountain at their age. 

We had been hiking down this mountain for a while now and I felt like we had made some good progress. We stopped to empty our shoes and to check our PCT app and it said we had 3 miles to go. I thought for sure it would be less than 2 miles to go, so I was a bit upset when I saw 3 miles. The anticipation and excitement had struck again!!! We pushed on. 

We got down low enough to where we could see the Walker Pass CG and what looked like a bunch of EZ-Up tents next to an RV. We both looked at each other and thought, 'Nah, that probably isn't for us. It is probably just some random campers.' We hiked on. 

We got close and closer and it really started looking like it just might be some Trail Magic. We were about a half a mile from it when I was almost certain it was Trail Magic. It was right there at the trail head, what else could it be. 

I started to get a little emotional, there might have even been a little cryking involved too. The thought of being done with this hell of a section, the thought of food, water, shade, and an escape was overwhelming. Knowing that we would soon be in town, in a motel... It was all too much for me and I did not expect to have that kind of emotional reaction. 

We eventually got within 50 feet of the trail head and we saw a balloon next to a paper plate with a hand written message on it that read, 'Hikertrash Wanted'. That is us! We are Hikertrash! We slowly walked forward a bit more, rubbing our eyes, when another sign appeared that read, 'Welcome Walker Pass Ruck' and beyond that was nirvana. As we approached everyone that was there clapped, hooted and hollered, and welcomed us. They seem to do that when Mandie and I show up. :P Nooo, that seems to be what we do when any hiker shows up. There was 3 or 4 EZ-Up tents all tied up together with a dozen or so chairs under it, most of which were occupied with Hikertrash. There was a picnic table that had a grill and all kinds of food and fixens on it. Next to that was several coolers filled with soda and more food and about 30 gallon bottles of water sat on the ground in the shade. There was even a fruit basket hanging filled with fruit. 

After finding a place to sit the son of one of the Trail Angel's gave us a cold drink, some Mardi Gras beads, and a button that had his picture on it with a caption that read, 'Bearbait gave me a cold drink at Walker Pass'. We quickly finished those drinks and got ourselves another one, which was quickly drank. It was then followed up by filling our water bottle with half Gatorade and half water. We sat there in a coma for about fifteen minutes before we started being social. During that time a couple people came up to Mandie and asked if she was okay. I think she had the look of death on her face but she slowly came around. 

Food was next. The Trail Angels started making grilled cheese sandwiches for us hikers. Not just any grilled cheese sandwiches but grilled cheese with onions and tomatoes in them. They were the best grilled cheese sandwiches we had ever eatin. They were off the hook. I'm sure that had a lot to do with the fact that we were starving but they would probably still be pretty good on any given day. The sandwiches were followed up with some fresh cantaloupe, an apple, and some pretzels. We were starting to feel more human. 

Now we had the task of figuring out how to get into town. We figured we would go down to the highway and hitch but we didn't have to do that. It turns out that a section hiker who was there, Boots, had a car and was taking hikers into town. We just had to wait for him to cook up the hot dogs that he had been craving for weeks and then he would be happy to take us. While we waited we chatted with the other hikers and enjoyed not being on our feet. 

It was now time to go so Mandie and I, as well as a couple of other hikers, ChemoRob and Gilad, an Israeli hiker all climbed into Boots' vehicle.  As we drove along hwy 178 towards Lake Isabella we chatted about all sorts of things including who we are and where we live. This is when I learned that Gilad was from Israel. It turns out that Gilad and I are friends on Facebook. He had posted a question on the c/o 2014 PCT page asking if it was legal to camp at the Mexican border the night before he started the PCT. I noticed that he lived in Israel so I called and asked the Border Patrol for him. He thanked me and that was about the extent of our Facebook relationship. So it was weird in a cool way that we would end up in a car together. 

Finally in Lake Isabell we had Boots drive us around town to see where things like the market and food establishments were. We saw one of the two motels that were in town, this one happened to be the one with horrible reviews about it in the PCT Water Report. We figured if comments about a motel made it into the Water Report then it had to be bad. We found the second motel and stopped there. They only had one room available with one queen size bed so Mandie and I got it for $65 a night. I only mention the price because it was a sh!t hole and for that price it should have been a little better. The room was the size of a closet, it was dirty, and the swamp cooler spit water all over the place. This was not the place we wanted to zero at. The manager was nice enough to refund our monies without issue. 

We needed more food before we could figure out a game plan so we walked across the road to Subway and got a sandwich. We learned that there was a bus that would take us 15 minutes up the road to Kernville where there were other motels. After finishing our sandwiches we waited an hour or so at the bus stop before being wisked away to Kernville. 

The bus dropped us off in downtown Kernville right across the street from the  Kernville Inn, which is only feet away from the river. As we walked around looking for the office a couple of biker dudes, shouted across the lawn asking us if we were homeless. We laughed and told them that we were hiking the PCT. We walk over to them and they ask us more questions about what we are doing which we are more than happy to answer. They were so astonished with what we are doing that one of them asked to take a picture with us. We oblige and before heading off one of them gives us his business card and tells us to email him if we ever get bored. They were very nice guys and I told one of them that I would give him a shout out on my blog. So Keith, if you are reading this, I hope you enjoyed you ride through the Sierra. Be sure to check you snail mail, were going to send you post cards throughout our journey. :)

Once in our room we promptly dropped our packs and headed out for some beverages at the local Shell gas station. There just so happens to be a little Mexican food place next to the gas station and we couldn't pass up more food. We placed an order of nachos before stocking up on drinks. We ended up with water, Gatorade, Apple juice, 7-up, and Clamato. Back at the room we consumed everything, showered, and hit the sack. 

There are so many emotional ups and downs out here, it was nice to end on an up. 

One thing that I 'learned', if you will, is that I will probably never take water for granted again. In the 'cotton world' it is so easy to go to a faucet, water cooler, hose, convenient store, or wherever to get water. That isn't the case out here, especially in the desert. If we run out were are out. There is no faucet, water cooler, or convenient store to swing by to get more. It is something that I have never had to experience before and it is scary feeling.