We get up and eat a leisurely breakfast, stretch, and pack up. This is going to be our easy day; we think. There is a chance we will stop at a lake near the trail and swim or camp. Also there is water within a mile for us to fill up before we go.
While getting breakfast, we are laughing and having fun. The stretching did wonders for our moods as well as the pleasant weather. I don’t want to pick up my bag again, but it is day three. We have already worn our 40 pound packs for two days on our unaccustomed backs. But we must move on. We have entered a watershed area where we cannot camp until we are out of it – 15 miles.
Just past the creek, the trail goes up and turns. Switchbacks again. We are tired of all the climbing. I never read about all the climbing we would have to do to get down to the river. But it is the Pacific Crest Trail, so one would think…
The hiking is actually quite pleasant. There are a fair amount of level areas, but we are also right along the edge – mountain on one side and drop off on the other. The trail is as wide as us in most places; my poles fall off into the abyss once in a while. I just don’t think about how high we are. I keep my eyes in the forward position; it’s a good thing too, for when I look around I feel a bit of vertigo. Some places the trail is overgrown, but we have no logs to climb over. We go under a few with little problems. There are long stretches of no place to stop and sit or even to go off trail to take care of business. We just trudge along until we have to stop. My feet are aching, and I am feeling all the rocks through my shoes. The rock fields are a bit painful. On we go walking right on the ridges at times.
We pass few people and the distance between us and the young amazons increase. We ask that they don’t take any turnoffs, but to wait for us. They get 20-30 minute breaks because of how far ahead they are. We take short 5-10 minute breaks but frequently. We learn from the few people who we pass the nature of thru hikers. At one point, the girls meet a couple of thru hikers who tell them (without being asked) that the PCT goes down the hill toward the lake they see from the split in the trail, and the hikers turn and go uphill the other direction. They wait for us. We look at the map and realize that the lake we had talked about stopping at was two miles down the trail that the men had told them to go to. Since we cannot camp in this portion of the trail and we don’t want to have to call it a day yet, we decide to skip the lake and continue on.
A few hours later we tell the girls to continue to the campground to reserve us a space. We’re slowing down. This is the longest we’ve hiked yet. So the girls stop waiting for us and just continue on. We get farther behind. We cross more rock fields, and I want to cry from the throbbing of my feet. But continue we must. As the sun begins its trip behind the mountains, we reach a windy ridge with rocks, cairns, and signs. The trail splits and goes on top of the mountain. Please don’t let the campground be on top of the mountain, I beg to myself. I call the girls on the radio to be sure which way they went. Thankfully they went downhill.
Camp was right by a creek and in among the trees and bushes. We had a table and an outhouse (if you want to call it that). We set up our tents as the sky went dark and ate a simple hot dinner of oatmeal and tea. Life is good.