a journey of 2,652 miles
THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL 2018
starts with a single step.
Miles 493.4 to 517.6. From Upper Shake Campground to Hikertown
Wizard and the two of us get up at 4.30 am to get a headstart on Speedy. It is only starting to get light out while we pack our stuff together and get going. We are in a hilly area and every now and then can see all the way down to the Mojave desert floor beneath us. The hiking is easy here, the temperature just perfect. Soon Dario falls back when he leaves the trail to dig his morning hole and shortly after Wizard needs to rest her foot as it is already starting to really hurt again. She got new shoes in at REI while in Hiker Heaven and they just don't seen to be the right fit for her. Hopefully she can make it down to Hikertown where we will somehow be able to get her other shoes.
Anyway, while I walk on by myself I am aware that I am surrounded by nobody, that I am completely alone. And I am loving it! Don't get me wrong, I love hiking with our trail family and it feels great to have Dario walk by my side (or rather behind me on this 30cm wide trail) most of the time, but this moment right here is just perfect. I get to see the world wake up and around every new hill the desert underneath us seems to unfold and grow larger and larger. A landscape so vast and beautiful, but so hot and unforgiving too. I can't wait to get down there.
The place we will camp tonight is called Hikertown and I have already heard a lot about this place. Some call it weird, others are amazed by it. The facts are, the place was built by a wealthy man who used to be a Disney executive. He had bought the property and shortly after noticed many filthy people wandering around the place. Yes, the PCT was passing right by his property. But he didn't know that. He thought they must be homeless and soon started to offer his help when it was explained to him that in fact they were PCT hikers, not hobos. This got him really excited and he started to figure out what this group of people needed and craved the most while in civilization. And he converted his property into Hikertown, a real western looking place where hikers can sleep in cabins or in tents, can do laundry and take showers.
Today we will reach the 500 mile marker. This is a big deal. It will mean we have walked more than 800 km! We really want to reach this milestone together and therefore decided the day before to take a breakfast break at 499.5 and walk the last 0.5 miles together as soon as everyone will have caught up. I get there first, followed by Dario and Wizard shortly after. Good for us, Speedy hasn't caught up yet, which means we get to have a longer break. :-) Dario gives Wizard his camp shoes because Wizard really can't walk in her shoes anymore.
When Speedy has caught up and we all finish stuffing our faces with oatmeal, fruit bars, bread with cheese and nutella, we start walking again and soon reach the first 500 mile marker. There are always a few of those because apparently it is difficult to tell exactly where the 500th mile actually is. In fact, the official marker is only located at mile 501.8, which makes no sense at all, but we still decide to keep going until there for our photo session. And we do take a lot of photos and end up staying for nearly 45 minutes. This might no have been the best idea because it is already getting really hot and the rest of the morning we will have to walk uphill.
Soon everyone is in front of us because I just can't go fast in this heat. I do take a lot of pictures though and don't feel in a hurry at all. Eventually we meet Speedy at the next water source where we also decided earlier to have lunch. This will be the highest point, from now on it's all downhill to the desert floor. Strange enough we arrive before Wizard does which is weird because she was ahead of us the whole time. Turns out, she missed the turn to the water source and kept going, only to realize her mistake after 0.5 miles, when she turned around again. This really affects her mood which is understandable. It meant like a 25min detour in this crazy heat, first walking down steeply only to climb it all again. With her feet hurting like hell.
We take a long lunch break, followed by a long nap. Then walk down 0.2 miles to the water source way below us to get water for both Wizard and us. After all the water is filtered we strap on our packs and start the steep descent. We are both feeling refreshed and excited, only 9 more miles. But boy, they turn out to be quite hard. After 3 miles Wizard decides she can't go on anymore, her feet are just in too much pain. Luckily there is a road there from where she will try to hitch to Hikertown. Speedy is already long gone and Dario and I are dragging ourselves up and down more mountains. It is so hot but we can now see Hikertown in the distance and now we don't have much longer to go. The sun is now slowly starting to sink, there is a cool breeze. Our bodies are tired though, we can already feel this 24 mile day which will be the day with the most miles hiked to date.
And then finally we leave the mountains and walk down a long, straight, paved road. It is really windy! The sun has already set, we are surrounded by pure beauty that is hard to explain. Wizard and Speedy are already waiting at Hikertown. Speedy, our champion, had enough time to get a ride to a store/restaurant where he got burgers, fries, beers and wine for us. We quickly set up our tents which proves quite difficult in the wind. Wizard and I have a quick shower. After a cozy dinner we retreat back into our tents to sleep a sound sleep. Sleeping is the best when you know that you can sleep in. And that will be the case tomorrow as we will only head out in the late afternoon for the notorious crossing of the LA aqueduct in the Mojave desert.