The following is Part 4 in a series of posts concerning my experience with the Pacific Crest Trail. Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 can be found via the associated links. Each part has been adapted from journal entries, often written in the wild. Note that the date and time listed are when the journal entry was written, and that sometimes a current location (i.e. where the entry was written) is provided.
24 April: Tuesday—Pioneer Mail Trailhead Picnic Area
Today was challenging. Part of it may be due to my lack of sleep, but most of it certainly has to do with how much my feet hurt. Agony shoots up my leg with every step. Mostly, I think that it is from the calluses amidst the balls of my feet. It took a long time to treat and wash them tonight. I pray that my new strategy of leaving the calluses uncovered is successful. (Note: Duct Tape is essential on the trail, for just about anything, but especially for feet treatment.) I am not the only one with feet problems, though. It seems to be the main concern of many of my fellow thru-hikers. I just pray that my feet do not force me off the trail. Furthermore, my tick bite has a red ring around it, which is another source of concern.
Otherwise, Day 3 passed as well as it could. Just before the Laguna Post Office, I reconnected with Ryno as he was sitting in the shade to protect his red sunburned face, neck, and arms. Later he was wearing full long sleeves and a thin scarf for protection during his progress. The day was rather warm, but not bad. The landscape was somewhat barren, but still lovely in areas. I hiked half the 11 miles alone, seeing few people along the way. One was Paul, who later joined our campsite.
Penny Pines, which is at the entrance to Cleveland National Forest, is an oasis. Many hikers were gathered there to enjoy the purified water that its lone faucet provides. Rubik’s Cube was there. He said that Castle is pushing ahead strongly.
Ryno’s campsite neighbor from last night in Long’s Canyon was also there. Matt Chapko is from Arkansas, and is twenty-two years old. He has been another great hiking partner. We were both thankful for the company because we were both physically struggling so much. Before we left Penny Pines together, Ryno arrived. I did not think that I would see him again. He had considered stopping at Laguna Campground, so I was glad when he strode across the road to those of us unenthusiastic about quickly leaving our newfound oasis. Ryno eventually connected back with us at our camp here at Pioneer Mail Trailhead Picnic Area (PCT mile 52.7).
At first, Matt and I thought that there was no water available. Not to mention that the outhouse looked haunted. But then AT veteran “Nimble Foot” joined us; and one of the first things he expressed was how great the outhouse is because it has toilet paper. He also told us about a water cache that was left by trail angels up the road next to a horse trough. (Note: A “Trail Angel” refers to someone who supports the PCT in practical ways, often in the form of water caches or snacks, or offering a ride somewhere, a phone to use—as I have mentioned before—and sometimes even housing. They are a profound and unexpected blessing to thru-hikers.) An equestrian camp is set up across the road from us. Early I noted—and avoided—various “hints” of its passing.
There is a large group here tonight. Heather and Sierra (a.k.a. “Monkey”—my name stuck) arrived as well. Upon hearing what I knew of their mother-daughter story, John Muir Trail veteran, [Jimmy, if I remember his name correctly], soon made the connection that he had met Heather and her husband with infant Sierra in tow on the John Muir Trail about eight years ago. A bit of trail magic, as he put their reunion, also implying Monkey’s goal to thru-hike the PCT. Indeed. Curiously, the first thing that [Jimmy] asked when he arrived at our camp was whether anyone had any pot to smoke. He is a spiritual sort of person.
Completing my camp routine took too long once again. I managed to get a cell phone signal by the horse trough. It was good to talk with Mama & Papa.
I am tired. I hope that my feet heal. I also hope that I stop getting bloody noses—from heat? from dryness? from the altitude? Minutes before I had even started the PCT, I had an unprovoked bloody nose. I have unwillingly offered blood at least once every day since then, sometimes more. The trail is difficult to appease.