Day 17: (9.6 miles)
mile 210.8 – 219.2 / 1608ft – 2302 ft
Monday evening the decision was made…the back is ready to go back to the trail. Prior to loading up our resupply we conducted a minor shakedown of our “essential” items. We left at home some items that were “nice to have” but that we are pretty sure we can live without. Nothing major…with the exception of dumping our tent in favor of an MSR E Wing tarp and for now our rain gear. Yes we are tempting fate, and daring Mr. Murphy. Even if the weatherman is only 50% right, we should stay dry and fairly warm.
We left from Ziggy and the Bear’s Trail Angel extraordinary hospitality near 9am after our son dropped us off this morning. Ziggy and the Bear (retired Navy guy) have been hosting PCT hikers since 1997. As of today a 100 hikers have come through their gate this season. The most they’ve had in one season was over 700, but average 4-500. This year however they expect close to 800. They have a unique and actually efficient system of registering hikers that drop in. You’re assigned a number based on how many have already come through (Paul was 54, as of last Thursday night and I am 95 as of Tuesday morning). They write your trail name, if you have one, and your number and you hold it in front if you like a booking photo while they take a digital picture. (In the “old days” they used a Polaroid camera.) Your photo goes into a log that has information that you filled out (name, where you are from, email or blog address, trail or group name and so on). If you complete the PCT you get a red star by your name. We’re shooting for that red star. After two cups of coffee and great conversation with Ziggy and the Bear it was nearing 9 am and 70 degrees. It was time to test the back and get on the trail.
We meandered over a soft sand trail as it began to climb in elevation. The hillside was forested with windmills barely moving in the breeze. We stopped at the Mesa Windmill farm office and were treated to air conditioning and ice water. After a brief rest, a change of socks and conversation with three Russian section hikers we ventured out into the oven. The temperature had already risen another 10 degrees in the short time were watering up. The desert temperature topped out at 92 degrees…not to bad. Paul had me lead so I could set the pace for the day as we were only going to go 10 miles. As the trail traversed the hillside, Paul followed about 6 feet behind, and saw the 4 ft rattlesnake before I did, which was too late as I leaped, screamed and high stepped quickly past it as it practically lay across the trail. Paul yelled, “Geez Dee! How did you not see that?!”. I actually did see it but it didn’t register until too late. Here’s how my thought process went… ‘Hey what’s that black stripped thing in the trail? It reminds me of Bettlejuice. Ya when he was a snake with rattles on the end…rattles on the end! SNAKE! Shit! (This is where I leaped and scampered). The darn snake was not phased and posed for a picture with Paul.
The snake even let Paul pass…quickly. I promptly elected Paul new trail leader. Now I was the one walking 6ft behind which still was not helpful as no sooner had 10 minutes passed but another snake (this time smaller and green) graced me with its presence. But this one thought it funny to wait for Paul to pass and launch itself across the trail directly under my feet wherein it was everything I could do NOT to step on its tail. (A least I know my heart is pretty healthy because both time would have been a perfect opportunity for a coronary.). Once I recomposed myself and Paul stopped laughing, we continued down the trail on super high alert…like that was going to help. The terrain differed from last I was on the trail. Rocky terrain turned to ancient river bed and sandstone cliffs.
We stuck to the plan only did 10 miles…just in case. The first night we spent the night at the Whitewater Preserve. It a nature conservancy onsite of an old trout farm. Yes, a trout farm in the desert. Seeing the size of the trout in the two pools, I would give anything to catch one of those guy in the wild. When we checked in with the “ranger” to camp that night, we must not of looked and smelled hiker trashy enough cause he made a point to remind us that we had to keep our dog on a leash, generators were not allowed and we had to cook with a gas grill. Phew! Good thing we lightened our load before setting off this time. That night was my first experience with “cowboy” camping (aka. No tent). The night was warm, the wind was gusty, and the moon and stars, while beautiful, were seriously annoying… especially the full moon. It was like having a spot light (think Hollywood premier) over us the whole time. It did however allow Paul to see, and shoo away the raccoon who had decided to pat me on the head as he was trying to get into my pack. At the time I thought I was dreaming about when my daughter would sometimes sleep with us when she was little and would rub her tiny little hand allover my face. (Note to self…when cowboy camping wake up immediately and yell or throw something if that “dream” occurs again.). We eventually got some much needed shut eye and the next morning were treated to Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom with our coffee as a herd of big horn sheep made their way down the cliffside. A truly amazing sight to see. How they pick their routes up and down the vertical landscape is mind boggling.
We counted over 20 in the herd. It appears that wildlife encounters may be this week’s theme. We’ll see. In any event , while certainly a treat for us, it was keeping us from getting a move on so as to “beat the heat” or at least a few hours of it.