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PCT Day 3

My pack was feeling good—only two days’ of food and not too much water. Today was almost all uphill from Boulder Oaks at 3183′ elevation to Mount Laguna at 5936′, but since it was spread out over 15 miles and not at 10,000′ (like in the Sierra Nevada, where the air is oh-so-thin), it was easy walking. 

I’m a big fan of systems, particularly systems optimized for efficiency and effectiveness, and backpacking is a great activity for systems. So drinking water goes in a Platypus reservoir in the outside of my pack with an inline filter in the drinking tube. That enables me to drink water without pausing to grab a water bottle and also to scoop stream water directly into the reservoir and keep walking, rather than having to stop and filter/treat water. Snacks go in a hip belt pocket to make it easy to eat while walking. All items serve a purpose (if not two or three purposes), and there are lots of very satisfying stuff sacks involved.

When I’m hiking I’m usually either cycling through song lyrics in my head (today it was “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John) or thinking about what I’m going to eat next. I do a lot of thinking about food. I pay attention to aches as they come and go. If I start getting cranky I do a mental check: am I thirsty? hungry?

A lot of hiking is really just walking from one meal to the next.

Now that we’re getting to know our fellow hikers better, there’s more stopping to chat, more wondering who’s ahead or behind. Today we’re a silver umbrella parade—the majority of people we see, including us, have reflective umbrellas for keeping the sun off. We have ours attached to our pack straps, so we have hands-free personal, portable shade. I remember the first time we saw someone hiking with an umbrella—three years ago in long, hot Lyell Canyon on the John Muir Trail. It was a silly-looking oddity then, but after hiking with mine last year, I’ll never do a long hike without one again.

We’ve done enough backpacking over the past few years to be fairly good at estimating our pace—usually around 2mph on average, accounting for photo stops and pee breaks. And in the age of the smartphone, you can always know exactly where you are on the trail, down to the hundredth of a mile, marked by a blue dot on a map.

On my iPhone I have:

  • Halfmile’s PCT app, which gives your precise GPS coordinates and elevation, along with your position on trail in relation to various notable waypoints, trail intersections, etc. 
  • Guthook’s PCT Guide, which gives a variation on your position within a list of waypoints, along with a pulsing blue dot at your location on a topographic map, and another blue dot where you are on an elevation chart
  • The PCT Water Report in PDF form, which provides detailed descriptions of all water sources, their reliability, and updates from hikers on their status
  • An app which contains downloaded copies of all the USGS maps that the Pacific Crest Trail crosses, with a yet another blue dot at my location
  • PDFs of all of Halfmile’s PCT maps

We also have paper copies of Halfmile’s maps, ripped-out sections from Yogi’s PCT guide, and a compass each. Not that we’ve used the paper maps once so far on this trip. 

And while the water report is extremely useful in these dry desert sections, if all we were worried about was staying on the trail we wouldn’t need any of the technology or maps. The PCT so far has been extremely well marked, both by signs and also by Brooks Cascadia shoe prints (the unofficial thru-hiker shoe). 


So we walked. And walked. Fifteen and a half miles today. 

We walked under Interstate 8, through desert scrub brush, along the first flowing stream we’ve crossed in all 40 miles so far, and finally up into pine forest. There were reportedly showers at the end-of-day campground—which may have been my primary hiking motivation from mile 13 onwards—but when we finally arrived everything was still locked and turned off, not open yet for the season. 

Le sigh. Another wet-wipe bath it was. 

15.5 miles hiked, Mile 26 to 41.5, Burnt Rancheria Campground

3 comment on “PCT Day 3

  • N’Jeri
    2015-04-13 | 10:31 AM

    I’m reading each of these posts with equal parts admiration and abject horror.

  • Diette
    2015-04-13 | 2:12 PM

    I do a lot of thinking about food, too. Except I’m not hiking the PCT.

    And I was expecting you to say that you thought about deep things like “What am I supposed to be doing with my life?” or “Is love not a feeling? Is it really an act of the will that takes over when the feelings fail, when the beloved is no longer lovable (it still terrifies me that I have that O’Malley quote memorized).”

    Can I ask one more technical question? How are you keeping your phone charged?

    Rock on, Clare!

  • Clare
    2015-04-13 | 2:16 PM

    Ugh, O’Malley.

    For charging gadgets we’ve got an external battery that weighs about 11oz and holds about 6 iPhone charges.

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