PCT 2018: Days 20-26, miles 275-363
Hiked 8.9 | at 275
Another night in Big Bear tempted us. The Breaker Boys invited us to their place, which had a hot tub, and there was talk of a turkey dinner and champagne. But the trail called us. No ailments needed rest, so we pushed on.
The near-nine miles melted away in the afternoon sun. Milkshake was experiencing hardcore hiker hunger. Her food bag was at least 12 pounds. I, too, was starting to feel the bottomless pit begin to open. But I resisted snacking, feeling too into my groove to stop.
Soon the site appeared and my favorite time was about to begin: the ritual of camp. I stretched, snacked, set up my tent, massaged my feet, cooked dinner, changed into my camp pjs, and chatted until twilight.
Hiked 8.9 | at 283.9
I came out of my tent to Nicholas shivering in his small sleeping bag. “It was a bad night. I’m freezing and I need to puke.”
It took us two hours to leave camp. Our Sawyer Squeeze filter froze and had to be thawed, and Nicholas was a mess.
I started hiking while Nicholas was still huddled in his sleeping bag. “I’ll catch up to you.” I was sure he would. The PCT has turned Nicholas into a beast of a hiker. His stride only took a half hour to catch me…normally.
A half hour passed, still no Nicholas. I slowed my pace, sat on a couple of logs when a hiker couple rounded the trail. “Hey, are you Jam? Squeeze’s wife?” They told me he wasn’t doing well a half mile back. I quickly reversed my steps to find Nicholas swaying, making sloppy strides. Oh no. Once he saw me, he flopped onto the ground. “I puked at camp and I really don’t feel well.”
He proceeded to mumble he needed to eat something healthy. He curiously pulled a cucumber out of his bag and started to nibble. But the cucumber came back up in a sad mushy pile. “I need to lie down.” He said and rolled over into the fetal position on his thermarest pad. 1.5 miles in three hours, that was the type of morning we were having.
The day consisted of Nicholas agreeing to hike a few miles then collapsing to the ground. Then he’d puke and we would do it again. At one point we had a chance to take a bail out trail back to Big Bear, but he persisted we push on.
Nine miles later, and many naps later, we arrived at a decent camping spot. I set up the tent, and for the first time on trail, Nicholas crawled inside. Mind you, it was only 5:30. But he went into a deep, deep comatose sleep.
Hiked 20 | at 303.9
The next day started rough but improved with each passing hour. Initially Nicholas had to break frequently. Many hikers passed us commenting how he looked like a turtle basking in the sun.
Despite the previous day, we managed to hike 20 miles. Redemption after a low day.
Hiked 22.5 | at 326.4
At 8 a.m. on Monday morning we were submerged in hot, steamy water: Deep Creek Hot Springs. Possibly the best way to spend your Monday morning, am I right?
The Deep Creek Hot Springs were frequented by nude hippies most of the time, but we arrived during a nudest lull. Only three butts and penises to be found.
Two hours passed before we headed on. We hiked a long day. At one point we saw a hiker hobbling ahead with others carrying her pack. When I caught up, I saw that it was Mango, a hiker who had rolled her ankle but had resumed hiking nine days after her injury. Tears streamed down her face as she explained she rolled the same ankle. It was swollen and didn’t fit her shoe. She said it was the end of her PCT thru-hike. As she said this through a tear-strained voice, I couldn’t help but cry myself. To leave without wanting to, because your body failed you. I was heartbroken for her. I clasped my arm around Mango and told her to be proud of herself for making it 300 plus miles, to not discount how far she had come.
I hiked in a weird stupor after. Sad for Mango, but intensely grateful for my own health. I repeatedly thanked God for this walk, this journey, for my strength, for all of it.
The day ended at Trash Beach—quite literally a picnic-beach covered in rubbish due to town neglect. I set the tent up in the sand and cooked dinner to a dreamy sunset.
Hiked 15.5 | at 341.9
Cajon Pass was next. The special thing about Cajon is the McDonald’s. All the hikers visit this one Golden Arches before their final push to Wrightwood. Some hikers even attempt the McDonald’s challenge where hikers pack only mickyD’s for the remaining two days before town. The thought of sweaty Big Macs horrified me, but for once, I was going to indulge in some fast food (however not in the challenge).
The day leading up to McDonald’s was glorious: a misty sunrise, rainbows, Jurassic Park landscape, and an easy day on the legs.
McDonald’s did not disappoint. I ate three large fries, a quarter pounder in lettuce, a McFlurry, and ordered a coffee.
The forecast was looking snowy up on the mountain, so we opted to get a room at the Best Western. All was great until the next day…
Hiked 0 | at 341.9
The unexpected zero.
The unexpected sickness STRIKES BACK.
Upon opening my eyes, I was pretty certain Gallagher was smashing my head like one of his watermelons.
The pain was everywhere—everywhere; my stomach knotted in nausea. I told Nicholas I felt like hell. He asked if I could hike, but just the mere prospect of getting out of bed brought a deluge down my face. “Nope, that’d be a no. I’ll book a room for another night.”
Turned out there were no other rooms available, but luckily another thru-hiker was willing to split his room with us. It was when I transferred to the new room when hell was upon me.
I have never vomited so much in my life. 20 plus times of heaving until nothing but water and bile.
Definitely the sickest I’ve ever felt in my life.
Hiked 0 | at 363.4
I puked at two a.m. and was able to sleep until seven. I woke slightly better. I was able to drink water with out immediately feeling nauseous and I was able to eat a banana. Two wins. However, my body felt like noodles and my head was still banging. I was severely dehydrated and didn’t like the prospect of attempting a 3000-foot climb. I was exhausted.
My options were limited: I could ask Nicholas to book another night at the hotel, hike the last 27 miles to Wrightwood, or Uber to Wrightwood while Nicholas hiked.
I felt extremely guilty about the last option, as I wanted to hike every mile of open trail, but it seemed the best bet. I packed my stuff, ordered an Uber, and ended up vomiting as I left the room. I guess I made the right call.
I hope I can flip back and hike those 27 miles at some point. Today was just not the day. And that’s okay.