15.2 miles (243.5 to 258.7), plus 0.5 mile detour for water
I leave the door on my tent’s fly open tonight for extra ventilation and fall asleep zipped into my sleeping bag. I soon overheat, but can’t quite wake up enough to unzip the bag. When I wake at 6am I’m on the verge of sweating. Geez. Believing desert nights would be cold, I decided to start this hike with my ZPacks 10 degree sleeping bag. Now I’m seriously considering having my Western Mountaineering Summerlite sent to me and shipping this bag home.
As we begin the day’s hike, I hear – and soon catch a glimpse of – my first Clarks Nutcracker of the trip. Cool! We come to an open area with a fantastic view of both San Jacinto and San Gorgonio, with the burned area in between. I take photos and we move along.
Clean-clothed weekenders pass us hiking in the opposite direction. They left a car near I-10 and will spend the holiday weekend completing the last few days of our trek in reverse. We wish them well.
At mile 150 we leave the trail and follow Rainbow Lane to a wonderful water pump provided courtesy of former PCT hiker Gene Collins. Thank you, Gene!
Stocked up, we return to the trail and immediately come to the lions, tigers, and bears segment of the hike. Guthook summarizes it nicely: “One of the more bizarre sights along the PCT, the trail wanders past a facility that houses animals trained for movies and television. This will likely be the only place on the PCT where you see grizzly bears, tigers, and lions.” Indeed, we do see grizzlies and a pacing tiger, but no lions. The animals are housed in small chainlink cages. They pace back and forth. This is a sad, bizarre place.
We keep going and eventually stop for lunch in the shade of juniper and mountain mahogany trees. With resupply coming up tomorrow, we’re both nearly out of food. With 250 miles under our feet, our hunger is ever-growing. As he packs up his things, Dad says, “Did I just eat?” I know the feeling.
A few minutes later we pass another group of hikers. They’re walking north, but I can tell by their unstained clothing and relatively slow pace that they aren’t thru-hikers. We breeze past them and on up the trail, and suddenly I’m unstoppable. The slope here is perfect for cruising. Away I go.
I walk over a little hump and simultaneously come upon a family of day hikers heading my way and two thru-hikers sitting on a couch. There’s a couch out here in the seeming middle of nowhere. I halt to chat with the guys. Dad catches up to me and we all introduce ourselves. The hikers are Roberto and Carlos, twins. I state my real name.
I’ve been waiting for a trail name to find me, the way Jukebox found Dad, but the truth is I already have a name. When I started this blog in the midst of my battle with Lyme disease, I didn’t tell family or friends about my project. I wrote anonymously under the name Eowyn, borrowed from a Lord of the Rings character whose lines in the novel brought me to tears because they mirrored my own desperate feelings. On Instagram, for the sake of continuity, I named myself eowynhikes. In Guthook’s PCT app, I post trail updates as Eowyn. I should stop pretending I don’t have a trail name and own Eowyn, at least until something better comes along.
Dad and I leave the brothers on the couch and continue on. When we stop to fill up on water just past Arrastre Trail Camp, I tell him I’m thinking of going by Eowyn. He’s surprised I haven’t been using it already. We’ll try it out next time we meet someone new.
Dinner occurs beside the final crossing of a frigid little creek, where a Steller’s Jay comes looking for food. No, we won’t feed you, no matter how close you come or how many cool impressions you perform for us.
We’d like to get a little closer to Highway 18 tonight, so we hike on toward another dry camp. Up and away from the stream we go. At the top of the ridge there’s a little campsite perched between a bend in the trail and a steep drop off. This will do.
The place where I want to pitch my tent turns out to be ant paradise. I end up pitching near Dad’s tent in a small opening near the cliff. I leave my tent fly off. As of now there’s no wind. Hopefully I won’t get sandblasted tonight.
Nighthawks chatter above while I sit in my tent and clean myself with a rag. I’m thankful we were able to find a campsite up here on the mountain. We probably wouldn’t have such a restful night if we’d camped down below, so close to so many roads on Memorial Day Weekend. We probably wouldn’t have Nighthawks diving overhead, or Poorwills calling from the edge of camp. Tomorrow may be a town day, but tonight we’re still wild.
*More photos on Instagram.