Day 29: Light pack, heavy mind

10.7 miles (358.6 to 369.3)

Night hikers walk by my tent. I lose count of how many pass, but 4-5am seems to be prime time. Did they hike straight through from Cajon Pass, or did they sleep somewhere nearby and get an early start? Either way, I feel like a slouch compared to these people. 

Hikers pass us every day, but we’re not catching up to anyone, and I’m becoming more and more insecure about how slow we’re moving. Yesterday we only covered a little more than 16 trail miles. Simple math tells me that at this pace, I’ll never reach Canada in one season. I thought I’d be stronger at this point in the hike. Will I always be on the verge of injury? Why can’t my body do this? 

In preparation for the PCT (and being the geeky scientist that I am), I set up a spreadsheet months ago in which I estimated how many miles I’d hike per day in each section of the trip. I used these estimates to calculate how many days of food to send myself at each resupply point. From Big Bear to Wrightwood (the current stretch), I projected we’d hike 18 miles per day. Now, feeling anxious, I pull up the calculator on my phone and punch in our numbers. We’ve averaged…18.5 miles per day. Right on target. 

I will never be as fast as most of the hikers out here, yet it’s so tempting to compare myself to others. The hiking community has a saying: “Hike your own hike” (HYOH). We each have to do what we have to do. So far, I’ve done a remarkably good job of staying on track with my projections. But. My spreadsheet shows us bumping up to 20 miles per day after Wrightwood. I hope I can live up to my own expectations. 

All of this weighs me down before I even leave camp. Ugh. At least this morning my pack is light. Crazy light, now that I’m down to only three liters of water. I donate half a liter to Dad, who’s running a little low. So that’s two-and-a-half liters, and a mostly empty food bag. If my pack was always this light, I could do a lot more miles. 

Acorn Trail (behind me) drops straight to Wrightwood. We don’t take it, opting instead to hitch from Highway 2.

And yet…I’m not moving very fast. My legs feel like bricks. I’m barely making it up the mountain. But we’re in forest now, and that makes me feel good even when I’m struggling along. Through the trees, I catch views of Wrightwood, Mount Baldy, and what must finally be Baden Powell.

Baden Powell, is that you?

We wander by a ski area, deserted except for day hikers who offer us bananas and wish us well. Three young guys pass us, moving unfathomably fast. We don’t even get their names. I stop to photograph the views. (Incessant photographing may be one reason I’m so slow….)

Mount Baldy, valley smog, and Baden Powell.
At last we reach Highway 2. We’ll have to hitchhike down to Wrightwood, but this hitch is supposed to be one of the easier ones. I get into position. The second car that passes stops. Yeah, that was pretty easy. The girl who gives us a ride grew up in Wrightwood. She drops us at the hardware store, where we pick up our resupply boxes and consider our lodging options. Dad calls Janet at Bear With Us and books us two nights in a cabin for a bargain price. 

The cabin is only one block away, and it’s perfect: cute, close to the grocery store, hiker friendly, has everything we need. I think we’ll have a relaxing stay. 

My room for two nights.

*More photos on Instagram

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3 thoughts on “Day 29: Light pack, heavy mind

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