Day 34: PCT traffic jam

19.1 miles (399.5 to 418.6)

We manage to pull off a 6:30am departure. A few minutes later, we come upon a spring that’s not listed on any of the apps. Flow is good. Water is cold. Taste is great. We fill up here rather than at the water tank that’s coming up in one mile. Moments after leaving the spring, we arrive at PCT Mile 400 and pause to document the moment. Squirrel and deer tracks run along the trail. Deer tracks on the trail have been so rare that I only remember seeing them once before. Where I live in northern California, they’re a common sight. 

Twice more the trail crosses Highway 2. The second time, we come out at a picnic area. There’s a hiker here called Duck. We stop and chat for a bit before moving on. We’re in a burn now and soon get our first good luck at the infamous Poodle Dog Bush. After all of the hype (worse than poison oak!), it doesn’t look so ominous. In any case, there isn’t much of it, certainly not enough to justify the near hysterical warnings. Most of the plants are dead or easily avoidable. The trail meanders back into an unburned area; we walk through pines and shrubs of various species, including flannel bush with its cheerful yellow flowers. 

Near mile 408, I send Dad ahead because I have to pee. When I return to the trail, I find myself in a traffic jam…with a rattlesnake. The snake clearly has the right-of-way, so I stand back while it inches across the trail. After it’s found a place under a shrub, I proceed. This isn’t the most riveting video, but it’s cool to watch a rattlesnake in motion:

We climb into another burned area (more poodle dog!) and pass two groups of day hikers. We climb to Fountainhead Spring and stop for lunch 11 miles into our day. I briefly have reception, but not enough to upload my next blog entries. Sorry, readers. It’s going to be longer than usual between posts. 

Hiking toward lunch.

After lunch we climb through the burn to the top of a ridge, then drop over the other side and hike across a ceanothus-covered slope. I stop several times to photograph the scene. 

Awesome views from this burned area.

Wind picks up, strong enough to plaster our pants to our legs. Clouds move in. The trail drops and drops and eventually lets us off at the Mill Creek Fire Station. Here, we collect water from a feisty spigot. Signs say “No camping at the station,” so we walk a short distance down the hill to the Mill Creek Picnic Area, where apparently camping is allowed (at least for PCT hikers – no one else would even imagine camping here). Angeles Forest Highway wraps around the picnic area. High voltage lines crackle overhead. It’s not our best campsite. I hope I’ll be able to fall asleep. 

Beezer and Noodle, a father and son section-hiking from Wrightwood to Agua Dulce, also set up camp at the picnic area. We eat dinner together on one of the picnic tables. Too bad they’re stopping in a few days; they seem like they’d be fun to travel with. After sunset, more hikers arrive. By then, I’m already horizontal in my tent. 

We hiked just over 19 miles today, but it doesn’t feel like 19 miles. It must have been an easy 19. My body feels OK. My feet got a little achy toward the end of the day, but that could have been due to the long downhill section. The stretches and massage I learned seem to be helping. My feet weren’t tender when I got up this morning – for the first time in weeks! 

*More photos on Instagram


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