21.8 miles (590.2 to 612.0)
My legs are almost too heavy to lift. Usually after a mile or two in this condition, they’ll loosen up and get moving, but not this morning. I struggle up each climb, even the short ones. It’s going be a tough day.
Suddenly I’m out of the old burn and into live trees and shrubs. I see a gopher snake, a horned lizard, bunnies, ground squirrels, a (dead) wood rat, and birds of many species. I walk through pine stands decimated by bark beetle, where only a few trees are still alive. I pass through black oak and living pine and places where the air is cool and the grass still green. When the forest opens, there are long views out to the surrounding mountains.
In and out of forest, in and out of shrubland. Somewhere around seven miles, my legs finally start contributing to the day’s hike. That’s just about the time I need to stop for a break to air out my feet and change socks. Happily, my trail legs return after the break. As I walk, I see more wildlife: a garter snake, a jackrabbit, several butterfly species, many birds. I climb and descend through forest. Along a dirt road, I pass the 600th mile. Only 100 more and I’ll be out of the desert.
A few miles later, I arrive at Robin Bird Spring. I eat lunch, thinking I’ll continue when I’m finished, but then I fall asleep in the shade, and when I wake the temperature has soared. However, it looks like there should be plentiful shade on the way to Landers Spring (almost 7 miles away), so I could go ahead and hike slowly and stop when I need a rest. That’s probably what I should do, given that I want to make 10 more miles today without having to hike after dark. Still, it’s so hot. I wash my socks and shirt in a plastic bag (no soap). I lay down again. I think about leaving. I think about staying. It’s 1:40, probably the hottest part of the day. In another hour, the shadows will be a little longer, and the breeze a little stronger. I should wait another hour.
I leave at 3:40. I should have left half an hour ago. The trail winds through forest; shade abounds. It’s not so hot after all, and the trail surface is ideal for cruising as fast as possible. I love this stretch of trail. PCT markers adorn the trees. The forest is beautiful, the temperature mild. I wish I’d left Robin Bird Spring earlier and napped at one of the campsites along the way. They’re much more appealing than the live oak under which I spent too many hours. I do three miles per hour all the way to Landers Creek. There, I stop to fill up on water for the next 15 miles.
I cross a dirt road and sign a trail register, then continue on. At the next road crossing, three hikers are returning to the trail from Landers Spring as I arrive. It’s the three guys I followed to Golden Oak yesterday. I don’t need water from Landers Spring, having filled up at the creek to avoid the 0.4 mile (round-trip) detour. I let them go first, then fall in behind them. They’ve only done 12 miles today and they’re hoping to get to Willow Spring tonight. For the first mile I easily keep up with the guys. We continue through pine forest, then cross another road and head into a burned area where lots of interesting rock formations are exposed. On a short but steep uphill stretch, the guys drop me. After the next uphill stretch, I’m completely on my own again.
I go a few more miles to the next campsite listed in Guthook’s app. The campsite is near a huge rock outcropping in a little saddle amidst scraggly pine. It’s dry as can be, yet clouds of mosquitoes swarm me as I set up my tent and eat dinner. Where are they coming from? This is horrible.
I eat as quick as I can and ready my food for tomorrow morning, then dive into my tent. I wonder if anyone will night-hike here and camp near me tonight. I’d like to find someone I can hike with, someone (or two) I’d feel comfortable entering the Sierra with. Maybe I’ll meet my people at Kennedy Meadows. I hope so. Time is running out.
*More photos on Instagram.