Day Three

Today's miles: 16
Total miles: 36

Today was very mentally challenging. I can understand why people say the PCT is a metal challenge and the AT a physical one. The PCT isn't very difficult to hike - usually there are rolling hills or slow inclines, but everything else about it is difficult.

Out first day we had overcast skies and a breeze, but today was our first experience with desert hiking. It was hot. SO HOT. Hot like you've never experienced. So dry your nose bleeds all day and your lips crack. So hot that any tiny bit of shade is reason enough to crowd five hikers in it, just to escape the pounding sun.

We started out at 8 am, which we discovered was already too late. The sun was in full force and getting hotter. We traversed high desert hills at 3,000 feet and carried 10 pounds of water to get us between the meager water sources. Our pace slowed to 2 mph, then little more than a mile an hour. By 3:00 pm we had only gone 9 miles and we were exhausted.

We searched in vain for a way to escape the heat, but there was little shade and only one small cloud in the sky. At one point Katie started screaming, and I thought she had seen an animal, but it turned out she was looking up at the one little cloud, which was moving over the sun and creating a little wave of shade. Cause for celebration.

Then... Paradise. The sound of running water. Never had a noise sounded more precious. We climbed down a steep embankment to Kitchen Creek at the bottom of the canyon, where there was a tiny waterfall, just big enough to dunk ourselves beneath. Two brothers named Jesse and Zach were already there, and we joined them without any thought to propriety as we stripped off our clothes and soaked in the cold water. Never had anything felt so wonderful. We sat back in the sun, the heat drying us completely in minutes. I was beginning to understand what life in the desert would be like, and part of me wondered how I would make it through 700 miles of hot and waterless terrain.

After an hour we reluctantly pushed onward. We met up with two other hikers we had been leapfrogging all day and encouraged each other to push the final six miles to a campsite. The trail gained another 1500 feet of elevation and even with the lowering sun, it was an exhausting haul. We had been hiking 11 hours and only made it 16 miles in total. I had no appetite and had to force myself to eat, even though it made me feel sick. Sleep at 8 pm had never sounded so nice.