Miles today: 20
Total miles: 367
It didn't rain, but the heavy fog covered everything and made our tent thick with condensation. We woke up soaked and hearing the sounds of coyotes in the distance. We got a late start and were on the trail at 7, just as the fog was burning off.
After so many days of hiking nicely rolling hills and feeling like a stronger, more confident hiker, today was entirely uphill. For 18 miles. A slow, relentless upward slog from 3,000 to 8,000 feet in the course of the day, and it took its toll.
At first the uphill was a challenge to see how well I could pace myself. I was doing pretty well all morning, and though I was out of breath, I wasn't out of energy. I kept my steps even and slow and was proud of myself for conquering altitude that I had been struggling with just a week ago in Idyllwild. But as the day wore on my energy grew sapped and I had to take a couple caffeine gels to keep myself going. It was growing hotter and we opted to keep going rather than take an afternoon siesta. Fortunately, as we climbed higher in altitude, my favorite pine trees began appearing again and created some shade for us.
Surprisingly, we didn't see any hikers all day, despite how many were behind us. Usually the faster ones caught up to us by now, but perhaps they were taking it slow today, too.
We took a jeep road detour at mile 351, since there was an abundance of Poodle Dog Bush on the trail. Jeep roads aren't as graded as the PCT (usually) is, so it became more uphill for us to climb.
By 3:00 we made it 18 miles to the top of the mountain where there was a campground full of weekend hikers. I felt oddly out of place in this bright campsite when I was so dirty and tired. We needed water but couldn't find the nearby spring, and we must have looked pitiful, for one of the campers came over with a big bottle of water asking if we needed some. We took a liter and thanked her, and she said she and her husband were going to serve dinner to the thru hikers tonight if we wanted to stay. It was really tempting, but it was only 3pm and we wanted to get as close to the next town, Wrightwood, as we could tonight.
We ended up only walking two more miles to the next campsite, where we set up our tent between a group of Boy Scouts and an older gentleman in an RV. He invited us over and we shared stories about thru hiking (from us) and hunting (from him). He shared some whiskey and his fire and we stayed up late enjoying the warmth and company on a very cold night.