Day 20 – Pacific Crest Trail (31 miles)
I woke up to a gorgeous sunrise. I lay in bed for almost an hour watching it. As the sun shone for the first time I started to break camp. Within 15 minutes I was back on the trail.
Last year a fire broke out in this part of the trail. It turned out to be huge, with over 40 miles of trail affected. We walked a few miles into it yesterday, and today I will only see the aftermath of the fire.
I encountered two problems associated with the burn area throughout the day.
The first came very quickly. I could not find shelter to go to the toilet. I was walking on a steep slope with no trees. I walked for as long as possible before desperation took over. I found the best cover I could (which was pretty poor) and hoped no one would walk by.
The second was a plant called Poodle Dog Bush. It is an invasive species only found in burn areas. It has a toxic oil on its leaves that, at best, will leave you in intense pain for a few days or even send you to hospital.
The first few hours the plant was sparse and off the trail, but there were dense sections along the way. For the most part, it was easy to avoid. However, it takes a surprising amount of time to check every plant and when you touch a plant the second guessing begins.
It turned into a fun game and the first 14 miles past very quickly. I arrived at a trickle of water with no shade. I filled up, had a quick lunch and pressed on 10 miles to a ranger station that would be my camp for the night.
This turned out to be a hard section for me. The last couple of miles my joints and muscles began to fatigue. 24 miles without a proper break might be a bit much.
Because I did not stop, I arrived at the ranger station very early. I took my shoes off, eat and rested.
At around 5pm I became restless and decided I would push on a further 8 miles to the valley floor. Fred, a Swedish guy, decided he wanted to do his first 30 mile day, so headed down the hill with me.
It was a great afternoon. We talked for a while and then I went ahead and listened to some music while watching the sun set.
We ended up camping 1 mile short of the valley to avoid sleeping next to a train line.