Hot as Day

Highway 74 (mile 151.9) to Cedar Spring Trail (mile 162.5) and back
(21 miles, +3,200/-3,200 feet).

This was my first solo trip, and it was really meaningful for me.

I have been thinking nonstop about thru-hiking the PCT, and when I envision it I can see myself succeeding.  But until today I had never actually slept in the backcountry — not a single night!

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What am I getting myself into?

Just to make things a little more interesting, I saw my first two rattlesnakes — ever — on my climb up the traverse above Penrod Canyon.  I didn’t get pictures of either one (I was way too freaked out!). The rest of the day I was nervous going around bends in the trail where I could not see.

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Relax: it’s not a rattlesnake!
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Penrod Canyon

After about six and a half miles, I came to the turnoff for Live Oak Spring.

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PCT crossroads

I had to decide whether to take the longer, nice path to Live Oak Spring or the shorter but steeper overgrown path down to Tunnel Spring.  I chose short.

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Trough at Tunnel Spring — yum!

After climbing down about 250 feet in elevation, I found a pipe dripping into a trough.  Not the most appealing water, but it is a desert, after all.

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Drip, drip, drip

The spring was swarming with flies and bees, so I filled up as quickly as I could and then walked a few yards away to treat the water I just collected.  This was also my first experience treating water, so I read the directions carefully.

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I hope this works

I lugged the newly-treated water back up to the PCT, and continued on my way.  The views of the desert in the distance started to get really pretty.

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Desert view
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Yucca garden

At mile 161 near Pyramid Peak I found a small campsite to pitch my tent.  I would later have to re-pitch it, because I made a rookie mistake by orienting it perpendicular to the incline.  This initially caused me to roll sideways off my mattress.  Live and learn!

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Home sweet home!
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What does the JS5 stand for?

With camp fully set up, I packed some dinner and headed for the Cedar Spring Trail.

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Pretty desert flowers

After about a mile and a half I came to the sign for Mountain Fire Closure.

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No hikers allowed
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Where you could go if the PCT were open

From there I turned around and headed back to Pyramid Peak to have some dinner and enjoy the view.

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View from Pyramid Peak

After dinner I returned to my campsite and watched the sun set over the hills.

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Evening approaches
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East view from my campsite
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Sunset from my campsite

I went to bed and had an intense physiological response to the whole experience.  It felt a little like I always imagined clinical depression would feel like.  I guess I was just coming down from both the physical exertion and the emotional expectations I had built up.  After about an hour it was gone, and I settled down to sleep.

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I love hiking before sunrise

I was packed and ready to go before the sun came up and I started back down the trail.

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Morning fog in the distant valley

Over the course of the morning I passed about a dozen thru-hikers heading north.  This surprised me because I did not see any at all yesterday.  I guess that makes sense since we were all going in the same direction, but I expected that maybe at least one of them would have passed me.

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A madrone says good morning

I was back at the car by 9am.  I was incredibly thirsty because I was too lazy to head back down to Tunnel Spring to get water for the 8 mile hike on the way out.  I stopped in Anza to get the world’s largest soda and sucked down every last ice chip.

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Early light on the chaparral

On the drive home, I saw the light on the manzanita-covered ridge below Palomar Mountain and it reminded me of the beautiful chaparral I had seen a few hours earlier.  I was listening to my new favorite band, Wye Oak, as they played the song “Hot as Day.”  The beauty of the music and the ridge and the last 24 hours swept over me.

I wept uncontrollably.

I have found a new source of beauty in my life.  And it is my job to put myself in its way.

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