Day 37: mile 612 – mile 630.8

Elevation gain: 2,745 ft

Elevation loss: 3,727 ft

Since we had no cell service at camp last night like we were hoping/expecting, we got the weather report from our satellite communication system we always carry with us. It had said only 20% chance of snow/rain last night but it ended up raining most of the night. We didn’t set the alarm but still woke up at 6am with ice on the tent and some hail on the ground. Since we weren’t in a rush to get up, we were just lying in our cozy quilt when it started to hail again. So we decided to wait that out a bit before actually getting ready for the day. It’s so unbelievable how the desert temps can change on a dime…I was just sweating 2 days ago and today I’m hiking in my down jacket, wind jacket, gloves that I usually sleep in and beanie! Link was wearing as many layers as I was, so that definitely tells you how cold it was…34 degrees when we started hiking at 7:45am. Of course I had just sent a pair of gloves I usually hike in plus my other down jacket ahead to Kennedy Meadows thinking we definitely wouldn’t be using those this week!

I’m happy to report that my body feels back to normal hiking shape…Phew! It was really just that first day back that felt so awful, thank goodness. I told Link yesterday that I didn’t think I would be able to hike for 4.5 more months if it was going to feel the way it did that first day back.

The wind was starting to pick up as we hiked the 3.5 miles to our first water source, a very generous water cache left by fabulous trail angels. Without them, there would be 31 very dry miles! We filled up, drank our breakfast and had some pop tarts…cherry is my favorite 😋

The wind really picked up after that stop and continued to get progressively out of control. I know we talk a lot about wind but it really plays a huge part in choosing camp sites as well as our ability to walk on the trail. It was hour after hour of continuous 30 mph winds with gusts WAY more than that. How many mph would it take to literally push us off the trail? That happened more times than I can count…walking in a straight line and then WHAM, shoved us off like someone had pushed us HARD. Even Link who is 200 lbs plus a 30 lb pack! I barely had time to get my poles down to stop me from falling to the ground…it was seriously crazy. So I would end up trampling the cute little wildflowers that are always lining the trail, I hate doing that! A lot of the PCT is cut into the side of a mountain so there is a sheer drop off on one side. I was really glad that wasn’t the case today because I honestly can’t guarantee that I would’ve been able to keep myself from falling off the side during these gusts. Then to increase the challenge factor, the trail was all soft gravel/sand so it looked like we were drunk, unable to find our footing over and over. Besides it being extremely hard to hike in, the wind is also so incredibly loud that Link and I can’t talk to each other or even listen to music. So…needless to say the afternoon was pretty miserable.

At lunch time, we came across this great picnic table (which is pretty rare!) that would’ve been so lovely to sit on, but instead we needed to hunker down behind a Joshua tree down in a gulley in order to stay warm. This wind was bone-chilling…holy cow!! After walking a few more miles we saw an abandoned bulldozer that we thought might be able to give us some sheltered relief from the crazy wind. It was better than nothing.

We knew we had to get to the next amazing water cache left by more phenomenal trail angels which was 19 miles into our day. We knew there were flat spots around there, but would they be sheltered? No way we were going to sleep in these gale force winds as well as walk in them all day! I was only able to take a few pix all afternoon, but the cool clouds really cooperated!

When we were almost to the water cache, we kept our eyes peeled for possible sheltered sites in case the ones by the water were too windy. We did notice a good one just .2 miles before the water and made a mental note, which is perfect because all the ones by the water were way too exposed. So we gathered some water for dinner and headed back the way we came which seems to be a very good choice so far! Plus, dinner was amazing and something Rabbit told us about but we had never had before…refried beans that had been dehydrated (not by us, a package!) and we added lentils, spices and this great jalapeño sauce we have. It was really fabulous!

So even though it was a tough afternoon, I’m very much looking forward to what the trail has in store for us tomorrow. Not every day can be amazing from start to finish, but the journey is so worth it! Thanks for following guys, Double Down

Notice how close we are to the trail (right behind on the right)…but it was sheltered! 👍