Started: 09:15 @ MM 395.2 – Cooper Canyon Camp (Elevation 6,235ft)
Finished: 18:30 @ MM 418.6 – Mill Creek Fire Station (Elevation 4,968ft)
Water: Drank about 3L … Consumption helped by the cold.
Food: Oatmeal, Jerky, Trail Mix, Granola Bar, Nakd Bar, Pasta & Salmon with Cheese Sauce.
Wildlife: 0 Snakes, 0 Bears
Health: 0 Blisters … Calf muscles happier thanks to use of walking poles.
Yesterday was all about frogs and big ups and downs. Today marked a return to the more prosaic task of searching for water. In fact the quest for Adam’s Ale would dominate my hiking plan for the next few days. Oddly enough, the one place where there seemed to be no shortage of water was inside my tent! Camping near a creek on a very cold and damp night had resulted in a major build up of condensation. First job of the day was to mop up and dry everything out. This took a minute and consequently I didn’t get away from camp until after 9 … Very late by thru-hiker standards!My map suggested that there was a reliable water source about 15 miles out. However, my water report was a few days old and so I couldn’t be 100% confident it would still be flowing. Beyond that it was another 8 or more miles to the Mill Creek Fire Station. Even though the weather continued to work in my favor, I took a cautious approach and carried a very heavy 4ltrs.Just a few yards out of camp I bumped into Aquaman and Toots. I hadn’t seen these guys since the horrendous fire closure road walk just before Idyllwild. It was great to catch up and the first few miles flew by. In fact, we almost blew right past the big 400 mile mark. Thankfully Toots had a sharp eye … I, it seems, notice absolutely nothing on the trail!Aquaman and Toots pulled over for an early lunch, I pressed on. Now, a lots has been said and written about the phenomenon known as Hiker Hunger. In most cases it doesn’t really become a “thing” until about 3 weeks on the trail. So far I hadn’t found myself to be particularly hungry, but right on schedule I suddenly became ravenous. I couldn’t stop thinking about the food in my bag and I began to crave all manner of unlikely things, but mostly hot dogs! The trail crisscrossed Highway 2 all day and every time I would be tormented by fantasies of Trail Magic and hot dogs. I did find some lovely trail magic which I was very grateful for, but it didn’t quite scratch my itch.Eventually I had to pull over and raid my food bag. It took all of my will power to stop myself from dipping into tomorrow’s food as well. Daily rationing becomes critical once Hiker Hunger sets in. It’s easy to see how you could run out of food. After lunch it was a long climb up to the spring. Myself, Aquaman, Toots and Pounder attacked the hill and crushed the climb in less than an hour. When we reached the spring it was little more than a trickle. There was no option but to push on to the Fire Station. Another 8 ½ miles, which would make it a 23 mile day. This was more than I had wanted to hike but sometimes the trail leaves you with few options.The trail was once again passing through a big burn area and so there were lots of downed trees to hurdle and of course Poodle Dog to navigate around. So far the Poodle was still a bit of a mystery to me. I was busy avoiding just about everything with a purple flower … A totally pointless exercise that turned out to be! Today I discovered two things about Poodle Dog … 1) it isn’t in flower yet and 2) it is a lot like hardcore porn … almost impossible to describe but when you see it you seem to instinctively know exactly what it is … What a curious phenomenon that is!
At one point during the burn, the cloud rolled back in, transforming the landscape into a very eerie, Lord of the Rings type affair. I stopped briefly for a quick hover behind a tree. I was just reassembling myself when a ghostly Celtic Rastafarian looking character emerged without warning from the fog. I was startled, as much by his appearance as his presence. It was 5 o’clock and we were at least 5 miles from the nearest trailhead and the dude is wearing jeans and brothel creepers which suggested he definitely wasn’t any kind of hiker … What, in the name of Christ was this guy doing up here? My mind began recalling scenes from Highlander. I gripped my trekking pole firmly and contemplated the viability of beheading someone with a Leki Carbon Lite before hurrying on my way.
Another peculiarity of the trail is the length of the final mile … It’s soooooo friggin’ long! Trail Angel Mary almost got a call but I figured that I wasnt in any urgent need of “help”. Finally, I reached the Mill Creek Fire Station. It was freezing cold and foggy but there was a spigot (strange American word for outside tap) and flat ground. Curious George and Gorilla Dave were already there. Aquaman, Toots, Pounder and Real Irish rolled in after me. We bonded over the shared hardship of the day and a giant bag of Doritos!