Day 51: Yeah, It’s Definitely Warmer Out There

Today, we finally managed to escape force ourselves to leave Lake Isabella…not an easy thing to do, given how unbelievably nice it’s been to relax for a few days — but this is actually called “hiking the Pacific Crest Trail”, not “a tour of Southern California hottubs”, after all. So after waking at 5 AM, we got one last giant breakfast at the Dam Korner Café with everybody, and hit the road.

Getting out of town was much easier than hitching in — because we had a captive ride: Dylan, who is Clint’s nephew (and Clint is Rally’s husband), had driven Clint down to drop him off as he joins in the hike for the next few hundred miles. This meant that we could easily bribe him to drive us all back to the trail, saving us the hassle of trying to hitchhike (in small, separate groups) the 35 miles back to the trail. How we crammed seven people, six backpacks, and a dog into a Nissan Xterra I’ll leave to your imagination — but we made it, and even were hiking by 8 AM. This was about five hours later than I’d guessed we’d get to the trail if we’d had to have hitchhiked, so it was a huge improvement. Many, many, many thanks to Dylan for carting us around (and returning UPS boxes full of shoes!) for us.

You know how we stopped in Lake Isabella to give the snow some time to melt? Well, I think it worked…because it was hot out there today. It was easily our hottest day hiking, with temperatures that soared to right around 90° and stayed there almost all day long. And this on a day with some serious, repeated ascents — I’m just really glad water is relatively common here (say, twelve miles between water sources, not thirty) since we had to carry a huge amount of water per mile in the heat. Round and round peaks we went, across saddles and back; we shifted back and forth between views of more Sierra-like mountains and views of the scorching desert. Apparently it’s supposed to hit 105° in the desert towns in a couple of days. Suddenly we’re in actual summer!

But, fortunately, we’re in actual summer with perfect timing, because we’ll soon be in places and at elevations where we need every bit of heat we possibly can get. We’re feeling really good about our decision to wait a few days in Lake Isabella for the snow to melt; we’re far less worried about getting stuck than we would’ve been had we headed out right away. Now, if we can just get up into the Sierra so that we’re hiking in sixty-degree weather instead of ninety-degree weather, we’ll be so much happier.

One of our water sources today (there were two — not often have I been able to say that in the desert!) is worth remarking on. Along the way, we’ve had water sources full of algae, scum, muck, a dead rat, even a dead raven. (There’s a reason we use water filters religiously!) But today was the first, and hopefully only, time we’ve heard that the spring had issues with contamination…from uranium. Uranium?!? Not exactly something I expected, and someone made hay out of it on the sign next to the spring. It turns out all that it really means is that it exceeds the FDA level of how much uranium you should have in water if you drink and bathe in it all day, every day, so it’s pretty much irrelevant for us and everybody gets water there with no harm done. Still, far from something I’d expected to run into out here.

We managed to pass not one, not two, but three milestones of progress today on the trail. The first one snuck up on us when we came upon a circled “¼” made out of small rocks beside the trail…one-quarter of the way to Canada! The second came not very much later, when we suddenly realized it was now less than 2,000 miles to Canada, too. Honestly, seeing these things makes us laugh more than making us feel like we’ve come a long ways, just because they’re both reminders of just how absurdly large an expedition this truly is. We’ve been hiking for something like eight weeks, and we still have 2,000 miles to go! It’s crazy. But it’s still progress, and we still appreciate it and are happy to see them go by.

(What’s the third milestone of progress? It’s much more ridiculous, but we had to celebrate it anyway. I’ve included a picture we took there…you can guess. 😉

It’s also been really good hiking near friends today. We started out hiking with Rally and Clint, and are camped tonight with Dilly, Dally, Sarge, and Stump. (Somehow it’s our very first night actually camping with them, despite the fact that we’ve become good friends on the trail!) It’s good to be able to keep in touch with friends.

Speaking of which, we’re on a plan to make Kennedy Meadows as early on Saturday as possible — because our friends Treeman and Hedgehog will be there, celebrating her birthday! They told us they’d wait to leave until Sunday morning if we could make it there by Saturday night, and so we made a deal. I’m really looking forward to seeing them both and to having a little birthday cake there. 🙂

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