We woke to the sunrise from our spots on the trail. No one stepped on us during the night which I felt was pure luck. I added being impaled by a trekking pole while sleeping to my list of irrational fears. A quarter of a mile up an alternate trail was a full water trough – and a host of other hikers, including Katie and Rachel. We said hello and I used my gravity filter for the first time on the trough. It took a few minutes to filter four litres, but the dirty water came out perfectly clear.
On the way out I said hello to two other solo female hikers, Karaoke and Allie, and an English hiker, Limey. I loved seeing other female hikers off on their own, tackling the brutality of the desert, one step at a time.
Dan and James and I soon spread out. After a couple of miles I passed Josh’s tent off the side of the trail. As the sun heated up I put my headphones in and battled the following miles of scorched, rocky terrain while listening to Amy Poehler’s Yes Please! Her heartfelt comedic storytelling did wonders for my morale during one of the most difficult waterless sections of the trail in southern California.
I reached the water cistern in the afternoon. The area was full of hikers waiting out the midday sun. Limey and I set up our rain flys together as a makeshift shelter from the sun. I used my stove for the second time and ate a disappointing tomato-rice side. Eventually I got antsy and decided to hike out into the heat. Katie hiked out with me, and as much as I liked listening to my audiobook, talking with her made the miles go by so much faster. The Trail went over steep precipices looming over the desert floor. It was windy, which made it a little scary, but I was grateful for the cool breeze.
In the late evening I made it to Scissors Crossing, a highway overpass famous on the PCT for its trail graffiti and volunteer-manned water cache. I had heard earlier that day that the water cache had been removed by the PCTA, so I wasn’t surprised to find it dry – though still disappointed and concerned that I only had less than a litre left and I hadn’t had a sip in five miles. I was definitely on the highway to dehydration, if I wasn’t there already.
By the time night fell. It was James, Dan, Josh, Rachel, Katie and I, as well as a handful of other hikers I didn’t know – about a dozen of us total. We visited and talked, mostly about the free pie for hikers in the nearby town of Julian. It was too late that day for pie, but some of us considered a zero day (a zero-mile day spent in town) to rest up and take advantage of the local food.
When the talk had died down Katie layed her ground sheet in the dirt so that we could both fit our sleeping pads on top. It wasn’t a glamorous camping spot; our view of the stars was obstructed by the dirty highway overpass and the occasional overhead vehicle rattled my eardrums.
The hikers became silent except for the occasional snore or shift in their sleeping bags. In the distance coyotes began to yip and howl and that night my mind roamed the desert floor alongside their pack, never quite reaching sleep.