I probably would’ve slept until 9a or later were it not for the sleeping backpackers I passed late last night who then passed me sleeping this morning. They were being pretty quiet, so I’m surprised I woke. And glad. I hastily packed up, grabbed some bars for breakfast and was walking by 7a. Turns out I hadn’t set an alarm last night. I guess I was just so tired. I mean, I was out last night almost before my head hit my “pillow.”
Passing those hikers last night – and seeing them again this morning – was both exciting and a bummer. I had foolishly hoped to be the only person out here this year. Silly, I know. Already I’ve seen two separate parties of two, which makes five of us who likely all left yesterday. I’m betting more people will do it this year alone than have done it every year combined up to this point. The secret’s out. Seems like it’s mostly PCT vets too, which is where I first heard about the route.
Within the first hour this morning, I’d come across Hanaupah Creek, which was flowing full-on. I was angry and resentful at first, assuming the ranger had known and just not been forthcoming with me. Then I decided that it didn’t really matter whether he knew. I was there, and I had all that I needed to continue. I took a break and enjoyed some of the cold, refreshing water before pressing on and up out of the canyon. I could see both parties of hikers making their way up the slope ahead of me.
I caught Didgeridoo and his brother Johnny Cash on the ridge below Telescope Peak. We got to talking, and it turns out that they both thru-hiked the PCT in 2014 – the same year I did. Small world! Didgeridoo attempted the L2H last year but quit after his companion got really sick. This year he’s battling a knee injury. He’s still set on making it; I hope they do.
They stopped for a break, and I continued on. I’ve been pacing myself by maintaining a slower hiking speed rather than by taking more breaks. I’m ready to rock besides this shin splint, but I can only move as fast as the weakest link will let me. Tried to do a little too much by squeezing in that challenge hike out in Santa Cruz last weekend. Pretty classic move for me. Gotta adventure hard whenever I get the chance! No regrets. And let’s be honest, if it wasn’t a shin splint, there would’ve been some other limiting factor. A nagging knee injury, for example. Or blisters. Or just plain old aches and pains. There’s always something.
The climb to Telescope Ridge was mostly tame, but the last big push was a total strugglefest. Then add to that the three extra miles I tacked on this morning by finishing early last night, my late start this morning, and the seven liters I’d been hauling. Haha, tough climb. I had seriously considered skipping the Telescope Peak summit, but I changed my mind when I reached the ridge. The peak was just so close and on an established trail. I couldn’t justify skipping it, so I ditched my pack and cruised the mile and a half to the top. It was cool, but it didn’t really blow my hair back. The kicker for me was the prominence. I’d just climbed from -282 feet to 11,043 feet. Pretty dang neat.
By that point, my shin splint was flaring up significantly. I happily pressed on. Then, inexplicably, it all but went away during the descent into Tuber Canyon. I’ve barely given it a thought since, except to wonder whether it will be back in force tomorrow. I’m both surprised and grateful for the relief. No complaints here.
Another beautiful sunset as I made my way down Tuber Canyon toward the Panamint Valley and my next water cache. I didn’t even bother looking for water. If it was there, it wasn’t immediately obvious, and I had all I needed either way, so I just kept my headphones in and kept on cruising.
Halfway down Tuber it got so thick and choked out in the drainage that I had to climb up the south wall of the canyon and painfully charge through thick vegetation and brambles. Fortunately the section was pretty short, and I was back in the wash before too long. There were two or three other similar short sections before I reached my cache. Inconvenient, but fun in their own way.
I reached my cache tonight at 1015p, which is better than I expected. Let’s try this again. I’m shooting to be up by 330a and hiking by 4a tomorrow morning. Planning to take a long siesta at Panamint Springs Resort tomorrow afternoon- lunch, a shower, and a nap. Totally stoked!
The sky is incredible tonight. I couldn’t be happier or more satisfied right now. What a cool adventure.
Miles Hiked: 25