During the night, I awake with the feeling that there is an animal near my tent. I can sense it out there and know it’s big, but it’s not moving around much and I’m not exactly sure what to think. I’m also too lazy to get out of my down cocoon to look. It doesn’t feel dangerous. I drink a bunch of water and float back to sleep.
In the morning, I wake and look outside. There is my animal: a black horse. I have read about PCT’ers who do the trail on horseback, but this is my first encounter. Walking along the precarious ridges, I’ve marveled as to how a horse maneuvers such tight spaces.
I pack up my things and head over to find the rider. Her name is Midnight Rider and her horse is Valentino. She rode the trail last year too, but that was an assisted ride. This time, she is doing it all herself. She rides to a point, leaves Valentino, drives their gear to the next point, and then hitches back to her horse. I can’t imagine how difficult all the logistics are. It’s work enough to take care of yourself, never mind tending to the needs of a horse.
Midnight Rider has some extra water. Again, I’m thankful since I drank more than I should have during the night. Now I’m confident that I have enough to make it to mile 205 where there is a spigot.
It’s only 7am, but it’s already too hot. I pop open my mylar umbrella. I love this thing. Instant shade! As I pour fortifying powders into the water that I suck water from my blue tube, I feel like a space being descending the hot and rocky landscape.
The heat is quite intense. I distract myself by counting lizards. They are everywhere, sharing the trail with me and occupying spots on the rocks. Some have blue bellies and do push ups, some are shy and black, others are tiny, beige, and lighting fast. I count 48 and forget about the lizard tally when I notice the wildflowers. Slopes of yellow, orange and purple. The desert is like a complicated friend.
Around 1pm, I have to seek shade large enough for my whole body. It’s 102 and I’m feeling fried. I take off my shoes and socks, wipe my feet “hiker clean” and let them dry out.
I add water and oil to dehydrated hummus and squish the bag around. In a few minutes, I’m able to add some chips and spoon it out. I add electrolytes to my water and have lunch. I start feeling human again. I don’t really want to hike in the worst of the heat, but I want to get to the spigot and to Ziggy and the Bear’s. Just keep hiking. What else are you going to do? I ask myself.
I make it down the mountain, picking my way over the rocks. Below me, I can finally see a farmer’s market style pop-up tent. More than a spigot, there is trail magic! Hikers are gathered under the tent’s shade and I can’t wait to join them. I curve around and around and then I’m there… Tarzan is offering me a cup of salmon chowder, fresh veggies, and peanut M&M’s. It’s beautiful! Hikers are crashed out on their mats or soaking their heads and clothes under the spigot. I’m thrilled to see everyone that I’ve been leap frogging and am beside myself with the incredible generosity of Tarzan, the trail angel.
But like all good things, Tarzan wants to pack up and I still have 5 miles to hike.