I wake in the night to a large critter rumbling around near my tent, freak out, fumble to turn on my headlamp – it lumbers away. Talking to Crankster in the morning, she’s pretty confused as to why I turned on my headlamp when she got up to relieve herself; I feel embarassed obligated to explain that I wasn’t trying to watch her pee.
Today should be a little easier on my foot – it’s twelve miles to the next water source, and thirteen to where we’re meeting NoDay, and then we make however many miles we make. Crank’s also given me some leukotape to hold up my arch1, and tonguepads to stick on the insole of my shoe, so between the two I can hopefully limp2 myself the rest of the way to Durango.
It’s up and down, up and down, on single track rutted by motorcycles and not rutted, through mostly-forest with the occasional opening in the trees. Neither Crank nor I are particularly talkative this morning, but amicably so, and she puts on some music for us to enjoy as we roll with the landscape.
We’ve seen neither hide nor hair of homo sapiens sapiens all morning, but of course it’s when we’re bumping down the trail that we run into one – and not just any one, but Swami, a thruhiker of high reputation and much renown. Oops. He remembers my face – I’ve met him a couple of times at Front Range backpacking events, he and Spesh in particular are well acquainted – and he asks after Spesh. Swami’s thruhiking northbound, planning to do the whole thing with the couple of weeks he has between other events. He’s kind, so kind and humble, and I hope to one day be half as awesome as he is. Though she doesn’t initially share my excitement about our brief meeting, Crank realizes after some explanation that she’s read his blog. It’s a small (hiking) world, and all that.
Four miles in, we hit Razor Creek – or Razor Trickle, as it might as well be called. In previous years, this source took our 12-mile waterless stretch and turned it into an 8-mile waterless stretch – not so much this year. We’re thankful that we tanked up at Baldy Lake, and feel bad when the next Northbound hiker was hoping the source was running. He didn’t want to hike down to the Lake, but nothing to be done about it now.
Throughout the forested section of our stroll – the Green Tunnel – Crank regales me with tales of her time on the Appalachian Trail, the more-difficult ups and downs, the massive numbers of people, the festive atmosphere. I love hearing the stories, but I get more and more spooked by the description of the trail itself. When I first started debating what long trail I wanted to start with, I considered the AT, thought it’d be the best to start with, given the sheer number of people around – to help if I got into trouble I couldn’t get out of, to have around as an emotional support system. After going to the Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kickoff and talking with one of the Trail Angels3 there, I decided instead that the PCT would be a better start – the AT was supposedly both without many views and straight up and down. Crankster’s talk only confirms that I made the right decision, insofar as much as I think the PCT is a smarter start than the AT.
We meet Ghost, another Northbounder, who’s keeping track of all the folks he meets along the trail; I hunt through his book for names of folks I’ve seen before, folks who’ve passed me/us. Lite Bright and McGuyver are a ways ahead, but I don’t see any other names I recognize. We tell him Razor Creek’s not running; he tells us Lujan Creek is. He also informs us that there’s a cacheload of Snickers on the other side of Highway 114, and it motivates the hell out of us for the rest of our climb.
Then it’s onto a jeep road that marks the beginning of our descent to water and NoDay!
The water source comes first – we suck it down and tank up for the evening, not knowing how much further we’re going to hike after NoDay joins us. And then, about a half-mile sooner than we expect, there she is, the lady herself, parked in a beautiful campspot. She’s got cold beers waiting for us, and firewood and jalapeno cheddar bratwurst4, if we’re willing to camp here for the night. While it’s only 5 or so, and there are Snickers just down the way, delicious food and beer and fire seem an adequate tradeoff, and so we settle in by doing trail laundry and postcard-writing and until our stomachs will take no more of our sass.
Then it’s fire and food and ladytalk until late-late, when NoDay and I curl up in her truckbed and Crankster sets up just outside to sleep.
Start: 288.9 • End: 301.5 • Day: 12.6
Notable Accomplishments: Survived first long waterless stretch • Ministrations helping foot • Delicious meal courtesy of NoDay
 And for my new-forming blisters. I traded out my shoes in Salida for new ones that aren’t nearly as stretched out as my old ones; my pinky toes are ANGRY.
 Being overdramatic. It’s not that bad. Most of the time.
 Trail Angels are folks who help hikers, no matter the manner of help: Folks who pick up hiker hitchers, who maintain water caches, who give hikers food/water/other consumables, and, at the extreme end, those who open their homes to give hikers a shower, food, and an off-trail place to sleep. Mamma T(erri Anderson), who helped convince me to hike the PCT before the AT, is one of the blessed latter.
 NoDay knows how to angel it up right.