Thursday 14 June (0430-1225; 1500-??1700)
Distance: 20.5 miles (plus the best part of a mile to-ing and fro-ing)
Number of bobcats seen: 1 (only by Mick)
A brief consideration of the map and of the elevation profile last night (it had to be brief; there was only time for food and bed by the time we got pitched) told us that this morning we had a bit more climbing to do, before we dropped down to 5500'. Another climb would see us arrive, 14 miles through our day, at the high point of the day, and of the walk so far: 8000'. We reckoned that a 4.30am start would allow us to reach the top of the climb before the midday heat, and that we could then sit under a tree at the top for a few hours before making our way to the next water source for our night stop.
The first water point of the day was at mile 681, where we found Bolt, Navi, Natty and Maverick just in the process of getting up. We also found the water source to be a good flow. It was no raging torrent, but we could hear it as we approached.
Even better, in the middle of the stream was found a metal basket full of cans of beer and of pop. Nowt like a can of fizzy orange for a bit of thirst quenching. An hour or so later, and for the second day in a row, Maverick (who was the first thru-hiker we spoke to, back in Agua Dulce) made me leap out of my skin as he suddenly appeared behind us. My goodness, that chap walks fast uphill!
We took rather longer to get to the top than he had, and upon rounding a bend in the path, there ahead of us was suddenly the High Sierra. No gentle transition; it was brown and green in the foreground, suddenly giving way to white granite lumps beyond.
We would have stopped there for lunch, except for some time we had been in a burnt area, so there was no shade to be found (thankfully the start of the burn area coincided with the wind picking up; until then we had been in a forest). Onwards we had to go until we spotted three smallish trees a hundred yards or so off the path (which turned out to be the only live trees for about 8 miles). We scrambled up to them and gladly took the little shade offered (can't claim it was overly comfy, mind).
I frittered away most of my water on cooking lunch, on the basis that half a litre should see me through the four-and-a-half downhill miles to the next water source. Timed to perfection, I finished my last mouthful about a hundred yards before the creek. Or maybe not timed to perfection, I realised, when Mick (walking ahead of me) announced that the creek was dry. Eeek!
Twenty-eight degrees in the shade, five miles to the next water, and nothing to drink! Hardly life-threatening, but certainly an unpleasant thought after being lulled into a false sense of security by the plentifulness of water over the last 24 hours.
Whilst Mick checked that we were in the right place, I wandered off upstream and, with great relief, found that not all of the flow had disappeared underground in the heat of the day. It may not have been what I would have chosen as my water source, but beggars can't be choosers.
Avoiding swarms of wasps, four litres were slowly gathered, but we didn't set up camp as planned. Instead we headed up the trail a way to some live trees we could see (the stream being still within the burn area). We poked around there looking for a pitch for so long that we probably covered the best part of a mile, before deciding to cut our losses and head back to the stream. Sitting in the shade waiting for the sun to sink low enough to pitch the tent, we put our time to good use - more water was collected and hands and faces were washed. The grime has hit unbelievable levels (no shower or laundry for 8 days now!) and it was nice to wash a bit of it off. Of course, the minging shirts had to be put back on. It's scant exaggeration to say that they're so stiff with sweat that they'll stand up by themselves (nice!), and the colour of them has to be seen to be believed.
Still, eight and a half miles will see us to Kennedy Meadows where apparently there is a shower and a washing machine.
(Incidentally, I'd be prepared to wager that we had an evening meal duplicated by no other PCT walker tonight: kippers and oatcakes. Very tasty it was too, even if unusual trail food on the PCT. We didn't earn the names Fish & Biscuit for nothing you know...)