The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Sunday 3 June 2012

Day 3 - Part 1 - Mile 486 to mile 500

Sunday 3 June (0400-1120)
Distance: 14 miles
Number of chipmonks seen: 1

The PCT was designed not just for walkers, but for horseriders and, as such, it doesn't attack hills. Instead it very gently traverses their sides, going in, around and out of every little side valley until it wends its way up to the high point. Then it gently traverses and wends its way down. Our experience to date has borne this out, except that as we set out in the dark this morning the gradient did seem steeper than any we walked over the last couple of days. As visibility was limited by the range of the headtorch (one was adequate between us) we couldn't see the big picture and I couldn't decide whether it really was steeper, or just such a sustained uphill, as we made our way from 3000 to 5200'.

Despite the early hour, it was a warm climb. The lovely breeze which had blown through the tent overnight was lost as we started uphill. Even though well before sunrise, it was 20 degrees - but better to attack the hill then than after the day started warming up.

Having spent a couple of hours walking across golden-sand coloured land (variously fine grit or sand, but usually firm), with an incredible green covering of shrubs, the surroundings suddenly changed and we were walking through woodland. Shady woodland on dirt tracks - it was lovely!

Then we left the PCT for half a mile. I felt like a naughty schoolgirl and a cheat. I get the impression that everyone is intent on walking every step of the waymarked PCT, without deviation, but I'm not such a purist, so we took to a forest track for a while, giving us a view of masses of hills to the south. Our view for the rest of the morning (where the trees allowed a view) had been of the immense flatness of the desert-proper. If the PCT just ran along the ridge, rather than off to one side, then we perhaps could have seen both views, but the trail does seem to avoid undulations.

Four other chaps (three of whom we met yesterday*) were already at the fire service water tank, 11 miles into our day, when we arrived, and were just finishing up filtering their water supply. We followed suit. The good water supplies are getting fewer and this one looked, on the water report, like one of the better ones (being full, not stagnant, and not needing a rope to reach the water).

With more shady woodland, Mick was hoping that we would be able to walk straight through to our intended night stop, but then we ran out of shade and a 1000' ascent without shade at noon sounded foolhardy to me (girly wuss that I am). We retreated and popped the tent up (our protection against the flies - pesky little blighters) in some woodland to wait out the heat.

Various others have passed since we pitched (obviously more heat-resistant than I am!). Quite a few have been using Go-Lite Chrome Dome umbrellas. We are very envious. It's an item we intended to buy in LA, and didn't realise we'd forgotten until we were on the train to the start point. If we had remembered, we could likely have carried on into the midday sun ourselves.

Anyway, we're about to have our evening meal (it's 1430 as I type this - our meal times are all over the place - it was Snickers for breakfast yesterday as it's the only time of day it was going to be in a solid state), then at 1600 or later we'll head back out for part 2 of our day and see how far we get. When we arrive, it'll be lunch and then straight to bed for another early start tomorrow.

(* I'm struggling to distinguish those we've met from those we haven't. So many of the chaps look the same to me, all sporting dark hair, dark beards and sunhats.)

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  1. I was going to ask whether you'd taken umbrellas as parasols. Now I know the answer. Wonder whether you'll be able to get some in the next town.

  2. Sounds like walking in the heat of France on GRs when one perceives a huge benefit from crossing a track to take advantage of walking through three metres of shade from a trackside tree.

    I walked 2.26km from home yesterday without pain which would have been agonising before the op, but there is still some way to go. Doing a series of exercises four times a day is a full time job at the mo.

    The salutation on GRs in France is “bonne continuation!”