mile 414.68 – 436.08 (North Fork Ranger Station)

21.4 miles

When I woke up from a bad dream, it was already too late, almost 5:30. I hustled to pack up, which still took 45 minutes, then I said goodbye to Heartbreaker and set off, climbing over fallen trees for the first 100 yards. 

I cruised along, almost running down the trail, feeling good. Called my grandmother.  Happy birthday, Nanny! Jake caught up when I stopped to de-layer, the heat already picking up speed on its way up. Six miles in there was water that didn’t need to be filtered! Blazer left just as Jake and I showed up, then Heartbreaker joined. The next water was either 18 or 26 miles away, depending on how reliable our information was. I grabbed four liters. Usually, I plan on one liter per five miles, but figured I could stretch it if I had to. Water is heavy. 

This is when we really began our day. First there was the sweltering climb up a sandbox of a hill. Then we entered the Poodle Dog Bush nightmare day. 

Poodle Dog Bush is a poisonous bush that shows up after an area has been burned and is in recovery. It must be related to the cannabis family because the leaves are similar and it has a strong funky smell. The worst part is that contact with the plant can cause poison-oak-like symptoms. 

The whole area we walked through today was infested with PDB. It used to be much worse and there was a detour, but we heard that it was fine now, so we went through. It was fine, I guess, but it still took constant vigilance to avoid bumping into PDB. Also, because most people have been taking the detour for a few years, the trail was overgrown and not well maintained. On top of that, there was poison oak to watch out for. And don’t forget the snakes! I saw three today. And a dead mouse. 

It was a mentally and physically exhausting day. Though, I hiked the last few hours of it with Jake, the section hiker from Southern California, and we had some interesting conversation, which always helps the time go faster. 

When we finally made it to our destination, there was a cooler with cold sodas for a dollar each! I got an ice cold Orange Crush. We all made dinner and laid out our bedrolls for cowboy camping. I’m lying here typing this and listening to birds call and a large power line above me crackle- a strange dichotomy. My hands aren’t even cold right now, which means tomorrow is going to be miserably hot. I guess that means it will be bearable when I have to change clothes to start hiking at 4:00. 

Today I met…it’s getting harder and harder to keep up with this. 

Today I learned all the different disguises of Poodle Dog Bush. 

Today’s hike was powered by the need for water.