May 23 (Day 22)

342 to 367.3

Daily miles: 25.3

The masses are eating at the various eating spots in town, be it the hotel or the McD’s.  I visit both on my way to the trail.  Then it’s under the highway, over the railroad and past the shack that smells like fire before I get back into the sandy foothills and the ascent begins.  I will go up all day until I’m well above 8000 ft, which makes for about a 6k gain over 22 miles.  I pass and get passed by Blake and Presente all day, everyone carrying all the water they dare since it’s a dry day and a dry camp tonight.  I’m opting for 5 liters: 3 for the day, 1 for night, 1 for tomorrow morning and the hitch into Wrightwood, where I’ll resupply.  10+ pounds of water weight.

The day is overcast to start.  Views like you wouldn’t believe everytime I look up. Cool temps and high spirits coast me along until I take a break and look out over the land.  I can see where I was two days ago, when I left Deep Creek Canyon.  Pass the Poodle Dog bush that’s been killed off and cleared away from the trail, and meet two guys (non-PCT) who are wondering, “How much further to the trailhead?”  Answer: a long way plus 2500 feet more of elevation.  I think I ruined their day.

The day grows longer, the clouds clear and then return.  The marine layer builds and the distant mountains turn hazy.  I can make out single trees standing on the ridgeline.  Presente comes up and we talk, totally amazed by the scenes.  Most remarkable day so far, and the most physical to boot.  My shins start screaming out, Presente talks of a campground up ahead with picnic tables and I’m sold.  We cross a bald and the Mojave is out there in its barren wonder.  I bet I can see 100 miles.  The cities and towns and grids of road are laid out and run to the horizon.

When Presente walks, she flexes her arms out to her sides like she’s pushing the air away.

At the campground our hands are so cold we can’t use them, so we struggle to make our macaroni and cheese.  At least we have benches to sit on, which is a nice change of pace from dirt.  A group of people invite us to share their campfire and we warm up a little.  I eat whatever is left from my food bag since I resupply tomorrow and feel blissfully stuffed.

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