PCT SOBO DAY 123 – ‘happy’ birthday Catwater

Snow canyon road faucet – fuller ridge trailhead 
15.2 miles. 6499ft up. 501ft down. 

It was so warm last night I struggled to sleep. I hung a leg off the side of my thermarest to try and cool down a bit. The moon was really bright again, just one day off full, and it lit up the ground casting shadows just like the sun would. 

We decided to get up at 5am to try and beat some of the heat, but at 5:30am when we started walking it felt like someone was blowing a fan heater on me. Catwater was pretty grumpy. She didn’t want to do the big climb on her birthday and had already decided that it was going to be the ‘worst birthday’ she had ever had. My rendition of happy birthday and attempt at positivity didn’t cheer her up. 


I wasn’t much looking forward to the climb either but I was looking forward to the heat even less. I could see the sun creeping across the desert and turning the land red. I managed about 2 hours before the sun eventually popped over the hill and it started to get really hot. This was just going to be a slog. The trail of course was really wiggly so I looked forward to those brief moments when the trail dipped into the shade. It will get cooler as we get higher. That’s what I kept telling myself. I wanted to make it 10 miles before I had a break but at 8.5 there was a nice rock and a bit of shade so I sat and waited for Catwater to catch up. I ate my cheese and pringles early so the cheese wasn’t too gross to eat. Catwater was not happy about all the uphill but I was hoping that my little present of tequila and fudge that I had been carrying for the last 4 days would make her smile at the end of the day. I’m not very good at keeping secrets and this one was almost too much for me to contain. 


We carried on. Up and up. The desert, the road, the windmills gradually getting further and further away. I wasn’t finding the uphill too bad. It would have been better without the sun but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky so I was stuck with it. I was happy when the trail switched back so the sun was behind me, that was a little more tolerable. 

I thought we were pretty alone on the trail but up ahead I see a glimpse of a hiker. I think it could be Witch. They are quite far away but I can see short black shorts. I can see whoever it is is moving quicker than I am so I think it’s unlikely I will catch up. But after a while I round a corner and the guy is standing on the trail using his phone. He tells me he is called Double Step / Dominic. Oh, so you’re Dom, of Ben and Dom, Strings friends? That’s him. He tells me Ben and Strings are up ahead. Cool. 


They were behind us and they camped just 5 miles ahead of us last night. I spend a while mulling over how and when they passed us. I can’t work it out. Maybe they passed us last night. I hike on, I feared standing still for too long may trigger the faint feeling and I’ve been working really hard to make that not a thing today. I drank three quarters of a litre before leaving camp and I’ve made sure I have drunk half a litre for every 5 miles. He soon blazes past me and I assume that’s the last I’ll see of him today. 

As I pass over the ridge and leave the windmills behind I can now see over the other side and down into Cabazon. It is starting to cool off a bit, a combination of the time and the elevation. And I’m now amongst the trees, which give shade but also bring with them those annoying eyeball bugs. After another 6.5 I stop and wait for Catwater again. There is now only 5 miles left to the water and we are hoping there will be somewhere to camp around there because we are likely to get there in the dark. As we move on I slow down so we can hike together and get there at the same time. 


We make it about 0.8 of a mile when I see a white box by a tree. I think it’s just going to be a box of disappointment, like most coolers are when you’re a southbounder, but as I get closer I see it’s got ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY CATWATER’ written on it. ‘Oh my got this is for you!’ I shout back to her. 

The Ravens had been up and put it here after finding out yesterday that it was her birthday. So cool. She opened it up and saw it was filled with soda, water, beer and chicken sandwiches (I had been daydreaming about that chicken for a lot of the day). And she smiled for the first time! 


We wanted to make the most of the bounty so we decided to do away with our twenty mile plan and just camp there and enjoy all the treats. We only really needed to carry on to get to the water but no we have water we don’t have to! 

I carry the box over to the picnic table and there is more than enough for both of us. They have thought about me too which is super sweet of them. I pull my gift out of my bag. It’s not quite so impressive compared to the cooler full of goodies but it’s the thought and the fact that I’ve carried it for the last 4 days that counts right?! It didn’t have quite the impact I was hoping for but I think she liked it nonetheless. We sat at the table and I shovelled in my chicken bagel and I enjoyed every last scrap of it. I am craving savoury and all I have is sweet stuff. 

Looking into the cooler we could see two beer bottle caps, which probably means that someone has been into the cooler and taken two beers. The more I think about this the more it annoys me. There is plenty there for us so it isn’t really a problem, except it is a problem. The cooler said happy birthday Catwater, not trail magic for PCT hikers. So someone has gone into it and stolen from it. If there had been other people around Catwater would have shared with everyone, but someone thought it was ok just to take something that wasn’t theirs. I really hope it wasn’t Strings and his friends. The more I think about it the more angry it makes me. What else did they take. And why leave the bottle caps? If you’ve taken the bottle why not take the cap too, then we would have never known. 

The trail restores my faith in humanity and then it takes it away. 

(I later found out that Papa Raven saw Strings, Ben and Dom and gave them a beer each. Faith in humanity restored!)

It was still really early, just before 4pm, but it was getting really cold. Now I was wishing we had the sun back! We pitched our tents and got in them to keep warm. As I’m sitting in my tent I hear a repetitive tapping noise. I can’t stand noises like that so I ask Catwater if she can hear it. She can’t. I get out my tent to listen and it gets fainter. I stick my head back in my tent and there is the tapping noise again. I eventually discover that it’s my empty water bottle. The air must have expanded inside it as I climbed higher and it was slowly being released through the cap and it sounded like tapping. Thank goodness that problem was solved. That would have driven me nuts. 

I don’t bother with my freeze dried food, the chicken bagel was so much nicer! It’s only 6pm by the time I’ve done everything. It’s so early. I have so much time to kill in my tent. I would have liked to have made it to the top of the climb. But I wouldn’t have exchanged that trail magic for anything. That was awesome. And the best thing is that Catwater changed her mind about it being the worst birthday ever and it’s now become one of the best.

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I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water. Please donate here, every little bit helps. 

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