26th August 2019.
Cottonwood pass to tentsite
8.8 miles 


We went out for breakfast – more food! – and then got our stuff packed up. Catwater pack is much bigger than mine but they weigh around the same. Not sure how that can be and to be honest I’m a bit miffed by it! I tried to really cut down this time and only bring the essentials. But I can take some comfort in knowing that my pack was no where near as heavy as in 2016 when I started out from Tuolumne Meadows with 10 days of food in a bear canister. 

I kept my kit almost identical to the kit I took on the AT, aside from a new top I thing everything else was the exact same.

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Hyperlight crew

There was nothing I could do about it now so I would just have to suck it up. Ellen gave us a ride up to Horseshoe Meadows, somewhere I’ve never been before! Both times previously on the PCT I have been in and out over Kearsarge Pass, not needing to leave the trail between there and Kennedy Meadows. The road was long and windy and it was so hot in the car. I started to feel the elevation gain immediately in my head. It became thick and headachy. Not a great start. And we will only go higher! I’m not very good with windy roads as a passenger in the car either so I was praying that I wouldn’t be sick before we had even started!

I haven’t done any training for this at all and I am so out of shape, I knew it was going to be tough. Catwater may be 65 but she’s been hiking all summer, so she is prepared. Jim and Tom aren’t so much in shape and Jim had double knee replacements a couple of years ago so hopefully I should be able to keep up!

(I definitely had a picture of us all together at the start but I cannot find it anywhere! 🙁 Never-mind, there are about 2,000 other pictures to choose from!)

It was ok to start with. Going uphill was a struggle and the air felt thin and I was out of breath very quickly. At times my heart felt like it was beating out of my chest. Catwater and I chatted for ages, catching up, and it was so nice to just be out here with her again. We really do hike well together and we know each other pretty well. We took regular breaks, even though it felt so much cooler that it had been in the valley to begin with, it soon got hot when the sun got higher and we were constantly seeking shade. I even got a bit of a sweat patch under my pack straps. 

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Before competing out here I tried on both packs several times and decided on the old faithful one. Big mistake. It stank. The straps are the worst. The ingrained at stench. The smell is so bad!

The trail up to cotton wood pass is 3.8 miles, quite gentle and loads of switchbacks. How I missed the switchbacks after the AT. We reached the junction of the PCT and finally I was back on familiar ground. Back to my true love and she had been right there waiting for me. What we didn’t remember was how sandy the trail was, it was like walking on a soft beach and it was tough going. 

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FIRE!

We met a few people long the way. One girl on her first solo trip and was scared about camping alone. I tried to reassure her, and judging by the people we met throughout the rest of the day it’s unlikely she will have camped alone. 

We hiked together on and off and I tried to encourage Jim and Tom to go upfront because I was enjoying their pace. I am so happy with doing short miles. On a thru-hike you are constantly moving forwards, walking from sunrise to sunset and never getting time to just be there, appreciate where you are and be in the moment. 

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We stopped to get some water from a stream which looked cold and clear and good water, but when I tried it later it tasted gross. Really mossy and earthy. Not good. I need to drink it but I don’t want to drink it. 

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After a few more miles and a few more breaks we got to a camp area around 4ish. Really early considering how much daylight is left but the guys were feeling it and I wasn’t unhappy at all about stopping. I had quite a headache and although I could have carried on we have a planned schedule to take us 5 days, we don’t need to carry on. 

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We set up the tents and wasted time until it was late enough to eat dinner. My Jetboil broke. The igniter clicked once and then never clicked again. Luckily Tom was carrying a lighter than he didn’t need so he gave that to me and I was able to light it that way. Blooming typical. I think the AT destroyed it and I know I should have checked it before I got on the trail but really had no reason to think it wouldn’t work.

Mac and cheese for dinner and it was actually decently cheesy. The mosquitoes haven’t been too bad all day, there have been a few but as the sun started to go down and it started to cool off they got worse, so we retired to our tents. I also have some really uncomfortable trapped wind. Trapped wind is so painful so it suited me to be lying in my tent not sat upright compressing my insides. The bugs are swarming my tent.

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I feel pretty tired. My head is still a bit fuzzy but I’m hoping it will feel better tomorrow, my body is a bit achy and a bit bruised around the hip area. It isn’t cold but as the sweat cools you cool off really quickly. I wiped a layer of salt off my face with my hands

I’m now tucked up in my sleeping bag writing this and it’s 7:40pm. That’s going to be a lot of rest but maybe that’s not a bad thing. It will give my body a chance to recover.

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I am enjoying being out here so much. The quiet. The air. Zero pollution. No electric lights. It’s cooling off a lot but I don’t think it will get too cold. So many bugs it sounds like it’s raining on my tent. I’m going to try and stay awake until 10. But at least 9…

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