Death March

I used to really study a trip before I went on it so I could really understand what I was getting into. Over time and with more experience, I started to do less preparation. For the PCT, I made the decision to really only look at the next day's terrain the evening before. That's when I discovered that Paradise Valley Cafe closed in the afternoon and we were camped 22 miles away.

At the time, I was hiking with Wonky (later Sprinkler) and Alex (by the end of the next day Rain Man). I let them know the situation and they agreed to get up early with me and hike 22 miles in 8 hours.

Here's a secret about setting pace. Typically men below the age of 40 suck at it. Women and men above 40 tend to be much better. Rain Man, a man in his 40s, and Wonky, a woman were my two hiking companions and much better pace setters. However, as I'm the fastest hiker, so they put me in front then tried to keep up.

Knowing that it would be a struggle to hike those miles that fast, I went out like a rabbit. They followed me as best they could and by the halfway point started calling this hike a death march. I didn't care and kept pushing. Towards the end, I realized I pushed harder than I needed to and had us on pace to get to Paradise Valley Cafe over an hour earlier than needed. We finally slowed down and finished our 22 mile hike in 7 hours roughly.

Waiting for food at the cafe was interminably long and despite feeling like I was the least hungry of the three of us, I was the only one to finish all my food. I remember them being very unhappy when I told them I wanted to go farther that day, but they reluctantly agreed to join me.

We got to our chosen campsite and set up camp just before a hail storm came through, so we all dove in our tents. Rain Man told us earlier that he would split off of the two of us crazy hikers but not before giving me the trial name Pathfinder. Sensing that Wonky was also upset at me, I started hatching a plan to leave her behind.

Instead, the thunderstorm passed and Rain Man called us out of our tents to go watch the sunset from a boulder. By then Wonky asked me to hike with her the next day to help her with navigation into Idyllwild. I guess she wasn't as mad at me as I thought.

Rain Man, Pathfinder and Wonky after the death march.

Thunderstorm reflecting the sunset off in the distance.

I hiked with Wonky and the rest of Team Fire Closure (Town Food, Pitter Patter, and Bobber) until Big Bear City, then never saw her again until after I finished the PCT. Rain Man I saw a few times and even hiked with him for a few miles leaving Mt. Shasta before I left him behind. Somehow I didn't totally ruin them and they still are willing to occasionally communicate with me. They even kind of thanked me for showing them what they are capable of during the death march.