About the AuthorDeborah Peel is a writer, blogger, marketer, mother, lover of big trees and isolated mountain tops. Her passion is writing to build a better world and sharing her backpacking and hiking adventures, one step at a time.

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Did I mention it was hot out there? Whew! I found myself hiking from shady spot to shady spot on the PCT, trying to hike faster, trying to breathe deeper. But I felt like a turtle using one flipper to try to get back to the sea. I wanted to chug my water but knew I had to be careful as I might be dry camping for the night and that liter was all I would have for drinking and cooking. Only 4 or 5 more miles and I’d make camp. I was already exhausted and there was more and more sand to march through on a fully exposed trail. My backpack felt like a beast and my right hip screeched at every step. I kept sipping from the quart bottle attached to my pack strap. 

I was rounding Cirque Peak and came across another young woman in a candy pink top taking respite against the gold-red trunk of a shady foxtail pine. Her bright red face indicated she was either very hot or she’d been crying. I stopped to offer comfort and hear her story. She’d made it to Crabtree Meadows, exactly where I was headed, and planned to summit Whitney. Altitude sickness had her in its grips and she was desperately disappointed to be hiking back out. Inside I hoped so much that this would not be my story.

At last, I hit my next waypoint, the trail marker for Siberian Pass (elev. 10,300’). Only 1.1 miles going up and over to Soldier Lake junction. Observing the rise of the trail, I determined instead to go forward on the PCT, both options leading to Rock Creek. I knew it was nearly 4 miles to Rock Creek. That was too far for me and I turned to Guthook for advice on a possible tent site. Within about a half-mile I should have seen some spots. I was never certain I’d found them, but I passed the two dried-up seasonal streams that were noted. Finally, I saw a nice sandy flat next to a huge boulder and decided this was the spot for me.

By 6:47 p.m. I had my tent up, my bear canister of food stashed far away, and I was too tired to make dinner. I was even too tired to walk back out to the bear canister and grab a snack. Instead, I gobbled some ibuprofen before listening to crazy bird sounds and the intrusion of an airplane flying overhead. It reminded me I had a foot in two vastly different worlds. I prayed I wouldn’t have any bear visitors for the night. I was too tired to really be scared and I was asleep in the wilderness by 7:00 p.m. without a soul around for miles and miles. I’d hiked around 10 miles on my first day.

Trail Tip: Despite fatigue, be sure to eat a meal at the end of the hiking day.