170430 – Rattlesnake!

Day:  007
Date:  Sunday, 30 April 2017
Start:  Highway 78, 2259 ft
Finish:  Ridgeline campsite, 4303 ft
Daily Miles:  17.1 PCT, 0.6 return to water cache
Total PCT Miles:  94.4
Weather:  Sunny and warm all day
Accommodation:  Tent just off trail.  Spot shared with about 8 other hikers distributed through the scrub.
     Breakfast:  Cereal, yoghurt, bagel and cream cheese.
     Lunch:  Gorp
     Dinner:  Rehydrated lasagne and meat sauce
Aches:  Generally tired
Highlight:  Had to be the rattlesnake encounter.  At the time I was hiking in a loose group which included four Germans, three young female and one middle-aged male.  Coincidentally, I had shared breakfast with them at the Lodge before we met up again early on the trail.  One of the girls spotted the large rattlesnake curled up on the very edge of the trail which was traversing a steep slope.  There was considerable anxiety as I don’t think any of them had encountered a snake in the wild before.  Finally I skirted the snake by a metre on the downside of the trail, with it keenly watching me the whole way, while the Germans all chose to climb up and around (through scrub which probably harboured other rattlers) and down where the snake could not see them.  As it turned out, the snake made life interesting for a number of other hikers as well.  Not a big deal since I’m sure there will be more ratllers, but it was very hard to see in the shade of a small bush.
Lowlight:  Heavy pack, including five days food and four litres of water, climbing up the switchbacks from Highway 78 at the start.
Pictures:  Click here

Position:  Click here
Map:  Click here for Google Map

I joined fellow hikers, most of whom I had met yesterday at the 7:30am continental breakfast.  One young fit-looking guy had been there three days waiting for a sore knee to recover.  I felt very sorry for him, though he said he done professional parcours for five years and I don’t imagine that’s good for knees.  Those of us hiking over-ate and then prepared to leave.

I got a lift back to the PCT almost immediately from a guy who had hiked it last year, and was back on the trail by 9am.  Ahead of me I could see the Germans from breakfast and slowly caught them.  Soon after we had the rattlesnake encounter described above.  For most of the morning the trail gradually climbed the San Felipe Hills, more or less following the contours.  There were excellent views all day as the cactii gardens gradually gave way to wiry scrub.

At one break I had in scarce shade, I heard a loud approaching buzzing noise, and expecting to see a large insect, was startled by the tiniest hummingbird which hovered about two feet in front of my face for five seconds before moving on.  Fantastic.

The first main goal for the day was a water cache put out for hikers after about twelve  miles.  When I got there I still had two litres left of my carried supply, but drank my fill and filled up again.  There must have been about 30 hikers distributed in the scarce shade among the scrub, all rehydrating.  From there I hiked about another four or five miles until I found a rare place to camp on the steep scrubby terrain.  I had it to myself for a while, but then others turned up, also mostly Europeans.

I went to bed early looking forward to a long night’s sleep.

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