At mile 655 the trail crosses a highway. Food wise, I was good until the next town but the idea of hitching in for a burger was irresistible. So my buddy and I put out our thumbs and waited. After about thirty minutes a truck pulled over and we hopped in. Inside was a couple from San Francisco. After talking a little bit, they offered us a place to stay in town at their campsite and we accepted. Once in town, they paid for our dinner and introduced us to everyone else in their group. Their group was different from your average campers. They are white water rafters and the campsite was right on the Kern river. Our new friends invited us to go rafting with them and of course we accepted again. The next day we got our wet suits and life jackets and about fifteen of us loaded into a van pulling a trailer with three rafts. We drove up the river and after getting situated, pushed off down some class 3 rapids. For these experienced rafters it was no big deal but for me it was unlike anything I had ever done. Working as a team, we navigated down the river and eventually back to the campsite. When I started the PCT I never thought I would go white water rafting but when you are open to try new things, opportunities will arise. -Noel Nelson (pct mile 658)
Up to this point, my mileage each day had been steadily growing. I started with 15 mile days and slowly work my way up to 20 mile days and eventually even did a few 25 milers. I never thought the morning I woke up at the hot spring, I would do my longest day yet. by a lot….
From the hot spring, interstate I-15 was about 35 miles ahead. At this highway a McDonald’s is located near the trail. This is a big deal for hikers struggling with “hiker hunger”. My original plan for the day was to do 18 miles and stroll into McDonald’s the next day for lunch, except by lunch time, I had already hit the 18 mile mark. At that point I knew it was possible to make it all the way. So I went for it. Along the way there were incredible vistas and I had good company.
Finally, at around 8 pm the golden arches were in sight. I’ve never been a true McDonald’s fan but I can say that moment was different. I went in and ordered a double quarter pounder with cheese, a large fry, large drink, and twenty nuggets. I finished them all.
After dinner we ended up having to walk another three miles in the dark to find a campsite.That made for a 38 mile day. I set up my tent and went to sleep happy and full. All was well, or so I thought… -Noel Nelson