Off Trail updates

Great summary by Happy

Thursday, May 25, 2023

We left the trail yesterday evening. The winds had been so strong that I swear that I was air-born twice. The sand was blowing into our faces and it was a struggle to walk on flat ground. It did not help that we were facing directly into the wind. Having deep and soft sand to walk in made it weirdly hard to push forward.

There was a young woman from Poland who writes travel books in Europe. We first spotted her when she had stopped in a little protected clearing. We could see that she was trying to decide if she could put up her tent. We could tell that she decided that it was not possible. There was just no way a tent would hold in this wind. She got back onto the trail.

At one point, I could see her up in front on me. It was obvious that she could not see the next trail marker. That marker was behind a tree. I could see it from my angle. She could not. She had stopped to try to look up the trail on her phone. The blowing sand was going to make that hard to do. I yelled at her to get her attention and then pointed to where the trail was. She put her phone away and pushed on toward into the wind. Because Steve and I were heading back to our end point, we knew what the end point looked like. That solo hiker was obviously nervous so I hiked next to her until we could both see the underpass.

When we finally reached underpass, we were so excited to be done with the desert section of the trail. The other hikers with us were all headed into Banning to stay with a lady named Nitzy who hosts hikers. We were headed into Palm Springs. We had a rental car waiting at the airport for the next day .. so staying in Palm Springs made better sense for us.

The Uber driver who picked us up kinda looked us up and down and then asked, “You two are gonna to the Courtyard MARRIOTT??” We confirmed. He just looked astounded. To be honest, we did look more than a little rough.

The young woman working the front desk at the hotel did not even flinch when she saw our dirty, dusty and smelly selves approach to check-in. It was obvious that Marriott trains them well.

In the room, I literally scrubbed down about three times before declaring myself clean enough to use the hotel’s white towel. Each of my shoes had a couple tablespoons of sand in them. My legs had been crusty with sand.

We were both so tired that we just collapsed in bed. Laundry would happen in the morning.

We did do laundry this morning and then walked down the street for breakfast. Courtyard Marriott in Palm Springs no longer offers a complimentary breakfast. We were stunned. NO WAFFLES?? I mean, that was why we picked the Marriott.

Eventually we took the hotel shuttle over to the airport and picked up the rental car. Why a rental car in Palm Springs? One way flight from Palm Springs to DFW was going to be $650 each. That same flight from Las Vegas was listed for $91 each. The rental car cost $42 plus a half tank of gas. The price difference was enough for me to want to add Las Vegas to our itinerary. Plus, neither one of us had been to Las Vegas in decades. Literally DECADES. It was time to change that. Who knows .. we might have fun in Vegas.

We checked into the Strat Hotel and Casino. I forgot the name and could only remember that it looked like the word “START”. When Steve asked me the name of the hotel, “SHART” was my first guess. I had to re-check the name and verify that we were not staying at the SHART Hotel. Every time I think about that, I start to laugh. Maybe we were in the trail too long? I dunno. I am still laughing.

Driving across the desert towards Las Vegas was a very different experience from hiking the desert. While hiking, we were mostly in desert mountains. Driving today was through truly desolate areas. There were mountains with literally no vegetation. There were valleys where even the sage brush was struggling. We crossed valleys that were immense and absolutely desiccated. I found myself trying to figure out how much water early explorers had to carry to get through such areas. The very thought of hiking such areas is daunting.

We checked into the hotel, dropped the backpacks and ice axes into our room and then hopped back into the car to go find the local REI.

My shoes were trash. My first pair of Altras lasted 350 miles. This pair was 2 1/2 weeks old and had around 300 miles on them. At around 200 miles, one of the soles started coming off. I had glued the sole on once with LockTite. I used some sort of Shoe Goo to glue that sole on again. Today, I replaced those shoes with Hokas. Hopefully, they will last a few more miles. The REI guy felt like I should be happy to get 300 miles out of a pair of shoes.

At $180 a pair, going through two pair of shoes in 5 weeks seems like a lot. Steve is on his second pair too .. but his shoes look like they might have a couple 100 miles more in them.
When I talk to peolle about backpacking, I often get comments about what an inexpensive thing it is to do. Between the two of us, we have spent $870 on shoes on the last 5 weeks. It is those sort of details of backpacking that people do not really think about.

Tomorrow, we will start exploring Las Vegas. We are not quite sure how long we will stay. We don’t need to be in Dallas until next Wednesday .. so we do have some time.

After the convention in Dallas, we will flip up someplace north of the Sierra and get back onto the PCT. Snow levels are so high right now that we really have no place to hike on the PCT until some snow melts — unless we want to snowshoe. And no, I am not interested in that. It is for that particular reason that we feel like Steve can attend his favorite convention without it stopping our hike in any way. We are absolutely on hold until the snow melts.

May 26. We now have new shoes. As far as I can tell our trail runners have gone from getting 600+ miles of use to about 300 miles.

Still thinking on that.

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