Day 11: Where’s the next Water?

Start: Mile 493.4

End: Mile: 510.9

Miles Hiked = 17.5

Last night I camped at Upper Shake Campground, an unmaintained campground in the Angeles National Forest. It was a quiet night and the only other PCT hikers were a younger husband and wife.

There was a stream about 0.25 miles below the campground but I had carried enough water from the spring at mile 487 so I didn’t need to access it. That is one of the challenges when hiking the PCT, particularly in the “desert” sections in Southern California. Water is, obviously, an important resource on the PCT so hikers are constantly determining where the next water source is and how much they have to carry to get there. I have a tendency to carry more than I need. Since water is heavy and weighs about 2.2 pounds per liter, if you carry too much it just adds unnecessary weight to your pack. It’s not uncommon to sometimes have to carry 4-5 liters if there is a long waterless section, particularly if it’s going to be a warm or hot day. That could be in excess of 10 pounds of water weight!

So how do hikers know where the next water source is? Well, there are a couple ways.

The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) has an online Water Report that most hikers refer to. The water report is a compilation of water information that hikers report to a PCTA volunteer based on their observations while on trail. It looks like this:Hopefully you (the reader) can expand the above image and read an example of what’s been reported. I usually take screenshots of the latest water report while I’m in town. Then I can refer to report during the next trail segment.

The other way to check for water sources is the Guthook app. I think just about every PCT hiker has the Guthook app on their smartphone. It is full of all kinds of trail information including maps and elevation profiles as well as pertinent trail information including water sources, camp sites, etc. It links to the hiker’s smartphone GPS position to display the hiker’s position on the apps map or elevation profile. The map portion looks something like this:

The map above includes the Upper Shake Campground – it’s the little tent symbol at the right side of the blue line. The red line represents the PCT and the blue line represents a non-PCT trail. The blue dots with the white center are water symbols for possible water sources. If I click on the tent symbol, then info on the camp or tent site opens up like this. You’ll note that there are typically photos as well as a written description.

If I click on the water source symbol something like this will open up:

I can also check the elevation profile on Guthook and see what’s upcoming – uphill or downhill and how much.

Hikers can report trail information directly on the app including water information. You just type your comment into the app and it gets posted immediately. It looks like this:

Anyway, I hope that explains how PCT hikers get current real-time trail information including water source information. In the old days ( not really that long ago), we backpackers had to carry paper topographical maps to follow the trail, estimate their position and elevation and and see where streams and/or lakes were. We also would carry copies of trail guides to have knowledge about various trail information including water sources. That still may be necessary if you’re not hiking on a major trail like the PCT or Appalachian Trail. But on the PCT, all the information a hiker needs is on Guthook. It’s really an invaluable asset to PCT hikers!

Here are some photos from today’s hike:

Passed the 500 mile markerGetting closer to the Mojave in the photo below – will be there tomorrow!

Goodnight – thanks for following!

2 thoughts on “Day 11: Where’s the next Water?

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