March 24, 2018
The next day I got a somewhat late start but felt refreshed and ready to hike. The trail was gentle and the sky overcast and I was enjoying myself immensely. The trail was nice and wide leading away from the Lake Morena campground and was surrounded by manzanita trees.
Shante caught up to me early on and we hiked together for some miles. She’s a little younger than my mom and I found her immeasurably positive attitude infectious. We’d heard there was a group of Trail Angels at Cibbits Flat campground grilling up hot meals for thru-hikers and we were eager to partake, especially when the temperature started dropping well before the sun sank below the hills. The wind was picking up, too, setting an instant chill to the sweat on our shirts.
Shante stopped for a break with a hiker named Guy and I pushed on, eager to get to Cibbits Flat before dark. In my haste, I tripped on the rim of a large rock whose tip was sticking up out of the packed earth just waiting for unsuspecting hikers to come along. My fall was pretty epic for having been caused by such a little thing. Fortunately for me, no one was there to witness it. I took the brunt of the fall on one leg and several items went flying out of the side pockets of my pack. After a few seconds of realizing what had just happened, I started laughing as I picked myself up and gathered my things back into their places. I was just getting ready to set off again when Shante and Guy caught up to me.
“What happened!?” Shante asked. They were both staring at my leg. I looked down to find a nice collection of blood and dirt where I’d wiped what I presumed was just dust off my legs. It took a few moments for the large cuts and scrapes to start bleeding.
“No worries,” I said, “We’re almost to camp. I’ll take care of it there.” It was getting cold. I didn’t want to stop.
“Absolutely not, we’ve got to get that cleaned before it gets infected.” Shante insisted, dropping her pack and pulling out a very large first aid bag. Guy said it looked like I was in capable hands and hiked on while Shante had me clean the wounds with water then handed me a small bottle of hand sanitizer.
“Here, rub this all over the scrapes.” She said.
She looked up at me sharply. “You are NOT allowed to call me that. That will NOT be my trail name.”
“We don’t always get to choose our trail names,” I said with a sly smile. When her command turned into a request, almost a plea, I laughed and assured her I wouldn’t call her Mom again. It was obviously not a trail name she wanted to be saddled with and I’m a believer in the theory that what goes around comes around, so I honored her request.
The hand sanitizer on my wounds stung something fierce, but I knew that was a good thing. It meant it was working. It was also making my leg really cold, and the wounded area was so large there was no hope covering it with any band-aids or anything, so we called it good and hiked on. It was getting dark by the time we reached Cibbits Flat where we found a whole crowd of trail angels and hikers alike enjoying freshly grilled brats and hot dogs, chips, salads, muffins, beer and soda, and much more! John and Jumanji were there, as well as David, Satyr, and the Jays. Lots of overnight campers too, in addition to the trail angels. I could hardly tell who was actually providing the food, there were so many people hanging around. Someone had an adorable Cocker Spaniel who I, of course, made friends with pretty quickly, assuming she belonged to one of the trail angels. I would later come to regret this assumption.
Before I could even enjoy some food, I rushed into the nearby port-a-john to layer up. I didn’t even take time to inspect my leg or cover it with anything, just pulled on every layer of clothing I was carrying with me in an effort to get warm. Wasn’t this supposed to be the desert? I’m pretty sure it had dropped to 30 degrees by that point in the evening, and after I enjoyed some hot goodies and warmed my hands by an open fire, I hastily set up my tent and crawled inside. I’d made sure to tighten everything down well as the wind was blowing quite fiercely that evening. My down quilt was rated to 20 degrees, but the temperature must have dropped near or below that because I lay there shivering for about an hour before I finally pulled out my emergency blanket and rolled myself into it like a burrito. I was sticky with sweat by morning, but at least I was warm.