March 26, 2018
The next morning was Day 5 on the trail for me and I was not feeling very well. I’d slept alright in the cafe in a space between two tables that Shante had reserved for us, seeing as we were the only two women in the group of about 20 hikers. I’d carefully packed my things and walked down the road to the general store to drop a few things in the hiker box, then ran into David, Satyr, Shante, and Guy along the trail. It was a glorious day for hiking as I came upon my first beautiful vista and was literally moved to tears. Looking back now, the views between Mount Laguna and Pioneer Mail Trailhead (my destination that day) were minimal compared to what I would later see hiking through the Sierra Nevada, but at the time they were just what I needed to spur me on. Despite the views, though, I was feeling pretty ill and actually threw up a little bit, having tried to force down a little too much electrolyte-enhanced water. Later that day Aunt Flo came for a visit. sigh
Also, I discovered the previous evening in the well-lit cafe bathroom that I had somehow gotten into some poison oak and it had spread across the top of my thigh and up to my lower abdomen. I’d never experienced a reaction to a poisonous plant before so I wasn’t aware of its dangers until it had begun to spread and itch something awful. As far as I could tell, I must have gotten it somewhere along Hauser Creek because those are the only two spots anyone reported seeing Poison Oak. Until then, I didn’t even know what Poison Oak looked like. At first, I thought it might be the ever-feared Poodle Dog Bush, but we haven’t seen any of that yet.
And just to add insult to injury, every time I bent my knee to take a higher step along the trail or knelt or sat down, the scabs on my leg would tear open and start bleeding again. And my blisters weren’t getting any better, either, despite my best efforts.
Needless to say, I didn’t take many photos while all this was occurring at once. It was time for a zero day.
When we reached Pioneer Mail Trailhead it was already getting dark. David and Satyr took a short break to eat a snack and then carried on up the trail, but several others were ready to call it a night. This trailhead was technically a picnic area for day-use only, but we’d heard that if you waited until dusk to set up your tent and broke camp before 6am the next morning, the rangers didn’t mind. Provided you also left no trace.
I was eager to get to town and see a doctor, so I walked up to the highway with the same young man who’d relieved me of half my resupply box back at Mount Laguna and we stuck out our thumbs for a hitch. It was not to be. After 45 minutes and seeing only half a dozen vehicles pass us by, we went back down to the picnic area and pitched our tents. A young man we’d dubbed Pyro had already built a nice, warm fire in the fire pit, and we all sat around it for a little while enjoying the company and some dinner before retiring to our tents. The wind at Pioneer Mail Trailhead was some of the fiercest I experienced during my entire time on the trail. It coursed across the picnic area with a vengeance and sent a chill straight to the bone. I slept in my emergency blanket again, which only proved to make my poison oak spread and grow more irritated.