April 18, 2018
In the morning I discovered the source of the sound I’d hear banging against my tent in the night. An incredibly large bird, or a small bird with an incredibly large problem, had dropped a huge turd right on my tent, leaving a splatter and a long, white trail running all down the front of my rain fly. It was both impressive and disgusting. Naturally, my first response was to beckon Lil’ Bro over to come take a look. He was pretty sure it had been done by two birds because of its size, but I choose to believe it was an owl. A huge owl. Somehow the thought of an owl pooping on my tent carries a little more dignity than the poop of two lesser birds.
Because we were near a lake and the sky was clear, it was COLD that morning, so cold that the wet bandana I used to clean the bird poo off my tent and then hung to dry actually FROZE while we were breaking camp! At least it was a still, windless night. The only sounds we heard were critters rustling and possibly a coyote wandering through our camp, which I didn’t hear but Sparky swore he heard.
“How could you tell?” I asked.
“Deer have softer, slower steps. More docile. Coyotes move quickly and their steps are a little heavier.”
Needless to say I was a little creeped out that there’d been a coyote in our camp and I hadn’t even heard it.
The hike from Cleghorn to Cajon Pass was both beautiful and terrible. My feet were in so much pain! I’d kept the blister under my arch covered with Leukotape since Big Bear even though I’ve cooled my feet in streams and soaked them in the hot springs. I’ve changed the Leukotape once, but otherwise, it stayed on and while that may have been good for the blister, it was bad for my skin. Leukotape doesn’t let your skin breathe because it’s waterproof, so the area that was covered was starting to itch and get sores around the outside of the tape. Add to that the new blisters on my heels, two in spots that have already had blisters that I had to lance, a new hotspot under my left arch, and general searing arch pain, and I felt like I was hobbling rather than hiking most of the day.
However, as I hope my photos and videos show, we had some GREAT views hiking into Cajon Pass. It was totally worth it and I’d do it again. Now, that may seem easy to write now, but those were my exact journal words at the time. We had so much fun. Lesson: Hard work is a part of the process. You’ll never enjoy the end result if you don’t enjoy the effort on some level. Granted, I’d been dealing with hard work and immeasurable blister pain, but it was all the same in my mind at the time.
But by the time we got to the Barstow Freeway and the road to McDonalds I was fighting to hold back tears. My feet felt like they were on fire. During a break earlier in the day (the second break; during the first break I ate my 3 pieces of leftover pizza with ranch. Yum!) Ghosthiker looked at my feet, assessed Sparky’s newly formed leg pain, and decided that we ought to get a room at the Best Western in Cajon Pass for the night since we were going there anyway for her resupply package. Split 4 ways (Lil’ Bro has been keeping up with us) it would be totally worth it to get hot showers, do laundry, organize our food bags in a clean environment, and get a free hotel breakfast. We have 23 dry miles to cover before the next water source, so we decided we’d rather tackle the big climb out of Cajon Pass in the cool of the morning than in the late afternoon like we’d planned to do today.
I’m ashamed to say that when we got to McDonald’s not only did I get a burger (pico and guacamole grilled chicken breast) with fries and sweet tea, but 2 ice cream sundaes! Here we caught up with a hiker we’d met at Big Bear named Oats, a very sweet German lady who happens to always be around when I’m shoveling food into my face. She finds no end of amusement in this while she, who makes big miles and carries very little, eats like a bird by comparison. I’m not ashamed. That greasy McDonalds food was totally worth it, and the place was full of hikertrash, so that was super fun.
I hobbled after the others to the hotel, where I let everyone else shower before me so I could then take my time. While Ghosthiker was taking her turn in the shower I was pulling all the various bits of Leukotape off my feet. When I pulled the piece from under my left arch, two thick pieces of skin came with it!! One I didn’t even feel, but the other was literally the hot spot I’d been covering. It just ripped right off before I knew it and started bleeding all over my foot, which was still so dirty from the trail and Sweet Mary, Mother of God did it hurt! For several minutes I just sat there holding a Kleenex to the open, bleeding wound and clenching every muscle in my body to keep from sobbing and swearing from the pain. Sparky and Lil’ Bro looked on in uncertain silence, unsure what to do to help me. I tried to play it off like it was fine but I’m sure my face said something different.
Ghosthiker came out of the shower and announced that there was no more shampoo or soap left, so she headed to the front desk to get some more for me, Lord bless her. She even let me use the disposable razor that came in her resupply box that she wasn’t going to use. When I finally got into the bathroom and shut the door, I almost melted onto the floor from sheer physical and emotional exhaustion. Thankfully I managed to get undressed and into the warm shower before I just broke down sobbing. The water stung the open wound in my foot something fierce but all I could do was stand there and let the water do its work. I couldn’t even move to scrub myself with a rag at first, I just stood there balancing on one foot (which was also covered in blisters), letting the water run over me and carry all the dirt and grime down the drain.
It’s just crazy how much everything can change in the course of a day. That morning I woke up and was so cold I had to bust out a set of hand warmers, and my feet were so stiff and sore I wasn’t sure how the day was going to go. But once everyone was up and getting ready we were talking and laughing and I was loving it. We hadn’t hiked a mile before we were too warm and had to remove layers and grab sunglasses and sunscreen. The day became hot and dry in no time, and during our first break we were sitting in the shade and I was eating delicious cold pizza and we were talking and laughing and making our plans.
When my feet loosened up more from hiking, they started getting too hot and the pain was getting pretty bad and I was miserable trying to keep up with the others, and then we were doing a big climb and suddenly we were on top of an enormous ridge and the view was spectacular and we were laughing and taking photos and videos for over 4 miles of breathtaking trail, and I was so happy I forgot about my pain. Then we started descending and the pain became worse and I was crying out to God for relief or help, then we were at McDonald’s at last and everything seemed fine again.
I cried hard in the shower. I’ve been needing to do that for a while, honestly. I’ve been so emotionally raw the last week or so, mostly because of the pain in my feet. I’ve been hiking for almost a month and I just thought I’d be done dealing with blisters by now. Ghosthiker can’t seem to believe how many there are on my feet, and in the worst places, places other hikers don’t seem to get them, and since I switched to better insoles we can’t figure out what’s causing them. I spent the evening icing my feet thinking that might help after the hot shower and hoping things would look better in the morning. It was all I could do.