May 7, 2018
Did I mention that early morning is my favorite part of the day to hike? There’s something magical about a world just waking up and bursting to life from the stillness of the night in a way that the modern, settled world just can’t capture. That morning we managed to hike out pretty early and enjoyed a nice cool climb, where we were surprised to find some trail magic at a dirt road crossing. Mini Gatorades, mini chocolate chip muffins, and fruit roll-ups! I popped one mini muffin into my mouth and took a Gatorade. It was my favorite flavor, blue! I might have taken two. I’m not sorry.
After that wonderful surprise, we were blessed with 6-8 miles of lovely, shaded trail in a surprisingly wooded area. We stopped here for a nice, long break before hiking on to the next water source, a spring-fed pipe that emptied into a basin filled with cool, clean water. Here we met a lovely SOBO couple named Pain and Panic. We chatted with them for quite a while, gathering info about the trail ahead and whether or not the next water source was reliable. They said the water cache we’d heard about was still very well stocked, but the water sat in the sun so it was quite warm. That was OK, but we’d need to camel up before hiking on because it would be a long, hot stretch before the next source, a good 20 miles or so. We’d also need to take an extra liter for dry camping.
When we got to the cache at Kelso Road, we’d left our nice shaded hiking trail several miles ago and had been out in the direct sunlight for a while. It was HOT. I’d been hiking well ahead of Ghosthiker and when she caught up to me she asked if I’d seen Mt. Whitney. I said I hadn’t, that I probably wouldn’t have known it if I’d seen it anyway. Even though my feet are doing much better, my habit has still been to keep my eyes on the ground and watch for rocks. I’m still missing a lot of the terrain around me. I’m sad that I missed spotting Mt. Whitney, but I guess I’ll see it soon enough.
We found several hikers lounging in whatever shade they could find. Sparky, Oats, and two others were up the hill under a huge Joshua tree. Here we met Lucky Duck and a few other hikers who had strung up a tarp and were enjoying the shade during the heat of the day. We would run into Lucky Duck several times over the next couple hundred miles.
Because there was no other shade to be had, Ghosthiker and I filled our bottles, drank copiously of the warm, purified water, and hiked on until we found a lovely patch of Joshua trees a short distance off to the left of the trail, offering ample shade and room to stretch out and relax. I’d always seen the benefit of taking one long break in the heat of the day and covering more miles in the morning and evening, but Sparky and Ghosthiker didn’t think we needed to do that because the heat was less intense for us since we’d all started in March. So I pushed on with them as I always did. Not that I minded. While skipping the heat of the day seemed logical, I knew sitting around waiting for the sun to move would drive me crazy. I’ve never been a very good daytime napper.
This day was different. It had gotten so hot that Ghosthiker was more than ready to take a break, and once we were in the cool of the shade we both decided to rest there a few hours and wait for the sun to start going down before moving on. After a while, Sparky maneuvered around the brush on the slight downward slope and joined us. Oats must have hiked on. We hashed out a plan for camping that night and he hiked on, having already taken a long break.
Eventually, we gathered our things and started hiking again. Even after our nice, long break, the sandy trail was still really hot and we tired quickly. We were only 6 miles from where Sparky planned to camp but we just couldn’t go that far. The sun had already set by the time we found an adequate campsite, and who should we see there but Oats! She’d arrived just a little ahead of us and was already snug in her tent. She hadn’t seen Sparky pass her, but was glad to see us and happy to share her space with us.
The air was still warm and dry long after the sun went down so I decided to camp without my rainfly that night. I drifted off to sleep gazing at the stars through the mesh of my tent.
We hiked 21.5 miles that day.