May 12, 2018
My hiking family and I were kind of spread out yesterday, with everyone fairly wrapped up in their own thoughts. I was okay with that. Because I knew the plan for the next couple of days, I was determined to hike at my own pace. My feet were feeling good and I didn’t want to jinx that. Good thing, too, because I had to let Sparky and Ghosthiker both pass be early on so I could stop and pee every two miles or so. Water was just going right through me.
I figured I’d hike “Alias” style: slow and steady with fewer breaks. I took one break at 9:30am to eat a snack and let my feet air out. This was about 6 miles in. I thought for sure I’d have caught up to Sparky and Ghosthiker by then, but oh well. I hiked on. When I got to the first stream at 12.4 miles, I was alone. I changed into my Injinjis and thin Darn Tough socks (for padding, since the Injinji’s were thin) and washed my thicker socks and liners as well as my bandana, ate a good snack, filled up my water bottle, and hiked on.
I got to Fox Mill Spring around 2:00pm. It was early, but this was the 14 mile point for the day and I’d expected to find Sparky and Ghosthiker there, if not ready to camp then at least waiting for me. I was told by a couple of hikers that they had indeed been there, almost an hour ago, and had decided to hike 10 more miles up and over the next pass.
“Well, then,” I said, “I guess I’m camping alone tonight. No way am I doing 10 more miles today.” Despite my best efforts, I’d been picking up my pace in order to catch them and now my feet were almost done for the day. Will I never learn? And why was I so tired already after only 14 miles?
I filtered 3 liters of water, two for hiking the next day and one for camp, and hiked a few more miles until I found a really nice single-tent spot somewhere around mile 685. It felt weird setting up camp at 3:30pm. It felt so early, but physically I was done for the day. I hadn’t slept well the night before so maybe stopping early would be good for me. I tried not to be frustrated by my weakness as I set up my tent. I’d only managed to hike a couple 20-mile day so far and there were people my age already knocking out 30s! I was thankful my feet seemed to be doing so much better, but I was still frustrated. Almost two full months of hiking and I was only just now getting close to Kennedy Meadows. Why did I feel like I was the only hiker having consistent foot problems? I knew I was because other hikers seemed to pity me. It was disheartening.
The flat, clean tent spot was situated under an enormous tree (not very common out here in the desert) that had a big, fat root I was able to sit on while I made and ate my dinner: instant mashed potatoes, salami, oatmeal with rehydrated powdered milk and honey, a Little Debbie’s oatmeal creme pie cookie, and a cup of tea. I was pleasantly full as the sunset and the breeze became chilly.
It was my first night camping completely alone, but for the next few hours I was passed by other hikers, most of whom I knew. So I didn’t feel so alone, really, until I crawled into my tent and the light began to fade. It was eerily quiet, so I put in my earbuds and listened to an audiobook for a few hours before finally drifting off to sleep.
One of my favorite things about being on trail are these evenings cuddled up in my tiny tent, comfortably warm under or wrapped in my down quilt while the dry night air drifts through my tent and cools my face. My stomach is often full at night, I have the comfort of knowing I have friends somewhere nearby, and the night sounds are soothing more often than frightening. Granted, that evening the night sounds creeped me out a little because I was alone, but my audiobook helped with that.
I hope I don’t get visited by any bears tonight.