I wake and get my tent back in its stuff sack and return the borrowed trekking pole to it's owner. Since it's going to be a slow morning, I sort and reorganize my pack. I discover a small mouse tried to make its home in my hip pouch and ate all my chocolate in the night. It also chewed up my light and eventually disposable pack towel. What a turd, oh well. I'm not mad about it.
My feet feel swollen from the blisters and miles yesterday. I hobble around the camp area, sorting and stuffing things away. I gather all my things up and sit by the resource center waiting for it and the airstream outfitter to open. I still need some thermals for sleeping and extra cold days.
A few new hikers trickle in and out. AJ and I eat a little breakfast and soon, the doors are open. It warm inside and we buy a few coffees for just a dollar each. I hunker down in a corner and write. Writing on the trail has been so hard for me. I can't seem to find a sustainable system and really only write when I am at a rest stop like this. I need to be more disciplined. It's difficult, because of socializing, hiking long hours, eating and sleeping. When you're resting or in your tent, you're either sleeping or eating. There isn't really any other down time between all the movement. It's frustrating me.
When I finish, I buy a few things from the resupply room. A packet of ramen, some spam singles and Goldbond. Just then, Hikelopedia shows up! She has been moving slowly as to not further damage her shinsplints. She seems to be doing well and we're happy for her.
Soon, AJ and I are ready to hit it and the outfitter opens up. They have some wool leggings that are a dream to wear and keep me so cozy and warm. AJ wanders in too and pokes around at the shoes they have in the small cramped camper. On a whim I decide to try on a pair of new shoes to compare with my current ones which seem to be giving me issues. I did everything by the thruhiker book: I bought them a size too big and kept the laces nice and loose, but they're still giving me blisters. I have an aversion to the popular thruhiker shoe Altra since their 2.5 version royally messed my feet up when I hiked the Oregon coast. As soon as I slip my foot into them I know they're going to work, I set aside my pride and buy them. Instantly my feet are relieved but my ego a tiny bit tarnished. I had such high hopes for my other shoes! AJ and another hiker buy a new pair as well. We all walk out with happy feet, but bummed our original shoes didn't work. Happy healthy feet are key! We'll see how they work in the long run.
AJ and I hit the road and turn into the trail. We roll over grassy hills dotted with shrubs and oaks. Soon another hiker catches us, and it's Crash a very fast and light Australian guy. We all take turns poking fun at his accent and he makes fun of ours. The humidity is up and the warm wet air holds us and we sweat more than usual. We climb up and up and up and it seems like it'll never end and then we're walking alongside Auga Caliente creek. The air cools and the creek is flowing beautifully. The whole area is lush and green. AJ and I stop at a boulder for a break by the rushing water. It's perfect and serene. He trims his beard while I eat chips and Reese's pieces candy. I let him try my "all dressed" chips and he's instant hooked. We happily share resources and food with each other and we help one another out when the other needs it. It's good.
Tonight we're aiming for a place called Mikes Place. We have no idea what to expect there, except that there will be a water tank there for us.
We get our shoes back on and head out into the humidity. Ferns! There are little red and green ferns all around. We climb and climb, like it's never ending. Our feet feel much better. Soon we separate and do our miles at our own speed, meeting up here and there when we take small breaks.
We skip a water source, and budget tat our 1.5 liters will do us fine for the next 8 miles to Mikes. As we rest, the air is cold so we move again to stay warm.
Still climbing. We move into the cloud line that hovered up at the mountain tops when we were down in the valley. We're at about 6000 feet. The landscape begins to look like an exotic jungle. It reminds me of home. There's water here and unusual high desert life grows here. There's even moss covered rocks! We're in awe.
Soon, AJ, Crash and I all spread out. I put in my headphones and hike fast. Soon we will loose light and I don't want to night hike in this damp cold weather. The landscape morphs again. Huge pink boulders are everywhere along with silvery burned trees and green undergrowth with cacti and purple and pink flowers. The clouds swirls around me. The mountains rear up alongside of me. It's eerie, epic and intensely beautiful. But I move and move and don't stop, we must get to Mikes before dark and more cold settle in on us.
I meet back up with AJ and I let him lead. As we round a corner, the clouds part to reveal a very large mountain to our left and we are startled. The sky and rocks all dusky and pink, the mountains black and ominous.
"Where the fuck would anyone even live out here?" AJ says.
"I have no clue. I hope this place is real."
"What if it's overrun by a zombie apocalypse?"
"Then we'll kill them all." I say in a huff. My feet are so tired and I'm getting a little cranky.
"HOLY SHIT WHATS THA...?" Says a startled AJ.
I interject at what we're both looking at "OH MY GOD WHAT IS THA...?"
It's just a power line, jutting up out of the horizon like a crucifix. Somewhere in our brains we forgot that they existed, and it scared us. We laugh for a long time about it.
Dusk is on us and clouds swirl like thick wet smoke. We find the spur trail to Mikes and see what looks like a small settlement in the middle of nowhere. There's a few houses and some RV's.
As we walk in, other hikers cheer at us. Pink Floyd is blasting in the post-apocalyptic looking homestead. There's pancakes and roasted chicken being cooked in a small shed that a man named Jason offers to us. He seems to run the place. I grab a pancake and use it like a plate to pile up chicken. I smother it in hot sauce and syrup and eat it like a heathen, saying no words to anyone while I eat. AJ does the same and we wordlessly agree how good this is. I finish the pancake and lick my dirt covered fingers clean.
We find a small spot on the huge porch to lay out our ground sheets and pads to sleep. Pitching a tent seems absurd at this point. As soon as I put myself into sleep mode, with my things all around me, I am asleep faster than I can shut my eyes.