20ish miles, the road walk threw off my mileage.
I wake a little later than I had hoped, but I am still up earlier than most. The morning is cold and I linger in my sleeping bag. I poke AJs foot with my trekking pole to wake him. Very slowly getting my things together, I make a mental note to do my morning food and day snacks prep before I go to bed. My brain is scattered and I can't seem to get myself ready as fast as I'd like.
Eventually we're all standing with our packs on and we hit the trail dirt. I can feel all the climbing from yesterday in my legs, feet and knees. There's another climb today and some descending, again. I can feel my knees and feet preimtivly protesting at me.
The start is smooth rolling trail and out of the corner of my eye is a bright red cone jutting up out of the ground. Snow plant! Again! This time it's several inches up out of the ground and it's gorgeous.
A few other hikers pass me, and we all collect at the base of a road before we make our approach to climb. There's yarrow growing alongside the trail, the first time I've seen it out here. I pick a few of the flower heads and stuff it into my shoulder strap pouch. The scent is comforting and of home to me.
AJ, Annie and I make use of the pit toilet, it's probably the most disgusting one we've used yet. I shove sour gummy worms, jelly beans and sour cherry candies into my mouth in preparation for our climb. Fuel. I need lots of it. I feel so sluggish this morning.
I turn up the trail and it immediately goes straight up. Up and up and up. My calves burn and I have to pause every 15 minutes or so to let my heart rate drop and cool off a little. It's not too hot, but hot enough that I am dripping sweat on the way up. It seems forever to me, it then magically I am at the top with Annie and a few other hikers. We discuss the upcoming endangered species detour. There's a trail alternate or the road. I decide to figure it out when I get there.
The descent is steep, so very steep and hard on me for some reason. My feet are very sensitive for whatever reason.
I gingerly make it down to a road and to a picnic area where I gather with a few other hikers, Annie and AJ. Even though there's no water in the area, there are mosquitoes hovering, so we don't rest for very long at all. We get on the road, which isn't very well positioned for hitching and there are no cars that seem to be out at all.
We walk the hot road. The occasional Mercedes or BMW drives by very fast. We pass a few derelict picnic areas. I can see the flash of snow plants high up on a ridge, they're everywhere out here! We see old privately owned ski lifts and they scare us. They looks so strange and creepy in the heat and snowless land. Expensive motorcycles fly past us. The proximity to LA is very apparent and strange to us.
We pick on one another and make games to pass the time. Up ahead we spot a white SUV.
"How cool would it be if that were trail magic?" I say.
Strider pops out from behind the truck and waves at us. Trail magic! Cold soda and beer that a very kind woman is offering us.
I decide that I want a coke from the cooler, not something I normally drink at all. I drink it fast, eat two cookies and a handful of gummy bears. I begin to slip into a sugary daze as we head back along the road. I can hardly put one foot in front of the other and my stomach hurts. Well, I can't do sugar like that.
I spot some picnic tables off the side of the road and walk over to them like a zombie. I collapse on top of one of them and take a comfortably uncomfortable nap for about 20 minutes. I dream vividly and lucidly of bears and bluebirds.
I snap up and awake and then I'm back on the road again. It starts to hurt, walking on the pavement is just murder on the joints and feet of thruhikers. The soft squish of the trail becomes comforting. Eventually I find where the trail picks up again and it's a gentle down in the blazing sun. A wind picks up though and cools my sweat.
I start to push it since I'm low on water and we're nearing our siesta spot. I dip down into a small creek and just shortly after, find the 400 mile mark drawn out in pine cones.
400 miles! 300 miles of desert left!
We move along towards our siesta destination, a small locked cabin with a working faucet. The faucet however squirts out boiling hot water, from some cistern that's sitting in the sun no doubt. Should have gathered water at that cool creek, but oh well. We gather the hot water and set some in the shade to cool and we use some to cook a lunch, since the water will boil quickly.
I cook up some ramen with lentils and rice, spam and add in some instant potatos that AJ doesn't want to eat. It's delicious.
Some other hikers group up around the cabin. One in particular is talking smack.
"Anyone who walked the road is a cheater."
Me, Annie and AJ all look at each other and roll our eyes.
"I don't like this bubble we're in." Annie says while looking over her shoulder in the direction of the others.
"Yeah, we're in a weird super bro bubble." I say.
We moved out of the "bubble" of hikers we had been in since we took some time off in Wrightwood and now we're around no one that we really know at all and it's strange to us. Folks are standoffish and in very tight cliques. We're probably perceived the same way. It's weird to me though, still this early on in the trail.
The bro hikers leave and I move into the shade of the cabin for a nap. I doze off and come back refreshed. Why am I so sleepy?
We take a long time to get our things together it feels like. One by one we set out into the waning heat. Soon, we will need to do night hikes to escape the sun and its burning rays.
The trail levels out and the hiking becomes easier. I move through an old burn area, where shrubs have repopulated the land, but old silvery manzanita branches curls up into the sky like a thousand little knarled fingers.
I grab a handful of candy from my hip pouch and pop a red jelly bean into my mouth. The cinnamon taste overwhelms me with nostalgia and warm feelings, for some reason I can't put my finger on it. Then slowly I realize its because my boyfriend would chew on cinnamon toothpicks. I think about him and how our future will play out for a long time. While the trail is beautiful now, I day dream of picking mushrooms on the coast with him. Eating foraged food, watching storms come in, smelling salt air, eating avocados, having access to my books and learning more on plants. Whenever it gets hard, I think of these things and I can move through whatever pains or suffering I am dealing with.
A part of me gets very nostalgic for the Oregon coast trail, my first long hike.
Dusk is settling in, and I'm dropping down lower into the desert floor. There's a small spring that AJ, Annie and I agreed to meet up at. I come to a junction that confuses me, the PCT seems to go both ways and the camp, according to my maps is behind me, but I never passed it.
Jackattack and Niel show up and we figure it out. I dip down into the camp and find the water source, a small burbling spring or creek, I can't tell.
Annie and AJ show up eventually and it's almost dark. We eat and make plans for the next day. I put tuna on a tortilla with cheese, mayo, mustard, hot sauce and cheese crackers. I wrap it all up and eat it. It tastes so good.
We lay out our pads and crawl into our bags. Sleeping to the sound of bats, strange night bird calls and the stars spread out above us.