Penny Pines to Rodriguez Road, 19.7 miles
Now, I don’t know if hell is a burning place or rather eternal separation from God, but I do know this: if it’s anywhere as near as hot as the desert, it’s not a place I want to be. The desert is the actual meaning of “hot as hell”. I mean, I am sunburnt, I have heat rash, I am sweaty and stinky and in the middle of an 18 mile dry stretch. Today was one of those days.
I hiked ten miles before lunch, after cooking breakfast at camp and chugging a liter of water. The first 8 or so were normal but the last two until water felt like my body was absolutely concrete. Ate lunch against the door of a trailhead pit toilet (classy) because it was the only shade around. Post lunch was about 3-4 miles in the hot sun until I came around the corner to see the whole crew I’ve been hiking with sprawled out in a patch of shade. Hallelujah for shade and breaks.
After resting for a while, we forged on the last 5 miles to get to camp. More heat, more heat rash, no water sources which means a heavy pack carrying water. There were beautiful views, and a nice wind. For those I’m thankful – but it was a “put the headphones in and try to zone out” day, for sure. About a mile outside of camp, I noticed a giant tent down by the dirt road I was going to camp on. My heart was hoping for some trail magic, because who in their right mind purposefully car camps in the middle of nowhere in the boiling heat?! But it wasn’t. When I caught up to the group we all talked about how much we wanted something cold to drink. Set my tent up, cooked dinner that I had to mostly force myself to eat (in my head I saw every participant I told to eat more on a Beyond trip before me) and went to bed. The Benadryl I took for some heat rash helped me knock out, although it didn’t stop me from hearing the coyotes or the car from the campers drive through our camp 2:00am for some reason. A long day done and over with.
From Rodriquez Road to mile 83.1, 14.6 miles
I was up and hiking by 5:30 this morning and it was STILL WARM OUT. My poor Washington body, my poor pale skin. It doesn’t know what has hit it. Usually the mornings have been when I can cruise the most, but today I just was not feeling well. On top of that, it was a slog to Scissors Crossing, about 8 miles away – the next water source and the place to hitch into Julian. I got there after what felt like a lifetime, and then within 7 seconds of sticking my thumb out on the road I got a hitch with two other hikers. Success.
Julian was sweet relief. Moms Pie gives hikers free pie and ice cream, on top of being able to sit in the AC, use the bathroom, and wash my hands and face. Like I said, sweet relief. I spent a few hours sitting in the shade on the side of a building in town, getting a good number of side eyes from tourists wondering if I was homeless or not. The whole gang reconvened around 1, got a pretty quick hitch, and headed back to scissors crossing. It was hot hot hot (HOT). We sat in the shade for a while lifting our feet but finally at 4 I headed out. 6 more miles would top off the day and the longer I waited the more I knew I would dread it. It was an exposed, often windless, uphill stretch and I sweat like I have not sweat before, but surprisingly I felt better than I did this morning. Powered through it, listened to some podcasts, and finally got to camp around 6. Pretty surprising because that means I did 3 miles an hour, which was great all things considered. Cooked a quick dinner (bless you, Annie’s Mac, and my appetite that came back a bit tonight) and crawled into bed. It was a beautiful evening as the sun began to set. Man, the desert is beautiful but it is brutal. Hoping to sleep well tonight in this wind.
From mile 83.1 to Warner Springs, 26.4 miles
Update: I did sleep well. A gift. I started hiking at 5 this morning and it was glorious. Not only is the temperature comfortable at that time, but it also means I can’t see ahead to the Disneyland line type of trail. You know, the one where you think you’re almost at the front but it turns out you have 17 deep switchbacks to go still. 8 miles before 8am, a quick fill up at a water cache, then possibly the worst 10 miles of my life. The trail dragged on, there was no shade, a billion degrees, and my feet were on fire. I kept switching back between audio books, podcasts, and music in an attempt to find some rhythm but nothing seemed to work. Mercifully, I got to the next water source, and shade, around noon, and spent the next two hours stretched out on my foamie sleeping and eating and chugging water. This morning I told myself I would not do all 26 miles to Warner Springs but here it was, 18 miles done by noon, and a 2 hour nap. Plus, the idea of a full zero day tomorrow, a bucket shower, and some sort of laundry was too enticing. Onward. The crew I was hiking with all had some caffeinated Mio with our water and I don’t know what’s in there, but it had to be something good because we did the next 4 miles in about an hour. Made it to Eagle Rock, snapped some pictures, and then all hiked together the last few miles. We straight hobbled into town. It was 5pm. Upon hearing that the only restaurant in town closed at 7, we set up our tents and did some more hobbling on the one mile walk to food.
Cold water! A burger! Fries! A chair! A chair with a cushion! Luxury. Determined not to walk the one mile back, we attempted to hitch. A kind man offered to squeeze us in his car even though he wasn’t originally going our way, but then a Boy Scout leader who had previously passed us with a car full of scouts showed up. Apparently the scouts told him he had to come back to get us once he dropped them off, so he did. We piled out of car one and into car two. Shoutout Boy Scouts, you saved us a mile that my knees (and really, my entire body) was not ready to do.
As the sun faded I took a bucket shower, quick hand wash of clothes, ate more (hey there appetite, welcome back for now!) and now am about to pass the heck out. We’re taking a zero day tomorrow and I am READY! Just under 110 miles in and happy to take a day of rest.