0 Miles in Warner Springs
How sweet it is to sleep in (until 6:45 or so, it’s all relative) and not have to break down camp. Today is my first zero, and it has been glorious. Soaked my feet, took a bucket shower, hand washed laundry, and sat around. Sitting has never felt so nice. I proudly introduced the candy SweeTarts to some of my new friends I’ve been hiking with and around – a Brazilian, a German, and a Swede. They all approved.
I also bought a cheap pair of flip flops. I didn’t think I would want or need camp shoes on this hike. The only time I’ve needed camp shoes was at Beyond Malibu where my mountaineering boots created a lot of pressure on my feet, and I had tennis shoes to change into. Now, I’m wearing trail runners all day and it’s not so much that my feet feel a lot of pressure as much as they need to air out – to let blisters breathe, hot toes get out of sweaty socks. I think the added weight will be hardly noticed.
And speaking of blisters, I feel pretty thankful to only have three after 110 miles. Other hikers feet I’ve seen around here look like freaking bloody battlegrounds. Toenails are already on their way to falling off, entire foot pads are ripped up, heels are cracked and oozing. Yep, I’ll take my three semi-minor blisters and be thankful.
Yes yes yes. My first zero day has been just what it needed today, and tomorrow will be back to hiking.
Warner Springs to Mile 119.6, 10.1 miles
A short day today after the zero yesterday. It’s funny that 10.1 miles feels like a nero day (nearly zero), but it was nice to ease back into hiking. I got a later start at 8:40 or so, after breaking down camp and sitting at a picnic table to boil some water for oatmeal.
The first couple of miles out of Warner Springs were some of my favorite. They started out through open fields, long grass waving on both sides of the trail and a cool breeze at my back. I was purposefully moving slow, wanting to do lower mileage so I had to make it a point to not charge ahead as I tend to do sometimes when I know I have a lot of miles to do. After the fields, the terrain changed as the trail wandered through trees and criss-crossed a creek. After 6 miles, I took an early lunch by the creek in the shade. In my attempt to actually take it easy, I read on my Kindle app for a while after eating. I spent about an hour there, and then decided i was ready to go. Just a tenth of a mile later I passed some friends in the shade by the creek, and a tenth of a mile past that I realized I still had so much time in the day, so I veered off at the last creek stop. Took the shoes off, sat by the water, cooled down in the shade, and spent another hour not hiking. It was good to take it so easy today.
The final four miles of the day were uphill in this weird weather – humid, cloudy, hot. There’d be an occasional breeze but the air was pretty stale and unmoving. I made it up the last incline stretch to camp and water – some of the group I’ve been with was staying, some hiking on. The clouds rolling in were just another reason for me to keep mileage low, as I didn’t want to take the chance that it would rain and then have to set up camp in that. I made some tiny mini “pizzas” (tomato paste, cheese pepperoni, Ritz) and called it a night.
All in all, I absolutely loved the morning miles, and the afternoon miles felt less than exciting. The water source I’m at is such a slow drip that it takes 5 minutes to fill a liter. Despite the beautiful views from up here, then, I’ll be ready to move on in the morning.
Mile 119.6 to Mile 138.9, 19.3 miles
Well, I don’t have anything to say about the sun or the heat because neither was present today. It rained a bit last night, paired with some wind, but nothing too bad. I packed up and was out of camp by 6:30. Upon leaving, it was cloudy and cool but not uncomfortable.. it just felt like I was in a cloud. Even though the weather like this makes for few views, damp clothing and the need for a raincoat, it really was great hiking weather. I cruised a little over 7 miles in a couple of hours, which put me at Mikes Place for water and meeting up with those I’ve been hiking with.
I’d heard about Mikes Place – the gist of it being that it’s got some weird vibes, and things got so bad that someone put a water cache at the road so that people didn’t have to go down to this place (it’s the only water for a while). To say that this place was off the wall would be a huge understatement. It was WEIRD, sort of the type of place that they might feature in the intro of a horror movie. Off the grid, in the middle of nowhere, lots of random junk strewn about. There are apparently new caretakers this year, but still, not a place I’d want to roll into after dark. At this point, though, it was raining and even windier than before, so I was happy to spend a few hours here out of the weather. A group of us sat squished together wrapped in sleeping bags and blankets, joking about how this was not supposed to happen in the desert. The temperature was maybe low 40s, but when you factor in wind, and that it was upper 80s the day before, it felt cold.
I don’t think my body knows what to do out here. One minute we’re fighting for shade, and the next we’re huddled together hoping for a tiny break from the rain and wind. Since none seemed to be coming, a group of us decided to head out around 1:30. We didn’t just hike out of there, we charged. The faster I hike, the faster I can eat and crawl into bed was my thought. As someone from Washington, I feel like I can comment on the severity of rain, too. Today it was sometimes misting, sometimes pelting sideways rain that makes you lower your head and look down, but always, rain. With about 45 minutes of hiking left, I finally got a reprieve from the rain (and a sweet rainbow). That was probably the biggest gift of today – setting up my tent without being rained on or having tons of wind. That, and being able to be in my cozy sleeping bag, eating a cookie, and reading from my Kindle app. Maybe trail life isn’t too different from my life outside the trail.
Mile 138.9 to Mile 155.9, 17.1 miles
Another early morning, as I was on the trail by just past 5:30. I headed out by myself into the wind and mist feeling hopeful that today the weather would turn. The plan was to do about 13 miles to Paradise Valley Cafe, then an easy 4-5 after spending a chunk of time there. My first five miles were mostly smooth and fast as I climbed up and up. Finally I conceded to taking off my raincoat. I kept thinking the sky was going to open up and pour but it never quite did. Mostly mist. At the first water cache I caught up to some of my group who had left camp earlier, and we did the next 7 or so miles to the cafe with, or at least around, each other. As far as hiking weather goes, it was really great. Cool, a bit of wind, overcast. You just couldn’t stop or you’d be immediately cold.
My left foot started really hurting, which was frustrating. I have a blister between my toes that is still feeling tender. Regardless, we finally made it to the road to the cafe, and saw a sign inviting hikers to call for a ride. Get a ride rather than walk a non trail mile to food? Say no more. Oh, and I passed the 150 mile mark this morning. Nice.
At the cafe, I got a giant breakfast burrito (it was around 10:45 or so) and a hot tea. What a treat after being chilled for a day and a half. Later on, we did more ordering and I just split a salad with someone and had a side of fruit. So fresh, so tasty after dehydrated things. The sun came out once we were done, so we sat out in the grass drying gear and soaking up the bit of warmth. After a ride back to the trailhead, we did a slower 4 or so until our camp in this semi protected area. I loved the afternoon miles – low 60s, sun and clouds, a cool wind. Giant rocks and trees and new terrain.
I’m feeling pretty tired today. There is probably more to the day than I’ve talked about, but the wind now picks up and my eyes are getting sleepy. It’s only 7:45 but when you hike at 5:30am, then 7:45pm is definitely bed time. Goodnight.