Water carried: 5.5 liters
I’m all cozy in my tent with tired feet. Border patrol helicopters are making regular passes over camp at Hauser Creek, a reminder that not all walk these paths equally. A sign a mile backed warned, in Spanish only, of the dangers to be found in the desert: unforgiving heat, snakes, and strangely drowning though I pass nothing but dry creek beds choked with poison oak today.
The trail from the monument was gentle, but water is heavy and there is none to be found for the first 20 miles. My gear is light, but water is not. And carrying a day’s worth takes its toll. Overburdened hikers I will likely never meet leave traces of their struggles. At mile four, just before the first real incline, neat piles of discarded gear dotted the trailside. Green shoes and extra shoe laces. A dish scrubbie and two pairs of socks. A luxury looking sleep mask dangling from a bush.
I had a later than ideal start with hopes of getting some sleep and leaving at least partially rested. But I woke up at 5:30 am after only three hours sleep with toilet paper on my mind. Specifically that I had not yet packed any, and my brain was too busy to rest.
I walked in the heat of the day, in a semi-daze of sleep deprivation. The fine sand of the trail is laced with something golden, and when I free my feet of sweaty socks at break, my dusty toes sparkle in the sunlight. I notice the the trail is also often covered in busy red ants, and that it has been carefully raked in places. For maintenance, I wonder, or to better track you with? I realize I have been staring at the ground exclusively for at least the last Look up! I think. You are missing it. Though what, I do not quite know.
The trail weaves together landscapes, both human and non. Over roads, under massive power lines, over traintracks, under oaks. In the late afternoon I stop for food, stuffing down a tortilla, some dates, vegan jerky. Nothing tastes right. I am tired but have only gone 9 miles. I have not seen anyone since the monument. No sign of the descending hoards of “Wild effect” hikers, though a gate bears a sticker that reads: Cheryl Strayed drives me Wild”. I keep walking.
Just before six, I hear voices near the creek that is not a creek, and join four other solo hikers, worn from first days on the trail. I am still not quite convinced I am here, doing this walk. I guess I will sleep on it, helicopters permitting.