Miles: 22 + 1 for water
Water: 4L out of sunrise trailhead cattle trough (too much)
Early 5:30 wakeup, navigating a floor covered in 43 sleeping hikers. I head out with some of the fast kids, eager to get on the trail and make some miles. Turns out they are the REALLY fast kids. Their pace is slightly too much for me, so I decide to walk on my own. A few inches of snow lingers in the forest, but to my relief the trail is not only visible, but slush free.
The ridge is windy and cold, all clouded in. Strong gusts numb my fingers despite the new gloves, condensation freezing on the finger tips. My pack straps flap into my face, stinging my cold skin. Then the trail is familiar, I have been here several times before. I try to project my memory of the view on to the screen of fog. Suddenly the mist shifts and for a few seconds, the expansive desert, dry ridges streaked with red, visible below. The scene disappears back into white before I can take a photo.
Though still cold, this is barely a hint of what it must have been like yesterday in the insistent precipitation. With breaks again unappealing, I make ten miles before 10am when I stop at a water source (non potable for horses only reads the sign) in a brief sunny break. I keep walking.
At lunch I detour off trail for water, half expecting to see other hikers there. I fill bottles from a faucet that runs clean water but is half submerged in a greenish yellow cattle trough. Luckily nothing worse than bugs is floating on top. This will be the first time I have to filter. I eat lunch alone sitting in then shadow of the water tank, trying to hide from the wind. I keep walking.
In the mid afternoon, I stop to rest my aching feet. I have walked over 20 miles, my biggest day ever. Just as I curl up to nap, friends arrive and we sit and chat for a bit before deciding it is too early to stop. I keep walking.
I am camped now at mile 64, agin by a dry creek. I have yet to stay the night near a water source. Three dry camps in a row. There are eight of us here, all friends now from our unexpected stay in Laguna. I think about all the good things that came from the storm: being humbled by a not so benign SoCal; resting bodies early on. But most importantly the chance to meet so many awesome hikers all starting together – there were no strangers on the trail today. Oh, and the fast kids? I just learned they did 38 miles right to Julian in one day.