Water: 2L Mission Creek; 3L spring
I am moving so slowly this morning, I just can’t find my stride. I stop for water. To dig a hole. To rinse scratchy salt out of my shirt tail and eat a snack. I drop my cookie and it crumbles into tiny pieces that I pick and eat out of the sand. I take photos of amazing yuca flowers. I drop my sunglasses in suspect poodle dog bush. I hesitate, then put them back on. I catch up with Greyhound and askabout poodle dog bush again. Still no, he says. My skin stops itching. Only 3 miles by 8am.
The rest of the morning is dominated by an exhaustive, massive climb, over 3000 feet elevation gain. And steep. The real poodle dog bush finally makes an appearance, and I dodge it with extreme care. I keep pausing to catch my breathe and can’t figure out what’s wrong. The hill becomes a mountain of doubt. Am I dehydrated? Am I delusional about my hiking ability? Did I catch Lymes disease from those ticks in he grass back at Warner Springs?
When I pause from the internal monologue of anxiety, I see that I am somehow in the forest again. The trees are giants, and the air smells like pine, not the marijuana stench of poodle dog. I reach the spring, cool water dripping in a mini cave. Shenanigans is here and others soon join us at a picnic table. The uphill haul at increasing elevation took its toll on all of us mentally and we take an extended and very early lunch break, too beat to care about miles.
After lunch I have energy again. The grade is more reasonable. Miles fly by. Then magical words emanate from up a crossroad: “do you want beer or soda”? We run in the direction of the voice. Trail magic at a little cabin. With chairs. And a real toilet I can use (thank you Jeremey and Leanne!). We stay too long and the sun is getting low. But there is more magic this forest. Strange caches, hand painted signs for accommodations and forest – even a couch with ‘dumpster’ full of what used to be hiker treats. There are also animal cages. A strange reserve zoo for the movies, with a real live grizzly bear sitting dejected in the corner of a not so big pen.
In the last of the light we get to camp, joining our friends. I eat sitting in the dark, mixing together the remains of my food: black bean soup, tomato couscous, olive oil and spicy pecans. Somehow, despite the morning, I have hiked almost 24 miles. Like many things on the trail, I am still not sure how this is possible.