Water: 2L from Robin Bird spring; carried 6L from landers spring
Despite the long day I don’t sleep especially well. I have a can of Pringles, a full size can, that doesn’t fit in my food bag and I keep worrying that mice are chewing through my tent to steal them. Hunger is making me a bit overprotective of my snack food. In the middle of the night, a blaring MOOOOOOO! interrupts sleep and laughter erupts from a nearby tent.
In the morning I drag my tired self to the water source, 9 miles up the trail, with an emphasis on up. Long yesterdays always make for slow going. I was told that this stretch, beginning from the last road marks the beginning of the Sierra, that we are walking in the foothills, and today I finally believe it. I walk through shady pine forest, more and more granite piled up as the day goes on.
Mac and Cheese, my night hike escorts, are at the spring, eating a massive bowl of potatoes of gravy. There’s water aplenty, cold and clear enough. We talk about the dry section up ahead.
I get my post lunch groove on, and power down the trail. With my friend group a day ahead, there are lots of new people to meet. I stop and chat along the way, not in a hurry in the heat. I meet Piute Mamma, another long-time trail angel. She’s sitting at a road crossing, checking that hikers are prepared for the waterless stretch. She confirms that the two springs ahead are both totally dry, and that the first cache may no longer have water in it. She looks concerned when I admit to only having a six liter capacity, then promises to call another trail angel and make sure there’s water at the second cache.
I rest in the shade at the Landers Meadow Campground spring, a miraculous pipe spouting clear, cold water that comes from the rocks. It is the last guaranteed source before the longest dry stretch on the trail. My plan is to stay hear until I am fully hydrated (aka pee long and clear)and then hike out in the cooler evening.
I reluctantly fill all my water containers and work out where to stash them. The water weighs as much as everything else I am carrying put together, minus the food. This is the heaviest all trip so far, and will likely remain that way.
At 6:30 I head out alone. It is still plenty warm, but I am hoping to have a few hours good light. I walk through the gate, and Piute Mamma’s word’s echo in my head “after the second road crossing, there’s no water for 43 miles.” My pack creaks out complaints “what are you doing. what are you doing,” as I slowly head uphill.
It’s rocky here and seems like prime mountain lion territory. Just as I am running over what to do in the event I am being stalked, a mass of tawny furry bounds across the trail. But it is only a deer. The first one I have seen on the trip.
As it is getting dark, the trail again provides. This time it is Tonka, as evening hiking support group. We walk until we can barely see, before landing an amazing view camp site behind a twisted old tree on a finger of land above the valley. The stars grow brighter each minute, and the sunrise promises to be spectacular. Oh, and I still have almost all my water.