Day: Friday, May 20th 2016
Miles: 119.6 – 145.25
Remote Camp 119.6 – Remote Camp 145.25
There is something quite fantastic about the relationship between the human mind and the human body. It seems that at every available opportunity, our brain makes us do things to our bodies that are utterly reprehensible – be it food, drugs, alcohol, marathons, tough-mothers, crossfit, through-hikes. They are all the same. Today I got to a point where my body overrode my brain, and it wasn’t a bad thing (if a painful blunt force reminder).
I woke on Friday morning in a cloud. This might sound like an amazing, fantastical concept worthy of a Disney fairytale, but in this case, whilst cowboy camping, in reality it means that I have just woken up wet. I’m not 50/50 in terms of cowboy camp success, the first was great, the second was not. I slept in an overly exposed spot with little wind protection and just off the PCT so night hikers woke me up as they passed. These are all bad calculations on my part and experience gained is better than none. I this started the day with a grumble. I bumped into Indy (from Germany) and a few others as I set off with a fresh 2 liters of horrid tasting water from the horse trough next door. Today was going splendidly.
After an hour of hiking from 6am, I came to an incredible close-up view of a cloud inversion just below. I was above the clouds now, and so were a few peaks, but little else. This little moment got the day back in gear.
As I walked further, the sun rose higher, but a pleasant cool breeze helped keep me moving at a good pace. About 7 miles from where I stopped, I reached Mikes Place, a rudimentary setup where the infamous Mike provides some tank water and occasionally beers, soda, food and maybe a wood fired pizza if you’re lucky. It was morning time and Speedy arrived at the same time as me to an offer of a burger with egg on top and a soda – heaven!
After a quick respite, and catchup with the Oregonian family I met back at Barrel Springs, I hit the trail again, enjoy some warm sun and a mileage sign indicating Riverside County and the Los Angeles basin were ever-closer.
The track rose and dropped as is the style of the Pacific Crest Trail. The heat grew as the day went on and eventually after a lengthy drop over many miles, I was back to desert canyonlands and searing heat. The views were memorable but I need to keep pushing on. I had a target in mind, getting to the Paradise Valley Cafe by closing time at 8pm. That would make it a 30 mile day – my longest so far, and now that the elevation and terrain just dropped me into Hell’s Kitchen, something that was challenging to say the least.
I passed two water caches, a reminder of how sparse the water supplies are. These are placed by trail angels to help hikers but you can never rely on them – one big troop of hikers could clear a cache out before its refilled.
I meandered up and down over ridges and down into creeks for an extended period constantly checking progress and triangulating the feasibility of making my destination. My body was not happy and aches were appearing. In the Suns heat your body expands, encase part of your body (such as your foot) in something like a sock and then jam that into something like a shoe (along with some grit and moisture ) and you have a perfect stew. I could feel a toe blister-my first. Hotspots in more than one place. Not a good scene. I had 7 miles to go, 2.5hrs to do it, was it possible? How many miles per hour is that? What’s the elevation profile? What is the temp when the sun drops another 30mins-worth. These are the thoughts of a deranged idiot through-hiker trying to rationalize something that is innately irrational. I had walked 25miles, mostly in searing daytime heat, and my mind was trying to find ways to justify a goal whose payoff was entirely short-term and likely incapable of being realized, but whose risks were entirely long term and undoubtedly painful. In lieu of waiting for a decision which my head was incapable of making (analysis paralysis anyone), my body decided to pull rank. With a sharp and sudden pain, not unlike stabbing your calf with a knife, my day was over. My lower calf was in shutdown with a serious cramp. Any leg movement was hugely painful. I was going nowhere further today. I was (coincidentally enough) also beside a pleasant little nook in the rocks that was large enough to tent in. Decision was made. It was 6:30pm. I had walked for 12hrs virtually solid. After some tasty lentils and pepperoni (post to come on trail-gourmet recipes), I was tucked up in bed and likely asleep at 7.
I’m not sure if the day was a success or not. I didn’t reach my goal, and in trying, I now have 2 large blisters and a lower calf strain to watch for. The brain may override the body, but the body will always have the final word.