Snakes: 0 (1?)
Woke up at 330am and laid in bed feeling surges of adrenaline about starting today. I cried a little thinking about how much I wish my mom were able to be there to send me off, that I would so love one of her hugs. Got up, got dressed, got breakfast. Mark and I were quiet in the car. In a way I don’t think there’s much either of us can say. I’m going. It’s going to be hard.
Started this morning at around 615. I both didn’t want to stop hugging Mark and my dad goodbye, and I was also desperate to leave. One last hug. And off I went.
The first five or so miles flew by. I was feeling strong and motivated. I chatted with several people. Cathleen. Tommy. Alpo. From the Pacific Northwest. Robert, from Redding. Mike, who was section hiking. Rhino, who has thru-hiked the AT. Jelke from Belgium. Bruce. Amelia. More passed whose names I didn’t catch. I saw a man and a woman both wheeling their backpacks up the mountains on a unicycle-type device. They had dogs. I stopped several times to tend to my feet. By 9am it was warm. There were several streams in the typically dry section. I dunked my shirt, my bandana in the water. I pulled out my umbrella.
I hiked with Mike and he told me about some of his trips to the Sierra, the upcoming terrain. In the heat of the day I started to stop more often. I was chatty. I had to cool off. I stopped and let my body temperature lower. But eventually I stopped and rested for long and invited people to join my “shade party.” From there I hiked with Jelke, whose water filter wasn’t working so I let her borrow mine.
I got slower and slower – the heat had lifted, but blisters were forming on my pinky toes despite trying three different methods to prevent them, and on top of that I realized I hadn’t done a good job at bringing in calories in the heat. I stopped and ate chocolate hazelnut butter and fig newton type cookies and eventually cooked myself some ramen right on the trail. I am glad to be alone in moments I’m struggling like that. I don’t want to be motivated or encouraged. I want to figure out what I need and then figure out if it’s possible to give it to myself. In that case, it was ramen. So I did.
Still, even after I was no longer bonking, the last miles dragged. At one point I’m pretty sure I heard a rattlesnake but it buzzed several feet after I’d passed it, which was strange. Several reports of snakes on the trail today, but I didn’t see one (I’m happy to keep it that way.)
My blisters were tender and my spirits were a little low. I’d started the day impressed with my speed and ended the day one of the last people to arrive to Hauser Creek.
At Hauser everyone had already set up tents. There are probably fifteen tents down here. People were sitting in groups and laughing and I felt lonely. Like joining a new school where everyone seems to have all the friends they want. But of course that’s not real. That’s just my brain taking itself in circles.
Not to mention, once I set up camp I realized I really didn’t want to socialize. I wanted quiet time to myself as I’d run my extroversion to empty earlier, and I had camp chores to do. I filtered water and dug a cathole (it is strange to find a place to poop when there are so many people all in one place) (it was also hard to find a place to pee all day – the space beyond the trail is thick with plants and there were people passing every few minutes.)
What we are doing out here is strange. A singular activity and a group one. Allegiances we abandon regularly. Walking because we can. Going somewhere but far, far away. If I’m honest I’m not thinking about where we’re going. I’m not thinking about how many days it will take or miles there are. I think: I’m gonna go on a 15 mile backpacking trip today. I feel like if I really imagined the scope of what I was doing I wouldn’t be able to go any further.
I’ve touched several things today that might have been poison oak. We’ll find out.
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