I don’t sleep well. My mind is racing until late and once I fall asleep I wake frequently. I hear Cadi (I was still spelling her name wrong) and Hobo start moving in the dark and think they’re getting ready to go when I realize it’s only 2:30 am so I go back to sleep. About an hour later they’re getting ready for real. I’m beat. I’m going to stay in bed I tell myself. I’m going to stay in bed. I’m going to.. well, fuck, I’m awake now.
“How close are you to being packed up?” I ask.
“I think we’re about 25 minutes out,” Cadi says.
I quickly pack my things and like magic, we’re all ready at the same time again. It’s 430 am or so and dark. I’m glad my flashlight is charged and I lead the way. Cadi and Hobo are both surprised at its brightness, but I still remember it failing on me on one of the only night hikes I did on the alternate to Idyllwild, so I don’t talk it up too much. I wouldn’t hike this early by myself – I am too nervous about mountain lions, which other hikers have been seeing. I scan my light up the mountainside making sure they’re not watching us.
In the dark, we pass 500 miles and take photos. We sing a little bit of The Proclaimers song.
Once the sun comes up my sleepiness really starts to hit me and it slows me down intensely. I stop for several breaks and Cadi and Hobo keep moving. It doesn’t help that I’m carrying 4 liters of water, which makes my feet pound more frequently, because I’m feeling lazy and don’t want to have to get and filter more in 10 miles. At one point I’m so tired I lay down in the shade and take a micro nap, maybe 5 minutes. It’s not even 7 am. Still, if helps and I’m able to do some more hiking before stopping for another break where I try to take a nap. The flies are awake now and biting and I cover myself in my rain jacket and Tyvek to try to keep them away. I am covered in bug bites and wake in the middle of night itching and applying hydrocortisone. I can’t quite relax with all the bugs, and then Mountain and Tallboy walk up and laugh and take a picture of my hiker burrito situation and so I get up and push for one more mile, to Horse Camp, arriving around 930. Arriving there means I’ve done 10 miles by 10 am, and also that I am going to set up my tent to escape the bugs and take a real nap.
When I get there I spot some shade and climb in. Mountain and Tallboy arrive shortly after and invite me to have lunch but I tell them I’m going to sleep. I hear Cadi and Hobo go past – they’re trying to push through the afternoon to get to Hiker Town.
I drift in and out of sleep for an hour before the sun steals my shade and I get up to move. In the few seconds I’m outside of my tent a black fly manages to bite my lower back. Assholes. I crawl back inside my tent in a new shade spot and consider sleeping some more but instead eat lunch.
It’s supposed to be in the 90s today but the group sitting there is planning on forgoing a siesta and just trying to push to town. This sounds like a mistake, a miserable mistake, but I’m persuaded by their group think and also I don’t know if I can sit there in my tent for another six hours.
Down to the hot hot desert.
Around 11:15 I get my things together and hike out. It’s hot but it’s downhill and there’s a slight breeze and my body is cooled down from my long break, so for about two miles I’m doing okay. I see a southbound hiker, which means he is going all uphill, and I can’t catch myself before I say, “Oh man, I do not envy your uphill right now.”
“I didn’t need to hear that,” he says in a friendly way. “Let’s just say I do envy your downhill.”
Not long after I run into Doc and Amnesia and chat and hike with them for a bit. The trail turns into 200 foot uphill and downhills that make my body feel the heat more intensely, so I fall back from hiking with them after about 2 miles and sit in the shade. When I get up to hike again I spot them in the shade and sit again.
I try to get myself to go a little further with promises of sitting down when I feel too hot. This works until about 3:30 pm when I see a glorious piece of shade, flat, and I lay down. I’m only 2 miles from Hiker Town but it’s clear to me I need an extended break. The flies are still brutal so I set up my tent in that shady spot, drink water, and take a very warm nap.
Around 4:30 I rouse myself and keep walking. I have cell service and I call home. When I get to the street, I call the Wee Vill market, where Rawhide is staying, because when they’re not too busy they’ll give hikers rides. The owner, Maria, picks me up. She’s very friendly and impressed with what we’re doing and I am glad I’m going to her store instead of Hiker Town, which has some pretty ugly trail rumors floating around, and has also decided to charge $10 to hikers for going there at all.
When we get to the market I realize just how out of it I’m feeling from the heat and go inside and get a cold Sprite and lay down on my pack in the shade while drinking it.
Once my head is back on straight I get another soda and order food and sit with Rawhide and Twerk and eat. They give me the run down of where everything is. I go to the bathroom and see that my face is covered in dirt so rinse it off and wash my hands.
After food, which I don’t eat much of, partly because it’s spicy and I haven’t loved spicy food out here, and partly because I’ve had about 60 oz of Sprite, I go take a shower. The shower is in a “closed” bathroom that the owner lets hikers use. It’s definitely not fancy but it’s water, hot even, and someone’s left bodywash/shampoo/conditioner in the stall which is about all anyone can ask for.
Happy Feet, who caught the hitch with me to town, comes in to see if the shower is available and there’s another stall so we shower next to each other. I wouldn’t shower next to every dude out here but he doesn’t creep me out in the least. I rinse my hiking clothes out in the water and dry myself off with my new Class of 2017 bandana and head out. I ring my clothes out and hang them on the fence. It feels so, so good to be clean. I find Twerk and Rawhide and it’s sunset so Twerk is taking portraits and he catches a few fun ones of us together.
I stay up and chat until 930 or so knowing that I can sleep in tomorrow. We’re going to hang out here all afternoon and then night hike the notorious LA Aqueduct to avoid the heat – it’s 20ish miles, completely flat, no shade. Most likely I’ll have to stop for a few hours sleep out there but I’m gonna do my best to nap through the day and drink caffeine before I head out.
The traffic noise is loud here, but I am so happy to be here, and I sleep like a baby.