The forecast was for wind… I just didn’t expect this much wind.
My first half hour was a veerrrryyy slow one; straight down a bitumen road, and after yesterday’s efforts, my knees hadn’t yet forgiven me. Nor had my feet, actually.
I’ve got a few blisters going – some already popped, some I just let do their thing. I find that when I first wake up and they’re still kinda hard, they hurt like rocks in my shoe. But after a little while when my body has warmed up a little, the juices in there start to melt and I basically can’t feel them again. Basically. Anyway, there’s some gross bodily information you probably didn’t want to read but I’d s huge part of this journey 😉 Just be thankful I haven’t included photos!
So like I was saying, the first little stint took me a long while to do, until I hit the sandy desert floor and was able to cruise along a little easier. I found my self in a sort of catch-22, because in a lot of ways it wasn’t easier; it just didn’t hurt my legs as much.
The wind was next level. I could have fallen over and be pushed right back up before my face hit the dirt, but it also meant every step was a fight seemingly against gravity itself. And the deep sand did not make matters any better. I felt as if anyone looking at me would think I’m a drunk stumbling from side to side and swaying back and forth. You’ve heard, ‘The grass is always greener on the other side’? It seemed here that the sand was always more solid on the other path.
Every path I chose, I’d look around and find one that appeared better, only for me to cross over towards it and realise that wasn’t the case. I simply had to keep going through it all and hope it didn’t last forever. It didn’t, of course.
It seemed the desert floor did, though.Brown stretched on forever.
Soon enough, the ups and downs of mountains went on forever as well.
Yesterday, we could see right across the valley, across the highway, to a range of mountains and crests just north of us. Now, we had to climb them.
It was hot, but it was a glorious day. They all are, really. Hard not to be, with a backyard like this to play in:
The others had gone on ahead as I took my time to write out a post*, so now I legged it to catch up to them. Today, we’d cross Whitewater River – AND GET TO SWIM!
After so many hours of hot, arid land and a few more massive ascent/descent combos, I was ready to join the others and soak my feet.
But they weren’t there.
The Pacific Crest Trail winds down the last mountain and comes to a sort of T-intersection at another valley: left continues the trail, and right takes you a kilometre up the river to Whitewater Reserve, which is known for hosting and welcoming hikers.
Soaking my feet was so close to a reality it didn’t even occur to me that anyone might have gone left. We had said we were going 10miles to Whitewater, and I was there.
I wandered around the reserve for half an hour, repeatedly checking in with the ranger to see if any scruffy hikers had rocked up or were hiding somewhere. The poor guy obviously felt sorry for me and my lost-looking soul, but he was very gracious and patient with every “No, they’re still not here”.
I worked my way back up along the river just in case they’d found a little nook of their own, and ran into another hiker, Mike.
Gesturing frantically at him, I would have looked like a crazy person. But then, that happens often for me these days, so no biggy. Mike was heading back on trail – he hadn’t seen any other hikers either in his hour stop there – but he joined me as I took my shoes off and plonked myself down in the middle of the stream to soak. He also was patient (and laughed) as I asked every person who walked by if they had seen a Swiss couple or French guy, and was answered with no after no. We weren’t really sure how on earth I would have passed them, but had to keep moving eventually so I dried my feet off, tied my shoes on, and set off again right behind him.
We had been walking in tandem for nearly an hour when he turned around abruptly with a huge cheeky smile and said, “Guess who’s here?!”.
Speedy was there.
He had gone left at the junction.
It was 4:01PM, and he was literally bending down to pick up his pack and walk on as we turned the corner and saw him at the river crossing. Poor fella had been waiting since 12:30ish, and had told the universe he would leave at 4:00PM if we didn’t arrive. How’s the timing?!
There were squeals of delight, questions of when and where and how, and laughter from others at the river as they watched us. Khaleesi and Dario hadn’t arrived, so I must have passed them somehow after all…
We stayed for a little while longer – not swimming, as we both already had – just talking about our day and stretching our legs, and decided it was time to head to camp for the last nine kilometres.
I strapped on my pack and he lifted his and my two favourite Swiss people walked around the corner!
Now THAT’S timing!
We squealed and laughed all over again at the improbability and quickly gave each other a run down of all our days, but they decided they’d camp there for the night so Speedy and I pushed on.
We were met with one after another unbelievably spectacular views as we wound around the range and the sun slowly set. We also met a two rattlesnakes. They were friendly enough, though.
We made it to camp – he before I (and leaving me a trail of encouragements scrawled in the dust), but not too far ahead.
I had a quick, cold, sponge bath in the creek that the campsite was next to, we ate our dinner together, and it must have only been minutes later we were collapsed in our respective tents.
Seems to be that’s how the majority of my days end out here.