My 5AM alarm was much nicer than yesterday’s 2AM one, and after sleeping soundly, I set off pretty quickly.
As the sun started to rise, I stopped for a moment to soak the moment in.
What a difference six minutes makes! Just imagine how much a few hours does! This is why I try and get an early start – things heat up so fast, it’s always better to tick some miles off before the real temperatures kick in.
There were some big climbs to make today, and big descents, and big temperatures in which to do them.
Five hours in, I was woozy and fighting the urge to vomit. Being sick at this point would have been a real bad move: not only would I lose the food I needed for energy, I would lose the water that I needed to simply keep my body going.
Maya had texted ahead from certain points since Hikertown to let us know what’s up ahead, and had promised a water cache and umbrellas just up from where I was.
I made the extra mile and all but collapsed in the shade of the oasis. I was in pretty bad shape, and not sure why: I’d had plenty of water, I’d been eating fine, it wasn’t crazy hot yet… but I wasn’t good. I couldn’t even sit up to hold a conversation, I just lay there on the ground.
There are a lot of new players in the game these days. We talk of groups of people who have generally been walking at the same pace as a ‘bubble’ – I’ve fallen out of mine and into another, with all the time off at Hikertown. It’s a very weird feeling to be meeting so many new faces I’ve never seen before. It almost feels like the first day of school: where everything is kind of familiar and I know one or two people, but there is a sea of others I’ve never seen before, with their cliques already formed. It’ll only be a matter of time before they too are my friends and become familiar faces, but for now, it’s… uncomfortable.
One of the new faces I met last night was there at the umbrellas. His name is Prof, and he asked me a few questions to try and narrow why I wasn’t feeling good and how to help. Prof determined that due to my having had next to no water the past three days at Hikertown and then flooding my body yesterday, it was probably a mix of dehydration and no salts/electrolytes left in my system.
Downing a big spoonful of salt.
Regular, everyday table salt.
I was in bad shape, so just went with it. Threw back the salt, chugged some water to wash down the taste, and voila! Five minutes later, I was sitting up and could think straight again. Very weird! Apparently salt gets straight into your system and helps replenish whatever you’ve lost, so as long as you have some water to flush it down with, it’ll do a world of good out here.
I sat for another half hour to give my body time to get some strength back, took another spoonful of salt for good measure, and set off into that heat – which was now blazing.
Fifteen minutes later, I was still kind of dead on my feet. I found a big pine tree and settled down for a quick nap, and fifteen minutes after that I was back in the game.
Thibaud had been a bit worried, bless him, and had taken a super long lunch halfway down the other side of the mountain.
When I caught up, I was a little surprised to see him there and embarrassed it had taken me so long to reach him. He simply said that he didn’t know if there was anyone else behind me, and couldn’t just keep going without being sure I was okay. That amazing Belgian man stayed with me the rest of the afternoon as we made our way down to the highway to hitch into Tehachapi.
Magic Man was at the bottom, waiting with his ute and an esky of cold drinks.
The very same Magic Man that was waiting for us way back in the first couple weeks! He had said back then that he tries to average out hikers’ mileage and meet us along the way. He takes four(ish) months out of the year each year to drive his caravan up the Pacific Crest Trail, and aims to see the same hikers in between towns when he can – giving out chips and nibbles, and cold beer, Gatorade and water. It was the best surprise to see him there after such a big day!
When we got into town, Thibaud and I dumped out packs in the hotel room, took turns scrubbing off the dirt and did some laundry. M&D knocked on the door very shortly and there were squeals and big hugs, before we hit up Thai for dinner.
So many new hiker faces at that restaurant too! It was interesting that within our little hiker family, we all recognised a few of the random others at different tables – I think there’ll be plenty of stories for us all to share of our different experiences along the same trail.
There’s a hot tub and pool at the place we’re staying, so unless I crash into bed first, a soak might very well be on the cards.