It’s easier to keep myself motivated when I’m motivating someone else. I guess it’s a little like love; the more you give it out to others, the more your heart is full of it as well, right?
I met Al as I powered past he and his son Pops mid morning. It was downhill, hence the powering. It was also stinking hot, hence them sheltering under a spindly tree.
We spoke briefly; Pops had started in Campo shortly after I did, and Al had come out to join him for just a couple weeks on the trail.
My heart went out to him here, though.
Starting on this stretch, with this much food, in this heat… It was a trial by fire.
I took regular breaks, peeling off my shoes and socks every 45min or so, and massaging some Vick’s into them as my way of apology (I apologise to my feet regularly).
Pops came around the corner, with no sign of Al trailing behind.
“Left him in the dust, have you?”
“No no, I was just going to try and get to the top, drop my pack and come back down to carry his. It’ll kill his pride, but I think he needs the help.”
What a good son.
This hill was a mighty big one too, and directly in the beating sun.
My next foot rub break, and I saw Al making his way up. Part of me wanted to keep on with my own pace, cranking tunes and trying to press out this huge elevation gain, but part of me also knew maybe I could help encourage Al – and that part won out.
My shoes were back on by the time he reached me, and I asked if he’d like some company. I actually even gave a disclaimer that I generally don’t talk and talk and talk, but that when I have previously struggled up climbs and someone talks at me, it helps take my mind off hurting – maybe he’d like me to do the same for him?
We spent the next couple hours going up. Every time a tree cast a shadow across the path, we’d have a breather. Every switchback corner, we’d have a breather. And if there was a longer gap with neither shade or corner, we’d have a breather in the middle anyway.
Later, I marvelled with Songbird at how much it helped me as I helped him. I felt stronger, fitter, was able to get through the hard miles without really breaking a sweat. I was able to encourage him (and keep up my chatter) the whole way. If it weren’t for slowing down a little to help him, I would have arrived at the creek exhausted, worn out, thirsty and having had a massive struggle to get there. Instead, arriving upbeat and full of pep seemed like the universe’s way of giving me back some good karma for reaching out and helping someone.
The creek was most people’s goal to reach, early as possible. There was plenty of room and plenty of shade: we could have a leisurely lunch, nap, camel up on water (i.e. drink up whilst at a water source, to save carrying extra) and skip some of the blazing heat of the day.
Our group slowly grew and grew, as others made their way up.
Pip (aka. King Arthur) and Benjamin Button got in fairly late. They had camped where Thibaud and I had, so I was a little worried as hours ticked by with no sign of them (especially as I was slower than usual).
They got in maybe three hours later, haggard and dirty. Really dirty, actually. Someone asked how the heck Pip got so dirty.
“Well … Even though I kept applying sunscreen I could feel my arms blistering with burn, and I’d seen on telly somewhere that people rubbed mud on their skin to protect it from the sun, so I tried that.”
Gotta give the girl points for ingenuity.
As we all sat there hating on the sun and the climbs ahead, we came up with a foolproof plan: let’s hike throughout the night, and get to Kennedy Meadows by breakfast tomorrow. If we keep up a constant pace and stop every few hours for a kip, we could soldier on and finish the desert strong. Town is only 30 odd miles away. Totally doable.
Leaving at dusk, we went Al’s pace until we reached Pops and Co to drop him off, and kept walking.
Here’s to Songbird’s boombox, singing along to Proud Mary and Total Eclipse of the Heart and ABC from the Jackson 5, and striding into the darkness together.
We’ll see how far we get.