We were up and moving at a reasonable time and topped off our water at the spring. It was almost 19 miles to the next water source, so we needed all we could carry. Honeymoon wasn’t even moving yet when we rolled out of camp. We did our usual confused start, trying to figure out our single-file order, and Jailbreak commented that I shouldn’t go first since I’d “be limping along at mach 10” and they’d have to keep up. I guess I’ve picked up speed even though my body isn’t exactly cooperating.
We flew through the first 9 miles, a relatively flat section with smooth, comfortable trail. It felt great to finally lay down some real miles. We found a huge open grassy field with large shade trees and decided that this was a perfect place for lunch. We were joined by Adam, a hiker that we have been leapfrogging since the Acton KOA, and all ended up taking a siesta even though it wasn’t hot enough to require it.
After our break, the trail turned sharply uphill and was still quite warm so we paused for a break. My ankles and knees have been struggling to get warmed up again after long breaks, so I decided to push on even though it was hot and the guys wanted to wait. This is a difficult aspect of hiking with others- making decisions that aren’t exactly unanimous but are necessary for you.
This turned out to be a great choice for me today. The trail continued to climb for a bit before leveling out in a beautiful pine forest. There were huge boulders and scrubby bushes and lots of pines. It reminded me a bit of hiking at home except instead of being full of ferns and multiflora rose and various other underbrush, it was just dry grasses, allowing me to see much more than usual.
This terrain looked perfect for bears and mountain lions, and we have heard reports along the trail of both in the area. Desperately hoping to see one, I slowed my pace and tried to be as quiet as I could. No better way to meet a bear than to sneak up on it, right?
For another 9 miles I quietly glided through some of the most beautiful wilderness I’ve seen on the trail so far. Searching for these somewhat elusive creatures, I scanned the trees and boulder piles and open spaces on bothe sides of the trail. I moved slowly but I feel like I was able to connect with nature in this section moreso than in other sections. The trail was smooth and soft, rather than being full of rocks or roots, just waiting for a careless step. It was wonderful to be able to look around so freely even though (*spoiler alert*) I didn’t get to see any bears or mountain lions.
This section also included another milestone- I have now completed over 600 miles! Since I was alone, I took some extra time to really think about that. I’ve been out here for exactly 7 weeks and have walked even more than those 600 trail miles. I’ve met dozens of hikers whose names I remember and dozens more that I’ve already forgotten. There are people that I hiked with that got off trail without ever making it this far, and others who got farther but got off trail after fewer days. There are many more who are now trekking through the treacherous Sierras or who have flipped up to other sections of the trail. I’m still here pushing on, through joint pain and heat, homesickness and hunger, having walked farther than I ever have in my life and farther than most people ever will in theirs, experiencing something I cannot even fully explain.
I eventually made my way to Robin Bird Spring, a piped trickle slightly off trail with spots to camp. I threw down my pack and wandered around, waiting for Bandaid and Jailbreak. A young man I hadn’t met came down the trail and immediately walked up to me. “They said I’d find a girl in a white shirt at the spring!” I laughed. “Bandaid and- help me out-” he stuttered. “Jailbreak,” I interjected. “Yes! Bandaid and Jailbreak were fighting a bear. They said you would be here and to tell you they died.” My trail family has such a sense of humor.
I chatted with this new hiker (Louis from Germany) for maybe half an hour until we heard music coming from up the trail. We turned to see Jailbreak and Bandaid hiking with some serious energy and laughing all the way in. It was great to see them even after just a few hours. Everyone got water and we set up camp a little away from the water on the last available flat spot. There were a number of other hikers camping here, including Medicine Man who we met back at the Acton KOA and have been leapfrogging ever since. While we set up, Louis and another hiker began playing guitar (they each were carrying small guitars!) and singing, creating some wonderful music for everyone to enjoy.
It got dark quickly and we were awake later than usual. Louis packed up his guitar and hiked on to the next water source while the rest of us tucked in to our sleeping bags, glad to be done for the day.
Trail magic: 0
Hiked with: Jailbreak, Bandaid, about half alone
Camped with: Jailbreak Bandaid