Today's miles: 20
Total miles: 68
Since yesterday was a "short" hiking day at only 11 miles, we decided to try and pound out a higher mileage day today. To do this in the desert requires a fair amount of planning. Between the hours of 8 and 5, the desert is a miserable place to be. There is no heat like that kind of heat - you spend the whole day obsessing about shade, breeze, and your next water source. To make it through the day with your sanity intact requires getting up at 5 am, packing up and hitting the trail by 6 (or preferably earlier). Then you hike until eleven, ideally walking about 10 miles (less if it's really hot or steep), take a break in whatever shade you can find, and continue hiking in late afternoon when the sun is "less intense" (that's sarcasm, folks. The sun is never less intense.)
That's what our plan was for today, anyway. Well rested from last night, we were feeling good and skirted the 4,000 foot hills for five hours in the rising sun.
By then it was too hot to continue, so we checked our water report for the next source and found that it was a horse water trough (yummy). As we drew closer I chanted, "please let there be shade, and water, and a breeze... please let there be shade, and water, and a breeze..." (Sometimes the water sources are dry, which really puts a kink in your day).
When we arrived, there was water, but no shade. And the trough was full of skummy green horse water, so we had to filter it carefully in order to make it potable. As for shade... We were in a large, dry field, marked only by a horse trough, a tall water tank, and a wrecking ball. There were fifteen hikers already crammed into the five inches of shade the water tank provided, looking pretty hilarious in that vast expanse.
"There's no shade around the wrecking ball, don't bother" a hiker named Casey said. "It's been circled."
Katie and I crammed into the shade with everyone else, having to scoot in circles around the tank as the sun moved. Casey put on a show for our benefit: he had hung his sleeping pad on a wire fence to create a "wall" of shade for himself, and was now acting like it was a puppet show stage. He hid behind it, put his dirty sock on his hand and squeaked, "why do you all look so glum? It's only 98 fucking degrees outside!"
We were cracking up.
More hilarity followed when we heard Jesse shouting, "dude! Pay attention!" at Zachary, who was chasing his tent across the field. They had set it up to create shade, and now it was rolling end over end in the wind, with Zachary close behind, his wild red hit flying.
"We should make him Tumbleweed," Katie said.
Everyone laughed and Casey said, "his hair even looks like a tumbleweed!"
"DONE!" It was decided. A new trail name was born.
We hovered in the bit of shade until 2, then hiked on until we found a larger path to take a nap in. We were soon visited by many of the other hikers as they caught up with us, and we relaxed until 4:30 before pushing on.
We arrived at our destination, Rodriguez Spur Road, late in the day, having covered 20 miles. All my bones and muscles were aching, but it felt good to cover so much ground. Even better? We had a beautiful view of the valley below and a water spigot to rinse off the black dirt (actually, it never comes off...) and fill our empty water bladders. I can't believe how much water I go through in a day, and how precious it is. I dream about ice cubes and cold showers and swimming.
There were a good number of hikers at this campsite, too, old friends and new. Don was there, having been given the trail name "Papa Bear" today by a friend of his. It was perfect for him and we told him so. He was shyly pleased.
Katie and I pitched the tent, enjoyed the view, made a quick pot of dinner (which I couldn't finish... I still have no appetite out here) and turned in at hiker bedtime - 8pm. The evening was warm and I had a hard time falling asleep.