Day Sixteen

Today's miles: 17
Total miles: 218

We have been so used to hiking in the cooler temperatures of the 8,000 foot mountains that we have become lazy about our desert hiking schedule. That was today's first mistake. Instead of waking up at "desert time" - 4 am - we slept in until 6:30 and realized our error when the sun shone in our tent and woke us up with the heat.

We finished our descent down Fuller Ridge this morning, the desert valley slowly rising up toward us. It was a long trek, made even more frustrating by the fact that we could see the desert floor far below us, but it never seemed to get any closer. We were like lazy airplanes slowly circling and never landing. But we eventually descended from 8,000 feet to nearly sea level, the heat slowly sinking in.

There was a water spigot at the bottom of Fuller Ridge, so we filled up our water containers and expected an easy five mile hike to Ziggy and the Bear's trail angel's house where we hoped to take our afternoon siesta (something else we had been forsaking while in the mountains). Unfortunately for us, that five mile trek was hell warmed over. We had become so complacent with the mountains that we forgot how terrible the desert can be, and this was terrible. Five miles of flat, tree-less, sun baked earth stretched out before us. And the sand. Oh, the sand. Soft, silty, white mushy sand like the kind you find on the beach. The kind that makes your feet sink as you step in it. The kind that makes you feel like you're running in slow motion, and not going anywhere. Imagine walking in that... for five miles... in 95 degrees at 10 am. It was the closest to heat exhaustion and hallucination that I've been thus far. When we found an overpass with a bit of shade and a cooler full of ice, it was heaven. When we finally reached Ziggy and the Bear's, it wasn't a moment too soon.

Ziggy and the Bear have an impressive set up. They have been trail angels for a number of years, and they have it down to a science. They even had two hikers from last year volunteering this week to help with the onslaught of hikers coming through. We were led into their backyard, where awnings for shade were set up, port-a-potties rented for us (a big deal when you're used to pooping in the dirt), a shed turned into a shower with towels and shampoo, bins full of cold drinks and snacks to buy, and a sink and clothesline for washing clothes. My favorite part, though, we're all the little signs they put up to label the junk in their yard. Old scrap metal was labeled "brackets from the Eiffel Tower." An old bike was labeled "Lance Armstrong's next ride." A pile of stones labeled "leftovers from the Great Wall." And my personal favorite: a few bowling balls with a note that said: "please return to Canada. Limit one per hiker, please."

We signed our names in the register (I was hiker #475 this year to come through!!) and immediately were given a hot foot bath and an explanation of the amenities. It was heaven sent, and so good to see 30 of our closest friends already resting in the shade. Having walked over 200 miles, I can honestly say I am still overcome by the generosity of the human spirit, and what some people will do out of the goodness of their own hearts. Ziggy and the Bear are two such people, who took care of us when we needed them most and asked nothing in return. God bless small kindnesses.

Chris and Hitch

Feeling refreshed from a shower and foot soak, I played cards with Wocka Wocka, Giddyup, and the two Aussies, and swapped stories with other hikers I hadn't seen in a few days. Apparently 70 hikers had stayed the night here last night, though many left this morning. Katie and I didn't plan to spend the night, but an afternoon siesta was just what we needed. The thermometer read 98 degrees, and we had no intention of moving until later in the evening.

At noon the Bear passed around Burger King to go bags, and told everyone to write down their name, order, and throw in money for lunch. Then he collected all the bags, made a Burger King food run, and came back with 30 bags of fast food to go around. I never thought a fried chicken sandwich could taste so magical. Even the Aussies were taking "selfie" photos of their first American fast food experience.

We stayed until 5:00 and then reluctantly left the shade for the sun blasted hills. We had only 8 miles left to go, and the hike was a pretty one, through hills and canyons reminiscent of the Deschutes in Oregon. We hiked through dusk, my favorite hour, and arrived at the bottom of the canyon at Whitewater Preserve at 8pm. It was a magical campground with a beautiful stream running through it, dark hills surrounding it, and cold Trout pools that we were allowed to wade in. The Aussies, Katie and I set up our tents and then Katie and I took a sleeve of Oreos and our bare feet to the wading pools and sat looking up at the stars.