Day Twenty

Today's miles: 22
Total miles: 288

I awoke in my top bunk this morning and caught a shuttle back to the trailhead at 7:30 with Lunchbox, Rotisserie, Papa Bear, and Katie.

The weather was quite windy today, which made the heat more bearable. We were in good spirits, having had a nice day in town. The only difference was that our food bags were much heavier now that we had five more days of snacks and dinners in them. 

The trail today was very kind to us. It went over rolling hills but never really climbed. The wind and the shade made for very pleasant hiking. And I discovered something new for me: I was hungry! After two weeks of feeling ill every time I looked in my food bag, I suddenly had an appetite, and every two hours like clockwork I wanted to devour everything in my bag. This was a good thing, because food gave me the energy to keep going, and made me feel stronger, too. I was feeling more and more like a hiker every day, and less and less like an exhausted failure. After all, I had hiked almost 300 miles! A true accomplishment, and I was proud of myself for sticking it out when there were some days I wanted nothing more than to quit. But the days are better and better, the people are more like family, and the trail is more like home, despite how much it still challenges me. I can conquer it, and it makes me feel strong to admit it.

Katie and I kept pace with Rotisserie and Papa Bear, and later TwoBadDogs. We had pulled ahead of them a little when I heard a sound like a swarm of locusts, and suddenly Katie was backing up into me, very fast.
"Snake!" she said.
And it was. Our first rattlesnake sighting, and it was a big one. And it was pissed. It was right beside the trail, rattling and rearing at us, and clearly had no intention of moving. We kept a respectable distance and yelled and tossed rocks in its general direction, but nothing we did made the snake get out of the way.
A short time later, Papa Bear caught up with us.
"Look out! Snake!" We warned.
"Ooooh yeah, he's a big one!" Papa Bear said, and walked right up to it.
We freaked out. "Papa Bear! What are you doing! Move move!"
But he didn't. He just studied the snake from an all-too-short distance away and noted, "man, he's pissed, isn't he?"
"Run! Run! Keep going!" Katie begged.
"Or at least if you're going to stand so close, take a picture," I suggested.
"Ooo great idea!" Papa Bear said, and whipped out his camera.
"Bramble! Stop giving him ideas!" Katie said.
"He can't strike this far," Papa Bear said, but I wasn't so sure. Katie and I still didn't want to go by, so Papa Bear picked up a long stick and prodded at the rattling snake until it retreated into the bushes. Then, while he had it at bay, we scuttled by.
"You are crazy," Katie said.

At lunchtime we found a little picnic bench to stop and eat, and Papa Bear pulled out his favorite treat: Skittles. He told us his favorite joke about them: "How can you identify a thru hiker? You put a Skittle on the trail. A day hiker will step on it, a section hiker will step over it, and a thru hiker will pick it up and eat it."
He then placed a yellow Skittle on the trail and said he had been leaving them for Giddyup, who apparently had a similar affinity for the treat.

Today's hike was a lovely walk with aerial views of Big Bear Lake, and since we were feeling so good we tried to do as many miles as possible. There are apparently hot springs at mile 308 and we want to get as close as we can to them. We managed to pound out a solid 22 miles before finding a windy, sandy spot to camp for the night.