Day 41 – 400 miles!

Success!  I woke up on time today.  As I ate breakfast all the hikers started leaving camp.. well okay I woke up at a reasonable time.  I ran down to the river, filtered water, and got going.  The very first part of the day was 800 feet elevation gain over 2 miles, then downhill for about the rest of the day.  I was starting to get my stride back after having a couple of bad days out here, I felt great.

We reached the top where extra layers were taken off.  The sun was actually out today, oh man!  No more clouds!  We started on our way back down where the trail took an unsurprising turn down to the highway once again.

From the highway we went downhill a ways near a dry river bed where I was hit in the face with a mile marker: 400.  It was a bitersweet moment for me.  On one hand I’m elated that I’ve actually made it this far because I certainly had my doubts when I started, but on the other I really should be a bit further ahead than this.  Despite a little knee pain my body feels great, I think I need to start doing high mile days now.  I really want to get to the Sierra before the bulk of the snow melts for a couple of reasons: One, I love snow hiking.  Two:  More snow melt means higher water levels to deal with crossing rivers.  I can totally do 20-25 mile days at this point.

We went back uphill a little ways and got to Camp Glenwood which is either a hangout for dads or a boy scout thing or who even knows.  It’s a private building and not open for hikers, but the toilets are open and there’s picnic tables and shade.  Of course we’re going to take a break here.  I put my pack down and leaned up against a pile of dirt in the shade, Exo opted to sit on the porch of the cabin.  His feet are in pretty bad shape today, the shoes he got in Wrightwood are too small which on top of his pre-existing foot pain is making for an unpleasant experience.

As we sat there some hikers came in.  I talked for a little while but overall wasn’t feeling very social.  I put in one of my headphones and decided to listen to an audiobook: Dune, as per 42’s recommendation.  As I sat there Exo got to work on his feet, he was taping up blisters and had to pull out a few toenails.  Yeesh.  All told we were there for about two hours however.  I wanted to make sure he had a moment to recover, but I was also feeling a little impatient.  Without saying anything I got up, put on my pack, and got ready to leave.  Exo followed suit, and we made our way up the dirt road to cross the highway one more time.

Soon the scenery started to slowly transition back to desert:  The trees spread out a bit more with less vegetation in-between, plants started to become more hostile, etc.  This brought up my mood a bit, I’m kind of ready to be done with this mountain range.  I’m sure it’s beautiful, but I wouldn’t know considering we were in the clouds the whole time.  We made our way up to another parking lot where a group of hikers were hanging out by a picnic table.  We took a short break here and Exo said something about water.  Just then we hear a voice from across the parking lot:

“You need water?!” A dayhiker asked.

I swear to god Exo manifests trail magic.

We left the parking lot and started to go uphill a ways.  I was still feeling really good and the hills didn’t bother me at all.  Exo on the other hand was really having problems with his feet and couldn’t make a very good pace.  I made sure to stop plenty of times to let him catch up and get a break.  We pushed on regardless but it was clear that things were only going to get worse for him, and I could tell he was getting a little frustrated.  Been there done that, trail injuries really suck.  I tried to think of how to make it easy for him, but all I could come up with was carrying some of his gear for him, which I couldn’t do without injuring my knee further.

As we pushed on we kept leap frogging with a hiker and her dog.  Her dog was afraid of men (super common) and required extra sensitivity while walking by and it reminded me of my life working with dogs before the PCT.  It seems so far away and almost unreal.  You mean to tell me I haven’t been on this trail my entire life?

Exo hit a low point where he was just visibly fed up with everything and was really regretting not catching a ride into town from the last parking lot.  He was hoping a viewpoint up ahead would be accessible to cars, but when we got there all that waited was some dirt and tents.  We passed it, pushed on uphill for a ways, and I came to a really good camping site.  It was .6 miles away from the next water source, but it would be a long way uphill before we found another good campsite like this.

“Wanna take a break here?” I asked Exo.

“Sure man” He replied.

I sat there and thought on the situation.  Part of me really doesn’t want to hike up to the water and back because doing negative miles is a bummer, but on the other hand it’d take some pressure off Exo.

“Let’s just camp here, we made our 15 mile goal.  I’ll empty my pack and run up to the spring and get water for us” I said.

“You sure dude?” Asked Exo.

“Yeah man, no problem” I said as I dumped the contents of my pack on the ground.  “As long as you make sure my stuff doesn’t blow away” I said with a laugh.  “I’ll be back in a bit”.

The way up to the water source was uphill but really easy.  I still had a lot of energy left and practically ran up.  As I made my way up another hiker from the cabin earlier was coming down to check on Exo.  Some hikers out here are really awesome.  When I got to the water I was greeted with the slowest trickling spring I’ve ever seen.  I got my water scoop out and lined it up with the water, it would probably take 5 minutes to get half a liter.  I tried this battle for a while but resigned to just scoop it from a pool of water that didn’t look that great.  It’s all coming from the same place, and I’ve drank worse, I don’t know why I didn’t just do this in the first place.

Bottles filled, I ran back down to camp with time to spare.  I boiled some water, poured rice into my pot, and let it steam while I set up my tent.  The hiker from earlier who was checking on Exo – DandyGreen – was going to leave him some pain pills on trail tomorrow to help him get through the day.

I talked with Exo for a little while until he crawled into his tent.  I sat on the edge of our campsite and looked over at the forest range we had just pushed through.  It was beautiful from here but I was glad to be out of it.  I thought about the early days of my hike and everything up to now and had a moment where I kind of missed being alone.  It isn’t that I don’t like hiking with Exo, it’s been really fun, but I kinda like just being able to dictate how my day goes on the fly.  I miss the freedom of it.  But of course I’m not going to just leave him behind right now with his injuries.  At some point I’m going to have to split off and hike my own hike, especially since I’m going to start doing 20+ days soon.

Tomorrow’s goal is to get Exo to the fire station 8 miles ahead where he can hopefully catch a ride from someone into Agua Dulce to Hiker Haven.  Hiker Haven is home to the Sauffleys, a family who opens their yard to hikers every summer.  They provide a number of really helpful things to hikers, one of them being a shuttle to REI.  Exo seriously needs new shoes.

I got into my tent, listened to Dune for a little while, then fell asleep.

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