Somehow I made it 21 miles today in less than 12 hours and with the least amount of pain in a couple weeks. I am sure a lot of it had to do with the fact that the trail was incredibly friendly today, meaning that it was a flat, even surface. It may also have something to do with the fact that our total descent today was about 7,200ft and only about 2,800 ft of climbing. All this time I have felt that going downhill was harder on my ankle, more painful, but today proved me wrong.
This morning I woke to peace. We had camped at a lake called Paradise, and it was quiet, warm and surrounded by a thousand foot wall of rock. When I woke this morning I was sure there was cloud cover beause it was so warm out. Nope.Wrong. Just warm at 6:00am. But the lake sure was pretty:
We started with two short climbs and then most of the rest of the day was downhill with steep short ups. Prince and I call this EKG hiking, when the elevation profile shows a whole lot of sharp ups and downs repeatedly, jaggedly. At one point today I said these are tricky becuase as soon as you realize you are going up, you aren’t going up anymore. He thought that was very zen.
So back to my foot pain. The pain that I spoke of two posts ago. What had happened was that I hiked too fast, too much for a whole week out of Old Station up to Shasta, and that’s what did me in. When we left Old Station for the 30 mile Hat Creek Rim where we had to carry almost 6 L of water, thats when it all started. That week was all 23-26 mile dsys. Each day getting eorse by about mile 18, with the last 5 to 7 miles being excruciating. But for some reason, I just pushed through it. I guess I needed to test myself. After a 2 day break in Shasta, this week I have been pulling it back, slowing my pace way down, and now I am starting to build back up again, steadily, and with caution. I am feeling better every day. I am stretching and massaging a lot, and taking either Arnica or Aleve as needed, as well as a natural supplement for inflammation with turmeric and glucosamime as two of the main ingredients. All seems to be helping. Oh, and soaking my feet in ice cold water as often as possible too:
But I got to thinking this morning, about my experience with the pain and the ensuing depression that grew out of it. I think I needed to go there, to that place of doubt. I needed to experience the doubt in my own ability to make it to Canada. I needed to experience doubt in my own desire to go all the way to Canada. Both of those things I had not yet experieced on this journey, and it took injury and pain to take me there. These doubts are an integral part of the psychology of a thru hike, and now that I have been there, and now that I am coming up for air, I recognize that I have learned from this. I am definitely humbled. I am not invincible. I am fearful of further injury, yet I am also not giving up. I want to make it to Canada, and this is part of it all. So, once again, I choose “continue”.
I made it to a wonderful cold creek for lunch at about 1:30 today, having already hiked almost 13 miles. It was getting hot and the water was perfect for a good foot soak, almost too cold, it caused my feet to have that deep ache, so good. Immediately after eating, I put my feet up on a log and lied down, drifting off into two 10 minute cat naps, each cut short by the sunlight arriving on my body, making me hot. Alas, they did me some good and finally I got up, ate a few pieces of chocolate and was back on my way.
In all of this heat, I got to thinking about water. I think about water a lot, actually. Mostly I just think how grateful I am for it. Water is so vitally important to all of human and plant and amimal life, of course. But, water is truly important out here. Water stimulates and soothes all of our senses. I love water. I love it’s presence anywhere and in any form.Sometimes it’s a lake. Sometimes a trickle, maybe a mud puddle forms from that trickle and my feet stick and make a squishy sound as I walk through it and a little bit of mud splashe up on the back of my leg and feels good. Then there is moving water, the best kind in my opinion. Flowing, cold, soothing, making that sound over the rocks, hitting a pool, or splashing over a fallen log. Water is beautiful to look at. Water tastes the most refreshing. Water smells clean. Water makes so many different sounds. Water feels so wonderful all over your body.
Today, around 4:00 in the afternoon, it was topping out at 100 degrees and there were some sections where we were just totally exposed to the sun, making life just hot. Just so hot. Nothing I was drinking was working, not even my new favorite drink, Tang, which I pilfered from the hiker box. Finally, I came to a creek where the trail crossed and I promptly took off my shorts and shirt, not my shoes though, and walked straight into the creek, sat down in the middle of it and layed down, dunking my head completely under. Utter wonderfulness. Thank you!
After that I felt so much better hiking. But my shoes get so muddy when I hike with them wet:
Just as I was leaving that creek, I saw a great butterfly taking interest in a flower of Queen Anne’s Lace:
As I walked along the final 4 miles of the day, there was tons of poison oak, and tons of those little gnats that buzz right in front of your eyes. A couple times today, they actually flew into my eyes. I think those little gnats are put on this planet to test our ability to not go insane from them buzzing around our faces. They are, in my opinion, worse than mosquitoes. They go up your nose too and buzz into your ears. Mosqitoes at least just bite you and then they leave once they’ve gotten what they wanted, but the gnats do not leave, they are so persistent!
I made it to camp by 6:30 or so, and read postings that warned about the dangers of the burned area and also that the campground here was closed due to a fire in 2014.
This campground is really close to town, only 6.4 miles on a road, so several hikers were talking about getting a hitch in tonight. This place is deserted. Just a bunch of thru hikers. I made camp with a few other hikers and cooked a dinner that I also pilfered out of the hiker box. It was a bunch of dehydrated broccoli with glass noodles and an Asian sauce of some sort that tasted like seaweed. It was pretty good, but it needed peanut butter added in. Everything out here is better with a spoonful of PB. It’s late, dark and still hot. I’m laying naked and sticky in my tent, while the crickets chirp, cicadas buzz, and the river flows lazily in the distance. Tomorrow we road walk into Seiad Valley to pick up resupply and hopefully eat lunch and wait out the heat. As today we came down 7K feet, guess what we get to do tomorrow? Up, up, up. No doubt, it’s gonna suck. No doubt, once we realize we’re going up, we will still be going up.