Edited on Trail
Greetings from the sunny Agua Dulce, California just outside of the Mojave desert. Behind me are over 450 miles and 30 days of Southern California desert, and ahead of me, beyond the hottest 150 miles yet, the lower and high Sierra Mountains are patiently waiting my arrival.
It’s hard to imagine, because my first 30 days has already been a lifetime of adventure, but we’re just getting started here, and this first part was merely a test-run, an appetizer leading into the smorgasbord of adventure ahead. With enough miles under my belt there has been enough time to learn a few things on trail and develop a bit of a routine.
My days typically start with the sunrise, and if I’m lucky a pop-tart to go along with my instant coffee. Although I’m getting faster, it still takes me some time to pack up all my belongings to get on the trail anywhere between 6:00 & 7:00 a.m. Though it may seem like a surprise, the rest of my day from there is generally filled with walking, a lot of walking. We’re talking 8-12 hours of hiking punctuated by trail snacks, water breaks, bathroom breaks and whatever mountain scenery can steal me away for a moment or two. Within those hours of hiking is time to think, to count the footsteps and watch out for some serious potential trail hazards.
Section C & D have provided an abundance of two trail dangers for me; the scream-inducing rattlesnake and the not-as-cute-as-it-sounds Poodle Dog Bush. I saw 4 rattlesnakes in 5 days, each one bigger than the last, and each one causing me to jump further into the air than I’m prouder to admit.
The Poodle Dog Bush on the other hand is a certain species of fowl smelling and slightly exotic looking plants that spring up in the wake of a forest fire, and contact with the Poodle Dog Bush can lead to some pretty serious skin rashes (like poison ivy). It’s been a real challenge and feat of acrobatic prowess to avoid the PDG at times, and is a constant afterthought every time I go to wipe the sweat from my brow. As of now though, I am both rash and rattlesnake-bite free (knock on wood).
Counter-intuitively to the above mentioned threats, I have found myself bedding down at night in a method referred to as “cowboy camping”. It’s pretty easy really, all you need to do to cowboy camp is throw some sort of tarp on the ground, put your sleeping pad and sleeping bag down on top of that, and simply dream the night away. It might just be an end of the day laziness to not set up my tent, but their is something about the open air and spectacular night sky that also drives me to do it (and a forced naivety about all the bugs and possible critters crawling about me).
Wherever I sleep, or however I slumber, everyday starts in a similar routine (although always in a different landscape), which includes taking on or off the same 5 or 6 pieces of clothing that I wear everyday. As I put on my hiking shirt and see others in theirs, I can’t help but think sometimes that this thru-hiking business is kind of like an odd t.v. miniseries where the characters always wear the same wardrobe for the ease of the audience, only those wardrobes get progressively dirtier and more tattered as the show goes on.
Besides the lack of wardrobe changes, life on a thru-hike encompasses its own bubble. Sometimes it’s best described as wild animals all collecting at the watering holes, or perhaps like running water collecting at the banks of towns and resupply spots, and the trail surely breathes with each hiker footprint, and it’s been nothing short of spectacular to be a part of the story so far and to add my own words into the mix.
My blisters are healed up and my mind is at ease, and despite the two braces sitting fashionably on my knees, I can now get my 20 miles a day with ease. And it’s good, because ahead of me and beyond the scorching gates of the Mojave Desert is the great Sierras, the holy sanctuary where the story will really just begin.
Over and Out,