mile 395.21 (Cooper Canyon Campground) – 414.68

19.47 miles

The hardest part of every day is packing up. The time between waking and beginning to hike is usually cold and always a little painful. Here’s how it usually goes: 

Wake up and realize the sun is coming up. Think about how cold it is and how much I don’t want to have to change clothes. Sit up and pull my snacks out of my food bag. Wonder if I’ve packed enough food for the day. Realize that it is getting brighter outside and if I don’t start moving soon it’s going to be too hot to hike. Struggle to change my clothes inside my sleeping bag. Pack all of the stuff that goes on the outside of my pack. Accept the inevitable and deflate my sleeping pad. Pack everything inside my pack. Put on my shoes. Hoist myself from my tent onto my tender feet. Hobble around my tent collecting the stakes. Pack my tent. Pull on my pack. Start hiking, eating breakfast as I go. Usually, my body is warmed up within the first 15 minutes and I mostly forget about any pain. 

That’s how it went this morning, too. I set off around 6:20 and immediately began a long climb. I walked on soft, sandy trail through delicious pine forest. Purple flowers cheered me on. 

After about 2.5 miles, I had a short break and ate a second breakfast while looking at my maps. The trail in this section cuts across Hwy 2 several times. After my second crossing of the day, Blazer caught up to me. He’s a fast hiker! 

Blazer is retired. He hiked the AT three years ago and now he’s out here kicking all of our asses. He started eight days after me and is about to leave me in his dust. I picked up my pace for about an hour so I could talk to him. It makes the time pass nicely when there is interesting conversation. While we were hiking together we walked up on a giant penis drawn in rocks and pine cones in the middle of the trail. It was pointing right at a giant “400”. That’s right, I only have 2258 miles to go! 

I rested again, changing out my socks, at a campground about five miles in, then continued walking. The trail crossed Hwy 2 again, and I got to use a privy at a parking area and throw away my trash! The luxury!

About 12 miles into my day the piney forest turned to scrubby desert. I found blazer under a tree and joined him. Then Heartbreaker walked up and joined us. We had lunch and chatted, then those guys took off and I stayed. I wanted a nice long break, a proper nap. Ah, why haven’t I been doing this all along?!

Walking once again, up and up, hot hot hot. I run into Heartbreaker just packing up from his nap and we hike along together for a bit, collecting water from a small pool in the trail trickling down from a rock. We round a bend in the trail and I stop to see if I can get cellphone service. Heartbreaker hikes on. 

At this point, it has been two days since I’ve had contact with Hunter. I know he must be wondering where I am and worrying. The last time we texted, I had turned the wrong way at the Dawson’s Saddle junction and was going to hitch up Hwy 2. Cell service is very spotty out here and I can’t just leave my phone searching for service all day because it kills the battery, so I have to try here and there when my chances look good. 

I walked along the trail, high up, some city in the distance, until I found a tenuous signal. I tried to call, with no success, so Hunter and I texted just a bit, the signal going in and out and eating up a portion of my battery. When my texts were no longer sending, I hiked on. 

This is when the trail got really pretty. Pine trees spread sparsely along rolling grassy hills. It was so peaceful there that I almost stayed, but the wind started to pick up. Leaving the pretty rolling hills, the trail began winding on high ledges through a burn area. I began to see the desert below. We will head there tomorrow. 

Just when I wanted to give up, there was Heartbreaker, tent already in place. I took a brief look around and decided to stay. We were high up and able to see down into the valley below, all the buildings looking like toys. We cooked dinner and watched the sunset. The glorious sunset! It was so beautiful! The most beautiful on trail so far. We were jumping around like children.

Before bed, I checked to see if I could call out, and I got through to Hunter! This experience has been good for us, but also it has been very difficult. How did I not realize I would miss him this much? How did I not foresee that he would worry about me? 

Today I met…I don’t think I really met anyone new today. 

Today I learned that regular breaks are necessary. 

Today’s hike was powered by nap time.