I left Anthony and Rosemary at the campsite about 5:30 a.m., on a mission to get to the nearest road – 13 miles away – and into Tehachapi, a small city to the west of the trail. I climbed just a mile before I ran into Cheswick and Flip, who had slept up on the canyon wall and were packing up camp. I left them there and took off to make the most of the pre-dawn cool.
Sleeping on a bed was fantastic but my mind was racing with anticipation that I had a hot, dry desert stretch in front of me, so I was awake before my alarm even rang at 3:40 a.m. I packed up in the high winds and marched back to the trail in the darkness, my still-fading headlamp leading the way.
It was hard to get up as I hadn't gotten enough sleep either last night or the night before, and I was looking forward to my siesta from the first step I took on the trail at 5:30 a.m. My morning was made a bit easier as the first four miles were downhill and trail crews had marked the poison oak that lurched over the trail with pink ribbons. And perhaps more important, my toe was feeling fine, though my calf was a bit tired, presumably from compensating imperceptibly with each footfall.
It would be hard for today to have gotten off to a less auspicious start. I woke up at 3:30 a.m., tired from having gone to bed at 10 p.m. the night before. It started fine: I got packed up and ready to go within a few minutes. Then I decided to take advantage of the luxury of indoor plumbing one more time. Yet when I went to flush, the water level only rose and rose, never draining – it was clogged.
I woke up at 6:30 a.m. to a sun-baked tent and anticipation of a day full of eating and chores. My main aims for the day were to consume calories and get packages mailed. Since it was early and the post office didn't open until 10 a.m., I started with consuming calories.
I was happy when I opened my eyes about 5 a.m. and noticed that the sun would be up soon. The sooner the sun was up, the sooner I could be on the trail. And the sooner I was on the trail, the sooner I would be in Agua Dulce resting and eating.
It would be easy to think of today as a setup for tomorrow's day off in town, for today to be just a means to an end. However, if I adopted that line of thinking, then I might as well just not hike and hitchhike straight to Acton now. In fact, I might as well just drive to the end of the Pacific Crest Trail and hang around the Bay Area for the next three months. Thankfully, my day started at 5:30 a.m. with a stunning sunrise that set the right tone for the day: Every moment can amaze if I pay attention and give it a chance.
Being so close to the top of Mt. Baden-Powell, I had designs to get up there for the sunrise, so I roused myself at 4:45 a.m. and hit the trail by 5:10 a.m. I was the only person on the trail, unsurprisingly, but as I got close to the top, I was hailed by thousands of moths streaming northwest over the ridge. A few birds also darted overhead, snacking on this moth migration.
After yesterday's marathon, I was both eager to get back on the trail to see how my legs felt and wary of pushing them too hard. As a compromise, I decided I'd take the morning and afternoon in town to focus on putting on weight and stretching. Then, in the evening if I was feeling well, I'd rejoin the Pacific Crest Trail and put on a few miles before setting up camp.
When I got up at 3 a.m., I was nervous about the journey ahead. My pack contained 11 liters of water and six days of food, so it likely weighed between 50 and 55 pounds. I had at least 7000 feet of elevation to gain and at least 25 miles without water. And it was going to be 90 degrees in Cajon Junction by 8 a.m. with a high above 100 degrees by midday. This was my biggest test yet, and I still harbored doubts about my readiness.