When I started writing blog posts about a month ago, I knew they were awful. They were rigid, stilted, and a bit sterile. Worst of all, they were boring.
Last night I slept with my leg elevated on two pillows stacked at the foot of my bed, but my quad is fine. Today I iced it for 10 minutes every other hour, but that was just to keep the muscle cold. I'm totally planning to eat the four days worth of groceries that I just bought in one day. And the arnica cream I'm putting on my leg is just so my skin stays lustrous and moist.
I hadn't admitted to myself until today that I might not reach Canada. I had said it many times, knowing that I have a very short window this year to walk all 2650 miles because of all the snow in the Sierras. (Most years, people have about 105 days to get from Kennedy Meadows at mile 702 to the end, but the creeks and snowfields will likely be impassable until July, leaving only 90 days or fewer to cover 1950 miles.) I even wanted to believe what I was saying, that I probably wouldn't make it. But in my head I was still attached to the idea, calculating mileage, and – most dangerous – putting that as my primary goal.
If Sunday was a victory, squeezing the last possible juice out of my tired legs to stride into Paradise Valley Cafe, then today could be seen as a defeat: Eight miles walked and thousands of feet gained only to backtrack and end up back in Idyllwild, this time for two days off the trail. But this viewpoint comes from a myopic viewpoint, looking at the hike through a pinhole, ignoring that I haven't even made it through a tenth of my days or that the hike is about more than miles. Rather, today was neither victory nor defeat – it was a forced change in my perspective: That I am still in the training phase of my hike, and that the real mileage will come in July, August, and September.
Today was the antithesis of the past seven days. I saw neither sunrise nor sunset, I didn't eat a single nut, I never left the confines of a city, and I made no progress on the trail. It was glorious.
Today was the most difficult day I've had on the trail, and I benefited from both the reward of hard work as well as the grace of serendipity. In the course of the day, I would be tested on my endurance, my ability to overcome fears, my mental fortitude, and my willingness to accept the good things that came along. It was a long day.
I wasn't looking forward to anything in particular in the next stretch, and coupled with the temptations of good company and hot meals, it was tough to leave Warner Springs. In the morning, I sent off my bounce box, grabbed breakfast with Footprints and Shaylene at the golf course, now a bit more presentable (though my shirt still clearly had the outlines of my backpack's hip belt on it), and said goodbye to them both, hoping another day in Warner Springs would do their injuries well.
The sunrise was no disappointment, though it was hard to get up so early after pitching camp so late. Still, we had dreams of warm meals and cold drinks, so we rallied ourselves and set off toward Warner Springs at 6 a.m.
I woke up at 5 a.m. before my alarm even rang and emerged to an amazing sunrise over the San Felipe Valley. We packed up and were on the trail about 6 a.m., heading slowly downhill into the desert valley below. It was pleasant walking in the shaded hills before the sun crested, but still hot and bright.
I slept 11 hours last night, getting up every two hours to chug Gatorade and go to the bathroom. It was hard crawling out of my warm tent to the chilly 6000-foot air, but it paid off in the morning. I was more lucid, my muscles had relaxed, and I was almost hungry.