With more bug bites than when I left. Also more tired. The interaction-heavy days and the late nights mean I’m coming back to the trail mentally drained although physically pretty rested. My legs are recovered at least.
We had had a wonderful offer from Frankenstein to pick us up in San Jose and drive us back to the trail at Walker Pass. He didn’t want any money for fuel, and just said he was thankful for the distraction from Netflix which he’d been using to counter the frustration at being injured and off trail. We bought him dinner at the Kern River Brewing Company before camping at the Walker Pass Campground.
Leaving early with plenty of water, we just had to readjust to life on trail. For me this means relaxing as life slows down and releasing the tension that builds up in towns or around large groups. For others it’s letting a lifestyle go. Doolittle and Chug talked about the concept of “home”. Whether investment in a community makes a place home, an affinity for a place in and of itself, or whether it’s just the place that you have the people you want around you in the life you’re creating. I’m not sure it’s such a fixed idea.
We also had to adjust to a new bubble. A bubble of hikers forms after each town stop as people get rides to the trail at the same time. In this bubble, we met Double Step and Bad Camper, Crunch Berry and for me a big surprise in David (now aka Staying Alive) who I’d first met at Bob Riess’s place in San Diego and who started his hike the same day as me but a couple of hours later. He’s now hiking in shoes having started barefoot and is meeting back up with Bradley at Kennedy Meadows so I should see him again too. I love how the trail does this to you. People you never expect to see again pop up at odd moments, and it’s wonderful.
We stopped for lunch at Joshua Tree Spring, where we heard from other hikers a bear had passed through earlier. The hikers filling up their water bottles had made a noise and the bear had lumbered away into the forest. As we left the lunch spot, I mentioned that we’d not seen a bear, and perhaps next time…only for a bear to then wander up to the trough and start drinking, unfazed by the group of people staring nervously at him.
The terrain was relatively easy after the morning’s climb, and I had a good opportunity to adjust my hiking to improve the shoulder pain. It had come back with a vengeance in the morning and I realised that my camera bag was pulling the front of my hip belt up, allowing the top of my pack to fall away and putting stress on my shoulders. I reattached the camera sack to a shoulder strap and secured the hip belt in a better position. I also adjusted my technique with the trekking poles, and I now feel like the little drummer boy, but at least my shoulder no longer hurts when I’m walking uphill.
We also passed a marker for the quarter point in the trail which I had mixed feelings about. I’m pleased that I’ve accomplished a good milestone but I don’t want to think about the trail ahead diminishing. It’s better when I think of it in miles. I’ve done 665 miles but that leaves 1,994 miles to go to Canada and the latest possible end of this adventure.
We made it to a spring later in the day that we hadn’t been relying on but were glad to find. We also met more new hikers, Dance Magic, Little Foot, Sled Dog (and his dog Oakley), and Italian Stallion. All of us took the muddy puddle in our stride and filled our water bottles. We’d decided, given the bear activity earlier in the day, to cook at the spring rather than at camp so the food smells wouldn’t be hanging around our campsite. In theory a good idea, but muddy puddles invite bugs and I added to my mosquito bite count pretty heavily. I also learned that daddy long-legs are called mosquito-eaters or mosquito-hawks, which I don’t think I’d ever heard before.
3 miles later and we were ready to call it a night on the first day back on trail. A pretty good one, all told.