mile 20 – 37.6
i wake up in the night to dripping condensation & the sound of dogs (or coyotes?) baying in the distance. i sleep poorly & the bright full moon makes my confused jolts of wakefulness all the more jarring.
i’m up by 6:30, call goodbye to the guys i’d been leapfrogging with, & on the trail by 7:30. the air is nice & cool & i wear my leggings for a while. i count desert bunnies & i say hello to each one but they just stare at me, blinking.
the blisters that were threatening to pop up yesterday finally do. i had hoped that a night of rest & elevation would help but they begin to bubble up not even five miles into the day. i find a patch of service & call josef. hearing his voice is so comforting that i almost cry but i don’t & instead ask him about my blisters. he warns me against pushing myself too hard & i say okay, i won’t.
i pass some day hikers a mile or two after we hang up. i’ve been having a hard time distracting myself from the self defeating voice in my head but even just a quick exchange helps to cheer me up. “when did you start?” they ask, “yesterday morning” “wow! you’re booking it!” “i guess” i laugh.
just before mile 30 is the first access to kitchen creek. i’ve been eyeing this as my blister repair & lunch spot all morning but now i’m confused. the trail keeps a pretty moderate elevation but the creek is way down below in a gulley. scrambling down isn’t too bad but i dread going back up. i sit on a slanted rock, the only shade, & inspect my feet. earlier, josef asked if my blisters were juicy. “sorta,” i had said. by now they are definitely juicy, my right pinky looks like a grape. oh no. i poke them with a sewing needle & bandage them with gauze & duct tape. i can’t pierce through the callus on my heel to drain the blister there so i guess i just have to hope for the best. lunch is hard, i haven’t had much of an appetite but i know i’ve eaten less than 400 calories so far today so i have to try. in the end i manage a tuna packet, a babybel & a couple of crackers.
the afternoon is all bakingly exposed ridges. snakes & lizards silently shriek “oh shit oh shit” as they hear me approach & dive off of the trail & into the brush. a naked man approaches wearing a tiny daypack. a naked man! “you’ve got a long journey ahead of you, huh?” he asks. i don’t really know what to say so i just say “yeah, i guess!” & step aside to let him pass.
a fellow hiker named joey passes by & cheerfully tells me “it’s all uphill from here!” i laugh to cover my dread. i feel depleted but slog on. why?
near dusk, i find a campsite near long canyon creek. i am so ready to elevate my feet & rest that i don’t notice that i have set up my little shelter on a subtle hill. i know i will be sliding all night but i’m too depleted to do anything about it & besides, it’s nearly dark already.
i wake in the night & the other tent in the clearing has disappeared & the bottom of my footbox is damp w condensation & my shelter has partially collapsed from the incline. just sleep, i tell myself.