Today was my toughest day on the trail. I knew as soon as I woke up that I was going to struggle with the inclines and the 16 mile stretch without water and a heavy pack. I told Chris to go ahead as I needed to suffer on my own today and didn’t want to slow him down.
I’m not sure if my body was recovering from a long day yesterday or if my muscles were just so cold from the weather, but I was zapped of all energy and after about an hour simply had to lay in the middle of the trail and sleep.
After some weird dreams I woke up to see the clouds gathering above my head and realised I needed to keep moving to stay warm and get away from the storm. The air smelt of Christmas trees and because of the snow I started singing carols out loud to keep me going. Considering my carol repertoire is limited I moved onto songs from the Lion King that I know most lyrics to. The singing distraction helped until my feet started hurting so badly I needed to stop and apply moleskin to my inner heal. When will the blisters stop?
I knew I needed to reach the next water source in 16 miles but wasn’t sure I could go beyond that to catch up to Chris. After I needed a second nap on the trail I wasn’t even sure I would make the 16 miles. I hit a point just after passing some large animal cages with a huge grizzly bear in it, where I needed to play some tunes on my iPhone to distract me from the pain.
When I finally reached the water cache I ate some spam, filled up on water and finally felt pumped about getting to the camp site 4 miles away. Unfortunately the trail for most of those 4 miles was covered in small jagged loose stones. The ones that spear into the bottom of your foot and cause you to roll your ankle. I was so mad at the stones and the pain in my feet I actually cried. I was laughing at myself and crying all at the same time but was determined to make the full 20 miles.
With my music going I actually started to feel much better and seemed to get my second wind. I had also loaded up on the lollies that Bel and Josh sent me so the sugar high helped to push me along. So much so that when I reached camp and another hiker told me Chris had decided to push on to Big Bear I decided I could too.
I honestly don’t know what possessed me, but the thought of a warm shower and bed helped me fly through the first 6 miles at almost a running speed. I wondered if I’d spent the whole day conserving this energy. Then as the sun started to set and I still had 4 miles to go I started to rethink my decision. I’d had zero reception all day so it was impossible to know where Chris was at. All I could see was his footprints along the trail. At one point I thought about setting up camp but it was so dark and cold, and I was so sweaty and sore that I didn’t want to suffer in the wilderness alone. 30 miles (48 kms) later I hit the road heading to Big Bear. I’d never walked this far in one day in my life!
It was around 9:30pm and I had over 10 miles to hitch into town. I called the number of a trail angel offering rides but it went straight to voicemail. It was cold and deserted and after two cars drove past me I became desperate. When a third car finally came I almost jumped up and down in the middle of the road. The car pulled over and I was relieved to see the solo woman driver. I jumped in and Robin (my lifesaver) said she’d drive me to the Nature’s Inn as she knew the owner who has good rates for hikers. On arrival she called Ed for me as the reception was closed and he came out to unlock the door. The first thing he said was ‘you must be the Australian’. Miraculously Chris had checked in about half an hour before into the last cabin and said I might be staying tomorrow night. ‘You’re early’ said Ed as he checked me in, gave me clean clothes to wear and handed me my key. Chris heard the commotion and couldn’t believe I had made it! He had gotten lost on the last part of the trail and ended up at someone’s house. The owners fed him and drove him into town. We were both in a world of pain but ecstatic to be in Big Bear!