It’s already 44 minutes past my bedtime but I’m hoping to jot down at least a few notes from today’s activities as it felt like an eventful one (don’t they all?). My alarm went off at 4:30am and soon afterwards I heard clicking coming down the trail. It sounded like hiking poles with my bandana still covering my ears but when I looked up to see who was coming down the trail so early I saw something much larger than a person. As it was still mostly dark I couldn’t make out the shape until it got much closer, then soon realised the clicking was the hooves of a large deer. It didn’t even notice me lying there, and simply went about its morning stroll straight past my sleeping bag and over the other side of the hill. Deer are one of my favourite animals to see out here and definitely the ones I’ve had the fortune to see up close.
After watching a spectacular sunrise whilst eating a pop tart for breakfast, I packed up my things and headed to the first water source a couple of miles down the trail. I had less than half a litre left and was looking forward to filling up and making my morning coffee. On the way to the lake I bumped into Fuller and another hiker named Matt who were camped close by. Fuller was about to make coffee, perfect, so I headed to get some extra water while the kettle boiled. The water in the lake was very unappealing, but luckily two women hikers I met heading into Sierra City were camped there and offered me some additional water they had already collected and treated. My timing was perfect!
After a good hit of coffee Fuller and I hit the trail and actually hiked together for some time chatting about the early days of the trail, UB’s SoBo hike and life off trail. It was the first time I’ve hiked with anyone since UB and it was a nice to have someone to chat to while the miles ticked over in the background. There were a number of water sources just off trail today and a few long stretches in between so we had to pay close attention to what was coming up. The first of which was a spring just off the trail to the right where the two ladies who gave me water this morning were sitting. Fuller and I filled up a litre each. He made Gatorade and I made my new Carnation Breakfast and granola mix. When I told him the story about the deer this morning, saying I thought it was a hiker coming down the trail because of the clicking sound of hiking poles, he exclaimed ‘why was the deer using hiking poles?’ I was in fits of laughter so many time today.
We hiked separately to the second spring where Fuller stopped for lunch and I continued on, hoping to find higher ground for my break with a view and preferably phone signal. As it often does, the trail provided me with a large climb straight from the A Tree spring to a nice shady spot over looking the valley with 4G! You little ripper! Here I made lunch and started my ‘Insights into thru hiking’ series. Then Fuller caught up and we watched one of the funniest YouTube videos Fuller had recommended after a conversation we had about my waning excitement for my resupply food. The clip was of a Norwegian called Alexandre Gamme digging out his final food cache on his unsupported expedition to the South Pole and back (he completed the first ever return trip alongside two Aussie boys!). It’s all in Norwegian (Vidar you can translate for us) but it’s absolutely hilarious!
I had to pop a blister on my heel at lunch, and once I started walking again, the pain of it rubbing on my shoe became unbearable. So much so, I had to strip off both shoes and wear my trusty purple Frocs for the next 3 miles until water. My mood turned into one of frustration as soon as I started walking again, as the memories of the first painful 700 miles came flooding back. I took a fall on a steep dusty slope about 15 minutes in and had numerous sharp rocks pierce the soles of my feet. When Bandleader past me I was super grumpy, and when he told me he was aiming to do 30 miles a day using the 10 by 10 method I simply responded ‘good luck with that’. Sorry Bandleader.
When I did reach the next descent stream Fuller wasn’t far behind, so I called for a coffee break to regroup and lighten the mood. He accepted. It was during this break that we discussed an interesting psychological theory in which people perform better when they believe they are performing better than the average. This applies to thru hiking and the frustration I had felt the other day when being passed by a faster hiker when you think you’re hiking fast. It’s not a race out here, but it’s a constant battle to hike as efficiently as possible and maintain a steady pace. If ten hikers passed you in a day, you would definitely start to question your own methods and lose confidence in your ability. Whereas when you pass other hikers, it usually gives you an additional push to maintain the speed at which you are travelling. Bizarre hiking psychology.
Before departing our coffee break Fuller and I discussed what to do with my blisters and decided using second skin with breathable tap over the top to keep it in place would do the trick. Sadly it did not, and during the next few miles it all became too painful again that I switched back to the Frocs. There were so many tree trunks over the trail and painful stones that I started to go a little nutty.
Thankfully and the next break site as I was about to get out my tiny little pocket knife and take on the heels of my shoes, Fuller arrived. He knew from the change in my footprints exactly where I’d swapped to the Frocs and he insisted before I do damage to my shoes to give the tape he used on his blisters one last try. We needed to drain both heels again, then lathered on the tape. He then gave me a pair of his toe socks to wear as an additional layer to my regular socks. For the next three miles this actually worked!
It was already 8pm when we began these last few miles to Whiskey Spring where the dribble of water was enough to cook dinner and camp with. We bumped in Otter there too and camped in the first flat spot near the spring as the light of the day quickly slipped away. It’s around 11pm and once again way past my bedtime, but a descent 23 mile day competed none the less.