Highest elevation today: 5550
Best day so far! With a bit of a surprise ending.
Last night really was the coldest yet. I know it because all the tents and the meadow were crusted in frost this morning. I’ve now worn my puffy and my fleece gloves. The clothes choices were good!
Yesterday I hobbled as far as Laguna Campground. I hate to go a mile off trail for water, but I really needed it. After a quarter-mile roadwalk then another long trek down the paved drive, I came across a giant sandwichboard sign: ‘Campground full.’ I almosf wept, I tell you! Wept! Honestly, my feet were busted. But water’s scarce out here. I needed three liters.
But! It turns out they maintain one big site for thru-hikers! Three bucks a night! So I stayed there. The crowd was very young and boisterous, but I stuck to my tent. There was something big going on with my left foot, and I was limping badly. (The next morning it was fine. I think when I fell or during one of the occasional ankle rolls, I bruised something.)
(The thing that has me more concerned is this stupid toe. It doesn’t hurt, but it’s swollen. Blah. You obsess about injuries out here, because they happen every day. You’re always thinking, “Will this be the one that ends my hike?” Knock wood on THAT account.)
So. I was going to do 15 today! The trail was smooth terrain, with a few manageable uphills. They felt good! I’m getting stronger and more accustomed to the elevation! I’m starting to get the rhythm, the tiniest bit. But midafternoon, I was chatting with a local who was walking her dog, and she warned me: starting at 5 PM, a dangerous wind situation–50 to 60 mph. Woah. I had to go off trail a half mile to a horse trough for water, and there were a bunch of hikers there. They all knew about the wind. In fact, it was already windy as hell down there–blow you off balance windy. They didn’t seem distressed about it. Me? I was distressed! So I got back on trail as fast as I could and found a spot that’s sheltered between a couple of hills, and I battened down the hatches–stakes, rocks, you name it. Fingers crossed! Total distance: 12.2 miles. Of course. Well… it turns out that quite a few people planned 12 miles for week one. We’ll see. I need to break into increasing numbers.
Oh, the snake. Heh. I was cruising down the trail midmorning, in an area bordered by a rusted wire fence and tall brush on the right. Two of the Germans were ahead, and stopped. They turned to me and warned, “There’s a rattlesnake in there, but we can’t see where it is.” Sure enough, it was rattling like crazy. Take a step back, it stopped. Take a step forward, it rattled. We were stuck.
But a local couple came down the other side. We shouted to warn them. The woman just stomped her boots a lot, and the thing moved away! Yay! The Germans went, then I went, and suddenly I heard the rattle slightly behind us in the brush, a little farther than before. So we all started running! Oddly enough, that was the second rattler for those Germans. On day 1, they were sitting with a bunch of hikers, and one of them looked down and realized he was… like two feet from a rattlesnake. It wasn’t coiled or anything. Just lounging. 🙂