Day 8: One hundred!

Mile 105.5 (16.8 miles)
Highest elevation: 4400 feet

First, a little math adjustment. I didn’t do 13 yesterday. I did 14.9, then almost 17 today. So definitely improving.

I don’t even remember where I woke up. Oh! A little storm gully two miles shy of the water cache called Third Gate Cache. I slept ferociously well, woke up rested and cheerful, and managed to hit the trail by 6:15. I made it to the cache — a remarkable endeavor, hundreds of 1-gallon bottles if water in the middle of the desert — and took a liter.

It was COLD this morning! Not at the start–packing up at dawn was lovely. But later, when the trail tarted to climb, that wind that’s always there just turned chill. My knees were really aching today, which was odd, given that my pack has pretty much no food in it. Then I remembered: rain is coming. And from the way my knees felt, I’m thinking whatever happens is going to be substantial.

I walked sort of slowly all day, but it’s amazing how this trail–a plain ribbon of dirt, no obstacles, no roots–can just hypnotize you into churning out miles. I actually considered pushing through the last 5 miles to Warner Springs for a total of 21… but I decided that was nuts. My poor feet and knees don’t need the stress, and I’m planning on neroing there tomorrow. If I sleep in a tent out here or at the community center, it doesn’t matter.

Anyway, I’m ahead of myself. The dirt ribbon rambled on, like it does, and at around 1 PM, the milestone: mile 100! Literally, a milestone. There were a bunch of hikers there, most from Pennsylvania, believe it or not. We took pictures.

One of those hikers, I found out later at the next watering hole, is somebody I kind of knew, sort of. When I was getting ready for the AT, I binge-watched these YouTube videos of a hiker named Fatherman–FM on the AT. They were fun. Well, this guy was Medicine Man from those vids. Here’s a guy, Medicine Man, met his best friend in all the world, FM, on the trail. They hiked all the way from North Carolina to Katahdin.

The trail went rambling down to a horse trough in a wooded area that was full of poison oak. All the books warned about it. I was glad to finally see it so I know what to look for. Of course, later on there’s a plant that makes poison ivy and poison oak look like a petting zoo–the dread poodle dog bush.

After the watering hole, the trail went through literally miles of fields. I felt like it was… oh, I don’t know. Virginia? The sky, meanwhile, was getting blacker and blacker, and the wind colder and colder. In the end, I found this little spot to pitch in. There were better spots down by a stream, but I don’t know what California rain is like. Hell, neither does California lately. But I didn’t want to inadvertently be in some sort of a flood zone if it suddenly started pouring. It may or may not rain tonight, or tomorrow, but I try to avoid the obvious perils–like drowning in a desert.

Tomorrow: Nero at the Warner Springs Community Center. Breakfast and lunch, pick up my resupply box and replace what I need to replace, and … dear god, I hope … laundry and my first shower in eight days of desert! Woohoo! I bet you can smell me from there.