Day 31: Trailiversary!

Mile 436.1
Elevation: Who cares? The clouds came to us!

The good news: One month! I survived 1 month! Let’s
see… 5 times 436 is… 2180 miles. About 600 short. So if I get that far, I’ll have to make up 600 miles in Northern California and Oregon. That’s always where I thought this thing would come off the rails, but we’ll see. That math is so far ahead that I can’t even wrap my brain around it.

The good news: I’m in my tent eating Snickers for dinner. And drinking soda.

The bad news: Today was the kind of day that makes hikers quit trails. (Generally speaking.) And it’s not just me! Everybody on this leg is having trouble at the moment because FREEZING WINDSTORM since last night! There are 30 hikers huddled at this ranger station hoping to survive this freaking wind advisory that’s
in effect until 10 tonight. My tent’s being buffeted like crazy, but after hiking 16 miles in this shit on low rations, I’m freezing. I had to at least try to get out of it. I’m wearing Cap 4 thermal bottoms, my R1 fleece, my puffy, puffy socks, and. fleece hat–and after two Snickers and two cans of soda, I’m just now starting to warm up.

Last night I hiked up the mountain and found a pretty flat spot among some trees near the ridge. It was mild–a little breezy, but nice. (With the lack of signal, I hadn’t had a weather report for 3 days, or I’d have made some different decisions. Like not climbing the mountain. Except, of course, I’m low on food so every mile counts.)

[Aside: A guy is setting up his tent on the same tent pad as me. He just said, “Last night was so vicious that we ended up just packing up at 2 AM and hiking out.” So totally true! Vicious!]

So, at some point in the night, the wind turned apocalyptic. The clouds came down and the wind picked up and BAM! Windbane squared. I didn’t sleep at all. I thought I’d be crushed by the walls of my tent, or blown away.

There was no way I was getting up before dawn. I was freezing. Overnight all the tent stakes pulled out and the tent became two dimensional. I was in Flatland! I had no clue how I was even going to pack up in that kind of a windstorm.

Outside the tent, the clouds had come down. It was wet, foggy, unbelievably nasty. And I had to poop.

[Aside: Somebody just said, “I don’t want to do that wind again. It broke my heart. It broke my soul!”]

Eventually I decided I had to at least get out and take the fly down or the tent as going to be ripped apart. So I did that–only then there was nothing between me and the freezing clouds. And let me tell you, every arthritic bone in my body hurt.

I got everything packed up as best I could and hit the trail at 6:37.

And here’s how the day went: It stayed so freaking windy that several times I was blown off the trail. I was so cold that I cried most of the morning. (And I’m not usually very emotional. Of course, I hadn’t slept and my blood sugar is low, and I’m still cranking out 16 or 17 miles per day.)

But get this. This was The Worst poodle-dog day of all. It was healthy, vibrant, and fucking everywhere, including on the trail. The trail was completely overgrown in many spots, with PDB hidden under the bushes. I’m sure I brushed it once, with a sleeve, but I’m hoping there were no ill effects. That was without doubt the ugliest, lousiest, most time-consuming and nerve-wracking section of trail yet. With a lot of uphill. And I hadn’t slept.

I bumped into Indra at about noon. I’d forgotten there was a Poodle-Dog Alternate that could have been taken for those 4 miles–a 5-mile roadwalk. But in all fairness, on Facebook they said the trail wasn’t too bad, and the alternate was a mile longer, so I would have taken the trail anyway. And I’m thinking that anybody who thought that wasn’t bad wasn’t seeing a lot of the little, hidden plants. Because that shit was everywhere.

And the day stayed cold. Fifties, with this stinking vicious wind, and gusts up into the who-knows-what. The sun would poke out, wan and pale, once in a while, but I never needed sunglasses.

I had to get to the ranger station at 436 for water. Plus, the rumor was that they had sodas for a buck. Sodas! Music to my food-rationing ears.

And the last 2 miles before the ranger station were thick with poison oak. Of course. The way today went, I’m surprised there wasn’t a minefield.

But hey, I saw the poison oak, which not every hiker here did. I saw the PDB. A month ago I couldn’t identify either one. And for all the day’s ugliness, the trail still had magical flowers. And I hiked 16 miles and ate two Snickers. I saw four snakes today, teo of them rattlesnakes. And Indra is here, and Little Bird and Mr. Bird. And according to Halfmile, Hiker Heaven is at 444 or so, not 454–so I may be getting my care packages tomorrow. (Flip side: That means I’m 10 miles from the restaurants, and my body is in dire need of town food. My true zero may have to wait until Mojave/Tehachapi.)

Aaannnddd… the crowning glory of the day! I just sharted all over my pajamas and the inside of the tent because of the sudden influx of sugar.

And I am out of wet wipes.

(But on the way back from the outhouse, I found a penny. 😀)