Mile 454.5 to mile 478.6
I wake at 4:20 a.m. to the others rustling in the dark.
“Is it time to hike?” I say. I feel like I haven’t slept at all. Twenty minutes later Sheriff, Twinkle and I are walking down the dark road, trekking poles clacking. The moon has just come up. After a mile we turn left, into the chaparral hills. I feel delerious, already exhausted. But at least it’s still cool. A hundred and five degrees today- is that really going to happen?
I stumble up the trail. The sun is up by the time I reach the top, the oven is on, and there’s a patch of cool shade beneath a couple of oak trees. I sit there with Twinkle and other hikers as they trickle in. We eat salami and gummi candies. Then it’s time to hike on.
Ten a.m. and it’s a hundred degrees. We march from one cache to the next in the shadeless chaparral, our minds attempting to conceptualize the heat. I can feel my brain growing warmer. I begin to feel drunk, but sort of in a fun way. I’ve just zeroed- my legs are fresh, my morale is high. So what if I’m a little warm?It’s only bikram yoga, it’s only bikram yoga, I say to my confused brain.
Partway through the morning I realize I’ve done something foolish- at the Saufley’s I switched from the thin injinji toe socks I’ve worn since the beginning (and that I wore last year) to darn tough socks, which are a little thicker. I was getting some shooting pain in my big toes, and I thought the toe socks might be the culprit- squeezing my toes when they swelled up in the heat. Now, as I hike on the hot sand in a hundred degree heat, everything I’ve read about how “cushy” socks lead to more blisters becomes a reality. I suddenly have hot spots on the pads of my feet- and not any hot spots, but the worst I’ve ever experienced. It feels as though the pads of my feet are on fire, as though there are burning coals imbedded in my feet and I’m bearing down on them with each step. I have a pair of injinjis in my pack, but I don’t want to stop long enough change into them. I laugh about it to Twinkle.
“Our pain tolerance is so high out here,” I say. “Especially this year, going this fast. All the suffering is closer together. We just take it. We just accept it.”
The day grows hotter, and hotter, and hotter. Then it’s afternoon and a hundred and five for sure. The heat is bearing down on us from the sky and radiating up from the ground. The backs of my legs are burning, the soles of my feet are burning. My water tastes funny and I’m on fire. Food sounds nauseating. Bikram yoga, I think. Bikram yoga bikram yoga.
“I think this is the most hardcore hiking I’ve ever done,” says Twinkle, who has climbed many, many fourteeners, when we’re stumbling drunkingly up last ridge.
“Hiking in this heat?” I say. For some reason I can only speak in monotone, and I’m having difficulty forming complete sentences.
“Yeah,” says Twinkle.
We check on each other as we hike the last few miles down to the road-
“You doing ok back there?” Says Twinkle.
“I’m gonna make it,” I say. “You?”
We reach the road around three- 24 miles in a hundred and five degree heat by three. We are badasses, we are invincible. Although, we both agree, just one more mile and we would’ve given up and holed up until dark. Now I limp across the road on my burning, blistered feet. Sherpa and The Boss are there, hitching. Sherpa and The Boss are a very, very wonderful couple we’ve been hiking with/around. In my head I’ve given them the award “Best PCT Couple, 2014”. They are clever and hilarious and good sports and you just want to be around them. And it’s fucking AWESOME to have another woman around. I’ve been hiking in a vast sea of 24 year-old dudes- NotaChance has literally been the only other woman hiking the miles we’re hiking, since pretty much day one. But now The Boss is here! I hope we all hike around each other for a good long while.
Within minutes of standing on the hot road we’re swooped up and taken to the Anderson’s, where there is much cheering from the wasted people on the couches in the driveway and we are forced to put on hawaiian shirts. I get a big hug from Terry, take a deleriously wonderful outdoor shower, and there is taco nacho salad of my dreams. Time slows to mollasses. I slump on the couches with the others, laughing at nothing. I’m not even intoxicated, just delerious from last night’s sleep deprivation and high from hiking 24 miles in 100+ heat. Best bikram yoga session ever.
Photos on instagram.